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CNN Live Event/Special
The Inauguration of Joe Biden. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Also they've installed Plexiglas barriers on desks in the West Wing. I saw some Secret Service officers with them on there as well.
So you're already seeing some changes underway even before the new president has arrived here on the grounds, which we are expecting him to do in just a short matter of time -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And it's so important that this new administration is setting a very positive, important example for the American people. They're wearing masks everywhere.
We see everyone, from former presidents, the current president, the current vice president, they're all wearing masks. And that is so, so important given this pandemic that's still very, very awful right now.
Phil Mattingly is over at the White House as well, looking -- he's overlooking the White House, I should say, right now.
Phil, what are you seeing?
What are you hearing?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think kaitlan put something forward that is important. That's what they want to lay out about the challenges they face, how present themselves publicly and as an administration and that's going to carry over into what they do in a couple of hours with their executive actions.
Their focus on trying to address the joint crises they have both on the public health and on the economic side. Kaitlan makes another excellent point about the familiarity with the White House, which extends for the Biden administration up to Capitol Hill as well.
Obviously we saw the president, who had very friendly exchanges with congressional leaders, went to mass with congressional leaders this morning. But it's what's happening behind the scenes as well that underscores how this administration is approaching things moving forward.
At 5:15, you will see the president sign 15 executive actions related to a series of items, whether it's rolling back very specific things Trump's administration put into place, whether it's addressing COVID, addressing the economic issues.
When you talk to administration officials, they acknowledge that the big picture things they want to accomplish, the real way to address all of these crises they're dealing with, that's going to take Congress and take legislation.
That's why what's been happening behind the scenes over the course of the last couple of weeks is so important, according to sources I've been talking to. The Biden team has been working behind the scenes with House lawmakers, with Senate lawmakers, particularly on their $1.9 trillion stimulus package, briefing House Democrats in full.
Also having their legislative affairs team reach out to specific senators, including several Republican senators who they think they may get on board with that proposal. There's no sense right now that Senate soon-to-be minority leader Mitch McConnell will be signing on to a $1.9 trillion proposal anytime soon.
Keep an eye on two very specific things: one, Biden and McConnell have a relationship. We all know that going back to when President Obama was in office. That relationship is real and I'm told they have had several phone calls over the last several weeks.
Also keep an eye on the staff on the Biden team and their bona fides. You have somebody on the House side in Shawan Sagoff, on the legislative affairs, who's very well respected on both the Republican and Democratic sides.
On the Senate side, reama doden, who comes from soon to be Senate majority whip Richard durbin's office, who is very respected on both the Republican and Democrat sides.
So the administration setting the tone early that they want to be involved with Capitol Hill and they know they need that involvement to secure these big legislative victories that they hope they can get in these first coming weeks and months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: These are really, really important critical days. Stand by. Kate Bennett, our White House correspondent, is already along this parade route that will be celebrating -- they're calling it Parade across America. So much of it is a virtual parade. Tell us what's going on, Kate.
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's some activity in recent minutes, Wolf, here. We've got authorities, law enforcement lining up; there's some Texas sheriffs, wearing their cowboy hats here, and another group of law enforcement from Illinois.
Dump trucks that were blocking Pennsylvania Avenue for safety have been moved out, so there is now a path for the president and the parade, so to speak, to come through and turn and make its way into the White House.
So everything is getting set. Wolf, while they have been at Arlington Cemetery, the movers have been moving in the new first family. This is a ritual that takes place every time a new first family moves in. Things are being unpacked, clothes going into closets, favorite
shampoos into the shower, right down to the kitchen being stocked with their favorite foods. So that's all happening. So when the Bidens are ready to go into the White House and officially make it their residence from here on out for the next four years, at least, everything will be there. And that's what's happening now. It's a very delicate, very well choreographed move out-move in situation that these people are experts at.
As you've said, this is going to be the street right here. Everyone will be pulling up here, as much of a parade as we can have in this very strange and different Inauguration Day is what we plan to see here in just a few minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see this virtual parade, a Parade across America. Bands, performers through all 50 states, six territories, we'll watch all of that as well. Jim Sciutto is watching it all very, very closely.
Jim, first of all tell us; I guess the president, once he comes from Arlington National Cemetery, he's going to be going in where you are, right?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That's exactly right. He'll approach from here, down Pennsylvania Avenue. What you're seeing behind me is the military honor guard that arrived here about a half hour ago, representing all five branches of the military. You see them lined up, about six feet apart, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard.
Ceremonial to complement the operational National Guard troops we're seeing around the Capitol, keeping it safe, given the threats we're facing. But the ceremony means something. There is a new commander in chief. All these branches of the military now commanded by that commander in chief.
One other word, Wolf, as we begin to see this parade come through here, is history. It is all about history and it matters. Leading the group is going to be members of the 1st Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry. It's called the Old Guard.
Why is it called the Old Guard?
Because it's the oldest continuously operating military unit in this country. It goes back to 1784. That matters. It's about continuity, through presidents of parties, through trials and tribulations and wars and division like we're seeing now. That has remained a constant.
You're also going to be seeing the U.S. Army band. It's known as Pershing's Own. That has led inaugural parades in this country going back to 1925. Each of those units, they might all look kind of the same, uniforms, et cetera. But each one is there for a reason because they represent something.
One final note as you see them because I know there are a lot of proud mothers and fathers of members of these units, to get into these bands and these honor guards, highly competitive. They're chosen from hundreds of applicants. When you get in, it's something special.
So it's a big day for all of those who are going to be taking part in this parade.
BLITZER: And it's always so, so memorable and so exciting. I'm looking forward to it, as I know you are and all of our viewers are as well. Our senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is also near the White House.
Brianna, where exactly are you and what are you seeing?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I am here on the edge of Lafayette Park. This way-off camera is actually the White House and what you see behind me is the Treasury Building.
So we're going to see this procession coming behind us. I'm really just down the street a little bit from Jim Sciutto.
What strikes me, though, is how different a scene this is from four years ago. Even though you see this ceremonial honor guard, normally on part of the area where they are standing, there would be risers, there would be additional viewing area for the first family and for a number of guests.
What is so different about this is that there is no crowd. And we knew that. But it also just has a little bit of a different feel as well.
There were levels of security, multiple levels of security to get through, Wolf, and downtown Washington, D.C., has been so much of a ghost town, aside from folks who are obviously working the inauguration, covering the inauguration, or the military that is here and law enforcement that is here as well.
But it is going to be, I think, a very spectacular scene here, with the military involvement. But it's also going to be very different in this age of coronavirus.
BLITZER: It certainly will be and for good reason indeed.
You know, John, these parades on Inauguration Day, you've seen them many times, I have as well and people are lined up on the sidewalks in big, big numbers. But because of COVID right now and some security concerns, that's not happening.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's not happening, so it is yet another piece of our new normal, 2020 carrying over into 2021. We're having to do so many things virtually that we once did in person.
And yet, Joe Biden won a campaign that was very different. He was mocked by now former president Trump in that campaign for respecting social distancing, for respecting the power of the coronavirus, for asking people to stay safe. So this is yet something else that has to be done differently. But it's a sign of the respect for the virus, respect for tradition, to do what you can. I think Phil was hitting on this a few moments ago. What a day for Joe Biden. He's about to roll past the Treasury Department into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his new home.
Four years ago Donald Trump was the ultimate outsider, disrupter, winning the presidency in his first run for public office. Joe Biden, nearly four decades in the Senate, eight years as vice president, coming back to the White House now as its resident, as the president.
BLITZER: We are waiting for President Biden to arrive near the White House for the military procession marking his big entrance to his new home, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, for the first time as the U.S. commander in chief.
That's coming up along with the Parade across America, featuring entertainers, athletes and American heroes all around the country.
BLITZER: Our extensive live coverage right here on CNN continues.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We are awaiting the start of the inaugural parade. President Biden is leaving Arlington National Cemetery soon. He will make his way here, right near the White House, for a military procession.
There will also be a made-for-TV parade, too, a virtual parade, as our inauguration coverage continues.
Dana, when President Biden walks into the White House, he's going to have work to do, literally and figuratively. He's got a lot on his plate. The country is in a bad spot, especially with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic and educational havoc wreaked. But also he has tasks that he's going to take care of today.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely will, right here, right behind us. He is going to be there very shortly. He already has a long list of things he's going to do, including campaign promises.
Number one on his list has to do with fighting the pandemic and making a move that president Trump refused to do in any way, shape or form, and that is tell people aggressively to wear masks.
He's going to take it a step further and sign an executive order that directs agencies to require mask wearing for federal workers in federal buildings and on federal lands, which is basically the limits of the scope of what he can do.
BASH: But it's also sending a signal to try to use the bully pulpit, to try to use whatever he can to say it, to do it and to set an example, which he has been doing for some time. Yes, the vaccines are on their way. But, as he said, the winter is going to get darker before we see the light.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And as our White House colleagues know -- and Sanjay Gupta has talked about -- not that long ago at the White House, at the executive office building, it was commonplace to see staffers walking around with no masks in the midst of this pandemic.
And so that's going to change pretty much immediately. The whole interior of the White House is going to get kind of a makeover in addition to a deep cleaning after the --
TAPPER: It's a hot zone over there, literally a hot zone, yes.
PHILLIP: But it's symbolic but there's a lot of practicality that they have to deal with. This vaccine rollout, I cannot emphasize enough, has been a disaster. The Biden transition, now Biden administration, has been very transparent about the fact that they believed that things were not done that could have been done to make this go a little bit faster.
And if they can get the vaccine rollout in a better place, we could be potentially -- we could potentially have a much better handle on this pandemic, which is the number one priority for this administration. That is task number one.
And I think you can imagine that, as people are getting to work at the White House right now, picking up their badges, they're heading straight for that task and getting to work on that.
TAPPER: The Biden -- President Biden's presidential motorcade is making its way from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House. There is the inaugural parade, the actual physical inaugural parade, ready to go as soon as Biden gets here to the receiving stand, which is right behind us.
Then there will also be a virtual parade which will go on nationally. I'm not going to spoil it for you but it does look to be fun and interesting.
Abby, you talk about all the things the Biden people want to do with the rollout of the vaccine that will change hopefully and be more efficient -- there's the presidential motorcade proceeding.
And one of the things that's still so shocking about the last few months, on a list of very, very shocking and horrific activities, is the fact that Donald Trump, the former president, would not allow the transition to begin after Joe Biden was declared president on November 7th.
And that hindered the ability of the Biden team to get up to speed with where the vaccine rollout and everything having to do with the pandemic goes. And that -- whatever you think of president Trump's feelings and all the lies having to do with the election, regardless of all of that, that put the health and lives of the American people at risk.
It undermined the ability of the Biden team to do the job.
PHILLIP: Oh, absolutely. And one of the things the Biden team talked about was the Trump administration withholding -- partially withholding information, only partially cooperating with them on key issues, not just on the vaccine and on COVID-19 but on national security issues, on homeland security issues.
And so those complaints were pervasive across the government. But it's not surprising because, I remember four years ago, the incoming administration then, these were people who really didn't know how the government worked, didn't prepare for that part of the job. And the Biden administration is doing something completely different.
TAPPER: As the Biden presidential motorcade makes its way to the White House, we'll squeeze in one last break. On the other side, we will bring you the 59th presidential inauguration committee parade. Stay with us.
TAPPER: President Biden's motorcade is on the move from Arlington National Cemetery on the way to the White House, we're standing by for him to arrive here right behind us at the viewing stand near the White House for a rousing celebration, where the president and his team, his family, the vice president and her team, her family, will watch the military bands.
They will escort them all into Joe Biden's new home, President Biden's new home, we'll show you that and the unique parade across America. This virtual parade, it's interesting, in this age of COVID, the Democratic and Republican Conventions had to reinvent what a convention is.
Now the people who organized this are trying to reinvent what an inaugural is. And this parade across America is going to feature bands, performers through all 50 states and six territories. It's going to start with a welcome from actor Tony Goldwyn, whom viewers of the television show "Scandal" might known as Fitz -- I believe he played Fitz.
TAPPER: President Fitz, I know, but his good friends called him Fitz.
PHILLIP: This is -- well, that's going to be a really fun part of this. Actually at the DNC, when they did this roll call of all 50 states, all across the country, you got to see from Hawaii to Guam, it was one of the, I think, most lauded parts of the DNC.
And in some ways, this perhaps could be a new version of that. I guess, in the COVID era, some things have had to have been reinvented for the digital age and maybe even made better. So we'll see if they were able to improve on the traditional parade.
The in-person part of this, though, that we're about to see, the escort of the president and the vice president to the White House, is a tradition that dates all the way back to George Washington. That's amazing when you really think about it.
So it is nice to have a little bit of both, to have a little bit of what we are used to here in Washington. Usually we would be down there, as high school marching bands are marching in front of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House. Now we're going to get some of the marching but more of that coming from the virtual parade.
BASH: And with COVID they have had to get creative, like we all have over the last almost year. And so while we are seeing these images of the motorcade coming -- and there will be some of the parade -- most of it is going to be done virtually.
BASH: And with the creativity comes some really interesting stuff, as we saw over the summer with the Democratic National Convention. You mentioned Tony Goldwyn; Jon Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show," is also going to be speaking.
TAPPER: A fellow New Jerseyian of yours.
BASH: That's right, go Jersey, from the Garden State. But also what they are trying to incorporate here is some good old-fashioned fun, some music and some musical performances which we won't ruin but you should stay tuned for.
But again, nods in a fun way to some of the great stories of people who have made other people happy during this very hard year; for example, the TikTok doc, the doctor from Oregon, who has gone viral by trying to connect with young people who are underrepresented and elsewhere, on TikTok, as he is trying to save patients and work on the front lines of this health care crisis.
So we'll have some of that kind of event during this virtual parade.
TAPPER: We are used to there being lots of security in Washington during an inauguration. But we are not used to there being this much. And we are not used to the streets being empty.
PHILLIP: And the silence. It's notable. TAPPER: It is eerie. It is a reminder that the U.S. right now,
downtown Washington, D.C., is under two threats. One of them is the threat of COVID -- and you see the Secret Service agents there, wearing masks -- and the other is, of course, the threat of the terrorism and domestic terrorist attacks that we all experienced two weeks ago.
Kate Bennett is one of our White House correspondents and she is covering the parade for us.
Kate, tell us what you know.
BENNETT: Well, Jake, from here, it now sounds like a very real parade, with all the gravity and pomp and circumstance. It might be sort of Inauguration Lite but we're definitely seeing -- we're seeing the military band come up right now up 15th Street. Behind that in the distance, the president's motorcade has made it onto 15th Street.
So they are working their way slowly up. They're making the turn here to go in front of the White House. But certainly, as you can see, there's plenty of excitement. Certainly there may not be the packed crowds along the parade route.
But we are seeing the parade. Again, toward the end of 15th Street, the president, the first lady, the first family, the vice president, the second gentleman will be coming up this way, making the traditional inaugural parade move into the White House onto Pennsylvania Avenue.
I'm sure my colleague, Brianna Keilar, is probably going to see them next. She's just a little bit down the road from me.
But certainly, Jake, this is feeling very much like the traditional inaugural parade that we see, as there's a transfer of power. And it's quite something.
TAPPER: It's an impressive array. The parade is impressive. But of course, it is odd to not have millions of Americans cheering from the sidewalks.
BASH: Cheering from their couches.
TAPPER: I guess that's the positive way to look at it. Brianna keilar is out there as well.
Brianna, tell us what you're seeing.
KEILAR: Hi, there, Jake. We actually just saw the Metro D.C. police motorcycles go by, the color guard went by. One of the things that stands out is, yes, we are used to seeing contingents of police and military as part of this parade.
But in the last few weeks and here over the course of the last year, we have seen them in action. I mean, we saw them a couple of weeks ago in the siege at the Capitol. We saw the Metro police involved in that. We've also seen the military involved in certainly political moments that even political leaders did not like this year.
So we're seeing them here in a very ceremonial regard here. One of the military bands coming through. And this is it, Jake. These are the sights and these are the sounds of the inauguration as we await the president, President Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris.
And we're also, I think, after we see the military bands coming through, we'll hear from the University of Delaware drum line and from Howard University's drum line, paying some homage, of course, to both of these leaders, who will be coming through as part of this procession -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Brianna, well, let's listen in to the parade.