Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Democratic Senator: Happy To Watch GOP "Tear Each Other Apart"; Moments From Now: Final Step To Affirm President-Elect Biden's Victory; Ossoff Leads Perdue, Democrats On Verge Of Senate Control; Source: Biden To Nominate Merrick Garland For Attorney General. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 6, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is going to speak out - expecting to speak out forcefully against this effort. Other Republicans would join ranks with Mitch McConnell. Then there will be Republicans who will join Ted Cruz and that feudal effort to try to overturn Arizona's results and same thing will happen on the House side.
And then they will reconvene, go state by state ultimately go to the State of Georgia, expected an objection by Kelly Loeffler who lost her race last night to object to the presidential results in Georgia that will lead to the same situation. And then as we go down further down the line, Pennsylvania's the next state where Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican Senator plans to object as well.
But at the moment Jake, we are expecting those three states to be the ones that will be objected to. Conservatives Jim Jordan who was leading this effort in the House wants to get six Republican Senators to object to six states.
They don't have those six Senators yet, so expect this to at the moment focus on those three states that could take a while up to four hours each to deal with each of those state's objections, essentially dispense with it and then move on.
So we could be going on all day and night but as you said, the ultimate outcome will not be affected here. Joe Biden at the end of the day will be - have his votes affirmed, he will be on his way to get sworn in come January 20th. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we should just remind people, remind our viewers there is no credible evidence of any widespread voter fraud that would change the course of the election. None whatsoever, this is all based on lies and conspiracy theories and the fact that President Trump has decided to become the sorest loser in American history. Let's go to Phil Mattingly now. Phil, what are you learning?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've been talking to Democrats all morning Jake and Senate Democrats are some combination of gleeful and buoyant and the wake of what happened in Georgia. But also because they've been watching exactly what Manu described play out inside the Senate Republican Conference over the course of the last several days, and pay attention to House Senate Democrats operate when they split into their respective chambers and start those debates.
One Democratic Senator I was speaking to said, look if they are just going to tear themselves apart, we are more than happy to sit back and be spectators saying, he thought it was more or less going to look like Republican-on-Republican violence.
Now to be sure Democrats are ready to defend the states, to defend the electors in both chambers if they feel like it's necessary. But given where things have been and given the rift within the party, Democrats want to see how Republicans address Republicans on this issue?
As another Democratic Senator told me kind of running off with Manu who was saying about what senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is planning to do. He said "This is the first time I've been interested in hearing what Mitch has to say, since I've been in the United State Senate".
So right now Democrats again prepared to fight back, prepared to debate if they feel like it's necessary, but also keenly aware of the dynamics that are been playing out, not just on the political side of things with Republicans but also on the policy side of things, on the history side of things as it relates to what's going on today.
And frankly they're more than happy to let Republicans battle this out on their own as another Democratic Senator told me Jake, look we know how this all ends. They're the ones who are going to dictate how long it takes as to get there, but the outlook is the same. Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th.
TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly thanks so much. And that's right Dana. I mean, the bottom line is Joe Biden is the President-Elect will be the President, Kamala Harris is the Vice President-Elect, will be the Vice President.
And you would think that maybe after the spectacle of losses in Georgia because of divisions in the party and the Republican Party doubling down on conspiracy theories, smears, lies and attacking each other you would think that maybe cooler heads would prevail and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would say, you know, obviously this is a bad call for us but no.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, because they first have to take a trip with Alice through the wonderland today. I mean, that's what we're going to be seeing, because on the other side is going to be what you said. It is going to be Joe Biden being certified as the next President of the United States. Joe Biden won.
He won in all of the states that said formally that he will be the next president and that is what congress is going to do. But before that we are going to see Republican after Republican make objections including from - and this is one of the thing that's going to really boggle my mind.
States in the House they're going to go through Arizona and Pennsylvania and Georgia. We know that, right? So you're going to have somebody like Andy Biggs of Arizona saying no, Mr. President the election in Arizona was false. It should be overturned and rejected.
He's talking about his own election too saying with every one of these Republican members from Pennsylvania who are going to do the same thing and also from Georgia. It just makes no sense. That in and of itself gives you a sense of how illogical, hypocritical and ridiculous this process is going to be?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, absolutely and you called it Alice in Wonderland, there's so many analogies. It's like the revenge of Frankenstein, the inmates running the asylum. This is a Republican Party who nurtured and fed this creature that is now about to eat them alive.
PHILLIP: They have lost control over a base that doesn't trust them, doesn't want them to do the right thing, and doesn't want them to follow the constitution and they can't do anything about it. We've already seen lawmakers like Mitt Romney and others being accosted in public by Trump supporters who want them to overturn the results of this election.
There is a Trump base who wants this to happen today but they can't be reasoned with anymore. And the Republican Party in Washington the people who know better, they don't have any control over those individuals anymore that's the dilemma that they face as they go forward.
How do you lead when you don't have the respect of your constituents when you don't have the moral authority over your constituents? The answer is probably that you can't, that's why you see Republicans who can't take the Trump era anymore just having to leave Washington, having to walk away from the party in order to do the right thing.
And so, this is a challenge it's not going to be resolved today but it's - I know that both of you talk to Republicans all the time. It's not easy for many of them in their view because when they go home to their districts, their constituents believe the lies. Their constituent's want them to do things that they know are unconstitutional and they can't push back against in their view, because they're not going to change those minds.
It's already too late for that. But I think the time for them to have done the right thing probably it was like four years ago or five years ago, maybe would have started with the birther conspiracy and continued onward. But this is the consequence of living in an imaginary world created by Donald Trump that is full of lies and misinformation and they've lost control.
TAPPER: Yes. I mean, that's not leadership there, right? These are members of the congress, members of the House and Senate. They were elected to lead; they were not elected to follow whatever conspiracy theories their constituents have been fed. They could all believe that Bigfoot and the lockless monster are the reason why Joe Biden got elected that doesn't mean that you have to sign on.
The only question right now Wolf is, how many members of the House and Senate, how many Republicans are going to show the world that they're not serious people? How many are going to sign on to sedition? How many are going to sign on to this effort to undermine the will of the American people?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The answer is simply too many and that's not, not good at all here in the United States. Here with John King the joint session of the House and the Senate, they could wean right at the top of the hour normally and we've covered this over the years, it would be a nice ceremony, we chose them highlights, a little bit of that. But these are not normal times.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are not normal times, this is supposed to be another one of the rituals that we have in our democracy laid out by the founders, refined over the years. One of the rituals designed to celebrate, the quadrennial, sometimes peaceful transfer of power, sometimes the re-election of a president, the strength of our democracy.
Instead today this process will be the firewall essentially that stops the relentless scorched earth attacks on democracy by the sitting President of the Unites States. We've been through much of the process already. The states meet after the election. They certify their election results, the electors vote in December. We went through that process again, not normally supposed to be drama.
We had some drama this year; those electoral votes are then sent to D.C. The new congress is sworn in that happened, and now boom on January 26th, they come in to session to count the votes supposed to be a celebration of democracy.
Today it is the defense of democracy, spelled out very clearly in federal law the U.S. code when? The sixth day of January, what time 1'o clock? This is all done to show the strength of democracy a formal process every four years to reaffirm the strength of democracy, but this time it will get interesting.
Again, normally two Senators one from each party, two members of the House, one from each other party, they service tellers, that's what they are called officially the clerks to move the process along. Here's Arizona, here's Alabama, you move throughout alphabetically through the states. Suppose to be a pretty routine process, right?
Has the process work? The tellers read the results in each state, had it vote. Trump gets his votes. Biden gets his votes. You count them up. The vice president then announces the final results. That's the way it normally works.
However, we know as everyone was just discussing there will be objections. They're allowed it's within the process you can object. You are supposed to have evidence to object but you can object. One member of the House, one member of the Senate and this must be in writing and we know this will happen in the ace.
They do this alphabetically. It will happen on Arizona. This is where it gums up the works. It does not change the results, the math is done. Joe Biden will be President of the United States in less than two weeks.
But when an objection is submitted if you have one House member, one Senator, it is in writing and we expect that to happen, then that stops the joint session. The House and the Senate then go off to debate separately for up to two hours.
We know both the House and the Senate will reject these, but it will happen again and again and again, we're told to expect at least three, maybe more. So it gums up the works. The debate rules, you speak in the chambers, it takes two hours. So again think about it.
KING: Two hours for one state, two hours for another state, two hours for third state, and this could go on all throughout the day, something that could be resolved, should be resolved in an hour or so.
The vice president is in the chair, which has great irony of course, because President Trump is asking the vice president break the rules, change the rules. Fix this for me, Mr. Vice President. It's laid out. I'm not going to read it all section 18 of federal that lays it out. The vice president is there to hold the gavel and move things along.
He's the chairman of the meeting. He has no real power here except to start it and end it and announce the results. Nowhere in the vice president's power, does it say if you don't like the results of an American election, you can decide to throw them out and change them doesn't exist even though the president wants him to do that.
A quick little piece of history, Vice President Pence was not the number one guy on the ticket but we have had moments in history before, two men who ran for president and they were vice president at the time, Richard Nixon ran against John Kennedy. Al Gore of course against George W. Bush they were the sitting vice presidents, 60 years ago here.
Vice President Nixon said John Kennedy is your President of America. 20 years ago Al Gore said George W. Bush is your President, America. Vice President Pence can maybe think about a little history today. As you want to follow history and the grace of those gentlemen on those days or follow his boss?
BLITZER: We'll see what he does, and that's coming up very, very soon? Jake, I understand you have a special guest.
TAPPER: I do, Wolf. Thank you so much. Joining me now is Senator and Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Amy Klobuchar, one of the four lawmakers who will announce the electoral votes state by state during the joint session.
Senator Klobuchar, we have not called the Ossoff/Perdue race yet but assuming that Ossoff continues to hold the lead he does, what would be the difference between you being in the majority party and you've being in the minority party?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Well, I hope you call it soon, Jake because I know you will do it when you feel comfortable. But he is going to win this thing and Chuck Schumer is going to be the leader of the Senate. And I do want to thank him and Catherine Cortez Masto and our incredible candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Warnock as well as the work of Stacey Abrams and Joe and Kamala in winning this election.
They focused on economic issues and the pandemic. The right things, the body bags mounting, the empty chairs at the table. People not getting the vaccine, people wanting to get individual help in the form of that $2,000 check, and that is why we won.
At the same time as Abby was just pointing out, you have a situation where you've got a Donald Trump, the sitting president attacking Georgia Republicans and the election system and the polls after the election have now showed that and the exit polls have showed that people didn't like that, that the majority of Georgia voters didn't like it.
So I think that this is an incredible moment in time, but I don't want to forget the positive message of our candidates and why they won?
TAPPER: You're going to be one of the Senators leading the two-hour debates on the states, the ones that Republicans are disputing based on conspiracy theories and lies, are you going to be leading it for the effort for the Democrats and the Senate?
What is your plan to counter the message, the lies that you attempted sedition from your Republican colleagues who plan to object?
KLOBUCHAR: We counter with facts and we have - I want to point out in the Senate and may be a little different. We have so many Republicans joining us, joining our ranks of those that are fighting against this coup or as I call they the coup fighters and I think we have over 25 of them already.
So I look at this as a bipartisan effort to protect our democracy and to stop this crusade led by two people Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz who seem to want to run for president in 2024 and don't seem to care if they're putting their own short term destinies in front of the destiny of our country and our democracy.
So this is that moment. We're going to counter with facts, we're going to counter with the fact that 80 judges have turned down these frivolous lawsuits including a number of Trump-appointed judges with the fact that every Governor in the country and Secretary of State, Democrat and Republican have certified these results and that this is unprecedented for them to allege this widespread fraud when Joe Biden won by over 7 million votes and it has been verified by who?
Attorney General Barr, no widespread fraud Head of the division that covered this for Trump's Homeland Security, safest election in the history of America. We think we got good facts. TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. If Democrats are in the majority
which it looks like will happen should there be any consequences for these Republicans who are part of - and it's not - look. I didn't think it was appropriate when Democrats did this in 2005, but it wasn't part of an overall campaign to actually undo the will of the people. Should there be consequences for the members of the House and members of the Senate?
TAPPER: Can you work with Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or any of these others again on any other issue? Senator Langford who I was surprised to see join this effort.
KLOBUCHAR: And I think the consequences are going to be more about how their colleagues can work with them within their own party and in our party, because this is a pretty big deal what they're doing? And while objections have been raised in the past, the last one was rejected 74- 1, everyone united against it.
So when I look at this, I see a future for them that's going to be more difficult because of what they have done. But I also see that our party is going to take the lead in working with Joe and Kamala in meeting the needs of the American people.
That means getting the vaccines distributed, giving them the economic help they need and building back better and getting our economy going. Honestly that is my number one focus instead of revenge. These guys will have to deal with it themselves.
TAPPER: President Trump is putting pressure on Vice President Pence who is President of the Senate. He's somehow bestowing upon Pence magical powers that he does not have, that no vice president has ever had. What is your message to President Trump if he is watching; he is known to watch cable television sometimes, if he is watching right now, what do you say to him?
KLOBUCHAR: He needs to go out in the way that every president has gone out and that is a peaceful transition of power that believes in the cause in John McCain's words larger than you which is America?
I don't know that, that is ever going to happen. But the way that we are watching his someone called it the nine stages of grief or 15 stages of grief, while Americans are dying is just not right. And Vice President Pence today is not the decider, he is the presider as John and Wolf pointed out.
That's his job and he can move the proceedings along, he can say that objections are real if they're not joined in by a Senator. But he can't overturn the will of the people nor can congress and that's why this day is usually not such a big deal, little fan fare.
But if anything with all the Republicans joining we and I'm grateful that they are in the Senate is trillium. There should be a moment for democracy. Major stress test, really the last one before and this will happen on January 20th-- TAPPER: Senator--
KLOBUCHAR: --when Joe Biden is inaugurated.
TAPPER: Stay right there if you would. We have some news and then I want to get your reaction to it. I want to go right now to Arlette Saenz who is in Wilmington, Delaware who has some big news about a rather significant cabinet pick by President-Elect Biden, Arlette?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, we are learning President-Elect Biden has selected his choice for attorney general. Our colleague, Jeff Zeleny has learned that the president-elect intends to nominate Judge Merrick Garland to lead the Department of Justice.
This is coming as it appears that Democrats are closer to securing that Senate majority and Garland, you will remember was also President Obama's pick to serve on the Supreme Court just before he left office but Republicans had blocked that nomination from even being considered during that election year.
Now Garland had been a top contender for the past few weeks for this position but there had been some concerns that there would be issues with the fact that he sits on the court of appeals for the district of Washington, D.C.
And that nominating him would potentially create a vacancy there that Republicans would block if they were in the majority. But as the races down in Georgia become much clearer and the Biden team is getting a clearer picture of how that is going to pan out?
The president-elect has decided to move forward in nominating Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General. We are expecting this announcement to come as soon as tomorrow but this is one of those top positions that had been outstanding in the cabinet as Biden is looking to round out all of that cabinet before he takes office, Jake?
TAPPER: All right, big news from the Biden/Harris transition team Arlette Saenz bringing that to us. I want to bring in Dana Bash, my colleague here to continue the interview with Senator Klobuchar who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee obviously.
BASH: That's right, on the Judiciary Committee. Senator, again this is the news; this is pretty big news. This was the last big nomination we're waiting for. What is your reaction to Merrick Garland being the pick?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I love Merrick Garland. I got to know him when he was nominated when he was denied the seat that he should have had on the Supreme Court. There were obviously many good friends of mine that would be considered for this including Doug Jones, an incredible leader I helped find, another path to leadership as well as Sally Yates and others.
[12:20:00] KLOBUCHAR: But Merrick Garland is someone that is well liked on the court, working with actually both judges from appointed by presidents of different parties. He is someone that knows the law. He's someone that to me one of the things that are really important will bring credibility back to the Justice Department and improve morale, get people to see it as a lawyer's job which it is.
Your job is your fidelity to the constitution and to the law, not being the personal lawyer of the president. I think a judge gets that and I think there are many of my colleagues despite what happened to him in the Supreme Court process that have showed respect to him in the past on both sides of the aisle and I think that will help him to see a smooth confirmation.
BASH: I'm going to pass it over to my colleague Abby Phillips. But really quickly I know it's a delicate question but they're not just you, but there were other sitting members of congress who worked really hard for Joe Biden who are not members of the cabinet your thoughts on that particularly with this attorney general news?
I mean, your name was floated out there as a possibility before became clear that people like you and potential swing states wouldn't be picked.
KLOBUCHAR: I think the answer is in Georgia, it's found in those winning Senate races. We all knew that the major focus for the country was making sure we had a strong Senate that wouldn't keep blocking things and blocking help to the American people.
And our jobs, all of us, that ran for president or who are leaders in the Senate couldn't be more important and actually exciting right now. I'm going to be the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. It's going to give me the ability to work on issues related to elections where I was blocked before, anti-trust things that I really care a lot about.
So I think I speak for so many of us that are in the Senate whether we ran for president or not, were just so happy about this day and about the incredible people of Georgia who are seen through the voter suppression and the president's attempts to attack their state and our very democracy and they voted for goodness and they had compassion and they voted for competence and we are going to be able to get things done now.
TAPPER: Senator Klobuchar thanks so much. Good to see you again perhaps next time I see you, we'll have called the Ossoff -Perdue race, and I'll be able to congratulate you and call you Madam Chairwoman, but we are not there yet. We're not there again Abby, your reaction to the Merrick Garland is?
PHILLIP: Well, I think Senator Klobuchar made a really important point about - as we were actually discussing this last night. What does Joe Biden want the Justice Department to be in a Joe Biden Administration?
And this pick seems to signal that he wants it straight down the line. A judge who understands as Senator Klobuchar says the rule of law and sort of restores almost a kind of stoic nature of this institution that is about as polar opposite from the Trump era as you can get. President Trump viewed the Justice Department for many years as his personal law firm and--
TAPPER: Give me my Roy Cohen.
PHILLIP: Right, and Joe Biden maybe signaling look, Merrick Garland is a respected attorney on both sides of the aisle. That's why he was chosen by Barrack Obama for that Supreme Court seat because he was someone who was viewed as even handed, even moderate by some Democrats.
PHILLIP: And that's why I think Joe Biden is looking at him for that position. As Jeff Zeleny reported last night what a Senate majority potentially does for Joe Biden is eliminate the anxiety about the court of appeals seat.
It eliminates any anxiety about the ability to fill, to back fill of a very important federal court position and so this does make quite a bit of sense especially in light of what happened in Georgia last night.
BASH: We have to talk about the symbolism here, right? That Merrick Garland was the guy who was nominated by President Obama and Joe Biden was obviously very much part of that administration and he never got even a hearing because Mitch McConnell said, no we're going to wait and then he never got to the Supreme Court.
And the fact that he is now going to come for very different job just the attorney general, not a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court before the United States Senate get a hearing and it's possible that Mitch McConnell will have not much to say about it.
TAPPER: Yes, but I think there'll be a lot of disappointed progressives today the idea that Biden could really pick anybody he wants and get him confirmed that he went with somebody who was a rather moderate Democrat. Let's go to Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We have been listening and hearing from President Trump who's been addressing a crowd of supporters in Washington D.C. I want to play some of what he said particularly about Vice President Pence and what he hopes Pence's role will be today?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.
TRUMP: All he has to do - all - this is from the number one or certainly one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it. We are supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our constitution and protect our constitution. States want to revote.
The states got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president saying it all boils down to Vice President Mike Pence. By the way the idea that, that advice comes from one of the top constitutional law experts in the country is probably not true.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Without a name.
COOPER: Without a name one of the best, one of my favorites. David Axelrod, it's stunning that now - I mean how the worm has turned? Vice President Pence who was been nothing, but loyal just as Jim Sessions was loyal to this president, none of that matters now. It's now he will have his presidential ambitions thwarted because he is now will take the fall for this.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL HISTORIAL: Yes. Gloria said yesterday that this whole thing is kind of Shakespearian. This is part of it.
BORGER: Oh yes.
AXELROD: The loyal henchman served him in every way.
COOPER: Not quite as well written.
AXELROD: Yes, exactly, well it's contemporary.
BORGER: One of the best--
AXELROD: Well, I must say that juxtaposition of Joe Biden choosing Merrick Garland to serve as Attorney General who is a paragon of integrity a guy who's respected deeply in the legal community for his understanding of the law, the prudence with which he administers it and so on.
With the president essentially telling or trying to pressure the Vice President of the United States to do something that is wholly unconstitutional and hand him an election that he's lost, no state is asking to have their vote reconsidered. That is not true.
He wants it reconsidered. He lost. He lost an election and in this country that means you pack and you leave on January 20th and he cannot tolerate that but what I worry about is that, the people who take his word seriously and that is destructive and that is unfortunate.
BORGER: And if you were ever wondering what four years of loyalty to Donald Trump gets you just look at Mike Pence today. And I actually looked up that quote we were talking about yesterday Anderson, Mike Pence constantly talks about how we all stand upon the president's broad shoulders and big heart? This is what he had said for the last four years.
AXELROD: I think you have been a little unfair because we have learned that four years of loyalty can get you a pardon.
BORGER: Can get your pardon, that's right but Mike Pence who's been a true loyalist in every sense of the word. Now the president is saying to him you have to defame the constitution for me. You have to go out there and undermine democracy for me.
So I can get re-elected and by the way if you did that you stand up there and say by the way that also re-elects me. And maybe the president thinks in his own mind that that's why Mike Pence would do it because he would get to stay in office for four more years.
Look, Mike Pence might today pay homage to the president in some way shape or form say some nice things about him. But do you think he is going to do that?
COOPER: We also heard earlier today from the leader of sort of the rag tag bunch of has-beens and never ware that now the president surrounds himself with Rudy Giuliani who called for trial by combat. I don't even know what that means. Senator Santorum, you expect Vice President Pence to do what today?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Vice President Pence will preside over this proceeding and will open the ballots and will recognize people who seek recognition if they want to challenge them and that's what the vice president will do.
He may make a remark or two. Go back to Richard Nixon back in 1960, he asked for a moment to be able to make a comment. It was probably one of the great moments for Richard Nixon and his career because clearly there was fraud in the 1960 election that got John F. Kennedy elected.
And yet he put the country ahead of that situation and made a speech that was seen as very statesman-like. I think that the vice president will not give a similar speech.