Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Raphael Warnock Wins, Jon Ossoff Leads, as Dems Near Senate Majority; Interview with Gabriel Sterling on Georgia Election; National Guard Deployed As Pro-Trump Crowds Gather in D.C.; Trump to Speak to Supporters in D.C Soon.; Congress to Certify Election Results Despite GOP's Objection Stunt. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 6, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome to CNN's special coverage of a monumental day in America.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, Anderson. Good morning, all. I'm Erin Burnett.
The next 24 hours will be historic and we are following major stories, from this historic Senate runoff elections in Georgia to today's planned Republican stunts on Capitol Hill.
COOPER: In Georgia, CNN has projected a winner in one race. For the other one it remains too close to call. At stake the balance of power in Washington, D.C., and the ability of the incoming president to have a chance of setting his agenda, or will Mitch McConnell remain Senate majority leader and retain control of the body?
We'll get to the vote tally in just a moment.
BURNETT: These numbers are still coming in.
Also today we're watching Capitol Hill for a show from Republicans in the House and Senate. More than 100 of them have declared that they'll object to the electoral college count which certifies Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
Now the stunt is meant to keep President Trump happy. Of course it will serve no other purpose than to try to fan the flames of baseless conspiracy theories that he has been putting out there, claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly debunked by the facts again and again by state election officials, Democrat and Republican alike, that have been thrown out of -- courts, I'm sorry, Anderson, across this country.
COOPER: Yes. Before those Republicans get their chance to start this stunt, thousands of Trump supporters are expected to take to the streets of Washington to protest the lawful vote. Roughly two hours from now President Trump himself is expected to speak at this rally. He is increasing the pressure on his vice president to thwart the vote
which is something that the vice president has no power to do. Extra security including the National Guard are mobilized to try and keep the peace during the demonstrations but already we have seen some arrests.
BURNETT: That's stunning that we're seeing this in this country and all of this political turmoil coming as the United States is setting yet another grim record today. Logging more than 3700 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The most in a single day since the pandemic began, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. And a failure so far in getting the vaccine out as widely as they had promised.
In Georgia, it is one down and one to go. Reverend Raphael Warnock is projected by CNN to defeat Kelly Loeffler but the other race still too close to call. Still in the last hour Democrat Jon Ossoff declared victory over the incumbent Republican David Perdue. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer followed that up with a tweet saying simply, "Buckle up."
Let's bring in CNN political director David Chalian to set the stage.
So, David, let's start with the Ossoff-Perdue race. Where does it stand?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. You're looking at the vote totals now. You see Jon Ossoff has a 16,370 vote lead over David Perdue. He's at 50.2 percent, Anderson, to Perdue's 49.8 percent.
I just want to note, that .4 percent margin is within the .5 percent margin limit in which a candidate can request a recount. We are waiting to see where is there still some remaining vote that may potentially pad Ossoff's lead and get to a place where this may be projectable. We have not projected that race yet despite what Ossoff and Chuck Schumer have done.
Overall about 98 percent of the vote is in, but I want to show you some places here like in Fulton County where Atlanta is, that's at 95 percent reporting. It's a huge Democratic county, Ossoff has been winning there 72 percent to 28 percent overall. So even though there's not that much vote left, the vote that comes in is going to break big for Ossoff, will probably pad his lead.
Take a look over next door at Dekalb County. Again, big Democratic county. Ossoff is winning it 83 percent to 17 percent. Again, 95 percent of the vote is in, Anderson, so 5 percent is not that much, but it's enough to give Ossoff more pad to his overall lead here, 16,370 votes.
So just take a look at the other race. You mentioned this one we did project. Raphael Warnock is the senator-elect. He's going to head to Washington, replace the appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler. His lead is 53,430 votes. He's got 50.6 percent to Loeffler's 49.4 percent. That's more -- much more -- that's 1.2 percentage point margin, well outside of what would be allowable for a candidate to request a recount and that lead is going to grow also as we see Fulton and Dekalb and other Democratic areas around Atlanta start filling in their final remaining votes in this vote count.
COOPER: Let's talk about the balance of power and where that stands in the Senate.
CHALIAN: Yes, well, the balance of power, I mean, that's what this entire election was about. The balance of power in the Senate as you know Democrats needed to win both of these races. So right now what you have is 49 Democrats and 50 Republicans with this one outstanding race between Ossoff and Perdue. And so if indeed Ossoff ends up winning this race as more of this Democratic vote comes in, that puts the Senate at 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris come January 20th will break the tie in the Senate and give control to the Democratic Party.
That would make Chuck Schumer the majority leader in the United States Senate, Anderson.
COOPER: It would be a stunning turn of events. David Chalian, thanks very much. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. So I want to bring in Gabe Sterling now. Now you've heard the overall lay of the land from David. Gabe is the voting system implementation manager for the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.
OK, Gabe, we talk again, here we are. First tell me, you know, as we know we're still awaiting, you know, final numbers here in the Ossoff- Perdue race. How many outstanding votes are there still across this state?
GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: Well, our office has kind of came in here in the last half hour or so operating on three hours of sleep so we have some estimates but I'm going to give every caveat in the world around them. We're looking at probably a little over 65,000 votes are still outstanding mainly from the absentees that came in yesterday.
As was noted by your analyst earlier, the majority of ballots will be coming in and be coming in from strongly Democrat areas like Dekalb has the biggest bucket of them, then Cobb has some, Fulton has some, Henry has some. Those are all very Democrat. There's a few Republican areas out but they are much smaller. Bartow County, Gilmore County. So we likely will see the leads of the Democrat challengers increase as we go through the morning and hopefully we will have a very clear picture of how many votes are left by around lunchtime.
BURNETT: All right. So as you lay out the counties that these leads of the Democrats could increase, when do you think that we'll really know the outcome here of the Ossoff-Perdue race, and I guess the framing on that is, do you think that it could be outside that half of 1 percent margin which would allow Perdue to pursue a recount?
STERLING: It's going to be nip and tuck to get past a half a point honestly. But looking what's out there, it looks like Ossoff will end up keeping the lead he gained this morning with the latest upload we had and pad it some, but I'm not going to estimate yet because I don't know exactly where all the votes are yet because, like I said, our team -- we're a little tired, we got about three hours sleep and all came in here this morning to try to keep working again.
BURNETT: Yes, all right, so, OK. Obviously this is very, you know, significant when you lay this out. I just want to give you -- you know the president last night, you know, he's retweeting tweets that you guys are scrounging up votes from mystical places, that a steal is in the making in Georgia. He talked about voter dumps himself. He just tweeted a moment ago, "They just happened to find 50,000 ballots last night. The USA is embarrassed by fools."
What do you say to the president who is still out there saying these things that are just not true?
STERLING: The only mystical places are somewhere in the -- the mystical places are in the depths of the president's mind. These ballots we found have been there, they are not found ballots, they're cast ballots. I mean, one of the things you talked about yesterday was Dekalb County, that they found 60,000 ballots. No, we have known they had 171,000 advanced voting ballots since Friday of this past week because that was when they were done voting was Friday of this past week.
None of this is new. None of this is surprising. This is part of his intention to continue to create chaos around this as we go into his final act today as they challenge the results from Georgia and other states.
BURNETT: OK. So I just want to ask you about this Ossoff-Perdue situation. As you said, Ossoff to maintain his lead and it will grow a bit given the counties that you say are still outstanding. I'm just looking at where we are right now. Ossoff leading 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. Obviously, back in November nobody got over 50 but Perdue was the one who was ahead, OK, of Ossoff.
BURNETT: So this has changed. OK. It has changed in just a few weeks.
Gabe, what happened? Who is responsible?
STERLING: The president of the United States is 100 percent four square responsible with a little added assist from Doug Collins who decided to run in that Senate jungle primary which had split the party. I mean, when you tell people your vote didn't count, this is all part of crazy town, and people are stealing things, you undermine people's confidence in the vote, then you create a civil war within the GOP at a time when the GOP probably wanted to unite their vote to turn out.
Those are the kind of things that the president is solely responsible for doing.
BURNETT: So, Gabe, you're a life-long Republican. You're working with secretary of state, lifelong Republican, governor of the state, lifelong Republican. Georgia is a state that six weeks ago everybody would have said is a red state, now all of a sudden it went for Biden and overnight, overnight, you have the first Democratic senator in 20 years, probably two of them. So you go from two Republicans to two Democrats overnight.
I mean, what's going through your head? I mean, this is stunning.
STERLING: Because it's simply -- saying it's overnight and it's so sudden is only going to be part of a narrative of people who haven't been paying attention. I mean, as you might have noticed in 2018 we had a pretty close governor's race. It was pretty widely covered and that person has still not conceded the race yet. So we've been a competitive state that's been getting that way more and more over time.
If you saw the two Republican strongholds of the '80s and '90s and early 2000s, with Gwinnett and Cobb County, those votes turned to blue at the county level.
There's always going to be demographic changes, there's always going to be change over time, and both parties need to adapt to those changes and the voters that come in. And apparently it looks like the Democrat Party has done a better job of identifying new voters and bringing them out than the Republican Party has. And this can be a lesson and a clarion call to the Republicans who may need to rethink the tactics they've been using and the messages they've been using to get their votes out.
BURNETT: Right. So when you look at, you know, what's about to happen on Capitol Hill, right, the stunt that we're about to see from Republicans defending a president who you are saying the blame squarely rests on him for losing Georgia, who do you think is responsible on the Democratic side for the victories that we're seeing in Georgia?
I mean, I know you mentioned Stacey Abrams, but I mean, who do you credit on the Democratic side for the turnout, for the improvement that they saw yesterday versus what they saw in November?
STERLING: President Donald J. Trump because while he may inspire people on the Republican side, he really pisses people off on the Democratic side. He really inspires them to come out and vote. When you can have a credible villain that really helps the Democrats turn out their vote.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Gabe, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I know you have a lot going on today, hopefully we'll talk to you in a few hours as you said when you anticipate some more finality around lunchtime. Thanks.
STERLING: Thank you, Erin.
COOPER: Erin, joining us now is Debra Scott, the executive director of Georgia Stand Up, a nonprofit with the mission to build partnerships and develop leaders to maximize voter participation.
Deborah, you have -- you and your organization have done a tremendous amount of work to register people to get people to vote. 4.4 million voters turned in their ballot for these two runoff races. It's the largest turnout -- it's a larger turnout than the 2016 presidential election. I mean, it is extraordinary what you and others have been able to accomplish.
How are you feeling this morning?
DEBORAH SCOTT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGIA STAND UP: Well, thank you, Anderson. First of all, I'm tired, but I think black women are tired collectively. So we're excited because we're at this place, but it didn't -- as we just talked about, it didn't happen overnight. This has been based on work from a lot of people for a long time. So we're excited about where we are today.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, you know, it should be said it's a lot of work for a long time and not in the limelight. I mean, this is not, you know, easy work to do, it's not glamorous work to do. It's work. You know, it's granular work block by block, understanding the voters and understanding their needs and how to reach out to them.
Can you just talk a little bit -- I mean, Georgia has elected its first black senator since Reconstruction. Define how important this moment is.
SCOTT: So, I mean, this is historic. Of course, we're a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. And you're right, it is hard work, but it's heart work. We do this work along with our allies because we love our people and we saw the potential. We knew that they were not coming out to vote because they didn't feel like they had anything to vote for before.
This time it was clear that they wanted to show their power and the demographic shift is definitely happening here, but really the hard work of black women, black women round table, win with black women and the organizations on the ground have been doing this thankless work for a long time. So it's kind of weird to be thanked for this kind of things because we've just been holding our head down and doing the work.
So it feels good to know that we have a black senator from Georgia and I think this is going to be the first of many more black elected officials from southern states that are going to rise to power.
COOPER: The president obviously has spent the last few months directing attacks on Georgia Republicans, on the electoral process, obviously on Democrats as well, baselessly claiming election fraud. Instead of actually going after Warnock and Ossoff. Just how much of a factor do you think Donald Trump has been in the
turnout on this?
SCOTT: Well, I think it's not just the personality of Donald Trump, it's really the policies that have been put in place over the last four years that have affected lives. We have people that are hurting. This is, you know -- this happened in the middle of a pandemic. You have people that are dying every day. We don't have our COVID-19 test and our vaccines. There's health care discrepancies, affordable housing.
So what we're hearing is the pain that people are feeling. They're living that out in their policies and in their selections of their elected officials. So with pain becomes progress and so I think what we're going to see is more pain turning into more progress which means more votes for progressive issues.
COOPER: Deborah Scott, I appreciate you being up early. I know you've had a very long -- well, a long, long time. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
SCOTT: Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks very much. Take care. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. And now to tensions building in Washington ahead of President Trump's speech in just under two hours.
The National Guard right now is on standby after clashes between police and pro-Trump supporters overnight.
The speech also coming as the president is ramping up pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to do something today that he simply cannot do, which is undo the lawful results of the election. CNN's Boris Sanchez joins me now from where the speech is going to take place, people gathering unmasked. Boris, tell me what you're seeing, what's happening?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, right now, we're hearing from Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, and he was just riling up the crowd, asking them if they're willing to do what it takes to save the country.
I've been to a lot of Trump rallies, a lot of them high in tension and animosity from some of the president's supporters. This is up there with some of the most charged events that the president has ever held. And the crowd is enormous, it's hard to really get a perspective from where I'm standing, you can only see what's behind me.
If you can see what's behind the camera, there is an enormous crowd right up to the Washington monument, many of these folks lining up since before 3:00 a.m., and watching the street, there are more and more people arriving as we speak. As you noted, very little social distancing, not very many people wearing masks, and aside from that, these folks are angry, they are trying to make their voices heard, they've been yelling at press, they've been yelling at people on the street who apparently are not supportive of their views.
And last night, that tension boiled over in confrontations with law enforcement. A number of events all across Washington D.C. There is a large law enforcement presence and just outside Black Lives Matter Plaza, outside Lafayette Square, not far from the front door of the White House yesterday, a line of protesters got engaged with police, trying to push them back.
It appeared at one point that irritant was disbursed to try to move them back. You remember, Black Lives Matter Plaza was the site of so much drama and violence when social justice protesters were confronted with police officers last Summer.
Then, the president came out and held up a Bible in front of St. John's Church and called for law and order. Now that his supporters are agitating, we've heard no such call from the president, and said he remains fixated on this idea that Mike Pence and other lawmakers are going to overturn the election, and he is riling up an enormous crowd that is angry and potentially creating a very dangerous situation, Erin.
BURNETT: Well, all right, Boris, thank you very much. As we await that scene that's going to happen, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, a lot of anticipation about what this day will hold as the president's electoral circus gets ready to come to Congress today, hear what Republicans will baselessly challenge Joe Biden's win with. Plus, the president escalating the pressure on his Vice President. What will Mike Pence do? We'll talk about that ahead. This is CNN's special live coverage.
COOPER: In just a few hours -- just a few hours from now, Congress will meet to count the electoral college votes, a normally symbolic effort, ceremonial to affirm the president-elect's victory.
BURNETT: All right, this count is expected to be anything but ordinary, as at least 150 Republicans plan to object to the outcome of the elections in some battleground states. It's now up to 150, Anderson, we've seen that number grow. Despite the theatrics, Congress will, though, certify Joe Biden's win, right. That is what's going to happen here. That's the constitution which would put an end to President Trump's desperate effort to overturn the election, Anderson.
COOPER: And that is what we are witnessing with the desperate final days of the Trump administration. CNN Political Director David Chalian is with us now. So, David, walk us through what's going to happen today on Capitol Hill.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it's kind of amazing that we have to walk through this, right, Anderson? Here is the timeline just to get folks acquainted with where we are. Remember back, the election was on November 3rd, from the 4th to the 13th of December, states certified the election results.
On the 14th, you all remember, we watched across the 50-state capitals, the electors cast their ballots. By December 23rd, the electoral votes needed to arrive in Washington. One set of those certified electoral votes addressed to Vice President Mike Pence. January 3rd, the new Congress was sworn in, this past Sunday, it is that new Congress that convenes today in a joint session to go through and tally up the electoral college results. Here is why?
This is the U.S. law. Here is U.S. code. "Congress shall be in session on the 6th day of January, succeeding every meeting of the electors. The Senate and House of Representatives shall meet in the hall of the House of Representatives at the hour of 1 O'clock in the afternoon on that day, and the president of the Senate" -- that's the vice president, "shall be their presiding officer."
It is all spelled out in law as it's happening. These four members of Congress, two senators, two house members, Republicans and Democrats, will be tellers. They'll actually sit up front and tally up the votes, and here is how the counting process works. The tellers will read and tally the certificates of the electoral votes, Mike Pence will announce those final results for each state as they go through them.
The announcement of the vote, quote, "shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president". Meaning, that brings an end to that process. We know there are going to be objections. So how do you object? This is what the Republicans are doing with their theater today to draw this out.
Requires at least one house member -- Erin just said, we know there are more than 150, and one senator must be in writing. And here is how the objection process will work. That written objection is submitted to the desk and the joint session of Congress gets suspended. What happens then is that, the house and the Senate retreat to their own chambers to debate separately for a maximum of two hours.
After that debate, after they've debated the challenge, each chamber will vote to accept or reject the objection. And here is how the debate works. So, when they go to their own chambers for two hours, each member has five minutes of speaking time. Every house member, every senator can only speak once.
After the two hours are up, the presiding officer must put forward the main question, meaning the vote of whether or not you accept or reject the objection. Both chambers must agree to the objection to throw out their vote. So if the Senate were to somehow miraculously have enough votes where every Republican votes in favor of the objection, the Democrat-controlled house certainly will not.
You need both chambers to agree. And just to remind you here about Mike Pence's role, section 18. "While the two houses shall be in meeting as provided in this chapter, the president of the Senate shall have power to preserve order and no debate shall be allowed and no question shall be put by the presiding officer, except to either house on a motion to withdraw." That's it.
Mike Pence's role is ceremonial. And some of his predecessors have been in this spot, two high profile ones. In 1961, then Vice President Nixon had to preside over the tallying of electoral votes for an election he lost to John F. Kennedy. And in 2001, Al Gore was in that same position, he had to preside as vice president over the process of the Congress tallying up the electoral votes for an election he lost to George W. Bush. That's Mike Pence's job today, even though Donald Trump thinks he has some super powers that he simply doesn't have.
COOPER: The idea that, you know, what we're hoping is that Mike Pence has the -- you know, same moral fortitude as Richard Nixon is kind of a stunning state of, you know, affairs, you know, Al Gore was incredibly gracious. He had -- you know, lost an election by, you know, according to the Supreme Court by some 500 or so votes in Florida, and he presided over this without, you know -- without a protest. In fact, he was very gracious at the end, wishing the new administration the best --
CHALIAN: Without a doubt.
COOPER: Yes --
CHALIAN: Yes. And Anderson, I would just note, I know Joe Biden wasn't on the ballot four years ago, but he was vice president. He wanted Hillary Clinton to win. He presided over this four years ago, tallying up the votes that certified the vote for Donald Trump to become president.
COOPER: Yes, fascinating. David Chalian, we'll be checking in with you throughout the day. The White House is bracing for a chaotic day, so are police in Washington especially with the president getting ready to address his supporters at a rally in D.C. The event is being staged to support the president's futile efforts to overturn the election, it's also basically a money-raising effort for their campaign.
This as he tries to get Vice President Pence to somehow stop the electoral count in Congress. The president claiming that Pence can overturn the results, but that is simply not true. CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us live from the White House. So, what do we know about the president's actions today? What's his plan today?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Anderson. The White House officials are bracing for what it is the president is going to say when he takes the stage. You can see that rally getting set up behind my shoulder here as they are gathering on the mall for the president to go and speak.
And basically, his anger at the vice president is at a level that people have not seen before. I know typically, the president lashes out at cabinet officials, we've seen him go after allies, Republicans on Capitol Hill, we've never seen him treat the vice president the way that he is now. And their relationship is deteriorating in these final days in office where the president is continuing to insist, despite what David just laid out there, that the vice president has an authority that he does not have.
He is tweeting that Vice President Pence has the power for them to win the presidency. He is saying now is the time for extreme courage. It's a barrage of tweets coming from the president, making clear their views are not aligned, even though we should note, the president put out a statement via the campaign last night, saying that they were in complete agreement on what the vice president could do today.
That's not the case of course after the vice president laid out carefully step by step what it is he will be doing when he does go up to Capitol Hill later today, and it's not what the vice or what the president wants to see though.
Of course, that is out of his control. And even the president's attorney Jay Sekulow who has gone and argued for him on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial, who has argued for him before the Supreme Court, Anderson, this morning, he acknowledged that the vice president does not have this authority because then, any vice president would be able to reject the results of a free and fair election.
And so, what we're seeing, you know, is this relationship between the president go to a level that you have never seen. And I should note that a senior White House official who does not work for the vice president, I should note, and his views are very closely aligned with the president, said that the way that the president is treating the vice president in these final days in office, given how loyal Pence has been to Trump is, quote, "shameful", Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, I'm surprised that any White House official who is in the president's orbit would be surprised by shameful behavior from the president. The president is shameless and has never shown any sign of loyalty to anyone, no matter how subservient and how much they have debased themselves.