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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY); White House Expects as Many 20 or More House Republicans to Vote for Impeachment; Donald Trump Refuses to Take Responsibility for Deadly Attack on Capitol. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 12, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Because one of the downstream effects of lying all the time from the Oval Office is a decrease in trust in our democracy. It's a feature, not a bug for those folks who want to hold on to power, regardless by any means necessary. And that's the danger for our democracy, we're going to need to confront.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: John Avlon, thank you very much.
And thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening. If you've been wondering what it would be like when the plug is finally pulled on Donald Trump, well, that certainly hasn't happened yet, but more Republicans seem willing to at least consider it.
While House Democrats preparing an ultimatum before tomorrow's impeachment vote, Republicans have started getting on board; some, including possibly the leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell and a leading light of the House, Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Remember, it was just yesterday that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was telling his members that the President had indeed shouldered some of the blame for the insurrection he incited.
Well, tonight, the Republican leadership is telling members to vote their conscience on the impeachment. And today, the President gave them good reason to by making a mockery of Congressman McCarthy's faith in him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, what is your role in what happened at the Capitol? What is your responsibility?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So if you read my speech, and many people have done it, and I've seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television. It's been analyzed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate.
They've analyzed my speech and my words, and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody just -- they thought it was totally appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Because, of course, why wouldn't he say that; of course, he would not take responsibility just as he took no responsibility for the pandemic spinning out of control, saying, quote, "It is what it is" when asked about a thousand people dying a day. By the way, it's more than 4,000 now.
He took no responsibility for that or for testing failures, literally saying the words, quote, "I don't take responsibility at all."
And now finally, Leader McCarthy seems to have finally gotten the message, and "The New York Times" citing people familiar with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's thinking, is reporting that he quote, " ... has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses, and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party."
That from the man who's done more than anyone in Washington to politically dry clean the President's dirty laundry while blocking, mocking and marginalizing anyone who notices the stink.
And the President has now reportedly lost him, too. Not that he cares about him or anyone else, sources tell CNN that his lawyers and advisers have been urging the President to tone down his rhetoric, he is not, because even as he threw in several stock phrases today about the need for the country to heal, he continued to deepen the wounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country and is causing tremendous anger and division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand which is very dangerous for the U.S.A., especially at this very tender time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One of several veiled threats the President made today. Just minutes later, he said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Respect for law enforcement and the great people within law enforcement -- so many are here -- is the foundation of the MAGA agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, come on. He actually said that today. He stood by in the White House reportedly gleefully watching on television as Capitol Police officers were attacked. The so-called MAGA crowd killed -- murdered -- a police officer when they stormed the Capitol based on the President's lies and the President's encouragement. They also beat at least one other -- another one -- another police
officer within inches of his life. Dozens of officers were injured, some Tasered by the supposedly police loving attackers, according to several reports. These people who wrapped themselves in the flags used a flagpole to beat a police officer.
So it wasn't just police being hurt in a melee. It was individual acts of violence like this, up close and personal.
Dare the President of the say respect for law, for law enforcement is the foundation of his agenda. Come on.
Thankfully, we did hear from law enforcement today. F.B.I. and Justice Department officials briefed the public on what some of these allegedly law-loving attackers did at the Capitol, spurred on by the President's grievances, his lies about the election and his encouragement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SHERWIN, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We are looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy. Devices were involved. As people know through news reports, there were pipe bombs found outside the Capitol. In addition to that, we've also focused on an emphasis on assaults and batteries on police officers, both -- both -- both Federal officers and local MPD officers that were assaulted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Assault and battery on police officers. And just to be perfectly clear, this was carried out by people carrying Trump flags wearing Trump caps and t-shirts whipped into a frenzy by the President and others at that Trump rally.
COOPER: This was his followers beating police officers, not showing respect for them, menacing them, cornering them, hunting them, trampling them and beating them. And as we said, murdering one.
The President knows this, yet, according to the reporting in "The Washington Post," he could not even respond to pleas for help from trapped lawmakers because he was too busy watching it all on TV.
He was glued to the tube, quoting "The Washington Post" reporting quote, "He was hard to reach and you know why? Because it was live TV, said one close Trump adviser. If it's TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it's live TV, he watches it. And he was just watching it all unfold.
Watching an attack on democracy. Watching people hunt the Halls of Congress for his loyal Vice President Mike Pence, hoping to hang him. Watching people with zip ties in search for Nancy Pelosi and others. What do you think the President was thinking while watching that? And not responding to send the National Guard or immediately addressing his followers ordering them to stop?
I mean, was he watching hoping it would continue? Was he hoping the man he had just tweeted against, his own Vice President would be killed? Was he hoping Nancy Pelosi would be? Was he hoping this would somehow usher in a new Trump era in America? Then Ivanka could take over after that, and then Donny, Jr. Hard to imagine it's possible that the President could have hoped that this actually would result in him continuing on in power or in some new form of power?
But if he didn't want it to go on, then why didn't he act to stop it? Remember his first video message immediately after the worst of the attack? It was him expressing his love for the attackers, calling them special people.
When Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Republican donor who has given a lot of money to the President died today, the President was very quick to send condolences. He still hasn't made a condolence call to the family of the murdered officer, Brian Sicknick. It took four days for him to lower the flags to honor all Wednesday's fallen now totaling five.
He has been too busy making veiled threats, calling in so many words for unity or else -- to say the obvious to any Republican looking for a reason not to impeach or convict, the President has not given them much to work with.
Today, House and Senate Republican leaders gave permission to end this. Question remains, though, how many will actually even finally step up?
Our Jim Acosta is at the White House for us with breaking news, and what the Vice President's next move is. So Jim, what's going on?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Anderson, the House Democrats were demanding that Vice President Pence invoke the 25th Amendment and force the President -- attempt to force the President from power in that constitutional manner. Vice President Pence has just fired off a letter to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informing her that he does not support invoking the 25th Amendment.
He says in this letter, that he does not believe it's in the best interest of the nation or the Constitution, and so the next step now is impeachment and Democrats are now poised to impeach the President of the United States for the second time; only this time around, there are going to be Republicans getting on board.
Most notably today, the House Republican from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former Vice President, and I talked to -- you know, I talked to a Trump adviser this evening, who said, listen, Trump is in serious trouble tonight. Republicans in the House and the Senate may decide that now is the time to, quote, "Tear the Band-Aid off." And now we're just going to have to see how the votes play out.
This adviser went on to say that looking at what Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader did today over in the Senate, essentially sending a signal to his caucus that they can go ahead and vote however they want, in all of this that the President's days could be numbered. And by that I don't mean the number eight, as in how many days he has left in office. It could be fewer than that.
I will say Anderson, I did talk to a senior Trump campaign adviser who said the President -- some of the President's advisers are trying in vain to warn and threaten and intimidate their fellow Republicans into not voting to impeach the president and remove him from office, this adviser telling me if they do so, they are doing that at their own political risk -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, they are scared of their own base. I mean, that's the situation a lot of these Republican Members of Congress are in. They don't want to be like, you know, yelled at in every airport for the rest of their life like Lindsey Graham has been.
Is the White House concerned that there could be some sort of groundswell? Because I mean, it's hard to imagine in Congress, you know, the Senate, maybe one thing but, you know, in Congress and the House, you have all these Republicans who even after the attacks still stood up to contest the results of the election.
ACOSTA: Yes, the President, I think, Anderson perhaps at no other point has he been more so in this position, he is in the most precarious position he has ever been politically as President of the United States.
ACOSTA: He now has members of his own party saying out loud that they're willing to vote to remove him from office, even when he just has about a week or so left until the end of his administration.
You know, his own advisers have been urging him almost begging him to please tone down the rhetoric. You were mentioning this just a few moments ago saying, you know, you have to tone down this rhetoric because you are running the risk of not only being potentially prosecuted after you leave office for inciting an insurrection, you may be sued, you may be sued for money that potentially he doesn't have after he leaves office.
And so they've been trying to warn him over and over and over again that he is putting himself in a very serious position. And the President has, as you were just pointing out a few moments ago, he has been watching all of this on TV, not really taking seriously just how damaged he is.
He is not a lame duck anymore, Anderson, he is a -- he is a wounded duck. And in his days may be numbered, and as I said, may not be the number eight -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks.
Joining us now, Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who played his part in the President's first Impeachment. Congressman, thanks for being with us. What is your reaction first of all, to Vice President Pence rejecting the Speaker's called to invoke the 25th Amendment?
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, it's just the latest in a disappointing series of failures by this administration.
Look, the President should resign, barring that, the Cabinet and the Vice President should do their duty. But we of course, assume that they won't. We've all learned that by now. That's why tomorrow, we'll move forward to do our duty, which is to hold this President accountable.
COOPER: Do you believe there will be significantly more House Republicans who vote to impeach beyond the small handful who have already announced their intention to do so? A Republican source tells CNN anywhere from 10 to 25 members of the party in the House may vote to impeach?
MALONEY: Well, I don't know. I'll believe it when I see it. You know, we've watched for years, as they looked the other way during kids in cages or payments to porn stars, or the impeachment crisis, the first one; or all the other scandals and corruptions of this administration.
So I welcome them into the realm of the duty that they swore an oath to uphold when they joined the Congress, and I recognize that they're taking a tough vote. But right now is a time to stand up and be counted.
COOPER: What do you make of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell signaling according to multiple reports that he is furious with the President and open to impeachment? I mean, how likely in your view that the Senate would actually convict the President. It seems a very heavy lift in terms of numbers.
MALONEY: Well, I don't think we know. I think it's a dynamic situation. I think you're seeing them splinter. I think it's about time that Republicans found their voice and their moral compass. So I hope more of them do the right thing.
Remember, we have the votes to impeach the President in the House. We're going to do our duty. We will hold him accountable in the House. It might be with some Republican votes, but it is the Republicans in the Senate that hold the keys. They can remove this President if they choose to do their duty.
COOPER: Do you think Senator McConnell actually is genuine in an effort to distance from the President? I mean, you know, clearly he has enabled this President and you know, as much as he possibly could, up until now.
MALONEY: Well, I don't know and I don't know what part is cynical calculation. You know, there's a lot of people finding religion with one week to go in this administration, and a violent attack on the Capitol.
But I mean, it. You know, my parents went to church every day. They love the story of the prodigal son, we will welcome them back. But they must admit their wrongdoing and be held accountable for all the transgressions that have taken brought us to this point, and for those who continue to dissemble or to lie for this President, to spread the pernicious incendiary mistruth that the election was stolen, well, they need to be held accountable, too.
COOPER: Congressman Maloney, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
MALONEY: Thank you.
COOPER: Joining us now, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist, Thomas Friedman, author of a number of bestsellers, including "The Lexus and the Olive Tree." Tom, thanks for being with us.
There's been a lot of movement today from Republicans around President Trump and impeachment. Given all we've seen from McConnell's stance on impeachment to, you know, Liz Cheney now starting to publicly say they'll vote to impeach President Trump. Do you think this is a tipping point for President Trump?
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I think, Anderson, what we've seen today is he is going to be impeached and he is going to be impeached to some degree, we don't know how much in a bipartisan way by Democrats and Republicans. I think that's a very important message. It is a very important message to people who want to do this again, and it's a very important message to history.
The mark of shame is going to be on Trump's forehead forever as it deserves to be. He will be the first President in history to have been twice impeached and he deserves it.
When you look at the scenes, I just want to say one thing --
FRIEDMAN: Because you've done so well, tonight, Anderson, CNN, my paper and others. We're now learning so much more about what happened up there that day, not just about the people who were tragically murdered, but -- and died in this, but also just the amount of planning that went into it.
I think once we fully understand -- once we fully understand it, we're going to want to impeach him a third time.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, as more the details of it come out and the personal acts of horror and viciousness, it's just - it just gets worse and worse.
You know the last time I interviewed you was January 4th, two days before this attack. You said then, you said, "Wednesday is going to be a historic day in American history. It will be the first time in our history that we will see a legislative attempt at a coup d'etat in the United States of America."
In the darkest corners of your mind, did you ever think you would see the President of the United States inciting not a legislative coup d'etat, inciting an insurrection against his own government?
FRIEDMAN: You know, a friend of mine, Joe Seidman, was talking to him about it, Anderson he said, and he said, "I'm shocked but not surprised." I think we're all shocked, but we're not surprised because we know that everything was leading up to this. That this was a President who kept going through red lights and he was enabled by a media ecosystem to do that and he was enabled by his party to do that.
So the actual scenes of it, they are shocking, I couldn't have predicted it. But at the end of the day, we're not surprised.
COOPER: You know, I remember seeing you in the lobby of a hotel in Egypt in the midst of the revolution. And it was a really scary day. I was -- I've seen a lot and I was very scared that day.
You've been to a lot of Civil Wars. You know, I was in Rwanda in the genocide briefly. I was in Bosnia, you know, in Iraq, Afghanistan. You've been around the world, you've seen a lot. I hear people talking about civil war in America, as if they know what they're talking about, as if they know what that looks like. And unless you've seen it up close, I mean, it is a horrible, horrible thing.
I am so upset when I hear these people at rallies -- Trump rallies talking about Civil War as if it's some sort of a cleansing.
FRIEDMAN: You know, Anderson, I lived through about four and a half years of the Lebanese Civil War and there's one really important lesson you learn. When you break something, when you break a system like that, it is really hard to get it back.
And what is so appalling is people whether they're in the media, whether Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, whether they're in politics, some of these Republicans, whether they're running Facebook, who think they can just stress and stress and stress the system for their own glory and their own profit, and nothing will happen.
And you know, we've said this before, I just want to ask them, do you go home at night to some offshore island, where this doesn't matter?
COOPER: Look, Rupert and Lachlan have got places in Australia. Believe me, they'll be on the private jet once there is --
FRIEDMAN: I guess, the answer is yes.
COOPER: Yes, or on the yacht.
FRIEDMAN: And the willingness of people to just stress and stress this system, thinking there will be no implications and doing it for politics or profit, it is just so appalling.
COOPER: I spoke to Chris Krebs last night, former senior cybersecurity official for the D.H.S. who was fired by the Trump administration for being honest. He said, we're on the verge of what I fear to be a pretty significant breakdown in democracy in civil society here, do you -- do you think he's right? FRIEDMAN: I'll tell you, you know, I don't know if I'd describe it
exactly that way, Anderson, but what is so frightening about the events that happened on Capitol Hill is how the people there believed that big lie.
FRIEDMAN: They really believed it. They weren't faking it. Now, we have to stop and remember just how big and appalling that lie was. Anderson, and you and I talked about this once, we actually just had the most heroic election, I think, in American history. More Americans turned out to vote than any time in our history. They turned out to vote in a middle of a pandemic, their neighbors counted the votes. Their Secretaries of State, and courts affirmed them.
This was actually one of the greatest expressions of democracy ever in the world, and Donald Trump took that, and for his own selfish reasons, he turned it into what he called a fraud. And then he turned on his information ecosystem, and he made millions and millions of Americans believe it. That to me, is worth impeaching, just in and of itself.
I wish we could impeach him four, five, six times to send the message, you shall never do this again. But what's so -- is because all these people are now marinated in conspiracy theories, getting their news from their own ecosystems, I just don't know how we break through to that.
COOPER: Why wouldn't the Republican Party now see this as an opportunity? I mean, if they don't -- if they don't -- you know, and you've written about this, about, you know the divides in the Republican Party and what should happen in the Republican Party is for it to reinvent itself and rebound from this.
But if they don't rid themselves of Trump now, he is going to maintain a grip on them for, you know, the time to come.
FRIEDMAN: Well, there was a Quinnipiac poll the other day, I think it said that 70 percent of Republicans still are with him. He is the base and the base is the party, and that's why that party has to fracture.
I think Trump's only good purpose in life is to keep stressing that party so it blows up. Because if it blows up, the sort of rump Trump cultists will never have enough power to win national election, that in itself would be a blessing.
And I believe if it blows up, the small principled core of principled Republicans -- and they are there -- people like Mitt Romney and Senator Murkowski from Alaska. Anderson, if just a couple of them are ready to become Independents and work with Joe Biden, who has put together really an outstanding Cabinet of center right people.
If we can actually get a few principled Republicans to work with him, we can actually have a huge problem solvers caucus in the House and the Senate that will actually be able to get things done on infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
And so I think there's huge potential, but for the country to thrive, that party as it is currently constituted, must die.
COOPER: You know, it's incredible, because four years ago, when they were all running against Trump, you know, they all spoke about what he would do to conservatism, what he would do to the Republican Party, they saw the writing on the wall. And yet, once he beat them, and they wanted to maintain power, and as you've pointed out, have their free parking space at the airport, they went along with it.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, I mean, again, I think what history will talk about is just the supine nature of that party.
Let's be honest, Anderson. The Republican Party has lost its way for a long time. They just had a convention, the Republican Convention before the election, where they had no platform. They said their platform is whatever their dear leader wants it to be. And of course, their dear leader just wanted to be whatever served him. That's insane.
How could a party do that? I mean, really be honest. His party is actually -- it really became a political brothel that rented itself out by the night to ever could energize its base. That's really what they were doing. Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, then Trump, but in the case of Trump, he took over the whole brothel.
COOPER: Tom Friedman, appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Difficult days. Coming up next, tighter Capitol security and the Republican lawmakers opposing one key measure. A live report on the standoff there tonight.
And later, new reporting of the possibility the President would try to pardon himself.
COOPER: With some House Republicans at a tipping point on impeaching the President and their leaders giving them the go ahead, a standoff has just ended outside the House chamber over an issue you would not think would even be an issue at all in the wake of last week, namely security. CNN's Ryan Nobles is there for us tonight. Ryan, what happened?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Congressman Lauren Boebert from Colorado recently elected from that state, who has been very vocal about her desire to want to carry a weapon here on Capitol Hill walked through the brand newly installed metal detectors outside the House chamber, set those metal detectors off and then when was asked by Capitol Police if they could look inside her bag, she refused to do so. It led to a standoff of about 10 minutes where Boebert stood off to
the side, inside the alcove before you walk into the chamber, while she tried to negotiate with Capitol Police over being able to look inside her bag.
During this entire time, other Members of Congress were coming through these new metal detectors making their way onto the House floor. Some of her fellow Republicans rushed to her defense saying that it was ridiculous that she wasn't being led in. Capitol Police eventually let her in.
From my vantage point, I couldn't tell whether or not they did look into her bag. But we did see her bag on the House floor after the fact. But it is pretty incredible, Anderson, these metal detectors were just installed a few hours ago, and already, after they were put in place in large part because of what happened here last Wednesday and because of the concerns surrounding the violence and the riot that took place here on Wednesday, and then ahead of the Inauguration, you know, Capitol Police, the Speaker's Office, the Democratic majority, taking special precautions to make sure that everyone is safe and already one Member of Congress challenging it.
And there were other Members of the Republican House that were also very upset that those metal detectors were in place -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Ryan Nobles. Thanks. Appreciate it.
As you saw at the top, senior law enforcement officials briefed reporters today on prosecutions in the wake of the insurrection, but also the threats that might lie ahead.
For more on that, we are joined now by CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. So how do law enforcement officials feel tonight about the ongoing threat?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, it certainly hasn't dissipated, Anderson. F.B.I. agents and law enforcement all across the country are out running on threats, on things that they think they should be concerned with.
In talking to one official today, basically just describing it, saying, it is nuts. We're seeing a level of threat and a level of the F.B.I. running at a pace that perhaps we have not seen since 9/11.
Just think about it. The U.S. Attorney today, the man that is leading this investigation, so that they are treating this as if it's an international terrorism case. They are treating it as an international terrorism case, but what's different about is that it's actual U.S. citizens, people who live in this country who are from this country that they're trying to run down because they are afraid they may do something -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, it's us. It's us attacking ourselves. Did the Justice Department and F.B.I. feel like they cleared much up with the press conference today? Because there were questions about why the head of the F.B.I. or the head of the -- you know, the acting head of the Department of Justice weren't speaking. PROKUPECZ: Yes, those questions still remain. We have still yet to
hear from the Director of the F.B.I., get before a podium and take questions.
Instead, they sent out the Director of the Washington Field Office, the man in charge of that and then we had also the U.S. Attorney, the acting U.S. Attorney who is really running this entire investigation.
One of the things they wanted to explain, of course, was this Intelligence lapse, whether or not there was, it's still not entirely clear. The F.B.I. is defending saying that they did have this information. They did share it, but it wasn't specific enough. It wasn't as if they had a name attached to it or something that they can run down, so they wanted to clarify that.
The other big thing in all of this, Anderson and from people we are talking to is, based on the video that they have seen of this attack, they say that once that -- if it ever becomes public, people are going to be shocked by what they see.
And just to her heroic efforts, by the reinforcement that came in the local police department, the D.C. police department, the FBI, obviously and the ATF went in there and the video of just a hand to hand combat in some cases between this mob and many of the Capitol Police officers is just shocking.
And the other thing I want to point out, is one of the things that the U.S. Attorney have certainly is focusing on is coordination of whether or not there was someone else who was perhaps giving these people money to come here, the hotels that they were staying. I mean, I've been here since this happened. Many of the hotels, they were staying in many of the hotels here who was paying for some of this, was there bigger coordination. And that is what the FBI and the Department of Justice is now trying to figure out specifically about those pipe bombs. How did exact get placed? Who build dose? So there are still many, many unanswered questions here on the greater plot here and who was behind it.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Let's hope they release the video because as sickening as it is, I think it's so important to see what actually occurred to really understand and get a look at and wake people up about what is actually happening. Shimon Prokupecz, I appreciate it.
Perspective now from CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa. Also, former FBI deputy director and current CNN contributor Andrew McCabe.
Andrew, you know how federal law enforcement works better than most. According to Washington Post in Virginia FBI field office issued a dire warning ahead of the capital attack, the FBI today saying they had shared intelligence with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Is it clear who dropped the ball here? ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's really not clear yet, Anderson. And I think it's going to take some time probably after the inauguration is passed. And we have the opportunity to go back and look at this thoughtfully before we really get to the bottom of it. But essentially what the FBI said at the press conference today was, yes, the Norfolk Field Office composed that raw intelligence report sent it to the Washington field office to be considered in the work of the around the inauguration. And the Washington Field Office relied on its JTTF, which is the squad in which all terrorism cases are worked. And it includes members of the Capitol Police and members of the Metropolitan Police Department for D.C.
The question is, did they go to the efforts that are really necessary to highlight that intelligence to the leadership of those departments? Or did they just rely on kind of the standard swirl of intelligence that takes place in the JTTF? I would argue that intelligence of this specificity, this close to an event that we all have concerns with, this should have been some sort of a positive handoff of information there. But we'll see if that happened or not.
COOPER: Asha, what did you make of the briefing by the FBI today?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I have. I have two questions with regard to the intelligence that you just mentioned, I think there's a question for whether that proper flow of information, which Andrew just described was impeded in any way? Let's remember that back in September, an intelligence analyst from the Department of Homeland Security, filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General, claiming that the senior officials at DHS, Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli had asked him to modify his intelligence assessment to downplay the threat of white supremacist violence, in order to comport with the narratives that Trump was putting out.
And so, you know, I have a question of whether was that pressure indirectly or directly, also being put out, you know, in the weeks and days leading up to this in some way.
The other thing about that press conference was that it seems to me quite tepid, compared to what you normally see with an FBI, DOJ press conference. And I'm wondering whether they felt free to really give a lot of information, perhaps out of fear of what the President might do. The director, Director Wray has been very vocal in previous months about right wing terrorism and white supremacy -- white supremacist, and that has not made Trump happy. And the last thing that the FBI can afford right now is for Director Wray to be fired, just as they're doing this all hands on deck investigation, and then also trying to secure both the inauguration and passing information to all 50 states about articulated threats. So, that may be one reason why there was -- it wasn't as robust as we might expect.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, to me, it seems like Director Wray has been a bright spot over the last, you know, in this administration of talking about violence on the right and the threat which, you know, many intelligence officials have pointed out is the preeminent threat in the United States. The President talks about Antifa and protesters. That's not what, you know, most law enforcement intelligence. I mean, Andrew, am I right about that?
MCCABE: Oh, absolutely. I think you're right about it, I think, Director Wray's comments to Congress about the importance and the danger that the country faces from right wing terrorism have been kind of a, I think, a high point of his administration, the organization so far, which is all the more reason why his silence right now is that much more questionable. And although I absolutely understand the point that Asha is making, and she's probably right, as usual, I would argue that, yes, the FBI needs its director in place at this critical moment. But this critical moment calls for speaking the truth about the threats that we face. And that calls for the leadership of the FBI director to get engaged and talk about right wing extremism in the way that this country needs to hear it, whether or not the President agrees with that sort of assessment.
COOPER: I want to play just some of what the President said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me. But we'll come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Asha, I don't know what that means.
RANGAPPA: I think it means that in addition to not understanding the First Amendment, he also doesn't understand the 25th. I mean, what he's suggesting is that somehow, I guess Biden's own cabinet is going to turn on him and declare him incapacitated and unfit. I mean, it doesn't make any sense at all.
COOPER: At least he acknowledges that Biden's going to be the president. I mean, the President hasn't congratulated, you know, President-elect Biden at all. He's not, you know, man enough to do that, apparently. And you know, and then today, he's sort of, anyway, he's leaving.
Asha Rangappa, appreciate it, Andrew McCabe as well. Thank you very much.
MCCABE: Thank you.
COOPER: Breaking news related to the impeachment talk new information on Trump's quest to pardon himself when we continue.
COOPER: As Congress rapidly proceeds toward a second impeachment vote for President Trump with several Republicans including one in leadership signaling they will vote to impeach. And other breaking story this moment, this time involving a possible pardon for the president by the President.
Jamie Gangel joins us now with details. Jamie, what have you learned?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Pardon Anderson, it's about whether or not he will pardon his children. And what I'm learning along with our colleagues Pamela Brown and (INAUDIBLE), is that there have been increased discussions and a new sense of urgency since the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Discussions about having these pardons a self pardon for the president and pardon for his children. One source told CNN that there is a belief that Trump's pardon of his family and kids is more likely and urgent now, because it could stave off prosecution. If investigators determine that there is there may be grounds for that.
We're also told that the President is interested in this self-pardon. And this is not a new idea, even though they're the Justice Department put out an opinion, a memo in 1974 during Richard Nixon, saying that, under the theory that, quote, no one may be a judge in their own case, that this wouldn't work. The source tells me that quote, Trump could care less about the Justice Department memo, he will do whatever he wants, and then he will fight it out in court if he has to.
We reached out to the White House. We have not heard back any comment on this. And we also reached out to the children. One of Trump's children, Donald Trump, Jr. were told doesn't want a pardon a source with knowledge, told CNN, quote his father has never raised the issue with him. But Don has told friends he doesn't want a pardon. He doesn't believe it's necessary. Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, obviously, the concern on a president pardoning any president part allowed to pardon himself or herself, would be that any future president could commit any kind of crime they wanted while in office and just pardon themselves on the way out.
GANGEL: Correct. And one of the things I've learned we've been following the story of the self-pardon, actually, since almost the first year, President Trump was in office and a former senior administration official told me that he has been fascinated, obsessed, if you will, with this idea from day one. He loves the notion of pardons because he has unilateral power to do it, but also because he sees it where other people are concerned about doing a favor for them, and that they would owe him something in return. And we're also hearing that there are going to be a lot of pardons coming in this final week.
COOPER: Jamie Gangel, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Perspective now in the Republican divide as we approached most impeachment vote, Mike Shields, former RNC chief-of-staff and a CNN political commentator, Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent, David Axelrod, former senior adviser for President Obama, and a CNN senior political commentator.
Abby, what do you make of this moment were in when some Republican members of Congress are still repeating the lies that led to the storming the Capitol and the other members of the same party in the last few hours to come out in support of impeaching the President?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, there's clearly a divide in the Republican Party, but we should be really clear that there's by no means a large majority of the Republican Party attorney against President Trump. We saw it last week over 140 members of the House voting even after the riots to try to overturn the results of the election.
And so far, we only have three House Republicans saying that they would be willing to vote for impeachment in the House. That's better, I guess in some ways than then the Democrats did in terms of bipartisanship last time around. But it is not by any stretch of the imagination, a sign that they're turning on him. And it's because especially in the House of Representatives.
Many of these members believe that they need the President, they need his base. And there's no distinction, frankly, between the folks who showed up outside of the Capitol last week, and many of the members who are sitting in the chamber themselves. The ideology that led to the riots are the same ones that many of these members believe in. And so, I think it's going to be hard to see them turning on Trump at this moment.
COOPER: David Axelrod, first of all, you get the award, David Axelrod for dramatic lighting in a in a Zoom appearance. It's -- I like it. That's good.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I learned from Morrison (ph) way.
COOPER: CNN is reporting that Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party. Do you think he will actually vote to impeach the president?
AXELROD: I think he could, from what I understand. But, you know, look, Mitch McConnell throws words around like manhole covers. He's very careful about what he says and what he signals. I think it's interesting that this story surfaced. And that coupled with Liz Cheney's decision, does create a permission structure for those members of the House and Senate who want to break with the President.
I think to Abby's point, you know, there was a Quinnipiac poll, I think Tom Friedman mentioned it earlier. That said the President still has a 71% approval rating among Republicans. And there were there's been other polling in the last couple of days that show that, you know, there is a portion of that party significant that stands by him here. So, there is this fear. You know, the first instinct of politicians is self-preservation. And I think what's notable here is that there are people who are willing to risk that and have stepped forward, Liz Cheney being the most notable thus far, and we'll see what happens tomorrow and, and after tomorrow. But McConnell was definitely sending a signal. And yes, I think it's possible that, you know, Trump cost him the majority. He is -- he sees Trump now as an albatross to the party in the future. And he may see this as the as the Rubicon.
COOPER: Mike, how much fear do you think there is among Republicans in the House, in the Senate? I mean, you know, on the one hand there, I mean, maybe I'm overthinking this, but, you know, to make a principled stand, you may, you know, believe something is an impeachable offense, but then there's the reality of, what do your supporters actually believe? And if the President has this widespread support. And, you know, do they want to be chased through airports and yelled at for the next, you know, however long they have an office?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, and then there's also the reality, there's only eight days left at office. And so, you know, he's leaving anyway. And look, I think what's really important is that the President still has time to tell people to not show up to not cause violence, to stand down. There are militias out there that potentially we see it in reporting could still do some harmful horrible acts that have nothing to do with the Republican Party, the party I've lived my whole life working for and I call him the President, I still urge him to come out and say, to those people don't do that to stand down that I lost the election. This is over.
And so, I think that's far more important than even the vote tomorrow. I mean, the vote tomorrow, he's going to leave office in eight days, whether that vote, you know, passes or not. But in terms of him doing, what he hasn't done so far, which is tell these people not to do this. And I think every Republicans, Democrats together have to urge the president to step forward and tell these militia folks to stand down.
COOPER: But Mike, you know, he will never say that. I mean, he will never go back and say, oh, yes, you know what, I've been lying this entire time. And this wasn't a fraudulent election. In fact, as Tom Friedman pointed out, it was kind of a remarkable election with huge turnout on both sides in the midst of a pandemic.
SHIELDS: Yes. And look there, you know, as someone who would is a Republican who's, you know, supports the Republican nominee and Republican president was looking for evidence of fraud. I've been in elections where there has been fraud. There wasn't any evidence and we kept looking to see OK, what's the evidence is going to be brought forth in court. It wasn't there.
And so, elections over Joe Biden won. Maybe the President's not going to come out and say that but he can certainly tell people to stand down. You know, the lack of his remarks after this attack already happened is to me the most reprehensible aspect of all of this. And here, we have reports that something could still happen and he needs to step forward and say, stand down, don't do this. And I think that's more important than that have been a vote or how Republicans in the House feel about someone who's leaving office in eight days anyway.
AXELROD: Anderson, you know, I appreciate what Mike's saying. And I think it would be incredibly important for the President to do that. But, you know, we got a little insight into his thinking today when he stepped out in public for the first time. And he did just the opposite. He said that what he said at that rally was absolutely appropriate. And if you listen to his words, you know, he was menacing those who supported impeachment. And, you know, there was nothing about his remarks that suggested any change of attitude.
Now, maybe, you know, he's been known to turn on a dime, he did go out and do that sort of forced recantation last Thursday after, after he was told by his lawyers that he should. So maybe the prospect of getting impeached and potentially convicted would be enough, but it's doubtful.
COOPER: You know, Abby, it is fascinating, though. I mean, this is, you know, as the Times noted, Mitch McConnell kind of indicating, if the Republican Party ever wants to try to break away and no longer be the party of Trump and beholden to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and Larry Trump, and, you know, the Trump dynasty from here on in this is a possible break moment, if they're willing to do it. If not, they're going to be, you know, Ted Cruz, and all these people are going to be beholden to the whims of this man for the next, you know, years.
PHILLIP: Yes, that's actually one of the more fascinating parts about this. And it's, you know, you can see the wheels turning and Mitch McConnell's head that he would probably if he could control everything he could, he would probably do that. He would probably try to lock Donald Trump up into a box so he can move his party forward. But what's interesting is that he's not necessarily being followed by other Republicans. I was trying to think about over the last four or five years if Republicans really have ever tried to really break from Trump as a group, to have critical mass to say, we reject this, we are moving in a different direction. And I don't think that that's really ever happened. And because of that, it's hard for me to see that they even know what would happen if they tried to repeat a Trump because they've never actually done it.
SHIELDS: But I can I can make that clearer. There's Republicans, there's Trump populist in the Republican Party, and then there's crazy militia people that wear horns and attack people and ransack the Capitol is easy for Republicans. You support Republicans, you support the populist movement that Trump spoke to that are in support of our coalition now. And you reject violence, you reject anyone who would take things into their own hands instead of winning a fight at the ballot box. And so, I think that's a pretty easy thing for Republicans to talk to those Trump voters and say, I want to represent you folks that were out of work and looking for a voice in Congress. And I reject anyone who's violent or anyone who thinks that that's the way you solve a problem.
COOPER: Yes. Thank you all. Appreciate it.
(voice-over): Up next, a new report. The organizer, the organizer of the January 6 rally that led to the attack in the Capitol says he got help from several GOP members of Congress. Details ahead.
COOPER: As you heard Shimon Prokupecz says earlier, there are still a lot of questions not only about exactly who was involved in the attack on the Capitol, the individuals, the groups. Tonight some House Republicans are defending their role in the lead up to the event that led to the assault specifically a key organizer of the rally that preceded the assault says he got help from several Republican House members. Drew Griffin has the story.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The siege on the Capitol started with a protest just like dozens of stop the steel rallies across the country since the election.
ALI ALEXANDER, PROTEST ORGANIZER: 1776.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: 1776.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And one of the main organizers extreme right winger Ali Alexander, who says he was getting help from three members of Congress.
ALEXANDER: But I'm the guy who came up with the idea of January 6th when I was talking with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Andy Biggs and Congressman Mo Brooks.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): You heard that right. Alexander says these three members of Congress actually help plan the rally, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Mo Brooks.
ALEXANDER: It was to build momentum and pressure and then on the day to change hearts and minds of Congress peoples who weren't yet decided or saw everyone outside and said I can't be on the other side of that mob.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar has been working with Alexander since the election, firing up crowds with lies about the election results. Gosar replied to or mentioned Ali and dozens of tweets including, I'll be in DC with @Ali and the rest of America, adding, we will fight back against the leftist who've engaged in sedition. Another tweet, On January 6th, we fight for Trump. On the morning of the siege, he would send followers this image stating Biden should concede. I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don't make me come over there. He promptly went to Congress, stood up and oppose the certification of the Electoral College results.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): I rise up both myself and 60 of my colleagues to object to the counting of the electoral ballots from Arizona.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The end of his speech interrupted by the very mob he helped stir up. Former Republican congressman Denver Riggleman has been warning about the impact of lies being fed to the public by America's own leaders. DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R) FMR VIRGINIA CONGRESSMAN: I think there's a massive issue here with education and facts that these individuals don't have it. This information is being pushed by people in positions of power.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Gosar's Arizona colleague Andy Biggs was near Gosar on the House floor January 6 and met with President Trump along with others protesting election results even provided a tape message to be played at one of the Arizona rallies.
REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): For the freedoms that made this country great.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Biggs now strongly denies any involvement in the protest. His staff stating Biggs can't even recall meeting with Ali Alexander. Mo Brooks is more direct.
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriot, start taking down names and kicking ass.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): This is the Alabama congressman, the morning of January 6 in Washington D.C. A few days later, he told an Alabama News Service. I make no apology for doing my absolute best to inspire patriotic Americans to not give up on our country and to fight back against anti-Christian socialists.
Former Congressman Charlie Dent says the actions of his former colleagues show it's time for a serious reckoning with the Republican Party.
CHARLIE DENT (R) FMR PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN: We have to rid ourselves of these radical elements. I would recommend to every one of my Republican colleagues, sometimes you have to risk your job in order to save it. Well, this is the time.
COOPER: That was Drew Griffin reporting.
News continues. Let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris.