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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Poll: Biden Favorability Rises, Trump Approval Sinks; Soon, Biden Departs Home State for Washington on Inauguration Eve; Pence May Not Attend Trump Departure Ceremony; McConnell Blames Trump for Riot, Saying It Was Based on Lies; Biden Speaks Emotionally As He Departs Wilmington for Washington. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 19, 2021 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:33:56]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Joe Biden is approaching his inauguration tomorrow with sky-high expectations but also largely positive marks for how he's been handling the transition.

A brand-new CNN poll is out giving a good look at how many Americans are viewing Biden right now.

Our political director, David Chalian, is here with me now.

Talk to me more about what Americans are thinking about how Biden is handling this.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Two-thirds of Americans in our brand-new exclusive poll, conducted by SSRS, Anderson, 66 percent approve of the way Biden is handling this transition, 29 percent disapprove.

Look at how that stacks up against his recent predecessors. You see that Biden is sort of in the category with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

You can see on the next slider there, yes, Clinton at 67 percent, George Bush at 61 percent.

Not the sky-high approval ratings of Obama going into office in 2009 but also not down here at 40 percent, which is where the country had the approval rating for Donald Trump four years ago.

One other thing to note, Anderson, Joe Biden's favorability rating is at 59 percent in this poll. And 38 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

That 59 percent is a high-water mark for Joe Biden since November 2008 when he was elected vice president.

[13:35:04]

COOPER: I also understand you're hearing from people what kind of job they think President-Elect Joe Biden will do.

CHALIAN: Yes, nearly six out of 10 Americans expect him to do a good job. And 61 percent say he'll do a good job, 35 percent say he'll do a poor job. So expectations are pretty solid for Joe Biden.

Take a look at specific initiatives, and you see the vast majority of Americans think he'll get it accomplished. And 83 percent say he's going to get the additional stimulus pass. And 74 percent, restore relations with allies around the world.

And 70 percent say the 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days promised will be delivered upon. And 64 percent, establishing a public option for health care in America for Obamacare. They think that will get done.

The one place, the one place of Joe Biden's agenda, reducing the political divide in America, 44 percent say he'll get that. A majority, 53 percent, do not think he'll be able to accomplish reducing the political division in America. A big challenge for him.

COOPER: David Chalian, appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Yes.

COOPER: Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Anderson, we have more on our breaking news. Capitol riot investigators are narrowing in on extremist groups and military style coordination as the first conspiracy charges are in.

Plus, we have some -- it's pretty stunning, of course, that it is unclear whether Vice President Mike Pence will attend President Trump's departure ceremony tomorrow as the White House invitations are getting rejected by former staffers.

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[13:41:05]

COOPER: At any moment, President-Elect Joe Biden will deliver remarks before departing his home state for the inauguration as the president spends his final day in seclusion.

Joining me now is Gloria Borger, as well as our entire team, and Nia- Malika Henderson and Brianna Keilar.

This is the -- despite the colors, in Wilmington, Delaware.

Gloria, this is going to be an incredibly historic 48 hours in our nation's capitol and for our country.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. I don't think -- I know we haven't seen anything like this before. You have a country paralyzed by a pandemic and a nation on edge as they worry about the possibility of violence during an inauguration.

You have a country politically divided, a sitting president who refuses to attend the inauguration of the person who will succeed him.

It is quite remarkable because what we are used to in this country is a peaceful transfer of power, and Washington, D.C., right now looks like a fortress. And so I think the pictures will tell everything.

And I think, you know, you have a president who wants a great sendoff that he's probably not going to get as big as he wants.

And you have a nation waiting to hear what Joe Biden has to say, because we know what he wants to do, which is unite the country, and there are a lot of people really skeptical about that.

COOPER: Nia-Malika, what do you make of what Mitch McConnell did on the Senate floor, blaming President Trump for the riot and saying it was based on a lie?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, listen, he spoke the truth. Here's a man in Mitch McConnell who basically made lots of excuses for Donald Trump over these last four years.

But at this point, with this president going out of office, at this point, in what we all saw and witnessed at the capitol on our televisions, Mitch McConnell is speaking the truth.

What that means for what Mitch McConnell does going forward in terms of convicting this president and what the other Republicans do, whether or not they're going to be able to amass 17 Republicans to rebuke this president, to convict him, and to ultimately say he can't run for office ever again, that remains to be seen.

From what we have seen from these Republicans, they already seem to be making noises that, oh, maybe it's unconstitutional to convict a president that's no longer in office.

I think we, in some ways, see the same behavior we've seen all along, which is them going along with Donald Trump because of the hold he has on Republicans nationally.

But we are really in for it in terms of this dueling kind of, you know, split screen of Joe Biden trying to enact his agenda, get cabinet officials confirmed, as well as an impeachment that will unfold in the next days in this country once Nancy Pelosi sends that impeachment article over to the Senate. So a real historic time.

Average Americans have a lot of anticipation about tomorrow. There's fear, as Gloria is saying. I'm sitting in the capitol here and had to go through a military checkpoint to come into the office.

But I also think Americans want to hope again, right? They want to be able to look forward to something. They want to look forward to COVID being handled in a way that it hasn't been so far, a smoother vaccine rollout.

You saw in those polls, that David rolled out there, there are Americans who feel hopeful about Joe Biden getting his agenda passed. Even though they are less hopeful about one of the things that Joe Biden wants to do, which is to bring the country together and bridge that political divide.

So that is going to be a big challenge for this incoming president. And we'll see what he says in his inaugural tomorrow about it.

[13:45:03]

BORGER: Can I -- can I just add something onto what Nia is saying?

What Mitch McConnell said to me was remarkable, because here is a man who has supported Donald Trump. We know that personally he doesn't love him. But he actually said the mob was provoked by Donald Trump and that it was fed lies.

We know that privately he has told people that what Donald Trump committed was an impeachable offense.

And how will this affect how he manages that debate on the floor for impeachment and what stand he eventually takes and what impact he will have on other Republicans, I think we're seeing this today.

This is further than he has ever gone. And I think he's sending some kind of signal, perhaps, about what he's going to do on the floor of the Senate.

KEILAR: Arlette, I wonder what we can expect from Biden here in the lead-up to the inauguration.

And also what his goal is going to be during his speech, which, no doubt, is going to stand in stark contrast to what we heard from President Trump four years ago.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what you are likely to see from the president-elect, in just a short bit, is a sendoff, a farewell to the state that brought him here to Washington where he served for 36 years in the Senate.

But the president-elect will also, a little bit later today, as he flies down here to Washington, he will be coming to a very different Washington reality than when he left the White House just four years ago. The country is more divided than ever in this moment.

And in his inaugural address, he is really expected to touch on those tones of unity, trying to bring the country together amid this crisis of not just the pandemic but also that insurrection we saw up on Capitol Hill just last week.

You'll remember, from the start of his campaign, the president-elect framed himself as a person uniquely positioned to be able to wage this battle for the soul of the nation, as he described it.

And his advisers have long thought that he is the person for this moment. And I remember speaking with one of his top advisers, Ted Kaufman,

shortly before Biden even entered this race. He told me, at that point in April 2019, that they knew that if Biden were to be elected, that he would be inheriting potentially a very divided country.

And that they expected that the president, even back then, might put up roadblocks to him as he would take the White House if Biden were to win.

And that is the reality that really had set in here over the course of the past few months.

But what we expect Biden to talk about tomorrow is really this need for the country to come together. And he's hoping that he can be the one to help deliver that in this moment.

KEILAR: And, Nia, I mean, we've known here in the last couple weeks that there's been some distance from the vice president and the president. Normally, there's not, at least publicly.

We've actually learned that the vice president may not attend this departure ceremony that the president has constructed at Joint Base Andrews.

What do you make of that if that is a real possibility and if that's what happens?

HENDERSON: That is a break for this vice president. You know, and it comes after the vice president was cowering, essentially, in fear because the mob on the capitol that day was after him, in part, and chanting his name.

The president name-checked him in the moments before that mob descended on the capitol.

And during that time, when Pence was holed up in the capitol and a mob was descending, the president never reached out to him to check on him or check on his family.

That is the kind of relationship they have had. It has always, in some ways, been a one-directional, with Pence being very loyal to this president, and this president not being so loyal in the end to the vice president.

So we do know that the vice president plans to be at the inaugural. That will be an important message to be sent around the world. It's something that Joe Biden prefers, of course, rather than having the outgoing president there.

But it is a real break in terms of their relationship.

And I think at some point, Mike Pence was always going to have to part ways with President Trump.

The idea that he was going to be kind of heir to Donald Trump's base and Donald Trump's legacy, I thought, was always sort of not to be believed.

And so here, in the end, you've got Mike Pence, who likely does want a political future. Whether or not he will actually have one, well, it's clear now that he's going to have to make his own way and have his own identity that's separate from this president.

Because this president has thrown him under the bus in the last, you know, hours and days of his presidency. So we'll see how this all unfolds tomorrow.

[13:50:02]

The president clearly wants a big crowd. He's sent a lot of invitations to folks. And a lot of them aren't even in Washington anymore. They've gone home to places where they'll live out the rest of their lives.

So we'll see how this plays out for this president whose ego is incredibly fragile and wants, in these last moments, the kind of pomp and circumstance in the presidency that he is going to sorely miss when he's down in Florida.

COOPER: Gloria, it is such an interesting kind of dilemma for Mike Pence to know what to do. He has been slavishly loyal to this president. The president literally has thrown him under the bus.

I suppose there's sort of a departure from the White House. Perhaps Pence -- an option for Pence to say good-bye there. It will be fascinating to see.

BORGER: Yes, I think he will say good-bye to the president there. You can't be in two places at once so they have the excuse of saying, well, he has to be at the inauguration, which will also anchor the president.

Because the president, if he had his druthers, would probably say: Hey, why isn't my vice president doing what I'm doing? Doesn't he believe that it was a rigged election just like I do? So I think Trump will get angry no matter what.

But as Nia was saying, this is kind of a declaration of independence in Mike Pence's own understated way.

Because I think, if he wants to have a political career, there are questions that he has, as all Republicans have, about how much distance they can put between themselves and the president of the United States as he goes off to Mar-a-Lago.

COOPER: We are seeing Joe Biden --

KEILAR: Let's listen in now to Joe Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Governor.

And Tracy, and all of my friends that are here, everything you've done for me, and for my family throughout the years. Tommy, you've been a friend a long time.

I look out there and I see Mikey. I'm glad you're healthy, man, you're here, pal. I'm really glad, Mike.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Look, you know you've all -- this is kind of emotional for me.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Look, through my whole career, through the good times and the bad, I want to thank you for everything, from my fellow Delawareans.

On behalf of entire Biden that's here today, I want to express what you mean to each and every one of us.

In our family, the values we share, the character we strive for, the way we view the world, it all comes from home. It all comes from Delaware. The state that gave my mother and father a home and livelihood when they needed it most.

The state that made my brother and sister and I, both of whom are here, understand we can do whatever we dreamed of, whatever that was.

And it gave me a chance, when I was just a kid, to elect me to and believed in me and sent me to the United States Senate before going to the county council.

After going to the county council, where Jill and I found one another. And when she made he strong, as Ernest Hemingway wrote, in all of the broken places.

And the state that loves our children and our grandchildren and loved our Beau. And he so loved you right back.

General Barry, when the headquarters was name after Beau, I told General Laval (ph) at the time it means everything to me, Hunter, Ashley, to Jill, to our whole family.

But Beau would be the first to say the honor goes with the men and women of the Delaware National Guard and their families, who gave so much, were true patriots, defined by the courage of their character.

So it's deeply personal that our next journey to Washington starts here, a place that defines the very best of who we are as Americans.

I know these are dark times, but there's always light. That's what makes this state so special. That's what it taught me, it taught me the most, there's always light.

When I came home after graduating from Delaware and going on to law school at Syracuse, I get home after law school to Wilmington, to our county. It had gone dark.

[13:55:05] Dr. King was assassinated. Wilmington had been in flames. The National Guard patrolled the streets.

And that turmoil inspired me to become a public defender, a step I never anticipated would lead me toward this improbable journey.

Twelve years ago, I was waiting at the train station in Wilmington for a black man to pick me up on our way to Washington where we were sworn in as president and vice president of the United States of America.

And here we are today, my family and I, about to return to Washington to meet a black woman of South Asian descent to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: As I told Beau on that station waiting for Barack, and Hunter, I said, naturally, don't tell me things can't change. They can and they do.

That's America. That's Delaware. A place of hope and light and limitless possibilities.

And I'm honored. I am truly honored to be your next president and commander-in-chief. And I will always be a proud son of the state of Delaware.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: As Tommy, better known as Chairman Carper, Senator Carper, knows my colleague in the Senate used to always kid me for quoting Irish poets.

They thought I did it because I'm Irish. I didn't do it for that reason. I did it because they're the best poets in the world.

James Joyce was said to have told a friend that when it comes his time to pass, when he dies, he said, Dublin, Dublin will be written on my heart.

Well, excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And the hearts --

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: The hearts of all of the Bidens. We love you all. You've been there for us in the good and the bad. You

never walked away.

And I am proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware. And I am even more proud to be standing here doing this from the Major Beau Biden facility.

Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret, that he's not here, because we should be introducing him as president.

But we have great opportunities. Delaware's taught us anything is possible. Anything is possible in this country.

So God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Jill told me not to become emotional. I'm Jill's husband.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: (INAUDIBLE)

DR. JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Rabbi Michael Fields to deliver the benediction.

COOPER: You just heard President-Elect Joseph Biden, very emotional, personal talk, as he's leaving Delaware to head to the inauguration.

I'm joined by Gloria Borger, Nia-Malika Henderson, Arlette Saenz, Brianna Keilar.

Gloria, we've seen Joe Biden be emotional before. This is clearly very moving for him.

BORGER: Joe Biden is an emotional man. He always has been. And I think now even more so.

When you consider the difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it couldn't be more different.

I once asked Joe Biden if he was the polar opposite of Donald Trump, and he jokingly crossed himself and said, "I hope so." And here you see it.

He's someone who believes that he owes an awful lot to the state of Delaware. They sent him to the Senate right from the county council.

When he was elected, he wasn't old enough to serve in the Senate. He was one of the youngest people ever elected to Senate.

And now he's going to be one of -- the oldest person ever to put his hand on the Bible to be sworn in as president. Of course, the mention of Beau Biden and him saying that he only had

one regret, that we should be introducing him as president, meaning Beau.

[14:00:00]

He doesn't keep that a secret. He doesn't keep a lot of things secret when it comes to his emotions and his family and his love for his family.