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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon: Joe Biden to be Sworn in as 46th President; Trump Pardons Steve Bannon, Grants Clemency to Dozens of Others. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Here we are today, my family and I, to meet a Black woman of South Asian descent to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have concerns of insider threat, but security remains tight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to go to mass with the four congressional leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the right man for the right time to heal this country.
AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm glad we're going to have a fresh start and move away from violations of norms.
KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: My abiding prayer is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom, and to open our hearts just a little bit more to one another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, January 20th. It is 5:00, here in New York.
Welcome to a special inauguration day edition of NEW DAY. History unfolding before our eyes. To be clear, we've never seen anything like this.
At this moment, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are waking up as close as they might ever get to each other. Trump on the left, inside the White House for the very last time.
President-elect Biden is across the street in Blair House. What must he be thinking? Just seven hours until he becomes the 46th president of the United States. CNN is with you for every step of this day. In just hours, Biden will attend a church service alongside
congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell who is now publicly accusing President Trump of provoking a deadly insurrection at the capitol.
We have brand-new details just released about the action that Biden will take starting at 12:01 p.m. today, a combination executive action and proposed legislation with the pandemic front and center.
On the pandemic, the inauguration schedule began with the commemoration of the 400,000 lives lost to coronavirus. Yes, we crossed that threshold, on the very last full day of the Trump presidency.
Biden marked the moment with five poignant words.
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BIDEN: To heal, we must remember.
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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking overnight, true to form, President Trump trying to extend the guessing game of surprises until the final moments.
While you were sleeping, Trump issuing a wave of pardons and commutations to 143 people. Among them, Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist who was charged with defrauding Americans of millions of dollars, who thought they were giving money for a border wall.
President Trump will leave the White House in three hours bringing his chaotic presidency to an end. Mr. Trump will have a sendoff before flying home to Florida. But Vice President Mike Pence will not be there. He will be attending Biden's inauguration.
CNN's Jessica Dean is live in Washington to kick off our coverage.
Tell us what's happening, Jessica.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn.
The moment has arrived. Today, President-elect Joe Biden will see his decades' long dream of becoming president come through, as he's inaugurated here in the Washington, D.C., the nation's 46th president.
And he takes the mantle of president as his nation faces so many crises all across the country. It is fractured. It is grieving. He is promising unity. He is promising healing.
And we are getting brand-new details about his schedule throughout this inauguration day. And they really illuminate the differences between what will be a Biden administration and the Trump administration. We'll start first with a church service early this morning.
Attending that church service with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be all of the congressional leadership, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They were all invited by President-elect Biden.
He will, of course, take place in the inauguration itself, the oath of office. We expect to see him issuing a number of executive order which is I'll get to in just a moment. He'll also take part in a wreath- laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. And then kind of the fun festivities, the lighter festivities and the back end of the day with celebrities and various performances.
Also of note, this is another key contrast. The daily press briefing will be coming back. Incoming press secretary, we're told, Jen Psaki will brief later today and they promised the brief to a daily brief.
Now, back to those executive orders. We're also getting a number of details breaking right at this moment. He's going to issue a number of executive orders and legislation.
And they're going to cover a vast number of subjects, including the coronavirus pandemic.
They're also going to be targeted at climate change, racial equity, and, of course, the economy. Those have all been those key things that the Biden administration has targeted as their key focus as they assume office -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jessica Dean for us in Washington -- Jessica, please keep us posted on this historic morning.
Joining us CNN political analyst David Gregory, and Natasha Alford, she's the vice president of digital content and senior correspondent at "TheGrio".
And if I can, I want to put up the live pictures of the White House just one more time, so people can see what is unfolding. You'll see it's dark right now. President Trump, we presume, probably still sleeping on the left side of the building right now.
There are some lights on the west end of the building. We don't know if people are in there, maybe packing up, last-minute items there.
And then across the street, David, at Blair House, is where President- elect Joe Biden is waking up this morning. And it always fascinates me, what must be going through his head this morning, as he wakes up just seven hours before he takes on one of the biggest challenges that any president will ever undertake.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a great question because when he came into the White House last with President Obama, those were grave days. I mean, you know, the country was in the middle of a financial collapse and crisis that they were inheriting, the Obama/Biden administration.
So that was tough stuff. There was the pageantry and pomp of inauguration day. There was history being made with our first African- American president. But there was work to do, and they knew they had to do it fast.
And, you know, there was also this question of political capital, Joe Biden has a lot of political capital coming into office. He's got a lot that he wants to do. We'll get into that in terms of day one.
But even more than what President Obama, you can imagine Joe Biden who is a veteran of will face, you can imagine Joe Biden a veteran of Washington, cultural politics of this town, is thinking about the daunting challenge of hitting a reset of four years of Donald Trump, and what he has attempted to do, what Trump did, and the division in the country. The stakes are very, very high.
And manifestations of that, the ravages of the pandemic on top of all of that, will be evident as the 46th president looks out across the National Mall on this chilly morning, and this chilly midday, to see no spectators. No fellow Americans watching him because of a combination of the division in the country, which creates this armed encampment and the threats of his inauguration and the pandemic.
So there's a lot for him to deal with. There's no doubt -- I hope he's getting good sleep, but it makes for a difficult morning.
CAMEROTA: Natasha, it feels as though we're in this period of sort of suspended animation, people still holding their breath. Three hours from now, President Trump will depart the White House he's scheduled to. He will fly off.
But it will take much longer than that, obviously, for Americans and historians and everybody to process what has happened over these four years. Just the messages I'm getting from viewers is, you know, from grief to relief, from anxiety to joy. They're feeling the gamut of all of these emotions right now. It was captured I think in some ways yesterday, the stark difference between their style between President Trump and President-elect Biden in terms of the ceremony that was held of the 400,000 Americans who have died.
And it went from denial of the virus, which is how President Trump basically approached it, to empathy, and, you know, seeing Joe Biden crying to Americans who have lost so much. And this is just a start of a stark contrast.
NATASHA ALFORD, VP, DIGITAL CONTENT & SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, THEGRIO: That's right, Alisyn. There were so many people who felt relieved to see the humanity on their television screens.
And this is a nation in need of healing, right? We think about the fact that Joe Biden had his theme of, you know, to heal, we must remember. And the administration that's on its way out, it's almost as if they didn't want us to remember or acknowledge the pain and the death because it would be an acknowledgement of their failure in office, their failure to manage COVID. So, this was such an important reset. And, you know, vice president-
elect Kamala Harris, her message about how isolated we've all been and separated in our pain, it was just a beautiful moment. But also an important moment for us to recognize how much we have in common in terms of the suffering that we've gone through over this past year and even beyond that.
So, again, very important for the reset.
America needs a detox. And so, all of those feelings that you're describing, I think it makes sense for what people have been through over the past four years.
BERMAN: I have to say, when I heard the words: to heal, we must remember. I thought of few things. One of them like, oh, my God, Biden is using his best line tonight when he should be saving this for the inaugural address because it's a heck of a line, David.
And it has to do with the pandemic I think. But more than that as well, because Biden will have to deal with and does have to deal with the lingering effects of these four years, which have -- will leave a mark on America, have left a America on so many American psyche. And so, what I think Biden is saying what I want you to weigh in here, we can't forget what it's been like the last four years to be torn apart, as a strategy, as a political strategy, that is something we need to heed, as we move forward.
GREGORY: Yeah, it's a good point. And I haven't really thought of the double meaning, but I think it's an important double meaning because in a way, he's acknowledging that we have to process and we have to acknowledge the forces that gave rise to a figure like Trump. There are the dark forces that gave rise to him that we have to stand up to, that we have to combat with a push towards racial justice, with the idea of standing up against the idea that a political figure would tap into grievance, or would look for scapegoats and would make that a part of his platform to seek the highest office in the land.
But we do have to remember and not take for granted an assault only our institutions, an assault on our politics as normal. There's a lot that's wrong with our politics as normal. But, you know, I was so happy to hear there would be a White House briefing today. That's a very Washington insidery thing to care about, and most Americans may not.
But it signals that there was something rogue about the last four years. People may have liked some of that. But to have normal government function, while also learning some lessons about the anti- establishment part of the Trump presidency that I think a lot of Americans would like Biden to learn from and not forget, but to have that respect for the institutions.
And to have -- like Natasha said, detox, but also less drama. I really do think people want some less drama out of their president. And they want a president to carry the office well, to respect the presidency. I really don't think that Donald Trump has respected the presidency. And Americans should expect and demand that respect.
CAMEROTA: David, Natasha, stand by. We have many more questions for you.
But right now, we want to get to this because breaking overnight, in these final hours, President Trump issuing a slew of pardons and commutations, including one for former strategist Steve Bannon.
CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with details.
I assume these may not be over yet.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely possible, Alisyn. Look, this clemency list is notable for not just who's on it, but also for who's not -- 146 total commutations and pardons, that breaks down for -- let's see, 73 commutations and 40 pardons in all.
As you mentioned Steve Bannon the adviser from the Trump administration at the very beginning is one of those names. Of course, he has been locked up on charges of defrauding people who were trying to contribute to Donald Trump's border wall. Other names include Lil Wayne, the rapper, a number of former members of Congress who got locked up and convicted, and some political operatives.
The people whose names are not on that list include the president himself, as well as members of his family who work at the White House, though there are still a few hours left in this administration. And we can't say for sure how that's going to go.
Now, as to the president's day, it is notable for what he's doing and what he's not doing. In fact, the president is not meeting with Joe Biden who is in Blair House, less than a hundred yards away from the White House this morning. The president is not attending the inaugural at the Capitol at noon.
The president and the first lady are leaving the White House around 8:00 Eastern Time, final destination will be Florida. But before that, they are going to Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs for that big sendoff the president has been hoping for.
Not clear how many people are going to show up. They invited a lot of people who are former officials in the administration, as well as people who are working there now. A lot of hard feelings involved there, perhaps.
Also, the vice president himself is not going to be at that sendoff.
He has opted to stay at the inauguration.
Now, the other thing I have to tell you about is just last night, the president signed an executive order revoking a rule he signed early in his term that included a five-year ban on lobbying. He revoked that rule which apparently means that people leaving the administration will no longer be constrained by it.
So, a lot of news in the last 24 hours. Back to you.
CAMEROTA: So, to be clear, he wants people in his administration to immediately be able to make money off of having served in his administration.
BERMAN: Starting this afternoon, they can go lobby the agencies they just left.
CAMEROTA: I don't know, if I didn't know any better, I would say that sounds swampy.
Joe, thank you very much.
It's quite a morning here and across the country, as all Americans process what's happening, as Joe Biden becomes the next president in just a few hours. And this is a live shot, John, of the Capitol and the flag illuminated on the Mall.
BERMAN: It's a remarkable image, isn't it? I mean, it's beautiful. It's not what we've come to expect in inaugurations, but so very meaningful and representative in its own way.
Our special live coverage continues, next.
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BIDEN: I am proud, 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. So, ladies and gentlemen, I have only one regret, he's not here, because we should be introducing him as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: That was President-elect Joe Biden getting emotional, saying farewell to his home state of Delaware, and talking about his son before departing for Washington to become the next president.
Back with us, David Gregory and Natasha Alford.
Natasha, who knows what President Biden will be able to accomplish during his administration. None of us can know that right now.
But stylistically, I think we know what we're getting. We are getting someone who doesn't have to pretend at empathy, someone who the role of comforter in chief is natural. You know, he was misty eyed a lot yesterday for good reason.
I mean, he is taking on a country in the middle of grieving. And he just seems able to share that mood easily.
ALFORD: Yes. This will be a president who understands what so many families are going through as we speak, right? We know that COVID, although it was downplayed by the last administration, it's only getting worse. And President-elect Biden has been very honest that some of our darkest days may be ahead of us.
But what's been remarkable is his action plan, right? He's been very clear about the fact that in the first 100 days, you know, he wants to get vaccinations increased. The production increased and to get FEMA centers set up. These are very specific things. And they are things that are not focused on himself, and I think that is the mood and the toneship that we'll see, that this is not a presidency that is about one man's ego. But this is a presidency that is about America.
And we see that in the diverse cabinet nominations that President- elect Joe Biden has put forward. And the people that he's put in positions of power and leadership, in real leadership positions. Not just sort of symbolic positions.
So I think all of these things are really important, and they make people feel as though they can relate to this new administration. And that people who showed up to vote, I'm thinking of, you know, black, Latino, people of color, who came out and who were discounted. They helped to put this administration in office, and he's been very clear that he -- he's going to remember that. And prioritize the issues that concern them the most.
BERMAN: Eighty-one million people.
Another metaphor for that departure from Delaware, for the Biden family, Delaware was the place to put the Bidens back together again. Joe Biden's father had lost his job in Pennsylvania, the first ten years of his life spent in Scranton, but they moved to Delaware to put their lives back together. And now Joe Biden is leaving Delaware to try to put his life back together again.
So, you have this circularity to it all.
David, I do want to talk about what the governor talked about last night. The Steve Bannon pardon is fascinating. It is the one that we are told, our reporting is he struggled with up until the last minute. He wasn't sure whether he was going to do it or not do it.
Bannon is charged with basically bilking donors. He was raising money to privately fund the border wall, raised 25 million and accused of spending 1 million of it on himself. But what it tells me is that Donald Trump is thinking about his future, it seems that he pardoned Steve Bannon for what Bannon can do for him now, what do you see?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I mean, it's so seedy. First of all, I think we should point out the fact that the president has been agonizing and pushing and asking about whether he can pardon himself or his children or members of Congress who are involved in the deadly siege on the capitol just shows you how he knows what he did was wrong under these circumstances, and understands the legal consequences he'd be facing.
In this case, with Bannon, Bannon had even stood trial yet which made it so unusual. But I'm with you. I think this is just however it impacts him. And his future trying to light the fire of his political movement, which he said is just beginning.
So whatever Donald Trump's next plans are from his own TV network to a grassroots politics to try to run again, whatever it is, yeah, he wants to try to keep those people close. And Bannon is so interesting because there was a break when he was there within the White House. But there was a sense, I think, that Trump understood there was a kind of force in Bannon that he needed to keep close.
CAMEROTA: Yeah. I hope, Natasha, that the Americans who gave money thinking they were contributing to national security somehow don't mind this pardon. That Bannon bilked them out of the millions of dollars.
We still have 6 1/2 more hours of President Trump could do some of his reveals which, you know, he likes at the 11th hour. So it's possible he's still going to pardon himself or his family. I mean, who knows what's going to happen in these hours. And who has known for four years what any hour would hold.
ALFORD: That's right, Alisyn. He's gone out of his way to still draw attention to himself, rather than promote the peaceful democratic transfer of power. We know he has a ceremony planned at the Andrews Air Force Base which will make him out to be a hero of America, right?
And I think that, you know, he -- even in his farewell message, there was something a little ominous about his departing message which is that this isn't over. So, I agree with David about his idea that some of these pardons are very much influenced by what he plans to do in the future, and the allies that he wants to have in the future. So, we may get, you know, bombshell press release even as President-elect Biden is taking his oath of office.
But I think it's incumbent upon us, particularly, the media, to really focus on what is ahead for the American people. And the tall order that the Biden/Harris administration has, because lives are really on the line.
And this last administration successfully sucked all of the air out of the room. And, again, made so much of American democracy about himself. And I think the real taking back of America is going to be everyday people saying this is about us again.
Like you said, those 81 million who voted for Biden and Harris. But perhaps those who are on the fence to see that this is a president even if he doesn't agree with you politically, he cares about you as a person, right? And that humanity, hopefully, can bring us to a place.
And again, as Fannie Lou Hamer once said, nobody is free until everybody is free. And so, that's going to require helping, you know, the least the among us, I think the Biden/Harris administration has that atop of their agenda.
CAMEROTA: Natasha Alford, David Gregory, thank you both very much.
So, Joe Biden will be inaugurated at the nation's capitol where two weeks ago today that deadly insurrection shocked the nation. Thousands, tens of thousands of National Guard troops are now standing guard. The latest on the unprecedented security for the historic moment, next.