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The Inauguration Of Joe Biden; Biden Swears In Presidential Appointees Ahead Of Celebration. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden. I'm Wolf Blitzer along with Erin Burnett.

It is truly an historic day in America, and a day of monumental change here in Washington. Joseph R. Biden now the 46th president of the United States. He's already at work inside the White House. And joining him in Washington, Kamala Harris, the nation's first female, and Black, South Asian vice president.

We're waiting what will no doubt be an extraordinary event, the Biden administration's first press briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. The newly appointed White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, expected to take questions from the news media in about an hour. We'll have live coverage of that, of course.

Following the briefing, a virtual television event will take place. It will be hosted by Tom hanks, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, are among the singers who will be performing. This is going to be great.

We're also expected to hear from Biden and Harris at that event. You want to see it.

And, Erin, of course, we will have live coverage.


And, Wolf, you know, just a short time ago, Biden signing a whole slew of executive actions undoing what the former president and his administration spent four years doing, among other things that includes rejoining the Paris climate accord, obviously very significant change there, ending the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries.

Now, Biden also talked about the letter he received from president Trump and he called it, generous. Now this, of course, follows an inauguration unlike any we have ever seen. Biden took his oath before a small crowd in a city that is shut down because of coronavirus and worries of another extremist attack following that insurrection on the capitol just two weeks ago today. And in his first speech as president, Biden repeatedly stressed the

need for unity. That was what he wanted Americans to take away from his speech, and, of course, that was the hallmark message of his campaign. We have so much to get to on this historic day as we bring it to you live as it happens. As Wolf mentioned, soon we're going to have the White House press briefing.

So, I want to start with our senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.

So, Phil, as we get ready for that press briefing, what are you learning about what is happening right now in the White House behind you?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, it's a flurry of activity. Obviously, we saw the president sign the first three executive orders just a short while ago. Administration official tells me he has now signed all 17 actions that he planned on taking in his first day. And that is, as you noted, rejoining the Paris climate, revoking the presidential permit for the Keystone pipeline, an eviction moratorium, a mask requirement mandate -- a mask mandate for all federal buildings, also air travel, train travel as well.

What you're seeing or what you saw up to this point is the administration laying out its baseline, trying to make clear both from a policy perspective, at least to the extent that they can from the stroke of a pen, also from a symbolism perspective.


That these are the priorities. This is what the administration wants to focus on. And these are the issues of day one.

Now, there are a lot of basic things going on in the background as well. Aides trying to get access to their emails and to their tech. There's obviously COVID is playing a role in all of this as well which has limited the number of aides and advisers actually inside the White House.

Erin, in a short moment you are going to hear about the president's swearing in some of his political appointees. Obviously, a pretty weighty moment as they take their job in the white house. The president did it earlier. It will be their turn.

And you mentioned, I think what everybody is keeping their eye on here in an hour will be when Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, takes questions for the first time. It will again be symbolic to some degree.


MATTINGLY: This administration saying they want to be up front and tell the truth and make very clear what their positions are even if they're hard to hear. This will be the first test of that when Jen Psaki faces reporters in a short while. BURNETT: Right, right, and such a stark contrast to what we've heard

recently, which is nothing from the press outfit at the White House and the president's day consisted of many calls and working long at night, right? I mean, just that farce that we have seen recently. So, we obviously await what it will look like tonight.

So, what more are you learning about what is coming up tonight? Because part of this whole, you know, the inauguration itself and the festivities that the president of the United States and the vice president want to share with the country include this program tonight.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. It's titled celebrating America. Look, I think it's important to note, there -- this is a historic day. This -- the pomp and the circumstance matters. The transition of power matters. The recognition of the change of the guard in Washington, not just in the White House but also in the United States Congress matters.

And what you're going to see in the ceremony tonight is something made for television and for a reason. It will be virtual because of the times that we live in, because of the pandemic.

It will be hosted by Tom Hanks. There will be a series of big name music stars from John legend, Demi Lovato, the Foo Fighters. But also, I think, it's going to be very important to watch, the president himself, Vice President Kamala Harris will both speak at this event tonight and what they have to say closing out the day, a historic day and what it means for the days in the future and ahead, it's certainly going to be notable. That will be something to pay attention to after we get through the press briefing that starts at 7:00 p.m.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil.

So, that press briefing obviously the next big item on the agenda. Meantime, though, at the capitol, business going on.

Manu Raju is there tonight.

And, Manu, we are just learning, I mean, literally, business going on, right? That you've got to have the balance of power. It switched to the Democrats today.

Are there going to be approvals tonight? We're learning the director of national intelligence is likely to get confirmed this evening. Is that the case?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we're hearing that could happen this hour, just a matter of minutes. In fact, it could be agreed to on a unanimous basis here in the United States Senate. There's going to be an effort to get her confirmed; the expectations that Avril Haines to be the director of national intelligence will get confirmed.

This came after Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Republican, announced he would drop efforts to block her consideration quickly because he said she answered a question about the CIA's interrogation program to his satisfaction. He's ready to move forward. Now, it appears that Joe Biden will get one nominee confirmed on his

first day in office. That is different than past predecessors including Donald Trump who had two on the night of the inauguration day. Barack Obama had six approved. George W. Bush had seven confirmed on day one. So, a bit of a slower start for Joe Biden.

This comes also as the top Democrat and Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, are still haggling over how to formally share power in the 50-50 Senate. If there's not a deal on how they share power, the Senate will not be able to officially organize on the committee level. That means that other nominees may get stalled as they wait for those larger negotiations to go forward.


RAJU: So, Joe Biden could be waiting for a while for much of his cabinet to be formed until the two guys cut a deal on organizing the Senate and eventually scheduling votes so he can move forward with his cabinet here -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. So, when you -- you just talked about the difficulty of power sharing and what a crucial step this is going to be, right? Biden can't do anything until this is figured out. That's hugely significant.

In addition to that challenge, you also have the impeachment trial, right, in the senate? What more are you learning about that? Right, Nancy Pelosi was going to send over those articles and that, of course, brings the Donald Trump impeachment trial and whether he can ever serve in office back to the floor of the Senate.

RAJU: Yeah. Democrats are trying to make today all about Joe Biden, all about inauguration. They don't want to make the focus about Donald Trump's impeachment trial, which is why Nancy Pelosi has said very little about the timing, when she will send the articles of impeachment from the House to the Senate that will begin the impeachment trial, that will undoubtedly be divisive. It will be much different tone than what Joe Biden tried to push on day one here in office.



RAJU: One reason why the White House has not been eager to see this impeachment trial move ahead but nevertheless it is going to move ahead. There are still questions but an expectation, Erin, that that trial could begin in a matter of days.

Also a question of how it would take place, who would preside, whether the chief justice will, in fact, preside. There's also a possibility that the new president pro tempore of the Senate, Patrick Leahy, could potentially preside over that because it's a former president being tried, not a current president. So, there's some questions about the rules. Leahy told me moments ago he doesn't know if he'll preside. Waiting

for John Roberts to make that decision. But a lot of questions about the process, the timing, whether or not the Republicans will break ranks and join Democrats to convict Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection -- Erin.

BURNETT: Right, the politics of it so crucial.

Manu, thank you.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

John King is with us, Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Smerconish.

John, what do you think if they start this trial, the impeachment trial on the floor of the Senate. All 100 senators have to be there for this trial. How much is it going to set back potentially the agenda that the new president has?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you raised a great question. It just adds to the dizzying number of events and the collision of so many things that are going to happen in the new Washington.

Yes, a Democratic president. Yes, a Democratic president as well. But this impeachment trial will stir up, of course, all the partisan tensions, all the questions.

However, I do think one of the big open questions, we've talked a lot about the big open question is how much can Joe Biden cooperate with Republicans at least on some things. Mitch McConnell gave a floor speech today where he said he hopes it's possible to cooperate on some things. That would be progress here in Washington.

On a COVID perhaps, on stimulus perhaps, although McConnell has resisted the big generous aid to state and local governments the new president wants, but what does the impeachment trial do?

The rules are for the impeachment you have it in the afternoon, as Manu just noted. It's a former president. So, they may have some different rules than we saw at the first Trump impeachment trial. It may not be the chief justice but most of the Republican senators have said they do not think it's feasible to do what the new president wants.

Joe Biden wants meet in the morning, consider my COVID package, consider my cabinet team, move along with some business with the new administration in the morning, then have the trial in the afternoon. Republicans so far have resisted that.

Chuck Schumer, the new majority leader, needs to negotiate this with Mitch McConnell, the outcome of those negotiations on the sharing, even though the Democrats have a majority, it's the narrowest majority. So, they have to have a power sharing agreement. That will be part of it.

But that again is another one of these potential quicksand or time bomb moments as Joe Biden tries to get off with unity. Obviously, that will be very divisive.

BLITZER: Yeah, Michael Smerconish, you've done a lot of thinking about this because I've heard you talk about it extensively.

What do you think? Can they do two things at the same time, deal with the substantive issues at the same time, decide whether or not to convict Trump who was impeached for the second time?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To John's point, they would need a rule change because currently they've got to focus solely on impeachment once that trial begins. There's also this very important, we lawyers say, jurisdictional question that needs to be resolved as to whether you can try a former president for impeachment in a Senate trial.

I thought that yesterday was a very significant day on this issue because when the then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands up and says that the president, meaning president Trump was to blame and the mob was fed lies, I think he's laying down a marker and he's giving permission for Republicans in the Senate to vote for impeachment, to convict I should say, more specifically.

I'm still dubious as to whether they can get to 17 and if I'm President Biden, boy, I'm not sure I want the oxygen taken out of the room again with focus on my predecessor as I'm trying to initiate all the things I promised.

BLITZER: And one other thing, Nia, that's significant because I covered Biden, Mitch McConnell for a while, they have actually worked closely together over the past 30 years on several important issues when Biden was a senator, later when he was vice president of the United States. They seem to have a relatively decent relationship, right?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Listen, that is what president Biden is counting on, that his friendly relationship with not only Mitch McConnell but there are other senators there, GOP senators that he served with. I think it's 13 GOP senators that Biden actually served with. So he is counting on that too bring some of that bipartisanship to these dealings that he wants to broker. We'll see if that happens.

Remember, Mitch McConnell was also the person who said that he wanted to make Obama a one-term president. Certainly he wants to get the control of the Senate back. He wants to be the majority leader again so he's got to figure out what his priorities are, what the priorities of his caucus are. Remember, his caucus is full of people who are going to be up for re-election in '22, 2022, and also want to run for president in 2024.

[18:15:01] So, we'll see how those kind of friendly relationships, what they mean once the rubber meets the road and they're trying to cobble together some bills, some legislation around these big issues trying to spend billions and billions of dollars to inject money into the economy, to inject money into some of these states.

So we'll see. You know, Obama was very skeptical of this. He talked about the idea that, sure, you could be friendly with Mitch McConnell but then he goes back to his caucus and his own priorities and something different happens.

So this is a real test for Biden's -- his whole philosophy, his whole approach to governing in success really relies on Mitch McConnell and his ability to actually do something that Obama wasn't necessarily successful at doing which is to bring Mitch McConnell along and to carve out some type of bipartisan deals to move the country forward.

Listen, you're going to inject real partisan ranker into the Senate with this impeachment trial of this former president that some people still want to cling to, people like Lindsey Graham, people like Rand Paul, Joni Ernst, somebody who maybe people thought would vote to convict, saying, listen, it's unconstitutional to try to convict a former president. So, a real, real challenge on Biden's hands as he tries to move the country forward as it's in deep, deep crisis.

BLITZER: Yeah, deep, deep crisis is accurate, indeed.

Everybody, stand by.

Coming up, pressure from the left. Senate impeachment trial. What are the biggest challenges facing President Biden now that he is president of the United States? There's new information coming in. We'll share it with you when we come back.



BURNETT: So President Joe Biden has just completed signing 17 executive actions and -- agency actions. The orders cover a wide range of topics, and nine of them, I believe nine, undo actions by President Trump. So they focus on a couple of areas. COVID, you now have an executive order which requires Americans to wear masks in all federal buildings and federal lands. Also stops the United States' withdrawal from the World Health Organization, among others.

On the economy, asking the CDC to extend a moratorium on evictions, asking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend foreclosure moratoriums, all that to March 31st, and of all that relate to COVID and the economy.

On climate, big switch here. This is undoing President Trump. Biden rejoining the Paris climate accord.

On racial equality, instructing agencies to have a baseline review of systemic inequities in their programs and to deliver action plans to reverse the findings. On immigration, you also had DACA and more.

So, as I said, 17 is a lot, but a lot of focus I would have to say here on COVID, the economy. Those are big areas, obviously racial equality a big one and immigration.

David Chalian, Ana Navarro and Bakari Sellers are all back with me.

So, David, how do you break this down? You know, David Gregory a moment ago was just noting simply, that this is not how it used to be, right, having to do so many of these. Seventeen is a lot. It exceeds his predecessors. But nine of these are a direct turnover, repudiation of a Trump policy.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I mean, I think you have grouped them and categorize them well, Erin, in the sense that there is a COVID component, but then there is just sort of the values component, Biden staking out his ground on some key areas, such as immigration, climate change, racial inequality.

So, the COVID piece, both on the mask wearing but also on the economic pieces that he is putting in place there as you said, ending the moratorium on evictions and the like, that is going to be the bread and butter of what these initial days of the Biden administration is about.

BURNETT: Right, right.

You know, some of those, nationwide moratorium on evictions, student loan payments is actually an extension of something that's currently in place even though some of them are overturning some of what President Trump did.

Wolf, the president right now busy and now swearing in members of his staff.

BLITZER: Yeah. This is a ceremony we just got the tape. I want our viewers to see. This is the president swearing in various personnel, White House personnel and it's significant and I'll tell you why right after we hear from the president of the United States.



Good evening, everyone.

On behalf of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, I am delighted to welcome you to the swearing in of the day one appointees of the Biden/Harris administration. We are joined by hundreds of White House staff and hundreds more agency appointees. All of us here have the great privilege of serving our country and joining you, Mr. President, in restoring our nation.

I was privileged to hear many of your stories during the hiring process. Some of you have worked in government before and thought perhaps your days of service were behind you until finding yourselves in this moment of national need. Others have never worked in government and will bring new perspectives to the work that lies ahead.

Some of you are the first in your family to graduate college. You are veterans who have worn our nation's uniform. You are the daughters and sons of immigrants or you're immigrants yourselves.

Some of you have interviewed for your job while you were wrapping up work on presidential campaign and others interviewed while you were fighting off COVID or caring for family members who were ill, but all of you share in the hope we have for the Biden/Harris administration, and each of you has answered the call to serve.

Having worked in government, I know that no public servant does this work alone, so I would like to welcome and acknowledge the friends and family of all our appointees who will support the work ahead. And now, it is my honor and privilege to introduce a true public servant for whom I was so lucky to first work for more than three decades ago who will administer the oath of office, the president of the United State.

Mr. President?

BIDEN: Thank you, Cathy.

Hello, team. And I mean that sincerely. We're one team.

Jill and I and Kamala and Doug are enormously humbled by today's inauguration, and it makes me realize what an obligation we have. And what a tremendous opportunity we have. I'm looking at all of your photographers and I'm supposed to be looking straight ahead, but I want to look at you when I'm talking to you.

I really mean it. We have an obligation but we also have a great privilege. Very few times does an individual get an opportunity to do something that can fundamentally, positively impact other people's lives, not only here but around the world. You're engaged in and you're working with the most -- the most decent government in the world, and we have to restore the soul of this country and I'm counting on all of you to be part of that.

It's not hyperbole. The only thing I expect with absolute certitude is honesty and decency, the way you treat one another, the way you treat the people you deal with. And I mean that sincerely.

Remember, we -- people don't work for us, we work for the people. I work for the people. They pay my salary. They pay your salary. They put their faith in you. I put my faith in you. And so we have an obligation.

We ran on a promise that this administration would look like America looks. That taps into the best of our nation. That opens doors and includes a full range of talents we have in all our people, and that meant asking you and your families to serve.

We're honored that you accepted the call and I'm not being solicitous when I say this. We owe your families, we owe your families because those of you working in the White House, those of you here, those working in other agencies, you're going to work like the devil. We all do.

We put in long hours, and it shouldn't be something that you should do unless you really care about it a great deal.

You know, there have been a few moments in our history in my view when our nation has been more tested than we are now. Few in public service will matter more, when it will matter more. And history measures -- is going to measures and our fellow Americans will measure us by how decent, honorable, and smart we've been in terms of looking out for their interests.

You know, to contain a pandemic, to administer a vaccine, it's going to be the most consequential logistical thing that's ever been done in the United States. It's going to take a lot, an awful lot, and rescue an economy.

But we have so many opportunities to build it back and build it back so much better. I've said from the beginning that when the American people given half a chance, they have never, ever, ever, ever, ever let their country down. That's not hyperbole.

You know, some thought in our party, my party, and some thought in the country and some thought in the press when I said I was running for three reasons. I said I was running to restore the soul of American. By that I mean just common decency, honor, your word, doing what you say you're going to do, treating people with respect.

My dad used to have an expression. He said everyone, every single person regardless of their background, is entitled to be treated with dignity.

I expect you to do that for all the folks you deal with, all the folks we work for, the American people. And they're going to try to keep us safe and secure from the threats and the unseen, to root out systemic racism.

We've reached a point, in my view, where the American people had to sort of -- the blinders have been taken off. They've been taken off and realize -- they didn't realize before just how much systemic racism still exists because they didn't live in circumstances where they were with large minority populations, whatever the background was.

And, all of a sudden, they see what happened to George Floyd with his nose being pushed up against the curb, suffocating to death and murdered. They said, my God, that really happens. This piece of technology has changed, and a young man had the courage to stand there for 8 minutes and 44 seconds and took that picture and the whole world responded. The whole world responded.

We have a chance. We have a chance to change things. The reason I got involved in politics when I was a kid at 26 years old running for local office, to try to change redlining. I really mean it.


So you shouldn't be doing this unless you feel it. I always say a simple proposition, I trust people more who their idea and their concerns starts from the gut, goes with their heart and is able to articulate it by a good brain rather than the person who thinks of it intellectually but never feels it. People you can count on are the ones that it starts from the gut, works the way to the heart and has the intellectual capacity to do what needs to be done.

And so, folks, we have a lot going on. We have a lot of opportunities. We can meet this existential threat of climate change. I really believe it. Again, the world has figured out, the United States has figured out, whoa, it makes a gigantic difference, makes a gigantic difference, these unseen threats, air you can't breathe, living on fence line communities and the like.

So much more we can do. We have such an awful lot to do, but I know you. I know your heart, your dedication, your commitment to this nation and I know you can do it, and we're going to do it, by leading with one core American value, humility and trust, collegiality, diversity, competency and family.

And I want to thank your families for the sacrifices, but I'm not joking when I say this. If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot, on the spot, no if, ands or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That's been missing in a big way in the last four years.

Kathy has gone through all of your backgrounds, talked to me about you. I'm confident you have the capacity to do it. We're going to be judged. We're going to be judged whether or not we restored the integrity and the competency of this government. I need your help badly.

Last thing I'll say, I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to make mistakes. When I make them, I'll acknowledge them and I'll tell you. And I'll need your help to help me correct them. We're not going to walk away, we're going to take responsibility. That's what we do. That's what you do. That's what so many of you have done throughout your career and I expect you to do it again.

So I'm happy, happy we're starting, happy to join all of you. There's almost 1,000 of you on this call and your families. So thank you, thank you, thank you very much, that in this nation everyone, and I mean everyone is given an opportunity and those -- that's who we are as a country and that's who we've always been thought to be.

I was asked a long time ago when I was with Xi Jinping and I was in -- on the Tibetan plateau. And he asked me in a private dinner, he and I have reached out at an interpreter. He said, can you define, America for me? And I said, yes, I meant it. I said I can do it in one word, one word, possibilities, possibilities. We believe anything is possible when we set our mind to it, unlike any other country in the world, possibilities. You're my possibilities. You're the way we're going to get this done. I'm honored now to administer the oath of office to each of you, and if you will raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I, state your name, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I'm about to enter. So help me God.

Thank you. Welcome. As my mom would say, God love you all. We've got a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do. Thank you for being willing to join. Bye-bye. Okay?

BLITZER: So there you have it, about 1,000 presidential appointees. John, these are individuals who will be working right away for the president, whether in the White House or other agencies of the U.S. government who do not need Senate confirmation so they could start working immediately.

KING: And what a remarkable shift in tone and in character from the president of the United States right there.


Donald Trump was reflexively combative. Joe Biden is reflexively optimistic. He talked about the challenges, COVID, the climate, to, several times mentioned, systemic racism, new words, new policy priorities that he swore in this team, dignity, respect, integrity. Again, the proof is in the pudding.

The proof is in can you perform but just a different tone from an incredibly different president than the one we just watched leave town today. The reflexive optimism of Biden, even as he acknowledges to his new team, we have a long list of stuff. Treat each other with respect. Treat each other with dignity. I'll fire you on the spot if you don't.

We've been reading tweets every morning for four years now in which the former president of the United States violated what we just heard from the new president of the United States. So it is a important ethos, if you will, for public service, which Joe Biden is bringing back respect for public service.

BLITZER: And they were all muted, so that's why we didn't hear them utter those words that he was asking them to utter/

Erin, it's really it's really significant those of us who have covered Biden over the years, whether as vice president or when he was in the Senate, he's bringing into his administration so many individuals who worked so closely with him over these many -- Ron Klain, his White House chief of staff, has been working forever.

I just made a little list, Jeffrey Zients, the COVID czar, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, we're going to be hearing from her momentarily, Jake Sullivan, the new National Security Adviser, and so many others. He knows these people, he trust these people and that's why they're going to be working with them.

Tony Blinken, the incoming secretary of state, once he is confirmed, he has been with Biden since he was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

BURNETT: Yes, right. And it's such a great point, Wolf. And he referenced there, as we heard, he said to so many of you who have been here answering this call to service again, I thank you, right, and your families. He also referenced those who were new to it. But it is clear, right? This is sort of the culmination of a career for him and he is bringing back those that he trusts the most.

As part of this, Wolf mentioning, right, the volume was off so you couldn't hear them all actually taking the oath of office, but there were at least 1,000 of them you heard him reference that are now formally sworn in, a lot of work being done in just these hours.

Now, we're waiting to see whether we get a nomination out of the Senate, but in the meantime, the executive orders, I just wanted to make sure that everybody understands exactly what happened there.

David Chalian, just before the president swore in all of his staff and all of these individuals, you were talking about these executive orders. We mentioned 17 of these orders and actions in all, nine of them directly overturning things the president has done, one of them related to the Keystone pipeline, the president of Canada, the prime minister of Canada, just expressing his dismay with that. But it is interesting, David, in the context here that so much -- that nine of these are basically by executive fiat overturning a Trump policy.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, we were talking before about the COVID-focused ones, but there are some that are clearly designed as just a clean break from the Trump era, such as halting down on the ban -- the travel ban from majority Muslim nations, stomping down on any continued construction of a border wall.

Those were two signature iconic Trump policies. He ran on them in 2016. They helped fuel his victory. He touted them as president. And within a few hours of taking the oath of office, Joe Biden, with the stroke of the pen, is stomping down on those to express there's a new president, a new leader and a new direction when it comes to some of these policy areas that he is setting out.

But some of those thousand people you just saw the president swear in, throughout this transition period, they were working on these executive orders, teeing them up throughout this transition to make sure that the president, Joe Biden, could hit the ground running when he got into the Oval Office.

BURNETT: All right. So I want to talk about what does this means though for the left and right. And, first of all, Bakari, to you, not only in the executive orders is there one about equality and reporting back on equality and also on work systemic racism. But the president just mentioned it specifically. He said, now our eyes have been open, you can't unsee what you've seen, referring directly to systemic racism as he swore in his team. How significant is this, right? These are words but you now have executive orders behind them. Is this what's necessary?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, it's necessary and it's very significant. I think that you can include in that same category is ending the Muslim ban. I mean, let's just level set with the American people. The Muslim ban was racist, xenophobic, bigoted and offensive even to the words on the Statue of Liberty, and that's how Donald Trump started his administration.

And so repealing that actually allows people to breathe and have a sigh of relief. They were no longer living in a country of espousing xenophobic and bigoted policies and beliefs such as that.

But to go even further, people want to know why this is necessary, Erin. I think that the executive orders are great but the imagery is better.


Just two weeks ago, 14 days ago, there was a confederate flag marching through the state -- through the United States Capitol, a confederate flag. That confederate flag was marching along with people who were wearing six WME shirts, the most anti-Semetic rhetoric you can possibly hear. They were echoed and cheered on by Madison Cawthorn. They were cheered on by Rudy Giuliani. They were cheered on by the president of the United States.

So what you see in these executive orders is a complete 180 degree difference from that imagery and from that country that we were just yesterday.

And the last point that I'll make, and I know my good friend, Anna Navarro, will agree with me, we can drink some wine together after this, is that Stephen Miller isn't in the White House no more, and that's so evident by these executive orders.

BURNETT: You mentioned Madison Cawthorn. He actually was 1 of 17 House Republicans who signed a letter welcoming Joe Biden and talking about working together. Scott, in that context, I ask you how much goodwill does Joe Biden really have when the rubber meets the road in terms of what's necessary to really make things happen, which, of course, is legislation, not executive order?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he has quite a bit of goodwill, actually. I mean, I've talked to Senator McConnell about their friendship and I've heard him say things like I'm going to treat him a lot better than Chuck Schumer ever treated Donald Trump, and I think that's going to be true.

It doesn't matter as much in the House because Democrats are in charge and they have a simple majority. But in the Senate, it does matter. They can do some things by simple majority. But most things, you need 60 votes. And so I do think the longstanding friendship matters.

Back on the executive orders, if I might for a moment, Erin, the ones that jump out at me are the Keystone pipeline, which for all the talk about rebuilding our alliances and our friendships around the world, that is a punch in the face to Canada, and, by the way, a punch in the face to several unions that had endorsed that project. And the other ones are DACA and suspending the wall construction.

I was remembering today that Donald Trump, at one point, had Democrats talked into $25 billion for the wall and the fix for the DREAMERs, and he could not close the deal. And fast forward to today, Joe Biden gets to make these executive actions. Elections have consequences and so does a failure to pass actual laws when you have the office. So that's what jumps out of me on --

BURNETT: That's a really interesting point. I'm glad you raise it, right, that this is only possible because Trump turned down that deal, right, where he would have had funding, not as much as he wanted, but the Democrats were going to give it to him. He did it in a different way, so now it could be stopped by executive by terminating the national emergency declaration used to fund it.

Thank you all very much.

And we are now 30 minutes away -- less than 30 minutes away actually from the administration's first press briefing by the press secretary, Jen Psaki. So what can we expect? How long will this be? How many questions? We're going back inside the White House after this.



BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden.

We're getting new details right now about the inside of President Biden's Oval Office. A bust of Caesar Chavez, for example, sitting behind the Resolute Desk along with statues of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, according to "The Washington Post". You can see some of those images right now.

Let's discuss with John King and Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan's our new chief White House correspondent. John and I were once White House correspondents. Kaitlan as well.

Let me get to John first. We spent a lot of time as we were reporters in the Oval Office trying to shout questions to various presidents. What do you think of the new decor?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is Joe Biden's stamp in the Oval Office, but some of it is familiar, Wolf. You see those gold drapes, you see the blue carpet, those from the Oval Office during the Bill Clinton's presidency, when you and I covered the White House, and Kaitlan Collins has been there for some of the Trump presidency, and she will be there for the Biden presidency.

What is so different? You saw Cesar Chavez there behind the Resolute Desk, the great leader of the farm worker union. Rosa Parks also, Martin Luther King, busts of them in there.

Andrew Jackson portrait is gone. Franklin Roosevelt is in there now. Washington and Lincoln are in there. Mr. Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton.

Joe Biden in decorating his Oval Office essentially inviting the idea that great patriots can disagree. Hamilton and Jefferson disagreed about a lot, it is just fascinating.

BLITZER: Yeah, the decor is certainly different than it was under President Trump.

Kaitlan, we're about to get the first White House press briefing from the new White House press secretary Jen Psaki, she's going to go into the press briefing room and obviously make a statement, answer reporters questions.

Set the scene for us?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, this is notable. We have not been getting those daily press briefings before in the final days in the Trump administration. They had basically all but stopped doing them, after Kayleigh McEnany got coronavirus. And so, for that, you know, they're pretty sporadic.

And so, this is the first time we are going to hear from the incoming press secretary. Of course, it's on day one. She'll be taking the lectern right there to speak with reporters. They've got a number of questions facing them about all the challenges that we've been talking about throughout the day that are also facing this administration.

And so, what we should note is that we do expect this to be daily briefings. We expect them to bring them back. The question about whether or not they're going to bring coronavirus specific briefings back as well. We do know those will be some of the questions that she is facing.

And, Wolf, that is a notable break in of itself, given the relationship between the president, the previous president's press secretary and the press. Obviously this is always a relationship that has a little bit of tensions to it, because often, we as reporters are asking questions that they do not always want to answer. But you saw and go to a new level with a president, the previous president's press secretary. So, we'll be watching to see how this one does, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, John, Kaitlan is our new chief White House correspondent. You and I have been there and we understand what he's about to go through over these next few years. You want to give her a little advice?


KING: Oh wow, who put that together?


BLITZER: You look very, very young in that picture.

COLLINS: That's amazing.

KING: I was very fortunate, when I switch to television from printing came directly to the White House to have the mentorship of this great man, Wolf Blitzer, next to me. We covered the White House during the impeachment of Bill Clinton together.

Kaitlan, stop laughing.


COLLINS: I'm sorry I love this so much.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, do you think we've aged, is that we are laughing about? Is that what you're --

COLLINS: You look better than ever.

BLITZER: Do you look a little different than we did back in the early nineties for example? '92, '93?

COLLINS: Age like fine wine.


All right. Give her -- give her one little piece of advice, John, before we let her go into that, are you want to be in the briefing room asking reporters' questions?

COLLINS: Not yet, Wolf, actually we should note that those coronavirus rotations that we've been doing are going to stay in place. So just a few reporters will be in, there it won't be as packed as normal.


But we will be there the next few days.

KING: Ask tough questions. I think one of the test -- a lot of people are watching, a lot -- especially Trump supporters are watching us. We need to hold this administration accountable. We need to ask tough questions. We have to give some grace out of the box. He was just inaugurated today.

But this is -- it's going to be interesting to watch the reset of this relationship.

BLITZER: Excellent advice from John King.

So, just pay attention, Kaitlan. We're going to be watching you every, every step of the way, and we love those earlier pictures from the 1990s.

All right. Up next, the presidential inaugural prayer service. It's an important tradition. Reverend William Barber who will deliver the homily tomorrow, he's standing by live. We will discuss what's his message for the new president.


BURNETT: You are looking at the White House, where in just a few moments, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will be giving her first press briefing.

Before that, I want to bring in Reverend William Barber. He will deliver the homily at the presidential inaugural prayer service tomorrow morning.

And, Reverend, I appreciate your time. So what message will you send tomorrow morning?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER, DELIVERING HOMILY AT INAUGURAL PRAYER SERVICE THURSDAY: Well, Erin, first of all, I'm humble to be asked to join the clergy. You know, it's amazing how relevant Scripture can be, that is a scripture in the Old Testament, Isaiah 58, that's honored by Muslims, Jews and Christians that actually talks about, what did you when you coming out of time of lies, and greed, and narcissistic leadership, mean oppressive leadership. And it says the first thing you asked to repent its own, it only history of it.

But then the Scripture actually says there is a way for repairing, rebuilding, reviving and renewal if we lift from the bottom, if we end the works of injustice, we can actually become with the Bible calls repairers of the breach.

So, you know, what I want to stress tomorrow, is what's a day it would be if we come out of this greed with more grace, what day it will be if we come out of all this hate and lies with more love and more truth. What if we come out and we pass a full COVID relief?


And what if we lift 140 million poor and low wealth people before COVID and millions after out of poverty and low wealth?


BARBER: What if we raise the minimum wage, you know? What if we renewed the Voting Rights Act? This could be an opportunity where the painted, scene is not the pains and the death of democracy but the pains of the birth of a third reconstruction.

BURNETT: So a major theme of President Biden's campaign, and his campaign speech that we all heard this morning, here's a clip, Reverend.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: History, faith and reason, show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other, not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no

progress only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos.


BURNETT: Reverend, Joe Biden is a man of great faith, how do you think his dedication to his religion will serve him in office?

BARBER: Well I think he's walking in those deep, deep wells, of truth and love injustice, and mercy and concern for the least of these, which is the only way for ultimately a nation to be healthy in the sight of God and to be a better nation.

You know when I hear him talk about that unity, I hear exactly what he saying. He also said maybe there is enough of us, he's not naive that unity doesn't have to mean 100 percent. What if enough of us believe that if you establish justice, you can ensure domestic tranquility, you can provide for the common ascent, a chance you can promote general welfare?

What if enough of us believe that this is not a time of a right and left and conservative against liberal, or Republican versus Democrat, but this is a time, to embrace the deep issues of faith and the deep issues of our constitution? What if enough of us believe that we must deal with and address systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the denial of health care, the war economy and the false moral (INAUDIBLE) religious nationalism?

The Bible model calls that a remnant of people, and enough of a remnant of people unified can actually transform a nation. We've seen it before, in moments of great pain, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the reconstructors did it.


BARBER: After the killing of Kennedy, we saw Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act. We've seen it before, and we saw with Franklin Roosevelt after Gilded Age run this country into the ground, and we must believe we can do it again. That's when I hear him saying.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Reverend, I appreciate time, thank you very much.

BARBER: Thank you. God bless.

BURNETT: All right. And our special coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden continues. Stay with us.

The administration's first press briefing is literally just moments away. Wolf and I will be right back.


BURNETT: Welcome to our special coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden. I'm Erin Burnett, along with Wolf Blitzer on this historic day of America. Joe Biden now the 46th president of the United States. He and his vice

president, Kamala Harris, already at work. We're standing by for the administration's first press briefing. It's expected to begin any moment now, Wolf.