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CNN Live Event/Special

Soon, Congressional Leaders Present Gifts to President Biden; Congressional Leaders Present Gifts to President Biden; Soon, President Biden to Review Troops, Heads to Arlington National Cemetery. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 13:30   ET



EVAN OSNOS, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: And what the Biden strategy is, is force them to say no to things that Americans desperately want, like vaccine rollout. Like a serious stimulus plan to help people in trouble.

Force them to put their names to that, and then you begin to press them on their political calculations in a visible way. And that's at the basis of this approach to negotiation.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But, Dana, as we prepare for more activities by President Biden and Vice President Harris, let's continue this conversation about people who shared in the big lie.

The big lie that resulted in not only a bunch of adherents to various conspiracy theories under the delusion that Donald Trump was going to stay president today, that he was going to declare martial law and this was some big charade, which obviously did not happen.

And not only the big liars on MAGA media who did so for viewers, but also the people who are in Congress.

And you just heard Evan talk about the fact that a letter went out. Congressman Meijer, who is an honorable Republican from Michigan, who voted to impeach President Trump. He's a freshman, he did so at great professional risk. He wrote a letter.

But others on the letter, other Republicans are among the people who pushed the big lie. Congressman Moore, for example.


TAPPER: Congressman -- the one from --

BASH: Hawthorne.

TAPPER: Hawthorne and others.

And so if all these individuals who lied and who voted to undermine democracy are just able to move on as if it never happened, even though there are seven dead bodies as a result of the insurrection two weeks ago, does not the incentive for it to happen again, except successfully, persist?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a good question. It's an important question. They are going to try to move on. And we just heard from the president's inaugural address, he wants to move forward, but not necessarily move on.

And what I mean by that is that, you know, that's our job to continue to ask these people the 11 -- the 17, I should say, freshmen, not all of them, some of them were part of the big lie. It's our job to keep asking that question.

But it's also our job to heed the call of a new president and perhaps members of Congress who want to work with him across the aisle and to hold them accountable on the priorities that they're working on.

But also the ways in which they want to get this country out of the very, very dire straits that it is in economically, in terms of our health. The fact that we're watching a inauguration that is supposed to be socially distanced, but certainly a lot fewer people there. No parade. No people in the streets.

TAPPER: They were tested for COVID, by the way.

BASH: Right.

TAPPER: We should note that.

BASH: Everybody wearing masks.

My point is it looks different because of the situation that we're in, and that is the challenge for Joe Biden. And it's a huge, huge challenge.

And when it actually gets to the building behind you -- before you, Jake, before that, he will start to get to work using his pen and executive orders, not just reversing a lot of what President Trump did, but, again, looking forward on these huge twin challenges.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thinking about what Evan Osnos was just saying, Joe Biden told him about feeling that the incentive structure is going to change for Republicans in a new era, I think it is an open question really.

I think the next few weeks will tell us a lot about whether that is the case.

We've already seen certain members of the Republican Party, like the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who we'll see in just a few minutes participating in this gift-giving ceremony that the president and vice president will participate in, Kevin McCarthy was part of the big lie.


PHILLIP: And he was an enthusiastic promoter of the big lie, in fact, and one of the original liars, frankly, in this whole thing. But a week ago, as the House deliberated impeachment proceedings, he

did put the blame on President Trump for what happened at the capitol and seemed to signal that he was willing to acknowledge some blame.

And there he is --


TAPPER: There he is in the center of your screen holding a folder of some sort.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think this is going to be one of the items that we'll see him --


TAPPER: He wasn't just talking about moving on, though, House minority leader, McCarthy. He was acting as though -- he said, it's not the American way -- there's Mitch McConnell behind him.

It's not the American way to act as though Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. Kevin McCarthy had been leading the charge with the idea, the false idea that Biden was not the legitimate president.

This is one of the things that's so distressing. It's not just the small pods of conspiracy theorists adherents, like QAnon. It is literally tens of millions of Trump supporters who believe the lie.


PHILLIP: Which is why I think we still don't know where -- how this is going to go, how this is going to play out in the Biden era. Will he have a reasonable opposition party that is motivated by policy and by ideology --

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi.

PHILLIP: -- dealing with -- or will he be dealing with -- and Mitch McConnell walking in there.

Will he be dealing with what we as a country have been dealing with the last four years, the combination of lies and conspiracy theories and culture wars?

And I think that will make a big difference in determining whether Joe Biden can actually get stuff done around here in Washington.

TAPPER: If you look at -- there's President Biden walking through Congress, Vice President Harris before him in the purple outfit.

BASH: Now the president of the Senate.

TAPPER: That's right. Vice President Harris, a week ago, just a regular old Senator. Now she's president of the Senate.

BASH: And the tie-breaking. TAPPER: Presides in a 50/50 tie, there could be a lot given it's a

50/50 Senate. That is the reason Minority Leader McConnell and Majority Leader Schumer are in a sharing negotiation because it is 50/50.

Last time that happened, I think they had even numbers of members on committees, but the Democrat in that point, in that case, in the 50/50 Senate was the chair --

BASH: Chairman.

TAPPER: Yes. Look, the rules are hundreds of years old literally.

But in any case, there's President Biden again with the first lady, Jill Biden.

You talk about whether or not Republicans are going to resort to culture wars. Abby, it was just a couple weeks ago -- let's listen in.

UNKNOWN: The vice president and the second gentleman. Normally, at this time we have a lunch and probably no personal wives attended more of those lunches than President Biden has.

It is an important moment where it's bipartisan. It's the time to bond between the executive and the legislative branch of the government.

Probably don't need as much bonding because we already have that natural bonding with you and the traditions here.

By those traditions, usually there's a painting at the front of that event that the chairman picks.

This time, not knowing we're going to have an event until what we're going to do about an event until late, I asked Dr. Biden to help pick the painting, and this is the one that she recommended.

The painting is landscaped with rainbow. Rainbow always a good sign. It's loaned to us today from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The artist, Robert Sheldon Duncanson, he was the best-known African- American painter in the years surrounding the Civil War. He was based in Cincinnati, encouraged by abolitionists who, among other things, sponsored a trip for him to do some study in Europe.

This is a painting that he painted in 1859. And I think maybe the more -- it's sort of the classic America as paradise painting that a lot of painters were doing then.

But for him, a black artist, painting this painting that's so much like an American utopia on the verge of a war that we would fight over slavery, makes it even more interesting in that while he faced lots of challenges, obviously, was optimistic even in 1859 about America.

And so, Dr. Biden, thanks for helping select this painting. Glad to have all four of you here as we move on to my good friend

Senator Klobuchar.


UNKNOWN: The rainbow is always a good sign. Let's hope so.

JILL BIDEN: Thank you.



BIDEN: Door number two.

BASH: Door number two.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MB): Mr. President, First Lady, Madam Vice President and our very first second gentleman, on behalf of the American people, it is our honor to present these custom-made crystal vases commemorating your historic inauguration.

Lennox, which you know is a great company, American company, has hand crafted these gifts for the past nine presidential inaugurations.


It is a good thing I don't have to hand them to you personally. They each weigh with the base 32 pounds. But combined, 64.

But, Jill, I know, is very strong and could take them both.



But the Lennox Company is actually based in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which you know, Mr. President, is a mere 132 miles from Scranton. Since we know today all roads lead to Scranton.

The team at Lennox has worked for months to capture the spirit of this inauguration and your incoming administration.

Mr. President, your vase features the White House, and Vice President Harris' features the U.S. capitol.

The gifts represent the hope and the faith the American people have placed in you to move our country forward.

Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

JILL BIDEN: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, Mr. President, Madam Vice


While the pandemic has sadly limited our usual hospitality as others have mentioned, I'm very glad we still carry on some of our favorite inaugural traditions.

It's my honor and privilege to help prevent these flags of our nation that were flown over today's event here at the capitol.

Now, I have to make one point of personal privilege on behalf of the Senate.

With all due respect to our distinguished speaker and our colleagues from the House, I have to note, not only did we just swear in a son and daughter of the Senate to these high offices, but, indeed, both of these former Senators skipped the House altogether.


MCCONNELL: The "Star-Spangled Banner" is our greatest symbol of our endurance of the American idea. It flies over this building on triumphant days and on tragic ones, over all factions and all parties.

And today, this flag flew over our former colleague's inauguration as the very first female vice president of the United States.

So, to our very distinguished former colleague, Madam Vice President, please accept this flag with the highest compliments and congratulations of the United States Senate.


SEN. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The distinguished leader of the Senate pointed out that he has hosted this lunch for members of the Senate who had become president and vice president.

But I have the privilege of giving the flag to the president of the United States, the flag that was flown when you were sworn in, Mr. President.

This flag, may it reflect all that is said about your inauguration, America united. May it be a symbol of the hope, the healing and the -- just all of the enthusiasm you have for our country.

And as we heard the beautiful national anthem, when we're at the stadium and they say, is our flag still there, then you say, play ball, right there. Play ball.

So we're going to get ready to play ball. We're ready to go with the inspiration of our flag flying.

But, again, on behalf of the House of Representatives, it is my privilege to extend to you the flag that was flown the moment, the early moment that you were sworn in as president of the United States.

BIDEN: Thank you.

PELOSI: Thank you, Mr. President.

Thank you, Dr. Biden.

Thank you.

If we had the lunch, we would have had California wine.

Is that not right -- (LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: -- Madam Vice President? Mr. Emhoff?


With liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.



BIDEN: Long time, no see.

UNKNOWN: Congratulations, Mr. President.

BIDEN: Thank you.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That was quick.


MCCARTHY: Modern technology, right? It's a good picture, too.

President Biden, Vice President Harris, Dr. Biden and Mr. Emhoff, on behalf of the Republicans in Congress, congratulations. Very proud of you both.

When President Washington was sworn in as president of the United States, only a handful of people saw the ceremony or heard the famous first inaugural address.

Today, the inauguration is seen around the nation and, indeed, around the world. Yet, the task facing the nation is no less momentous than it was in Washington's time.

I listened to your speech today. You talked about the tension and division. Our task as leaders is to bind this nation's wounds and dedicate ourselves to the values of all Americans shared together.

With modern technology, just a few minutes ago, it captured in these pictures, history in the making for all the world to see.

This picture should serve as a reminder of that task that we have before us.

As a very proud son of California, it is my honor to present to a very proud daughter of California as well. Today, Vice President Harris made history and all of America should celebrate that.

But we should also remember that this is not the end, but just the beginning.

As leaders, we are judged not by our words, but by our actions. So let's go forth from here together, accomplish great things for the American people.

And every time you look at this photo, remember the beginning of the job we have to do. Congratulations.


REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Dr. Biden, Mr. President -- no, Joe, you're Mr. President. And we are so proud of that.

Dr. Biden, he makes you call him Mr. President?


HOYER: The marriage is about to get rocky, I can tell.


HOYER: On behalf of the joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies, I, too, am proud, more than that, I'm ecstatic to present the two of you this picture, a testament to technology, a testament to history.

Mr. President, in your speech you talked about faith. You talked about tribulations, but you talked about victory.

The Johnson brothers wrote a great hymn. You know it well, Mr. President. "Today, We Have a New Day." And that hymn came out of faith and out of deep trouble into hope. And they said, facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory's won.

That's what your speech was about. And that's why we are so proud and ready to march with you, President Biden. God bless.




BIDEN: Oh, God.

Well, thanks.



BIDEN; Thank you.


HOYER: You bet. Thank you, everyone.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The traditional presentation of gifts. A somewhat -- well a traditional ceremony. Awkward ceremony on this day.

Extraordinary here, Representative Kevin McCarthy saying to President Biden, very proud of you both. Also saying, all America should celebrate this day.

David Axelrod, this is a man not just one of the leaders in the House, certainly, of the big lie the president told, he wasn't just leader. He was like a carnival barker of it on FOX News and elsewhere, riling up Americans --



COOPER: -- to take part in this insurgency.

AXELROD: He just said in those remarks, he said, we should be judged not by our words but by our actions.

He's kind of in a hole here when it comes to intentions. His actions didn't exactly meet with that. But I think Biden's who thrust is, OK. Today's a new day. Let's see where we go from here.

All this discussion we've been having about the politics that he faces, clearly, we are, we have divisions in our country. In the Congress there are divisions.

But the Republican Party has its own divisions. And I think Biden's going to try to take advantage of that.

You know, Mitch McConnell, his goal is to elect a Republican majority. He's looking at states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where they're going to have critical races in a few -- in 2022.

I'm not sure going down the obstruction road is going to be helpful in those races.

McCarthy, if they're going to gain control of the House, they've got to get a total back in the suburban areas, both Senate and Republicans. Obstruction and following the route they've been on lately is not a

way to do that.

Plus, donors that they count on have fled Republicans because of this obstructionism.

So there are pressures on them to figure out how to navigate all of this.

And it's going to be hard because there's a hard-core base within both their caucuses. More in the House than in the Senate. And you know, that's what led McCarthy to do what he did.

It will be challenging. But I don't think it's a slam dunk somehow all is doomed and today's talk of moving together is lost.

COOPER: David, you were there when President Obama was sworn in. What happens on this day? I mean, in terms of actually what's get done?

I know the president will sign executive orders later on. Can you talk about the transition of, is Biden of staff already inside the White House now?

AXELROD: You know, some of them may be over there already. The bulk of us went over. But mostly, the next day we were in there.

But, look, he is taking office in the midst of a crisis. We have been talking about the virus.

Jen Psaki was on earlier with Jake and said something that was interesting. She said it's going to take several months before we see progress.

One thing you realize, as a staffer, is the moment you leave these ceremonies, the responsibility is yours. Everything that goes wrong is going wrong on your watch.

COOPER: And by the way, Jen Psaki, the spokesperson, doing the first briefing at 3:00 today.


AXELROD: Yes. She'll be at the White House.

I think setting parameters, understanding that they've got a lot of difficult challenges ahead. And they need to get a running start right now.

You definitely feel that as an aide, like, holy smokes, now it's ours. Now it's on our watch. Anything that happens is our responsibility. It's sobering.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we've been talking about Leader McCarthy, and his hypocrisy, and what just occurred. Another person that we saw speak today was Mitch McConnell. And Mitch

McConnell was somebody who came out and said that the president provoked what occurred on January 6th, because people were told a bunch of lies.

And I think we cannot underestimate the relationship between McConnell and Biden. They disagree, but they know each other.

And the important thing about Biden, it's not that he's some soft guy, as Donald Trump wanted to portray him, but he gets the politics.

But one thing he does is, when you get in a room with him, he doesn't question your motives. He understands the politics. He knows politically why you were there.

He understands before he goes in, OK, you're going to disagree on this, but let's figure out something else.

He and McConnell have been in rooms together before, on budget issues, on a whole host of things.

On the Recovery Act, as David knows very well, Biden led the Obama administration and their dealings with Congress on the Recovery Act.

So it's not like Biden comes in as some naive guy saying, OK, McCarthy, I can deal with you, we'll start from zero. He knows where he's coming from.

AXELROD: Talking about putting yourself in someone else's shoes --

BORGER: He knows --


AXELROD: -- is really important in politics.

BORGER: He knows --

AXELROD: And he understands politicians. He is one proudly. And he understands how to have that conversation.

COOPER: I want to bring in our Manu Raju.

Manu, President Biden will be heading to Arlington soon. Can you set the scene for us?


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're outside the east front of the capitol right now where we expect Joe Biden to walk down the center steps of the capitol where he'll be greeted by family, friends and supporters gathering here, just on the plaza.

It's a pretty empty plaza, cleared out. Of course, most crowds and people can't gather here. And security is incredibly tight. But the congressional leadership is on the top of the capitol steps. Leaders on both sides of the aisle waiting for Joe Biden to come out any moment.

He and Kamala Harris will walk down here and enter their motorcade. Leadership will wave good-bye to him as he travels on and carries on with the rest of his days' events here. So a bipartisan moment.

We've seen all throughout the course of the day in the capitol, going to wrap up this portion of festivities as he carries on the rest of his day here -- Anderson?

COOPER: And there's going to be a review of the troop?

RAJU: Yes. That's one of the next things on Biden's agenda. When he goes ahead to Arlington Cemetery and eventually to the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and begins his first day in office here.

But at the moment, the capitol is essentially here waiting. There are members of the military up and down the steps of the -- the center steps of the capitol.

And any moment, we expect the new president to walk down here and lead and carry on with his day.

COOPER: Yes. The president will observe the passing review event.

Van, as we wait to see the president, what did you make of McCarthy's remarks?



JONES: I'm sorry. I'm still -- just -- I -- I still look at this and I see the triumph of American democracy.

You have two symbols in that building. You have some nut walking through there with the Confederate flag and you have Kamala Harris.

Whose century is it? Is it the Confederate folks trying to go back to something they lost? Or is there something new happening? Something new is happening.

I agree that there's cracks, divisions all that sort of stuff. But you just saw the biggest reset button hit that you're ever going to see.

This has been four years of just horror and then you had just a big download of beauty. And that is going to matter.

Those guys, they may not admit what they said but they know they're talking to a different country now.

The -- all of the people who thought they could get away with this nonsense before, they now feel constrained by what you just saw. This country stuck together, from Silicon Valley to black voters in

the south, saying we want something different.

And, look, some of the stuff is boring. Boring is the new thrilling to me. I'm glad it's boring. I'm happy.

COOPER: Let's just -- let's listen in.