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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Joe Biden Ready to Lead the Country and Bring Unity; President Trump Makes Controversial Pardons in His Last Hours in Office; President Trump on His Way Home; GOP Divided on the Issue of Impeachment; Washington, D.C. Under Lockdown; Justice Brought to Rioters; U.S. Hits 400,000 COVID Death Toll; Top Priority for Biden is to Tackle COVID-19; The World Watches as Biden to be Sworn in as 46th U.S. President; Trump Presidency Ends Leaving U.S. in Turmoil; Biden to be Sworn in as Nation Battles Deadly Pandemic; Biden to Prioritize Coronavirus Relief as He Takes Office. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST (on camera): Very good early Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
A little bit of news today.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Yes. It's a really big day in America. We're so glad you're with us even if it is the middle of the night. I'm Poppy Harlow.
It is officially inauguration day in America. Joe Biden's big moment hours from now. He will do something that his predecessor tried to prevent, something millions of Trump voters doesn't or Republican lawmakers, and then thousands of rioters on the capitol tried to stop Joe Biden will officially be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
His incoming vice president, Kamala Harris making history herself in a major way as the first woman, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman to step into that role. And all of it will happen at the center of sadly, as city on lockdown with the incoming administration facing challenges ahead that no --
HARLOW: -- new president has seen in our lifetime.
SCIUTTO: You would not believe what this capitol looks and feels like today.
SCIUTTO: And of course, for millions of Americans, an economy on the edge, a pandemic at its very worse point, and a nation so divided, it can hardly come together to agree on how to climb out of it. Or just what the reality of today is.
But Joe Biden says he knows how to heal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: To heal, we must remember it is hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO (on camera): Well, the man, the leader who did so much to feed the nation's division will soon within hours walk out of the White House. And when he leaves Washington, he will be the first living president since reconstruction, 150 years ago, to skip the inauguration of his successor.
Before that happens, he is continuing the controversy with a string of pardons and executive orders, one of them for his former campaign strategist, Steve Bannon, man who is accused of defrauding Trump's own supporters in a Build the Wall scheme.
Let's begin with CNN Jessica Dean. And Jessica, you've been covering Biden for months now, this is quite a moment for him for the country. I wonder for folks watching now preparing to witness the inauguration, what do you think the primary message is going to be?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are certainly going to hear about unity, Jim. That is a theme that we've heard from him again and again, healing. You say that as you talked about as well.
But here we are, it's 3 o'clock in the morning on the East Coast, when President-elect Joe Biden wakes up today, and becomes the 46th President of the United States, that is going to be a dream coming true for him that he has had now for decades.
It's been decades in the making. And he thought that his chance that this was over. But for somebody that really believes in fate the way that Joe Biden does, and we have heard him talk about it on the campaign trail a lot, he met the moment and the moment really seem to meet him. He sees a crisis -- a nation face seeing so many crises, that is broken, that is grieving and he is really positioning himself as a president that is also going to facilitate healing.
And so, we are getting more details about what it's going to look like on this, the first day of the Biden presidency. And notable this morning, it will begin with a church service that will have bipartisan congressional leadership there with him.
We are told that he invited Republican congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to join him for church service. Of course, we have the inauguration itself where you will hear from him that message of unity. We also expect to see him signing executive orders this afternoon,
later today in the Oval Office, really giving off that message, telegraphing to the American people from the Oval Office, the center of power in the White House, that he is going to work. And that he understands the crises that are facing the nation and he wants to make good on them.
Also, of note, Poppy and Jim, Vice President-elect Harris who will then be Vice President Harris is expected to swear in Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and her replacement Alex Padilla later today as well. That will get the Senate to 50/50 with Harris as the tie breaking vote. Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: That the other big headline, you're right. You know, after the -- very few people expected both those races to go blue and that has enormous consequences for the incoming president.
DEAN: Yes. Sure.
SCIUTTO: Jessica Dean, thanks very much.
HARLOW: Well, no one was sure it would happen until he finally put presidential pen to paper. But President Trump has indeed tonight pardons Steve Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
SCIUTTO: It raises a lot of intriguing questions. Joining us now to discuss this pardoning process and what could come next, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. He's a former U.S. assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York.
First of all, thanks for being with us here this morning, Elie. Always good to have you on.
I want to ask about the legal questions this pardon, particularly of Elie Honig -- you are not getting pardoned yet. Particularly of Steve Bannon, but of others here because there is self-interest involved, right? And Steve Bannon is a potential witness in ongoing cases, possible investigations that Trump is a party too. Right?
I mean, for instance, he was speaking with Trump, we know, in and around this insurrection. You know, what were they talking about, still some remaining questions, you know, going back even to the Mueller investigation with Steve Bannon has information on. What does the law say? What does the Constitution say about issuing pardons to folks that it's your interest to do so?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.
SCIUTTO: As the president.
HONIG: Yes, Jim. So, there is no legal prohibition on issuing pardons to friends and people who might be in position to incriminate you unless there's some exchange there, some which could be bribery.
HONIG: But putting that aside, the Steve Bannon pardon -- there's so much wrong with it. First of all, it's a favor to a crony. The other thing as you note, there's really -- this is really self-dealing by Donald Trump. Because let's remember, Steve Bannon was under federal indictment by my office, the Southern District of New York on a major theft case.
Essentially, he was ripping off donors to this We Build The Wall campaign. Right? Now if Steve Bannon decided that he wanted to reduce his sentence, he could cooperate. That happens all the time at the Southern District of New York. I cooperated, I don't know, hundreds of people.
And if that happens, Steve Bannon might be in a position to incriminate Donald Trump. The other thing that really jumps out of me about the Steve Bannon case, he is one of four defendants charged in that indictment. The other three didn't get pardons, only Steve Bannon did and you have to ask why.
HARLOW: Guys, on January 5th, on his podcast called War Room, by the way, Steve Bannon said all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
HARLOW: And it did, Elie.
HARLOW: And it's -- I mean just the politics of it, I know you know the legal, but the politics of it you wonder this can help the president's chances in the Senate trial over impeachment. That aside, it doesn't like totally get Steve Bannon off the hook, at least for state charges.
HONIG: Right, absolutely. Important to remember we all know presidential pardons only cover federal crimes not state crimes. Now some of the people who were pardoned tonight committed crimes that were federal crimes, but it's hard to sort of translate them over into state crimes. Not Steve Bannon. That's a theft.
Theft is a federal crime, it's a crime in every state including New York State. So, if state prosecutors want to pick that case up and they should, they can just walk right over to the SDNY, it's a block away and asked for that file. They should do that because it's completely unjust that Steve Bannon gets a walk.
HARLOW: Elie, thank you. Three in the morning. SCIUTTO: Thanks, Poppy. Thanks, Jim.
HARLOW: You must really like us. Thank you.
HONIG: Big day.
SCIUTTO: Well Vice President Mike Pence is planning to be at the inauguration to represent the outgoing administration, of course in a way that President Trump himself will not.
HARLOW: That's right. Let's get a little bit more what the outgoing president is going to do in his final hours in office.
Our Washington -- senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is live with us with us. Do we know, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well you know what, not since Richard Nixon left this town has a president left Washington, D.C., left the job with so many bad vibes and broken traditions.
President Trump is sleeping tonight just about 100 yards from Joe Biden but not likely to meet with Joe Biden before the president leaves the office and leaves the White House for good. And the president is not going to the inaugural as well.
But what he is doing, according to his schedule leaving the White House around 8 o'clock in the morning. He is going to a chopper over to Joint Base Andrews where his sendoff is expected to occur that is going to be partly a military sendoff.
They've sent out a bunch of invitations to people, especially people who used to work in the administration or in the administration now, not clear how many people are going to show up, because in part of hard feelings.
One of the people not expected to show up is the person who is number two in charge in the administration, that, of course, Vice President Mike Pence.
Now, his staff put out the word that the reason why he is not going to the event at JBA is simply because it's a manager of logistics. But we all know it's a very short drive from Joint Base Andrews to the capital. He could get there if he wanted to.
JOHNS: Again, hard feelings. Back to you.
SCIUTTO: Clearly, breaking out to the open, it seems. Joe Johns, thanks very much.
HARLOW (on camera): Thank you, Joe.
Let's bring in former Republican Congressman of Pennsylvania now CNN contributor, Charlie Dent. It's good to have you, Congressman. Thanks for staying up very late with us.
I just, I wanted to step back for a moment and talk about the future of your party because it is the promise of Joe Biden that he will unite the country. And that means getting Republicans on board, not only with policy and legislation, but just getting along. Right? And I wonder what you think.
Listen to this from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What we need right now for Senator McConnell to unequivocally say that the second impeachment of Donald Trump after he leaves office is not only unconstitutional, it is bad for the country. And stand up and fight back.
To my Republican colleagues in the Senate, we have to rise to the occasion, if we don't, we are going to destroy the party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW (on camera): Is he right? What is worse for the party? Trump convicted by the Senate in this trial, or Trump still dominating the party and being forced running again?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would first say that with all due respect to Senator Graham, that I think there must be a trial for the president. What happened almost two weeks ago now with the assault on the capitol must be addressed. And the president must be held to account.
So, I think they must do that. Now I also think there should be a clean break from the president. I think Senator McConnell and Liz Cheney and others are probably in that camp. And there are number of people within the party who probably (Inaudible) what we've been through, and it's been a great amazing experience, which I don't think it has been. I think it's been terrible for the country, and terrible for the party.
And you know, the fact that so many in the party who have decided that loyalty to a man is more important than fidelity to any set of guiding principles or values I think is something that we are going to have to wrestle with over the next few weeks.
HARLOW: Well, here's the different, at least right now, between Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell on paper. And that is Liz Cheney has voted to impeach the president and we have no idea what Mitch McConnell is going to do in terms of conviction.
But the fact that McConnell said today that it was the president, the riot on the capitol was, quote, "provoked by the president," and then he said the mob was fed lies. It's one thing to say something, but it's actually in your actions, right? Do you take that as an indication that he will actually vote to convict the president?
DENT: I think that there is a real possibility that Senator McConnell will vote to convict the president. And I will also say that it seems that in the U.S. Senate, at least among Senate Republicans, they are seething. They are furious with this president, not only because of the assault on the capitol but because he cost them the majority in Georgia with his very divisive rhetoric he's carrying on, particularly since the election.
So, I think in the U.S. Senate the Republicans are on a little bit of a different place than many House Republicans are. I think there is genuine anger. I could probably count on one hand right now the number of people I think who will vote to convict.
We have a pretty good idea that McConnell -- he seems to be signaling to his members that it's OK to vote for conviction, so that could push those numbers up. I'm not saying it will get this down (Ph), but you'll never know.
HARLOW (on camera): You bring up a really important point, and that is the difference right now between House Republicans and Senate Republicans in large part, and you've called this a moment, the moment of reckoning for the party has arrived.
But you've got a number of House conservatives now who are pushing at least to have a petition to have a meeting about knocking Liz Cheney out of that number three position in the House. She said I'm not going anywhere.
But listen to this from freshman Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace. I thought this was very telling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): And the irony in all of this, Chuck, is that the same people that were complaining and screaming about the president being silenced on Twitter want to silence a dissenting voice within our own party. And so, I find -- I find that very hypocritical and very disappointing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW (on camera): How does this end?
DENT: Well the congresswoman is absolutely right. For some members to suggest that after this, you know, this hideous assault on the capitol, that the people who should be held accountable is Liz Cheney for calling it out? I mean, seriously?
I mean, how can anybody even possibly think that. And I believe that Liz Cheney is in a much stronger position within the House Republican Congress than people give her credit for. She is widely admired and respected. I would think that most women in the conference would be appalled that they would try to take out the one woman in leadership.
That they will also be appalled by the fact that not only that, but you know, she is a lot of friends on the armed services committee, and there are people who voted against impeachment and against certification who will not do anything to Liz Cheney. Because I think many of them wish they had voted the way she did.
HARLOW: Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you. Always good to have you.
DENT: Thanks, Poppy. Great to be with you.
HARLOW: Still to come, we have a lot ahead this hour as we get a live look at the complete lockdown that is in place for today's inauguration. New charges and arrests are being announced connected to the deadly riot.
SCIUTTO: Plus, multiple states are warning that they may not have enough vaccine doses just to get through this week, the incredible challenge awaiting the Biden administration on day one.
HARLOW (on camera): Welcome back. There are new charges in the Capitol Hill riot. A 20-year-old man who allegedly beat police with a bat, he has been taken into custody. Also, two Virginia police officers who posted pictures of themselves at the riot, they will soon face a judge.
And take a look at this. This woman who allegedly stole that laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office may soon face more charges including obstruction.
SCIUTTO: The FBI's moved quickly, definitively here to make these arrests. Right now, though, the security in the capitol just incredible. D.C. on lockdown. Twenty-five thousand National Guardsmen and women there. Five times the number of U.S. military now deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Donie O'Sullivan is out on the streets tonight watching this presence here. You know, tell folks if you can, describe folks what you're seeing there, just the extent of this. Because it really is remarkable.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Jim. I mean, it's surreal. You know, just to see the size of troops on every street corner here in our nation's capital this morning. Twenty-five thousand, you know, the only actually activity we're really seeing around here in the early hours ahead of the inauguration is the movement of troops.
Busloads of troops being moved from one part of the city to the next. Hotels here which would normally be full of inauguration goers in regular times full of those thousands of National Guard troops. And of course, we're seeing across the city walls and fences and barbed wire and barricades erected. Of course, two weeks after the insurrection we saw on Capitol Hill. And that is why, you know, that is why we are seeing what we're seeing
right now, is the violence from two weeks ago. Much of it of course based on a conspiracy theory. Many of the people who stormed the capitol believing in the false conspiracy theory that was being pushed by the president that he had not actually lost the election.
So, it's a quite sad sight to see here, but obviously, you know, the atmosphere in the city has been well eerily quiet, but also quite tense as we approach the inauguration. Everybody hoping of course that it remains peaceful.
SCIUTTO: Yes. The question of course is where do those conspiracy theories go, the conspiracy theorists after tomorrow. Donie O'Sullivan, we know you're going to be on top of it because it's still out there.
Still ahead, the incredibly somber challenge confronting the Biden administration on day one. Now, more than 400,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. Several states say they don't have enough vaccines just to get through this week.
SCIUTTO: The first priority for incoming President Joe Biden is to tackle the widening pandemic. We've now crossed the threshold, 400,000 Americans have died from coronavirus.
HARLOW: And the latest CDC figures show 31 million vaccine doses have been distributed but only half that have actually gone into people's arms.
Let's bring in two experts. Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, and Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an internal medicine and viral specialist.
Thank you both for being here.
It's the worst news that we've crossed that 400,000 threshold. And the CDC thinks by mid-February we will hit 500,000 deaths from COVID.
Dr. Choo, you are optimistic, though, in your words, that we will see a sea change as soon as the Biden administration takes hold. Can you explain what that will actually mean for people who are desperately waiting for a vaccine?
ESTHER CHOO, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, thanks for having me on and for that question. I mean, I think there will be some things with the Biden administration that plays out over the first 100 days. Things like mobilizing Congress to send money, unprecedented amounts of money to states to coordinate a vaccine program, to develop a public health workforce, to do things like vaccine outreach and administration, and also increase testing hand in hand with vaccines.
But I think there are many things that will actually change on day one, things that we have not seen in this pandemic yet.
And I think that simple -- simply things like clear science-based messaging, a deep base -- a deep bench of scientific experts including health equity experts and operations experts, virologist, people are so closely connected to the science, and I think just actual plans, communication.
I mean, these are not exciting things. And yet, you know, this administration has been characterized by this kind of make it up as we go along response to the pandemic.
And so, I think the striking difference from tomorrow in the way that this administration handles this with logic and science, plans, clear communication, and actually a lot of listening to what people on the ground and in states need to respond to the pandemic effectively, it going to -- we're going to feel that right away.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Not just making it up as they go along but making up facts, right? You know, deliberately lying or misinforming about it. Dr. Rodriguez, part of the Biden approach with vaccines will be to get the federal government involved in distribution, something that the Trump administration did not do.
I just wonder, given the politics of all this and how that's affected the pandemic response, are states going to accept that help across the board? Are they going to continue to push back? I mean, what will the cooperation be like between states and the federal government under Biden?
JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Well, I'm hoping that the federal government will take much more of a leadership role which is something that I think -- and I've said for a long time, this virus knows no state boundaries. Part of the confusion is the fact that every state, heck, every health area, every county has different criteria, has different levels of expertise and money.
And let me just say that I don't think things are going to start on day one. I think things started today just by the -- of the people that have died. The scientific part needs to be there, but we're not going to succeed unless the American people's hearts are changed and they realize how deadly this is.
This is an invisible disease. It's not like cancer where families suffer along with the victims and can testify as to its horror. All we see are the survivors. And we are going to be -- now exactly who's affected. And until America embraces the fact that this is deadly, we can have all the scientific information, but the American people need to be in 110 percent on the solution.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): How close are we, doctor, to the other vaccines being approved for emergency use? Johnson & Johnson, et cetera. Because the more that we have the more that will come on the market quicker, right?
RODRIGUEZ: I'm not sure which doctor --
CHOO: I mean, it seems like they are progressing. I haven't seen a specific timeline for them. And I think the emphasis really has been and should continue to be on increasing supply of the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines since we, you know, already have approval of those, it seems that they've really boosted their estimated supplies to us. And so through the foreseeable future, the next three months, I think focus on those existing vaccines is the right path.
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think the best vaccine to take is the one closest to your arm.
SCIUTTO: Right. Yeah, for sure. And I imagine a lot of Americans will take the closest vaccine to their arm. Before we go, listen, the deaths are just mounting. Right? I mean, in an accelerating, you know, almost every day. Another 100,000 expected to die by next month. How soon -- since we are vaccinating slower than hoped but the country is vaccinating, do you expect that to be reflected in those numbers there that we see, to see that death rate come down and the infection rate come down?
RODRIGUEZ: I don't think we're going to see that for a couple of months yet. All projections that I've seen show that we're not going to be seeing that for a couple of months, which is why we cannot just rely on the vaccines. The tempering measures of distancing, masks, we cannot repeat it enough, are crucial. But listen, all hands on deck. We need to do everything because I think some very bad variants are on their way in here to the United States.
HARLOW: Doctors, thank you both very much for being with us. I wish it was on better news. But your expertise helps a lot. Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.
CHOO: Thanks so much.
HARLOW: Up next, Americans aren't the only ones watching this inauguration. Of course the world is watching. What our allies hope to see President-Elect Biden do first and say.
SCIUTTO (on camera): The president of the European commission just a short time ago said quote, once again after four long years Europe has a friend in the White House. Anthony Blinken, Biden's pick to be the Secretary of State, had this to say about rebuilding those relationships worldwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: American leadership still matters. The reality is the world simply does not organize itself.
When we're not engaged, when we're not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that's likely to advance our interests and values. Or, maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO (on camera): Joining me now, CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward and columnist and editorial board member for Bloomberg, Bobby Ghosh. Thanks so much to have you both on. Really eager to get a sense of how the world is seeing this.
Bobby, I wonder if I could begin with you because, you know, you hear Anthony Blinken there commit to restoring diplomacy, alliances. You know, so many things that Donald Trump undermined via words and actions.
I just wonder how much is recoverable though, right. Because is the message to the world that these positions are now part of a political cycle here in the U.S.? You know, under one party goes one way, under the next it might go another way, as opposed to kind a bedrock bipartisan principles.
BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST AND EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER FOR BLOOMBERG (on camera): Well, that's up to now Biden and his team to establish or re-establish those principles. For a long time American foreign policy as the cliche goes, the differences in American policy end where -- at the water's edge. That's changed in the last two presidencies or three I would say.
But now the world is reassured by a few things. First of all, a return of decency and diplomacy from the White House, which is not a small factor considering all that has gone in the last four years. But also they'll be reassured by the fact that in President Biden you have a man steeped in foreign policy experience. I mean, I can't think of in my lifetime another president who had so much exposure with foreign policy throughout his political career.
When Biden says that he knows personally many of the world leaders, many of the major players in international affairs, he's not making it up. It is absolutely true. He knows these people. They know him. And diplomacy oftentimes, not always, but oftentimes, is about predictability, about being able to anticipate what America will say, what America will do, and then comport yourself accordingly.
SCIUTTO: You know, Clarissa, from Europe's perspective this moment not entirely different from 2008, right? Because Europe did not particularly like George W. Bush. It was certainly sharper now because Trump was in his own category.
But what happened in Europe soon after, Obama, right, was some disappointment, right? There was a lot of high hopes and you know, there was the Nobel Prize and you know that kind of thing, all the crowds that showed up for Obama in Europe. I just wonder, you know, what will real change will Europe need to see to be convinced, right, that Biden will turn this around.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, you know, it's such an interesting question, Jim. And I think you've hit on something really crucial here. Because the mood in Europe right now is not as some people might expect jubilation or celebration. It's relief. It's a palpable sense of relief that the international world order has survived just about intact the last four years.
But there's also a sense there's huge work to be done going forward and that President Biden will need to demonstrate that America can still fulfill the role that it traditionally has certainly over the last few decades, which really underpins the kind of world order and global stability. And you heard from Blinken there this idea that what happens when America steps back is one of two things, either chaos or other people step in to fill the void.
You know, I just wanted to show you a few of the headlines that we're seeing here in the U.K. that I think illustrate that mood of kind of beleaguered approach that people are feeling. If you look at London's Metro newspaper, the headline there, at last it's the back of Donald Trump.
The Daily Star, which is a sort of -- you know, one of these tabloids, more colorful and over the top says, well, that was a weird dream, depicting President Trump in a straitjacket there.
And then the independent, which is a well-respected broad sheet, says simply it's over. It's over. The (inaudible) is palpable here in Europe. That is not a sentiment shared across the world, but there is a very real sense now that the hard work begins.
SCIUTTO: Yes. You know, Bobby, there are the things that will change. I mean, certainly the relationship with U.S. allies, but there are things that will not, right, or at least not dramatically, for instance, the U.S. relationship with China.
The Biden administration not signaling it's suddenly going to get all warm and fuzzy again with China, right? You know, the U.S. is not going to significantly if at all increase its military presence in the Middle East, right? I mean, that's another bipartisan position. So, tell me what you would see as the biggest change under a Biden administration from Trump policy wise.
GHOSH: Well, there will be a big change in tone of course. But hopefully there will be a sense of some applied mind behind policies with China, with Russia, with other regimes that are hostile toward the U.S., toward the western order in general. With the Trump administration even when there has been confrontation with China or Russia it has been very scattershot.
There's always been a sense that Trump makes things up as he goes along, that he wakes up in the morning and he takes to Twitter and he comes up with policies without thinking them through.
So, yes, even if Biden maintains the pressure on China as I think he will or pressure on Russia, pressure on other hostile regimes, North Korea, but he will do so with some actual policy thinking and some predictability and be able to communicate why he's doing this in a way that the rest of the world understands without (inaudible).
SCIUTTO: And it's not just an impression he makes up as he goes along, I've spoken to several people in his administration that say it's exactly how it works. Clarissa, quickly before we go, because you've done so much great reporting in Russia, you know, arguably the biggest change under Biden, right, will be a change in the way the leaders of Russia and the U.S. deal with each other. Trump cozied up to him. Biden will not.
WARD: Yes. I would expect to see a very different approach on Russia. We've already seen an article written by Victoria Newland, who's going to have a senior role in the State Department, indicating that it will be a much tougher approach.
What I think a lot of people would like to see is some serious response to the poisoning and imprisonment of Russia's opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Trump administration really has not stepped up to the plate on that one.
SCIUTTO: No question. No question at all. Well, Clarissa Ward, Bobby Ghosh, thanks so much. Good to have you on this morning.
GHOSH: Thanks for having me.
HARLOW: Still ahead, a reality check on the economy that is soon to be President Joe Biden's economy.
HARLOW: Well, in just hours President Trump will leave the White House for the final time as commander in chief.
SCIUTTO (on camera): The outgoing president departing from yet another president and leaving the Nation's Capital before his successor President-Elect Joe Biden takes office. In fact, without recognizing him as the next president, meeting him, saying a word about him. CNN's Boris Sanchez has more on what's ahead for Trump after all this.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Jim and Poppy, as with so much of his presidency, Donald Trump's departure from the White House will be breaking with tradition. President Trump will be departing Washington, D.C. well before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president, and Trump is expected to land at Palm Beach international airport roughly at around 11:00 a.m., meaning that he'll likely spend his final moments as president at his estate in Mar-a- Lago.
Now, despite repeated claims from the president that there was widespread voter fraud and his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, he and aides have been preparing for his post-White House life at Mar-a-Lago for some time. And that includes a number of renovations to the estate.
We should point out when he was here during the December holiday sources indicate that the president was extremely displeased with many of those renovations and made his feelings clear to those closest to him.
It's uncertain at this point if those renovations have been altered. But cameras did capture a number of moving trucks and moving boxes at the estate in recent days. Still, the big open question, how much power Donald Trump will hold after the White House and after being ostracized from much of social media. What will his grip over the Republican Party look like in local, state, and federal races?
And of course how will Senate Republicans ultimately handle his looming impeachment trial? A lot of questions still to be answered after four of the most controversial years in American history. Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW (on camera): For sure. Boris Sanchez, thanks for that reporting.
SCIUTTO: Well, President-Elect Joe Biden will work to begin turning the page on the last four years from the very start in his inaugural address today, just a few hours from now. But he is inheriting an economy ravaged by a pandemic that has now claimed more than 400,000 lives, and that number going up.
HARLOW (on camera): Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans has more now on the challenges that await the Biden administration. Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Poppy and Jim, Biden's plan to rescue the economy, contain the pandemic and create jobs. Here's what Biden inherits, more than 20 million jobs gone in the early months of the pandemic, several million people went back to work over the summer, but the surging virus has slammed the brakes on the jobs recovery. The economy is still down 9.8 million jobs in this pandemic.
Now, the recovery has been knocked back by waves of coronavirus infections. It's why a national vaccine strategy is central to Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue plan. There's also money in that plan for schools to reopen safely and funds for state and local governments to keep frontline workers safe and on the job.
[03:55:07] There are $1,400 checks for citizens and emergency money for small
business. Janet Yellen is Biden's pick for treasury secretary. She's telling Congress to, quote, act big. It's not the time, she says, to worry about big deficits. A healthy recovery depends on more spending. Stimulus will help make this business, but it won't save of them from going out of business.
That's why the mere term here is really rough. The optimism come sometime later this year when widespread vaccine use helps Americans go out to restaurants and movies, planned vacations, get kids back in school, and parents back to work.
Until then, uncertainty is the enemy of business. Jobs will come back once businesses feel confident enough in the future to hire again. The hope is that starts happening later this year but the economy will need help until then. Jim, Poppy?
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Yes, a lot will depend on the pace of vaccinations. Christine Romans, thanks very much. There is much more of CNN special coverage of inauguration day, it's arrived just ahead.