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CNN Live Event/Special
The Inauguration of Joe Biden; V.P. Harris Arrives at White House.. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Walk toward her vehicle in much the same we just saw the Biden grandchildren walk toward the president and first lady, sort of seems like the same setup here.
So they will meet the vehicle with the vice president, hopefully, as we saw with the Bidens, get out of the car and walk a bit toward the White House. It looks like they're about to get out of the car.
We just had the Howard University drum line go through, too, right before the vice president, her alma mater.
There she is, Kamala Harris has gotten out.
Brianna, I don't know if you have a better angle than I do, but they are out of the car, about to take a walk with their family, continuing the tradition, even in this era of COVID, even in this very high security, tenuous time.
This is a rite of passage that now the vice president is continuing, as she historically greets her first afternoon and evening as Vice President of the United States.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes. Obviously, the family -- one of these moments, I know and other years, obviously, when we've all been along these parade routes and you see the first and second families get out and start walking, it's such an integral part of this tradition and part of the family nature of this special moment.
And here they are, Vice President Kamala Harris and her family, along with, of course, her husband, his children. You can see them all walking along there together on that route, just as Joe Biden did moments ago. They'll continue walking there up, of course, to the White House, where the president has already gone in.
What can you see from where you are now, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I am seeing the vice president and her entourage approaching here. But you know, if we take this moment just to realize how historic this is, Erin, in the fact that, all across the country, there are little girls who are watching this moment right now, with their parents or their grandparents. And they're never going to know a time when there wasn't a woman who was vice president, which is obviously a very different situation than most people have experienced. This is a first.
And this is a new normal for a lot of young people out there, as they watch Kamala Harris here, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. Right now she and her family, the second gentleman there on her right, are walking in front of the Treasury Building. We're going to -- I see her sister as well.
We're going to try and see if we can try to grab their attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Vice President?
KEILAR: Madam Vice President?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Vice President?
KEILAR: All right. We're trying to get her to come over here, Erin. So far, no luck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling, Madam Vice President?
She was just asked, I will say, Erin, "How does it feel to be the first?"
And I believe what she said was, "You know." I think that is what she said.
This is, obviously, a moment that, for her -- you know, she's very much soaking in. She's keenly aware, of course, what this means to be the first female vice president and also being not only that, the first female president, the first female Black president, also of South Asian descent. This is a very big deal as we're watching her walk down Pennsylvania Avenue here in front of the White House for what is a tremendous undertaking these next four years for her and President Biden -- Erin.
BURNETT: It certainly is.
And as she walks along this route, Jim Sciutto, I know, you're standing as they're walking to you. There may not be a lot of people here but there are a lot of press.
What do you see from where you're standing?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I see the vice president walking here in front of the White House, the
first woman, the first woman of color with her family.
A word about the security here. It is a relief. It is nice to see this. It was not certain that she or the president would leave the motorcade but they did. We've been able to see them out here.
But it speaks to the security risk that they were only able to do that for the final 100 or 200 yards or so of their trip into the White House and the old executive office building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Vice President, how does it feel?
SCIUTTO: What's your first job?
KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Walking to work.
SCIUTTO: Walking to work is her first job. Of course, Erin, we should note, her office is in the old executive office building, just here next to the White House. That's where she'll be walking toward today.
SCIUTTO: And I think that's part of the message today for both her and the president. They are hitting the ground running. They have lots of work to do. There will be executive orders today. They're going to be ironing out and revealing their plan to handle the pandemic today.
This is all happening today. A moment to celebrate, as she said there, she's getting to work.
BURNETT: That's right. As she gets there, to the White House, there's going to be that slew of executive orders here over the next hour or so. And, of course, the vice president, Kamala Harris, is actually just being sworn in herself, will also be swearing in the two new senators from Georgia as well as her replacement senator from the state of California. So all of that still to come here over the next hour.
These moments, though, as she's walking there, holding the hand of her great-niece. These are the moments, perhaps, that are most important for her, certainly for the president himself, as he walked with his family.
That moment, it's a very brief moment, as we all know, right before that work begins, to share this with your family.
What do you actually see, as you see them waving?
Can you describe, Jim, because I think you're closest right now, sort of who are they waving to?
Usually we would all be there and there would be crowds. Tell me what you're seeing off camera.
SCIUTTO: It's a great point, Erin. Normally there would be crowds, members of the public here. The fact is, it's journalists. It's security. It's members of the military. Some government officials. The D.C. mayor was just down here. But not that public event as it has been in the past.
That's a sad fact of where we are today in this Capitol. Where I'm standing, where the White House is, where the Vice President is, is surrounded by 25,000 D.C. National Guard troops. Many circles of security, extending out several blocks from here. That
is what was necessary to secure this place and this moment following the events of January 6th. That's a sad reality.
On the good side, they were able to leave the motorcade, to walk, to wave and to get to work today. But we can't forget what was necessary to make this moment possible. And it is all that security that you don't see in this moment around us.
And, frankly, the vast majority of people are going to watch this on their television screens, right, not in person, sadly.
BURNETT: Right. Right. And when you have to take a step back, that's true every time, right?
You think around the country how many people can actually go. We are all now forced to share this in the same way, perhaps has its own level of togetherness. It is a good thing, as you point out, that they were actually able to get out of the motorcade.
I know Brianna and Kate were talking about, obviously, they couldn't get out of the car until very close to the end here by the White House.
As the vice president walks in those gates with her entourage and her family for the first time as vice president, Bakari Sellers joins me, an early backer of Harris.
Bakari, you know her well. You watch this moment.
What does this moment mean for her personally, as she is here right now, walking with her family?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it means so much. You see her, her husband. You see Tony and Maya. You see her nieces, Mina, and Mina's children. You saw Doug run over and hug Reggie Hudlin, well known for being the director of "House Party," he produced "Django." His wife is Kamala's best friend.
It's a small family affair. But for her, I think, in particular, her mother is smiling down today. She and Maya will share a very special moment today for little Black girls around the world.
Today means so much, just to watch her walk in with the swag, to watch her walk in with the dignity, to watch her walk in -- and I'm not a big fan of the shouted question that reporters ask all the time.
But to hear them say Madam Vice President, it just means so much. Today, she stands on the shoulders of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm, Hillary Clinton.
And she has shattered so many glass ceilings that, today, even if you didn't support her or vote for her, this is history that we're watching. Let's scratch that. This is her story that we're watching.
And she's doing it with so much grace. Today is just an awesome day. And I hope -- and I know my wife is sitting at home, watching with our two girls, bawling at the history that's being made with Kamala Debbie Harris.
BURNETT: The vice president now at work there in the office building. As we have said, these very important moments happening, the symbolism happening and they're going to work. A slew of executive orders. She, herself, the vice president, as I said, will be swearing in three new Democratic senators, including the two Democratic senators from Georgia. All of that, coming up here over the next hour.
Bakari, one thing you said there -- you spoke about the significance of this. You were talking about for your wife, for your children, for little Black girls and for people, for everyone of any party.
And you know one thing I wanted to say to you?
I think that that is so poignant and true. For young children, boys and girls, no matter the color, they will never remember a world where a woman wasn't a vice president. It will never be a thing that needs to be achieved or a thing that needs to happen.
It's so important to make that point, an apolitical point, the symbolism of the moment cannot be underestimated.
I see it with my own daughter, right?
It is a hugely significant thing.
SELLERS: It is. And when you think about everything that she represents in this moment, I got a good smile out of Howard University's band. It's not something that's seen on CNN often, how they came in with the high knees and the drummers and the dancers.
Historically Black colleges and universities that are on the scene now, from Raphael Warnock who went to Morehouse to Yogananda Pittman, the new U.S. Capitol police chief, to Stacey Abrams, whose shoulders they rode in on. You begin to see that there is more to this country than we've seen in the other 48 vice presidents of the United States of America. Number 49 is slightly different.
She's a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority incorporated, so the divine nine in East sororities are now on the forefront and they're organizing and their extracurricular work, the work they do in communities and community service and people are now getting to know that.
While we want to talk about the policies she'll implement later and in which way and what executive orders they're going to do, I think today is a day where we can actually talk about the history and everything that this Black woman embodies, as she walks into the halls of the most powerful place in the world.
BURNETT: And now she is in those halls. She is there, getting to work as, of course, we have a parade to come and the big performances tonight. Phil Mattingly is our senior White House correspondent.
Now that she has walked in those doors, Phil, with the second gentleman by her side for that first entrance as the vice president, tell me what her first moves in the White House are.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, when you talk to administration officials, they kind of echo what President Biden tweeted a short time ago, there's no time to waste. I'm not stepping on what Bakari was saying and this moment and what it means.
But as you talk to officials, they acknowledge what they're facing, as they walk into this historic moment on so many different levels, a multiple set of crises, whether it's economic, public health, racial divides.
All these issues that they'll try to address straight out of the gate. In about an hour, Erin, you'll see President Biden start action, if you will. And I want it to be contextual here. This is not massive overhauls of thing, it's not going to change the direction of everything in the country. There are limits of what the government can do just with the stroke of the president's pen.
But he has made clear he will implement a series of executive actions, some related to COVID-19. There's going to be a mask mandate for federal buildings, a number of them rolling back the previous administration's orders, whether halting funding for the border wall, reentering the Paris climate accord, several different areas where the administration is taking action but also setting a tone for what they're going to do in the weeks ahead.
You saw the administration this morning release the outline of an extensive overhaul of the immigration system that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and lay out the details of a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. That will take Congress.
MATTINGLY: That's can't happen today. You will see in the next hour those executive actions start to get kicked into gear. While they will have an impact on a smaller scale, particularly on the federal level, what they will do more than anything else is lay out a tone of what this administration is going to focus on, going to try to accomplish over the weeks and months ahead.
MATTINGLY: Legislatively as well as what the president can do himself, Erin.
BURNETT: And some of these -- many of these executive orders, as you point out, are not -- some of them reverse what president Trump did, right?
Halting the border wall, reversing the Muslim ban but many are not. They are new things, that President Biden wants to do. Another thing, one of them is noncitizens to be included in the census, how we apportion where those congressional districts are. These are things that would be of significant change.
MATTINGLY: Yes. There's no question about it. Look, when you talk to advisers and when advisers have said things over the last couple of days, they made clear they understand things.
On the issue of the economy, things are going to get worse before they get better. I think they understand -- and it dovetails with what Bakari was saying -- the history of the moment and recognizing where they are. They recognize where they are.
Day one, this is the moment that you get to set the tone. You don't get a redo on this moment. So I think they're trying to set the tone over the course of the day.
I would also acknowledge, when you talk to them, they make very clear, this isn't it. This isn't going to be enough. We need to do so much more. The big questions that will come over the course of the next several days -- Erin, it's not just today. Over the course of the next eight or nine days, you'll see a laser focus, day-by-day message with executive actions on issues like immigration, health care, more on COVID starting tomorrow as well.
But they acknowledge more needs to be done and that more is going to require Congress, where they have very slim majorities in the House and the Senate, where they'll need bipartisanship, as the president laid out in his speech.
BURNETT: David Gregory is with me as well.
You have covered so many administrations, David. So talk us through these first few moments of the Biden presidency, right?
As the president and vice president have gone in those doors -- of course, we'll see them again with all the pomp and circumstance tonight and these executive orders coming momentarily.
What are these first few moments like?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of it is just organization. And because the transition was really undermined by the outgoing administration, this administration has to do more faster and play catch-up. We talked about that with cabinet officials not being in place.
Congress has to work on that, the Senate has to work on that. So you have acting secretaries that have to get into place. What they have built up is this pandemic response infrastructure and we'll see a focus on a lot more federal coordination with the states, the vaccine rollout being the most important thing. You'll see -- I think this -- the president and the vice president are
going to spend some time projecting a new U.S. image around the world. I think that will be important to signal, hey, we're back. There's a sense of normalcy in the administration.
And when I say we're back, that idea that the American presidency, that America is going to revert back to a position of leadership that Donald Trump veered away from. Again, he got plaudits for that and obviously got criticism.
But I think everything is about a new orientation. There's a lot of people, especially those who are closest to President Biden, who have been there before.
GREGORY: They know how to get rolling right away, including the president.
GREGORY: And this new vice president.
I was struck watching Kamala Harris, what will her role be?
She's going to have an important role, just as Vice President Biden did to President Obama. It will be interesting to watch that unfold as well.
BURNETT: Even as he has given his speeches recently, she was sitting in the chair behind him. It's very much visually been presented as a team, very explicitly so.
It's interesting, this whole transition. They walk in there. You talk about how everything gets cleaned and, you know, Joe Biden walks in. When he goes through those doors he'll see the note that Donald Trump said that he left him. There's that moment that will happen.
And then there's just the transition itself, right?
The national security team came in before, right?
Before President Biden became president.
You needed them to have sitting in place so there wasn't a second of gap, right?
What's that like, just that literal moving chair aspect of this today?
GREGORY: Well, the first thing is, you want to find out what particular threats are being monitored, what the national security team has to respond to right away.
Are there some things that may have been unattended or things that are cropping up in this immediate transition?
The seamlessness of power in the United States is something to behold because, even under these circumstances, it has been a peaceful transition, even as we've watched our Capitol be an armed encampment, which is so unfortunate.
So the national security team wants to tend to that. I think the team also wants to learn what's new with regard to the virus and the virus response that they may not have known. There may have been some things that have come up in the last couple of days that they weren't aware of.
But you know, the new team has priorities. There's executive action and we've seen this before with other administrations. They take immediate executive action to undo some things the previous administration did. But as you've been talking about, the focus is, let's get our secretaries in place.
For instance, what about the threats we're talking about?
Thank God, this has been a peaceful day. But you've got a Justice Department, those who were there existing, the bureaucracy, the FBI. They have to monitor ongoing threats and there has to be a lot of coordination about that. That's going to be a priority as well.
BURNETT: Right, right. Of course, and as you said, we see at least 17 executive orders to be signed here over the next hour.
Bakari, one of the things that I think was so important today that we all saw was the continuity, right?
Of course, president Trump wasn't there. And, you know, there was that first time in 150 years, right?
But you had Mike Pence there. You had all the prior presidents there and their wives and going to Arlington Ceremony. You saw Lady Gaga come out afterwards, she talks to all of them quickly on her way out. That feeling of continuity that was so important.
Walk me through the moment when former President Barack Obama had that fist bump with Kamala Harris. Tell me about what happened there.
SELLERS: Well, when you -- first of all, let's back up to when Barack Obama and Michelle Obama came in. They were wearing a designer -- Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris both wearing a designer from South Carolina. So shout out to him as well, Sergio Hudson.
Just watching that aura, you begin to build that. That excitement begins to swell. Then the communication between Barack Obama and Kamala Harris. Their relationship goes back a long way. She was one of the first people to campaign for him in Iowa back in 2008.
You know how he thought so highly of her as a United States senator in the great state of California. That fist bump means so much. To tie it all together, if I were to have taken you back to 2006 or 2007 and told you that Joe Biden would have been the most transcendent political figure on the issue of race, you would have thought I was crazy.
What do I mean by that?
Joe Biden was the vice president to the first Black president in the history of this country. Joe Biden also ushers in the first Black vice president in the history of this country. And so to be affixed to both those hyper historical moments, it means so much.
Just that moment between Kamala and Barack, that's a moment that swells your heart. That's a moment -- you have to understand, Erin, when you go into Black churches right now, down in the reception area, you've got a picture of Jesus, Martin Luther King and you've got a picture of Barack Obama.
And Kamala Harris now is in that same type of conversation with people like Barack Obama, who are luminaries, who mean so much to our community and will be prayed over and protected so they go out and do the work necessary to get our people out of the ditch.
BURNETT: Jim Sciutto is outside of the White House.
The president and vice president have just gone in. Tell me what you see there now. Obviously, they are beginning the work right behind you.
SCIUTTO: That's right. Listen, as quickly as it started, it ended. The ceremony, that is. The doors are closed to the White House and the old executive office building, where the vice president's offices are, as they get to work.
As Kamala Harris said to me a few minutes ago, when I shouted a question to her, what's her job number one?
She said getting to work. That, indeed, appears to be what they've done. A lot of the pomp quickly wrapping up here. The honor guard that represented all the branches of the military, they have now left, back to a less ceremonial security footing here.
SCIUTTO: Although you certainly have the security we've seen in the city, the last several days, ringing the White House. The ceremony around the White House, we saw it. It was powerful. It was full of history. It was full of the moment. Now you get a sense that they're at their desks and they're getting to work.
BURNETT: Yes. And in just moments, President Biden is going to sign at least a dozen more executive actions and Vice President Kamala Harris is going to swear in three new Democratic senators, who, of course, shifted the balance of power in the Senate. You'll see both of those Georgia senators sworn in by the vice president.
We will be right back.
BURNETT: Hello. I'm Erin Burnett. Thank you for joining me for CNN's special live coverage of the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. He is now the 46th President of the United States. And today's transition of power will hold a special place in American history for many reasons.
Biden is the oldest president to take the oath of office for a first term. In another major achievement, Kamala Harris now the first woman, the first Black and Asian person to ever to be sworn in.