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State of the Union
Interview With U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Xavier Becerra; Interview With Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT); Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Interview With Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 24, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Daunting task. President Biden now facing one of the biggest challenges in American history, defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.
BASH: As the vaccine rollout stalls and cases continue to climb, how will his administration fix the response?
I will speak exclusively to Biden's nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, next.
And: Come together? Joe Biden begins his presidency with a divided nation and a split Senate battling for power.
BIDEN: Unity is the path forward.
BASH: Can he really unite Washington for the literal health of the country? Republican Senator Mitt Romney and independent Senator Bernie Sanders join me to discuss in moments.
Plus: Save the date. President Trump's second Senate impeachment trial is set. Can Democrats convince enough Republicans to break with the former president and hold him accountable for inciting a deadly riot?
I will talk strategy with House impeachment manager Madeleine Dean ahead.
BASH: ... where the state of our union is turning the page.
President Biden is about to begin his first full week in office facing challenges America has not seen since FDR or even Lincoln, a crisis compounded by a now ex-president who largely ignored the pandemic as 400,000 Americans died, while leaving American democracy on life support as well. President Biden's response so far, starkly different, in words, by
example, and with a pile of executive actions and proposed legislation. But the new president is having to face reality quickly, with criticism that his stated goal of administering 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days isn't big and bold enough to get the pandemic under control.
And with a divided Senate that can't even seem to agree on how to begin work and will soon be tied up with the second impeachment trial for President Trump, this hour, we are going to bring you interviews with key senators on both sides of the aisle, Mitt Romney and Bernie Sanders, plus impeachment manager Madeleine Dean.
But I want to begin with the new administration and the most pressing crisis facing the country.
Joining me now exclusively is the man President Biden tapped to fill perhaps the most important Cabinet post in the fight against COVID-19, nominee for secretary of health and human services Xavier Becerra.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning. I really appreciate it.
And I want you to listen to something President Biden said on Friday:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: If we fail to act, there will be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on, because there is nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: People across the country, as you well know, are desperate to see some kind of improvement.
Do you agree with President Biden that there is nothing you can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months?
XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY NOMINEE: Well, Dana, first, thanks for having me. And congratulations to you on your new post.
BASH: Thank you, sir.
BECERRA: What -- I believe President Biden is making it very clear, the plane is in a nosedive, and we have got to pull it up.
And you aren't going to do that overnight. But we're going to pull it up. We have to pull it up. Failure is not an option here. And so we will.
And the president has put forward not just a plan. It's a rescue plan that should be followed by a recovery plan. But, first, you have got to rescue the people, you have got to rescue the economy. And that is why the president has put forward a bold plan with specifics, and he is going to bring everyone into the game.
BASH: So, I take that to mean you do think that you can change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months? And, if so, what time frame are we talking about?
BECERRA: Well, that's where President Biden made it very clear. It won't happen overnight.
We can do better. We cannot only control COVID, but get us back to real normality. But it takes everybody, all hands on deck. We have got to make sure we're coordinating and we're talking to people. We can't just tell the states: Here's some PPE, some masks, here's some vaccines, now go do it. No, no.
When we hand them over, we stay with them and provide resources to make it happen.
We do that, Dana, if we get people following the president's guidance of wearing a mask for these first 100 days, we're going to get control of this thing.
BASH: Let's talk about the vaccine. President Biden set a goal of 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days.
But the U.S. had almost reached that pace before he took office. And nobody thinks that the vaccine distribution is going well right now, that it's not good enough. So, is 100 million doses in the first 100 days ambitious enough?
BECERRA: It's ambitious. It's certainly going to -- we're going to need to do even more.
But, before we can even do the ambitious part, we got to get everything working together, because we just spent the first question and answer talking about how what we inherited didn't work. And now we got to make it work.
But I believe President Biden is going to be ambitious in everything he tries to do in these four years he's got as a president to get us back on track.
And you have to be. You have got to get the American people kick- started. And I think that's what he's trying to do. But he's trying to do it the right way. He's going to give people the plan. He's going to give people facts. He's going to rely on cooperation. It's a partnership.
BASH: Yes. And I hear you, but presidents like that sent -- set goals and use their leadership to set goals for all of the players to try to meet.
And I'm sure you have seen that some critics have said that the Biden administration is trying to set expectations lower in order to get a political achievement. What do you say to that? BECERRA: Well, if the plane is diving like this, you're certainly not
going to see it appear like this overnight.
What you're trying to do is get the plane from being like this to getting straightened out, and then going like this. In three -- in 100 days, getting 100 shots out there on vaccines, 100 million shots out there in vaccines, is incredibly important. It's ambitious, it's bold, it's doable. We have to do it.
But we have to recognize that we're doing it while the plane is in a dive like this.
BASH: I want to show our viewers some pictures of really long lines, senior citizens waiting for hours to get vaccines in your home state of California.
It's chaotic across the country. People don't know where to sign up. Appointments are getting canceled. Some people are just walking into pharmacies and getting the vaccine. What is the Biden administration going to do to fix that mess?
BECERRA: Yes, Dana, it -- that's not America. That's not the way we treat those we consider vulnerable, in need of this vaccine most. That is not America at its best, nor was it good to see so many people in line for hours just trying to vote. That's not America either.
What we have to do is show people how it can be done. You can't just tell the states and the local governments, here's some vaccines, now you go do it. No, we have to coordinate. We have to provide the resources.
Many of these states, as you know, are suffering through massive budget deficits. They're trying to figure out where to get the resources to help these overburdened and tired health workers.
President Biden's plan provides for 100,000 new health care workers to get out there to all the states to help. It's a plan that really can work if we all get -- put our muscle to it together.
BASH: So, when will anyone who wants a vaccine be able to get one?
BECERRA: Well, that's a matter of making sure we're coordinating with the states, because it's not the federal government that's putting the vaccine in the arm.
But we are trying to provide it. We're providing the resources and the help to make it happen. And what we want to make sure is that the locals, when they're doing this, have a plan that's clear, that everyone understands, so there's no lines, and so that everyone knows that we're in this together.
But part of the problem, as you have laid out, is the states have been on their own. Now the Biden administration is saying the federal government is going to have a much heavier hand. So, given that, what is the timeline, what is the goal for people to get fully vaccinated, anybody who wants it to have one?
BECERRA: Well, it's a partnership, Dana. It won't be a heavy hand, because we have to work with our states and local partners.
BASH: Can you give a timeline?
BECERRA: Well, I first have to be sworn in to give you a timeline.
But what I can tell you is this. President Biden has made it very clear to us, we give people straight shot information. We don't try to hide the ball.
And once we have that information, I guarantee you we will share it.
BASH: Can you give me a general timeline? Is your goal this summer?
BECERRA: Well, let's put it this way.
The president, before he had an opportunity to be in the Oval Office for one day, had already committed 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days. And that's based on the information they were able to gather.
Once we're in the house, taking care of business, we will be able to give more precision. But you have got to give us a chance to figure out what's going on in the cockpit that's causing this plane to nosedive so severely.
BASH: I'm sure you know this. Several medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, pushed President Biden to nominate doctors to top health posts.
You are not a doctor. Why are you the right person to lead this agency at this time with this incredible pandemic?
BECERRA: Well, remember that President Biden did heed that call. There are going to be several doctors leading many of the agencies within Health and Human Services, very skilled and qualified physicians, along with scientists, along with researchers, along with law enforcers, along with auditors.
HHS is a big place. What we need is leadership. And coming together, I think that's what you will find. And I'm going to apply my more than -- as you know, my more than 20 years working on health care issues when I was in Congress, helping to expand health care for kids under the Children's Health Insurance Program, helping not only draft, but pass and now, by the way, defend the Affordable Care Act, the entire Affordable Care Act, for every American in the Supreme Court.
We have cracked down on fraud and Medicare and Medicaid when -- as an A.G. in my office. And so I'm going to use all that experience I have had to do what President Biden said, put the best minds at this, and that people see the facts and the science drive where we go. BASH: Vice President Kamala Harris made history this week as the
first woman, first Asian American, first black American to be vice president.
Assuming you're confirmed, you will be part of the most diverse Cabinet ever, the first Latino to head HHS. What does that mean to you?
BECERRA: Dana, that means that this young kid growing up who could barely ever see a face that looked a little more like him and had an experience more like his parents is now going to sit in the room with the president of the United States and a vice president who reminds me so much of what I saw all the time, and it makes me very proud, because President Biden chose the best.
And so, when you see Vice President Kamala Harris, you're not just looking at someone who helped make history. You're looking at one of the best. And so that has to make America feel very proud.
I will defend the flag and the honor of this democracy, because I know what it's meant for a man who got to the sixth grade and no farther, a woman who didn't come to this country until she was 18, when she married my father, to see now their child get to serve in the Cabinet of a president of the United States.
BASH: Xavier Becerra, President Biden's nominee to be HHS secretary, thank you so much.
BECERRA: Thank you.
BASH: And Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump a year ago. Will there be more than one this time? Senator Romney joins me next.
Plus: President Biden pledged to work with Republicans to pass legislation, but Senator Bernie Sanders has a different strategy. He will be here to explain in moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We gather due to a selfish man's injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he had deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning.
What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
That was Republican Senator Mitt Romney on the night of the insurrection at the Capitol.
In two weeks, President Trump's impeachment trial begins, and every senator will face a decision about whether President Trump should be held accountable for his actions on January 6. Will there be enough votes for a conviction?
BASH: Joining us now is Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.
Senator, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
I want to get right to the impeachment trial that we're going to see on February 9. As our viewers just heard, hours after that insurrection, you went on the Senate floor and you said it was incited by the president of the United States. That's what's in this article of impeachment, too.
So, are you open to voting yes on convicting him?
ROMNEY: Well, I'm going to be a Senate juror. And, as a result of that, I will listen to the arguments, both by the prosecution, as well as by the defense. We haven't heard those yet. I will read the briefs. And I will make a decision.
And I will make a decision based upon the facts and the evidence that as it's presented.
BASH: Many of your colleagues, I'm sure you have heard, argue that it's not constitutional to convict a president who is no longer in office. Do you agree with that?
ROMNEY: Well, I've read a number of law review articles. And I think you can put aside the partisan columns, if you will, that are written in various publications and look at those that are written by academics.
You will find that the preponderance of the legal opinion is that an impeachment trial after someone's left office is constitutional. I believe that's the case. I will, of course, hear what the lawyers have to say for each side.
But I think it's pretty -- pretty clear that the effort is constitutional.
BASH: Do you think it was appropriate that he was impeached by the House?
ROMNEY: Well, yes, I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense. If not, what is?
The -- it continues a pattern that the president had of trying to corrupt the election by his communication with Ukraine, by trying to corrupt the election with regards to the lie that he's been spreading over the last several months, and then, if you will, firing up a crowd and encouraging them to march on the Capitol at the time that the Congress was carrying out its constitutional responsibility to certify the election.
This is -- these allegations are very serious. They haven't been defended yet by the president. He deserves a chance to have that heard. But I think it's important for us to go to the normal justice process and for there to be resolution.
BASH: I want to play something else you said that day on the 6th on the Senate floor just after the Capitol attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you consider your colleagues Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be, in your words, complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy? And should they face censure or some other punishment?
ROMNEY: Well, I think history will provide a measure of judgment with regards to those that continue to spread the lie that the president begun with, as well as the voters in their respective communities.
I don't think the Senate needs to action. After all, there were thousands upon thousands of people who continued to spread the idea that the election had been stolen.
And I hope people step back and say, where was it that the president got the idea that the election was fraudulently delivered? Did his Justice Department tell him that? No. As a matter of fact, they told him just the opposite.
Did the intelligence community tell him that? No, actually, they said just the opposite.
So, where did he hear this idea that, for instance, 5,000 dead people in Georgia voted? Did that come from the Georgia officials? No, they said only two people. Upon a complete review of all the voters, only two people who are dead that voted. And those are being investigated.
So, basically, he either made this up out of midair, or perhaps someone in their basement tweeted something out, and he picked it up from there. But there is no evidence that he was ever able to show. And that's why 60 courts who looked at it simply laughed him out of court.
And the reality is, this is something that was made up. And it's had enormous damage. And those that participated in spreading that I think will recognize that they now have a responsibility to set the record straight and to say, in fact, we never did see hard evidence of a widespread fraud of the nation that would have reversed the election.
That is something I think that's essential today.
BASH: Let's look ahead to what's going to happen with the Biden administration.
You're going to be part of a bipartisan meeting with Joe Biden's top economic advisers this afternoon to discuss the administration's $1.9 trillion relief plan.
So, former Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett says he supports President Biden's proposal. You say you disagree. Why?
ROMNEY: Well, I think, at this early stage, just having passed over $900 billion in relief, that before we were to pass a new program, we need to understand where the money is going.
Are these to individuals or to entities that really need the help? How has the first $900 billion we just passed a couple of weeks ago, how has that been distributed? Most of it hasn't been yet. What impact will that have?
But, if there's need, if there are areas where, in our $900 billion package, we didn't recognize a particular problem, why, we should focus on that and provide the additional resources that are necessary.
So, I'm -- I'm open to that discussion. I want to see what -- hear what the White House has to say.
But, at the same time, I think people recognize it's important that we don't borrow hundreds of billions, actually trillions of dollars from the Chinese for things that may not be absolutely necessary.
This is a time for us to act with prudence and care. And that's why -- by the way, why we have two parties, why we have people looking at one another and making sure there's not some kind of excess that would be not good long-term for the American people.
BASH: My next guest, incoming Budget Chair Senator Bernie Sanders, says that Democrats should just use a Senate maneuver called reconciliation to pass key parts of the Biden agenda, with just 51 votes if Republicans like you won't compromise.
What's your response to that?
ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I think Republicans like me have demonstrated we're -- we're open to compromise.
As a matter of fact, we came together, Republicans and Democrats, some 16 of us, and put together the $900 billion-plus proposal that ultimately broke the logjam in Washington. So, we have demonstrated a capacity to compromise.
If people think, well, we don't want to compromise, instead, we want exactly our own proposal, why, that's a different matter, and that may be where Senator Sanders wants to go. I don't know that. But, ultimately, with regards to spending priorities and taxing, the
reconciliation process does allow a party to go ahead without compromise, and I hope that's not the path that the Democrats chose to take.
BASH: We're now learning that President Trump nearly fired the acting attorney general earlier this month, in order to replace him with someone willing to use the Justice Department to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the election.
He only backed off after senior DOJ officials threatened to resign en masse.
So, what is your response to that?
ROMNEY: Well, I don't know precisely what happened and to who. And sources at this point are anonymous.
I presume, if this is deemed to be relevant by the people who are prosecuting the impeachment case, that they'll get witnesses and provide that evidence to us.
But, frankly, I think what they have already alleged in the article of impeachment, which cited, first of all, the president's hour-plus-long with Secretary of State Raffensperger of Georgia, trying to get him to falsify the results of the election, and then the effort to incite insurrection at the Capitol, those items themselves are of a sufficient nature that I think the American people are outraged, and have a right to be.
BASH: I want to ask about the broad future of your party, the Republican Party.
Senator Lindsey Graham said this week that Trump was still the leader of the Republican Party and that trying to move forward without him would be a -- quote -- "disaster" for the GOP.
Do you believe there is any real appetite in your party, one, I should remind viewers, that picked you as its presidential nominee a little more than eight years ago, any appetite to leave Trump and Trumpism behind?
ROMNEY: Well, I don't think we jettison people, particularly those who have been the president of the United States.
At the same time, I think the party is going to move forward. And there'll be new faces and new voices, perhaps some from the past, like Governor Chris Christie. Larry Hogan is a new face on the front, Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse. I think those individuals will help define the Republican Party as we go forward.
And, frankly, my own view is that, as a party, we should return to some of our basic principles, believing character is critical, standing up against authoritarians like Putin and Kim Jong Il, making sure that we ultimately have fiscal responsibility.
At the same time, I think there has to be a new strain recognized, and that is we have to do a better job communicating and creating policies that show that we care very deeply about working people in America and that our policies are designed to help working people.
And, if we do that, I think we'll be able to retain many of the people that have come into our party during the term of President Trump and build also on the base of our party that's been so critical over the years, people of integrity and character who are concerned about where some parts of our party headed over the last few years.
BASH: Mitt Romney, senator from Utah, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
I appreciate it.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Dana. Good to be with you.
BASH: And if Joe Biden wants to unite the country, maybe he should borrow Bernie Sanders' mittens. We will talk to the man who became a meme, who, more importantly, is going to be the chair of the powerful Budget Committee.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
Whose Senate is it anyway?
With the Senate in limbo, fighting over power and an impeachment trial looming, Joe Biden's agenda during a public health emergency is already facing an uphill battle. And it's not just Republicans he has to worry about.
The progressive end of his party, the question is, are they pleased with his first week in office?
Well, joining me now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning, Senator.
And you have said that Joe Biden is off to a good start. Some of your progressive colleagues want him to do more. For example, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants him to forgive student loan debt. Congresswoman Cori Bush wants bigger direct payments to Americans. Congressman Jamaal Bowman called for a more progressive Cabinet.
Are they right?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, look, we're going to push Joe as -- the president as far as we can.
But given the fact he's been in office for less than a week, I think he is off to a good start. What we have got to do is recognize that, right now, we're living in an unprecedented moment in American history.
You have got the pandemic. You have got an economic collapse. We have got climate change. We have got a crumbling infrastructure. And what we have got -- and we have millions of people working for starvation wages.
And what we have got to do is roll up our sleeves and fight for the agenda that working people throughout this country want. They want to raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour. They want that direct payment of $1,400 on top of the $600. We have got to do that.
They understand that, during the midst of the health care crisis, we cannot have millions of people being thrown out of their houses or lack health care.
So, we have an enormous amount of work. When you throw in impeachment, you throw in the need to get Biden's nominees confirmed, it's a lot of work that has to be done, and we have got to roll up our sleeves and do it.
BASH: But you have suggested that Democrats might need to use a process called reconciliation...
BASH: ... which requires only 51 votes, instead of the 60, to pass the coronavirus relief plan.
You just heard Mitt Romney say that Republicans like him have shown that they are ready to compromise. So, should Democrats move to pass coronavirus relief with 51 votes, if they can't get Republicans support, say, before the impeachment trial?
SANDERS: Well, I don't know what the word compromise means.
I know that working families are living today in more economic desperation than since the Great Depression. And if Republicans are willing to work with us to address that crisis, welcome. Let's do it.
But what we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward. We have got to act now. That is what the American people want.
Now, as you know, reconciliation, which is a Senate rule, was used by the Republicans under Trump to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. It was used as an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And what we are saying is, you used it for that. That's fine.
We're going to use reconciliation -- that is 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president -- to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now. You did it. We're going to do it. But we're going to do it to protect ordinary people, not just the rich and the powerful.
BASH: And what's your timeline on that?
SANDERS: As soon as we possibly can.
Look, Dana, I know these are crazy times. We have got a new president in. We're dealing with the horrors of this pandemic, which also have got to be addressed immediately. We have not done a good job in producing the amount of vaccine that we need, and certainly getting it into the arms of people. And that's what the Biden administration...
BASH: Do you want it done before the impeachment trial starts?
SANDERS: We have got to do everything.
I mean, this is not -- you don't have the time to sit around weeks on impeachment, and not get vaccines into the arms of people. You don't have time to worry about vaccines and not deal with the fact that children in America are going hungry.
We have got to break through this old approach that the Senate takes years and years to do anything. We have got a crisis right now. We can chew bubblegum and walk at the same time. The American people are hurting. And they want us to act. That's what our candidates ran for in this election.
That's what the guys in Georgia won on. And we have got to reaffirm the faith of the American people in government that we can respond to their pain.
BASH: You mentioned that Republicans have used the so-called reconciliation process before, like in 2017, to try to kill Obamacare.
You accused them of abusing the process back then. You said -- quote -- "The function of reconciliation is to adjust federal spending and revenue, not to enact major changes in policy."
But you alluded to this. You are the chairman of the Budget Committee, or going to be. You are already talking about using this tactic for things like paid family and medical leave, for universal pre-K and child care, for climate change, tuition-free college, eliminating student debt and the $15 minimum wage.
How is that not what you criticized Republicans for doing?
SANDERS: Well, the devil is in the details of what we want to do and when we want to do it and when we have to do it.
What we are talking about, by the way, are two separate reconciliation packages, number one, the emergency one right now.
BASH: Right. SANDERS: Get direct checks, get those checks into people's pockets
right now, so they can feed their families, and make sure that people are not evicted from their homes, make sure that states have the funds they need to get vaccines into people's arms. That's what we have got to do right now.
And then, as soon as that is done, we have to rebuild this economy. Unemployment is much, much too high. Wages are much, much too low. There are structural problems that we have had we have ignored for years. Climate change is a reality, our crumbling infrastructure.
BASH: And you're OK doing all of that through this process that you criticized Republicans for using? This -- these are major policy changes.
SANDERS: Well, these are major policy changes, but the devil is in the details.
And I criticized Republicans, yes, for using reconciliation to give tax breaks to billionaires, to create a situation where large profitable corporations now pay zero in federal income taxes. Yes, I did criticize them for that.
And if they want to criticize me for helping to feed children who are hungry or senior citizens in this country who are isolated and alone and don't have enough food, they can criticize me. I think it's the appropriate step forward.
BASH: If Democrats don't pass these sweeping changes you're talking about, do you think that they will lose control of the House and Senate in 2022?
SANDERS: That's what history tells us.
What history tells us is that, when Clinton won in '92, two years later, the Democrats didn't do as much as they should have. They got swept out by the Republicans. Obama won in 2008; 2010, Republicans decimated them at the polling booths.
Look, Dana, this is not complicated stuff. We're in an unprecedented moment in American history. Tens of millions of people are hurting. People are watching this program, do not have food in their cupboards to feed their kids. They are sick. They cannot afford to go to the doctor. They cannot afford the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs.
They're worried about climate change, and what that will mean for their kids in future generations. That is where we are right now. And the American people say: We elected you guys. Do something. Improve our lives. We are in pain. We are hurting.
That's in red states, Republican states. It is in Democratic states. It is in rural America. It is an urban America. It is black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American. This is a country that is in pain right now. And if Democrats, who have slim majorities in the House and the
Senate, we have got President Biden in the White House, if we do not respond now, yes, I believe, two years from now, the Republicans will say, hey, you elected these guys, they did nothing, vote for us, and they will win.
BASH: One of the things that has seems to have been a distraction from the pain you're talking about is you on the Internet over the past week, the fact that you have become a meme, the picture of you sitting at the inauguration in your mittens, thousands of memes, such as some of them on the screen.
I have to show you some of my personal favorites.
Demi Moore, she put your picture in her famous "Ghost" scene. Jennifer Grey, you know she played Baby in "Dirty Dancing."
SANDERS: Yes, I know.
BASH: She put you in the corner, Senator.
And you're even a selfie with us on election night.
So, my question is, are you having as much fun with this as the world is?
SANDERS: I am. And I am.
And not only are we having fun. What we're doing here in Vermont is, we're going to be selling around the country sweatshirts and T-shirts. And all of the money that's going to be raised, which I expect will be a couple of million dollars, will be going to programs like Meals on Wheels that feed low-income senior citizens.
So, it turns out, actually, to be a good thing, and not only a fun thing.
BASH: Well, and, apparently, that's sold out. So, you have got to start manufacturing more to give to charity like Meals on Wheels in Vermont and elsewhere.
Senator, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
SANDERS: Thank you, Dana. Bye-bye.
BASH: And she lived through the Capitol attack, and now she will make the case against former President Trump before the Senate.
What is the strategy? Impeachment manager Congresswoman Madeleine Dean is here next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash. At 6:55 p.m. tomorrow evening, the nine House impeachment managers will walk the impeachment article over to the Senate.
They will then have two weeks to prepare a case against former President Trump before the trial begins on February 9. What's their strategy to convince Republicans the president must be held accountable?
Joining me now is one of those impeachment managers, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning.
And this trial won't start until a month after the Capitol attack. A number of Republican senators are telling CNN that passions are starting to cool, making it increasingly unlikely that former President Trump will be convicted.
Was it a mistake to wait?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, good morning, Dana.
And congratulations on your new assignment, and also my sympathies to the CNN family on the loss of Larry King.
BASH: Thank you.
DEAN: He was a big fixture in our den every evening.
I think you will see that we will put together a case that is so compelling, because the facts and the law reveal what this president did. I mean, think back. It was just two-and-a-half weeks ago that the president assembled a mob on the Ellipse of the White House.
He incited them with his words. And then he lit the match and sent them on their way to pursue the big lie. The big lie was his desperate attempt to hold on to power. It was a lie that the election was somehow stolen. He knew it. Those around him knew that was a lie.
And he sent them to the Capitol not just on any day of the week/. He sent them there on an important constitutional day. So, it was a dual attack on our Capitol in a joint session of Congress at the day, the very day, we were completing our constitutional obligation to certify the electors.
It's an extraordinarily heinous presidential crime. And we must move forward.
BASH: Only 10 Republicans, as you know, supported impeachment in the House. Do you think that you will find more in the Senate? You're going to need to. You need 17, of course.
DEAN: Ten was a historically high number. That was a bipartisan impeachment. And so I find that to be heartening and encouraging, because there was
clarity in the folks who voted to impeach the president. Take a look at the words of Liz Cheney, who said he assembled the mob, he incited the mob, and he lit the flame. The president is responsible.
I take heart in that. There is clarity in those 10. And I hope, over the course of the remaining days, as we nine prepare this trial, more and more elected officials will pay attention to their oath and see the egregious high crimes and misdemeanors that this president was so desperate and capable of on the last weeks of his term in office.
BASH: We're now learning that President Trump nearly fired the acting attorney general earlier this month in order to replace him with someone willing to use the Justice Department to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the election.
Senator Romney told me earlier this hour he presumes it will be part of your case. Will it?
DEAN: Well, I am so honored to be a part of a team of nine terrific people, of course, supported by other excellent lawyers. So, I will not be previewing our strategy or our case.
But what I believe is, the American public witnessed what happened here. I was in the Capitol on that day, Dana. I had tried to leave the Gallery as I was preparing for the challenge to the Pennsylvania electors. And when I left, I was rebuffed by a very kind Capitol Police officer, who said: "Cannon House Office Building is under a bomb threat. Please return to where you were."
So, I was up in the Gallery at the time of the attack. I was there when they said: "Sit down. Prepare to kneel or lie on the floor. Take out your gas masks. Now put your gas masks on."
I was there as the pounding on the doors began and the piercing of the doors on the floor of the House took place. This was a terrifying moment. It was absolutely what the world witnessed, an attack on our Capitol, an attack on a joint session, where people came, incited by the president, to hunt down members of Congress, not to mention your own colleagues.
I was in the Gallery with journalists. They were -- they were asked -- and chanted, "Hang Vice President Pence." They sought to assassinate the speaker.
This cannot go unanswered. The world has witnessed what has happened. We will put forward a very strong case for impeachment, for disqualification, for conviction.
BASH: Before I let you go, President Trump's first trial took three weeks. Do you think that this one will go faster?
DEAN: I don't know. And I do respect that it is up to the Senate to place those rules. I would expect it would go faster.
But I also want to say something that I think is -- that matters. Some people would like us to turn the page, oh, let's move on.
I think that President Biden, the night before he was sworn in, laid down the predicate. He said, to heal, we must remember. Sometimes, it's hard to remember. But we must do that even as a nation.
We must remember. I believe that this impeachment trial, I hope conviction, ultimate disqualification are the very first powerful steps toward unity and our country moving forward.
BASH: Madeleine Dean, thank you so much. Appreciate you joining me this morning.
DEAN: Thank you for having me.
BASH: Before we go, I want to say how honored I am to now be a co- anchor of this program, along with my friend and colleague Jake Tapper.
It's especially meaningful to me because I started out in television news as an associate producer and then producer of CNN's public affairs shows, including the precursor to this one.
I learned early on the importance of platforms like this to hold our elected officials and those who work for them accountable. And I learned back then from some of the best in the business about how to do it. Robert Novak, Rowland Evans, Frank Sesno, Wolf Blitzer, and many more.
I also want to pay tribute to one of the greats of broadcasting, Larry King, who dazzled and informed audiences with his interviews night after night right here in CNN's Washington Bureau. He taught all of us really a lot. But the most important lesson that I take from Larry King is to listen, listen to what your guest is saying and take it from there. We will really miss his voice. May his memory be a blessing.
Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.