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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  January 26, 2021 11:00am-12:00pm PST

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strife over the course of 2020. these executives or today as susan rice, top domestic policy adviser laid out, will not just be at the center of the white house or particular agency, as part a whole approach. where they will be starting, wolf, will be on a couple of issues. first on. issue of housing. them discontinuing any justice department use of private prisons due to how those prisons are operate to this point. you will also see issues of discrimination particularly with asian american communities addressed as well, something at the forefront of the agenda in the wake of some of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic over the course of the last year. i think the broader picture here is if you take a look over the course of these 33, soon to be 37 executive actions, that have been signed by president biden in his first now nearly week in office, you get a sense of what the priorities are for this white house, whether it is good, whether it is on the economy that they're trying to address right now, not just through
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executive actions but also through legislation. you also have had immigration bill, the administration released. you will hear issues on climate as well in the course of the next couple of days but today making very clear among the key priorities of this administration, agency by agency, department by department, will be the issue of racial equity in trying to address some of those systemic issues that have become so clear, moved so clearly to the forefront over the course not just in the last several years but really, wolf, over the course of the last several decades. >> we're about to hear from the president on racial equity. later today he's also, i take it, going to be speaking more about covid. this crisis is continuing. it doesn't seem to be getting better at all. >> yes, look, i think what you're going to hear later today and white house press secretary jen psaki talked a little bit this and senior white house official also confirmed this will be about vaccine distribution and production. if there's anything you picked up from the administration in their fist six days in office, it's the effort to get what the
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infrastructure is for the actual distribution, what the level of supply is for the actual distribution. if the country wants to move forward, if things are going to get better, the vaccine is an absolute necessity. now, you saw the president have some optimistic projections yesterday. hope is what jen psaki said it was today that perhaps everybody by spring, perhaps their goal of is million vaccinations a day over the course of the first so 0 100 days could kick up to 105. white house officials walked that back gently, making clear their goal is still 100 days though they hope they can do better than that. in terms of smsupply and distribution, they will have a better sense where things stand. one thing to keep an eye on, the expectation is the president will announce more supply of vaccine will be headed out to states. there's a call with governors today being led by the top covid official jeff science.
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wolf, you've heard on your show repeatedly from state officials saying they have no sense of what's coming next, saying their stockpiles are depleted so they can have answers to plan. the administration will be trying to address some of that today with the president's remarks in a couple hours, wolf. >> yes, we will stand by for live coverage of both of these presidential addresses. jake, there's a lot going on right now. >> and political correspondent abby phillip, let's take a moment here to acknowledge the historic he moment we're in right here. the second time in history that donald trump is facing an impeachment trial, the second time he's been impeached, it's not clear that the outcome will be any different even though democrats control the senate as opposed to last year. >> that's right. we've not had any republicans, which is understandable, but formally say, yes, i'm going to vote to convict president trump. we've had some like a mitt romney say he clearly committed
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impeachable offenses but this will be a moment in history, because all of the senators were sworn in as jurors and will pause wait a couple of weeks for the actual trial to take place. but we have to say -- and we will say it as we watch in this trial, they're raising their hand and taking an oath to be jurors while standing on a crime scene because that is where it happened. >> and many are witnesses. >> and they are witnesses. there are so many -- it's a confluence of so many issues that are happening here, not the least of which is the history of this impeachment trial. >> it does seem that we are likely to have probably a more bipartisan impeachment vote in the senate, just like we did in the house. but as you said, republicans are
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clinging to this notion that not even necessarily actually it is inspect constitutional to imimpeach the president or convict him, the former president, but it's just not the right idea in the interest of -- their saying unity, in the interest of setting a precedent. so it is in some ways the thingest of the thin arguments that they have left. no one out there is saying, you know, what the president said and did was fine. no one is out there saying that, you know, the idea that he's being impeached for this moment is not an impeachable offense. they're saying the timing is wrong and i think that's a really extraordinary thing to point out here, that we're going into the impeachment trial probably over the most serious of issues. of all of the impeachments that this country has seen, there have only been four, you can argue that this is the most serious of offenses that a president has ever been accused
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of. and yet the vast majority of republicans in the senate are clinging to a procedural argument to argue against not even the merits of the case but just the fact that it's happening at all and saying, you know, we just shouldn't do this right now because we should allow the country to move forward. >> of the four impeachments, including this one, it is the only one -- and you can add nixon's, even though it didn't actually take place, that resulted in loss of life. let's listen to president biden. >> in my campaign for president, i made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we faced deep racial inequities in american, systemic racism that plagued our nation for far, far too long. i said over the course of the past year the blinders have taken off the nation as people. what many americans didn't see
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or refused to see couldn't be ignored any longer. those 8:46 that took george floyd's life opened the eyes of millions of americans and millions of people all over the world. there was a knee on the neck of juice, and it wouldn't be forgotten. it stirred the conscience and tens of millions of americans, and if my view marked a turning point in this country's attitude towards, racial justice. when 6-year-old daughter dgiann, when i met with the family, i looked down to say hi to her, she said, "daddy changed the world." that's what gianna said, his daughter, "daddy changed the world." and i believe she's right. not because this kind of justice stopped, it clearly hasn't. but because the ground shifted. because it changed minds and
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mindsets, because it laid the groundwork for progress. covid-19 is further ripped a path of destruction through every community in america but no one has been spared but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. just look at the numbers. 40% of fronp frontline workers, nurses, first responders, are americans of color and many are still living on the edge. one in ten black americans are out of work today. one in 11 latino americans are is out of work today. one in seven house holes in america, about one in four black, one in five latino households in america, report that they don't have enough food to eat in the united states of america. black and latino americans are dyeing of covid-19 at rates nearly three times that of white americans. and it's not white america's fought but just a fact. and americans now know, and
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especially younger americans, one of the reasons i'm so optimistic about this nation is that today's generation of young americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that america has ever seen. and they're pulling this toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the the huge gap in economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else. forced to confront the the existential crisis of climate and, yes, forced us to con front systemic racism and white supremacy. it's just been weeks since all america witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, a political extremist and white supremacist, violently attack the capitol of our democracy. so now, now is the time to act. it's time to act because that's what the faith and morality calls to do. across nearly every faith, the same principles hold, we're all
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god's children. we should treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. and this is time to act, it is time to act because it's what the core values of this nation call us to do. and i believe the vast majority of americans, democrats, republicans and independents share these values and want us to act as well. we've never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation and state the obvious, that all people aren't created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. and it's time to act now not only because it's the right thing to do but because if we do, we'll all be better off for it. for too long we allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise this nation to fester. you know, we bought the view that america is a zero-sum gain in many cases. if you succeed, i fail. if you get ahead, i fall behind. if you get the job, i lose mine.
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maybe worst of all, if i hold you down, i lift myself up. we've lost sight of what president kennedy told us when he said a rising tide lifts all boats. when we lift each other up, we're all lifted up. you know, and the corollary's true as well, when any one of us is held down, we're all held back. more and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but i don't think you need economic studies to see the truth. just imagine if instead of consigning millions of american children to underresourced schools, we gave each and every 3, 4-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school, not day care, school and grow and thrive in school. when they've done that, places have been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.
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well, does anyone -- anyone in this whole nation think we're not all better off if that were to happen? just imagine instead of denying millions of americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth, we made it possible for them to buy a home, their first home, and begin to build equity to provide for those families and send their children off to school. does anyone doubt that the whole nation would be better off? just imagine, instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their deeream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their communities. does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off? imagine more incredibly creative and innovative we would be if this nation held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities and minority service institutions that had the same funding
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resources as public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. you know, just ask the first hbcu graduate elected vice president if that's not true. but to do this, i believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equity. yes, we need criminal justice reform. but that isn't nearly enough. we need to open the promise of america to every american. and that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government, it has to be the business of the whole of government. that's why i issued among the first days my whole of government executive order that will for the first time advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions. it focuses on the full range of communities who have been long
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underserved and overlooked. people of color, america with disabilities, lgbtq americans, religious minorities, rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty. i've asked ambassador susan rice to lead the administration's charge through the white house and domestic policy council because i know she will see it through. every white house, every white house component and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone's job. today i will be shortly signing an additional package of executive actions to continue this vital work. housing, for example, housing is a right in america and home ownership is an essential tool to wealth creation and to be passed down to generations. today unanimous directing the department of housing and urban affairs and urban development to redress historical racism and
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federal housing policies. today i'm directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with indian tribes, respect the tribal sovereignty. respect for tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone in engaging with native american communities. this builds on the work we did last week to expand tribes access to the strategic national stockpile for the first time. to ensure that they receive help from the federal emergency management agency, fema, to fight this pandemic. today i'm directing federal agencies to combat resurgents of xenophobia, particularly against asian americans and pacific islanders that we've seen skyrocket through this pandemic. this is unacceptable and it's un-american. i have asked the department of justice to strengthen this partnership with the asian american pacific island community to prevent those hate
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crimes. i've also asked the department of health and human services to put out best practices for combating xenophobia in our national response to covid. look, in the weeks ahead, i'll be reaffirming the federal government's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the obama/biden administration. that's why i'm rescinding the previous administration's harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training and abolish the offense of counterfactual 1776 commission. unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies. today i'm also issuing an executive order that will ultimately end the justice department's use of private prisons, an industry that houses prechildhood detainees and federal prisoners. the executive order directs the attorney general to decline to
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renew contracts with privately operated criminal facilities, a step we started to take at the end of the obama administration, and was reversed under the previous administration. this is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off inc incarceration that's less human and safe as studies show. it is less than the beginning of the administration's plan to address the systemic problems in our criminal justice system. here's another thing we need to do, we need to restore and expand the voting rights act, named after our dear friend john lewis, and continue to fight back against laws that many states are engaged in to suppress the right to vote while expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters. because here's the deal, and i'll close with this, i ran for president because i believe we're in a battle for the soul of this nation. the simple truth is our soul
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will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist. we can't eliminate it overnight. we can't eliminate everything but it is corrosive, it's destructive and it's costly. it cost every american, not just who felt the sting of racial injustice. we're not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism. we're also less prosperous, we're less successful, we're less secure. we must change and i know it's going to take time, but i know we can do it. and i firmly believe the nation is ready to change but government has to change as well. we need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day. today, tomorrow and every day. i'm going to sign these executive actions to continue the work to make real the promise of america for every american. again, i'm not promising we can end it tomorrow, but i promise
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you, we're going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism and every branch of the white house and the federal government is going to be part of that effort. thank you. this first executive order is a memorandum for the secretary of housing and urban development to redress our nation's and the federal government's history of discriminatory housing practices and policies .
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next executive order is informing a incarceration system by limiting the use of privately operated criminal detention facilities. the third executive order is a memorandum for the heads of the executive departments and agencies, travel consultation on relationships. the last executive order,
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condemning and combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance against asian americans and pacific islanders in the united states. i think the country is ready, and i know this administration is ready. thank you. >> mr. president, talk about -- >> you. send your best. >> there you go, president biden announcing more executive orders. these today aimed at achieving or attempting to achieve racial equality in america. among the changes biden has directed the department of justice to not renew any federal contracts with private prisons. they say private prisons are subpar when it comes to the safety and security of the inmates. biden also announcing steps today to promote equitable
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housing, and he says he will establish the policy of his administration to be that to condemn any anti-asian bias. these are just some of the steps he took today. abby, what stood out most to you? >> i think this entire event is something that is part of a longer process this administration is having to address directly the concerns of the people who put them in the white house in the first place. black voters, voters of color who came out in large numbers to elect joe biden wanted to see these policies which they would argue are incredibly divisive rolled back. and it's an important step, i think particularly on the private prisons. this is something democratic activists have been pushing for, for a really long time. not just because of the conditions in private prisons, and because the idea that the i s incentivizing private
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corporations from the profits -- or mostly disproportionate black and brown people is part of the systemic problem in the criminal justice system. so it's a huge step for biden to take so early on in his administration. and it makes me think back to what he said in his acceptance speech when he got -- when he won the presidency in november. he said, you know, african-americans have always had my back and i will always have yours. a lot of people in the plaque community took that as a promise that he would not just take the votes of black voters but he would actually do things pretty immediately to address some of their main concerns and i think this is one of their efforts to do that. >> i think without question he wouldn't be president right now if it weren't the for black voters specifically. james clyburn, and black voters in south carolina who basically renewed his presidential hopes. let's go to laura coats. laura, as a former prosecutor, how significant do you think it is for biden, president biden,
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to not renew federal contracts for private prisons? >> extraordinarily so. the idea of incentivizing is one you really have to unpack. remember, if you're a private prison, you're not held to the same stappndards of transparenc on data, you don't have to abide by the same discussions on releases. remember, the longer a person is in prison, the longer they will have the term, the more money they will be able to get. they're not only incentivizing their actual introduction into the prison but you're also not adhering to the principles we have in terms of rehabilitation and release. if that's not a priority for you, if you're driven more by the profit, you're less concerned about the fundamentals of our justice system. it's also important to note this is joe biden, years ago before he was running for president and he was somebody early in his campaign was talked about as somebody who had a relationship with black americans and brown populations because of his stance on crime, because of his
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omnibus bill, because of the fact a lot of this overpopulation of prisons is a direct result of the crack/cocaine distinction and other things. so when you have him now going full throttle to say, look, we're going to no longer incentivize, i'm going to hold our prisons to the standards we have at every other federal prison, you're talking about the ideas of not crucial and unusual punishment, having more security for not only the prisoners but the guards, this is a very big step and one that needs to be done. >> also, if i can just say, laura, this is different from where joe biden was on a lot of these issues in the beginning of his career in the 1970s and 1980s. in fact, it was in this very room when then senator, now vice president kamala harris first learned about from me that joe biden had opposed busing. she, of course, had a different view of it because she had benefited from the integration of schools in california.
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that became a campaign issue to a degree during one of the first debates when kamala harris, vice president harris, talked about that little girl was me. and so there's -- this has been an evolution for joe biden, just as it has been an evolution for the country. >> that's true. and, of course, his evolution leads to progress in terms of criminal justice reform. remember we as a society are evolving. you talk about lawyers as practicing law. the reason for that is because, of course, we expect there to be evolution, we expect there to be interpretations. of we are not a draconian system. we are intended to be one based on precedent and that also bakes in the recipe the evolution of how we view accountability in our country, how we view criminality in our country, the way in which we prosecute and pursue justice. so to have evolution coming from the head of the executive branch of government, jake, whose job it is to enforce the law does bode well. of course, there's a lot to be
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desired still but this is but one step, very important one, but one step, if you don't address, of course, some of the reasoning or some of the laws and reforms that you take into consideration about accountability overall, who you actually fund prisons by is not going to solve all of the dilemmas but it certainly does bode very well for those who are justice reform advocates who are looking to simply level of playing field or at a bare minimum allow for people who are placed in our prisons to be treated fairly, humanely, and not to be wrapped in a rat race for profit. >> lauren, abby, stay with me. wolf? interesting, we're getting breaking news, jake, right now, that's significant. former president donald trump is now expanding his impeachment legal team by tapping a former prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer. let's bring in cnn's jeff zeleny. jeff, the president is still scrambling to shape up his team. he's got less than two weeks to
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go before the trial on the senate floor begins. >> two weeks exactly before president trump is standing trial in the senate for the second impeachment. we are learning he has now added another south carolina lawyer to his defense team. this is the second south carolina lawyer he's added. her name is debra barbier. my colleague and i are reporting he's still looking for his legal team, focusing on a lot of south carolina lawyers. why is that? because of senator lindsey graham, of course, the state's senior republican senator and close ally of the president, is trying to help president trump build his legal team. so he's focusing on really finding lawyers who are in private practice, who are willing to come aboard to help the former president. and this is someone who is a former federal prosecutor now. she's in private practice, has exper experience as a criminal defense attorney as well, really have taken on controversial clients over the years. but we're learning the former president is still expanding his team, still looking for more
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lawyers. one question over all of this is some law firms are simply not interested in signing on to this. there are a variety of questions over just the controversy associated with this as well as will they get paid? of course, the president has a long history of sometimes not paying all of his bills, legal matters and otherwise. so that is an essential question here. two weeks from now, of course, his legal team will be in place and senate republicans are also hearing from a constitutional lawyer as well about just the questions of can a former president be impeached and tried? so these are some of the things that his defense team will be presenting. but for now at least he has a new lawyer and we're told others will likely be added to the team in the coming days, wolf. >> we'll see if just his lawyers show up on the senate floor during the actual trial or if he perhaps makes an appearance as well. so there's a lot that is still out there. stand by. i want to bring in phil mattingly. phil, i understand we're just
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getting word about the senate minority leader mitch mcconnell's latest statements just ahead of this trial. what are you hearing? >> wolf, jeff zeleny was talking about the closed-door lunch senate republicans held before the swearing in that should start shortly. my colleague manu raju reports from a source inside that lunch that everybody is closely watching senate minority leader mitch mcconnell. obviously it's become very clear over the last several weeks according to people close to him that he believed what the president did in the lead up to the january 6th attack may have been an impeachable offense and there's also no question that mcconnell has broken away completely from president trump. they have not spoken since december 15th. he's tried to move his conference away from several elements of key agenda items of president trump, now former president trump over the last several months as well, move things in a different direction. at this closed-door lunch, manu reports he did not tip his hand and made clear to his conference that everything would be litigated in the briefs.
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i think what this sets up going forward is obviously everybody is going to watch how republicans vote on this procedural issue that will come up in a short while, particularly how the senior senator from kentucky votes. but i think also how he acts or interacts over the course of the next several weeks or however long the trial takes once it launches february 8th. i don't think there's any question now that anybody expects 17 senators to join with democrats to convict the the president and i'm not sure people i talk to close to minority leader mitch mcconnell that anybody expects mcconnell to convict the at this point in time. but how he operates over the next several weeks, what he says publicly over the next several weeks, it carries a lot of weight. not because he will bring 16 republicans along to convict the but because he's still the leader. he's still very respected inside the conference and he's so clearly in the words of one adviser done with president trump, how he operates is going to be something that's very closely watched not just by us, not just by democrats but by republicans inside his own
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conference, wolf. >> certainly is. thank you very much, john king, who is with us always. john, we're waiting for this quorum call. and then all 100 u.s. senators will be sworn in, in groups of four alphabetically. and then the process can get going. they'll hold off two weeks before the real trial begins. >> which is another odd twist in these unprecedented times, that you swear in the jury and then hit the pause button for two weeks. but it's a reminder of this remarkable collision of events, impeachment trial of the former president just days in to the critical early days of anew president. how much does this impact the biden agenda? how much does this impact the mood on the hill? just today they reorganized a 50/50 senate. how much does this impact soul searching -- there are stronger words you can use -- going on in the republican party now over do we stay loyal from donald trump, do we break from him completely, do we try to find some middle ground? i think it's important, and phil
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was touching on this, the consequence of mitch mcconnell saying open mind. keep an open mind and let's hear the evidence. for four years donald trump said jump and most republicans said how high. mitch mcconnell is trying to prove this day is over. that does not mean in the end he's going to vote to convict or in the end organize enough republicans to vote to convict. it means he's planting his flag in the i'm worried about my senate, i'm worried about 2022. there are other senators who are already thinking about 2024, presidential ambitions. we're heading into very unprecedented times where if you're president biden, you're worried about covid relief plans and vaccines. yes, you believe donald trump should be held accountable but you're worried about your agenda because the impeachment trial will fall critically in the 100-day period. republicans, there's a mess in the republican party, big fight over where you should stand. mcconnell making clear he's done with p electric, in phil's words, and that's correct, but if you're a democrat or somebody at home or republican that things the preb shosident shoul
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convicted, there's no math to get you to 17. however, in these unprecedented times, we'll see. >> and a possibility of a lot of new evidence coming forward in the next two weeks that would maybe create an opportunity for the democrats to go ahead and find 17 republicans and convict. >> well, i think they're hoping to find that line that some people will have to cross when they didn't intend to cross when they sat down in the chamber. there's some people like marco rubio who already said this is a waste of time. we shouldn't be doing it. rand paul saying, look, it's unconstitutional. we shouldn't even be doing this. but they're hoping that there are some people who could be swayed by their own conscience -- and i keep coming back to the thought that the people who are the judges are also the potential victims here, and also the witnesses. and they know what happened that day.
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they know how close that mob was to running into the senate chamber when they were sitting there and they know that something really more awful could have happened. so i think with the use of video perhaps, we don't know if they're going to call witnesses, i think that they're hoping that some people may just say this was a step too far and we have to condemn the president. they're not saying that's likely to happen, but they believe that it is their constitutional duty to try to make it happen, wolf. >> you know, that's really important. jake, if in fact the senate were to convict trump of this one article of impeachment, they can then pass a separate bill that would bar him from ever serving, running for any federal office again, which some republicans certainly would welcome. >> secretly, yes, absolutely, wolf. we'll see how many are willing to vote that way.
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because right now we should note that instead of holding former president trump accountable for his role in inciting the capitol riot, a role that even kevin mccarthy, the house minority leader and mitch mcconnell, the house majority -- or senate majority leader or soon to be mortgage leader, have said others are making excuses and his former ambassador to the united nations, for example, nikki haley, potential 2024 presidential candidate, she believes democrats should just give the former president a break. haley admits she's troubled by trump's actions after the election. she said his words on the day of the violent capitol riot, terrorist attack, were, quote, not his finest but the former south carolina governor says she opposes the impeachment. she argues trump is the real victim in ways of the capitol insurrection. take a listen. >> they beat him up before he got into office. they're beating him up after he leaves office. at some point, i mean, give the man a break.
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i mean move on. the idea is they're going to do impeachment? that's not going to bring our country together. that's only dividing our country. >> abby phillip and dana bash are with me. and we should note after the terrorist attack, haley denounced trump. she said he was, quote, badly wrong with his words and stroking and inciting the riot. now she's saying that he's the vic the, victim, democrats are beating him up, time to move on. it's remarkable considering how often republicans are people who portray themselves as someone who supports consequences. >> and justice, never mind the blue line of police, who were certainly in large part victims in that event as well. look at what she said, look where she said it. she went on fox news. she was speaking to a very specific audience, parenthesizes
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republican primary voters for 2024. do we need to go to the floor? >> let's listen in. senator patrick leahy is beginning the trial. >> the senate rules on impeachment in the united states constitution, the president pro tem emeritus, the senator from iowa, will now administer the oath to the president pro tem, patrick j. leahy. please raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear to all things pertaining to the trial of impeachment of donal john trump, former president of the united states now pending, that you will do impartial justice according to the constitution and the laws, so help you god? >> i do, so help me god.
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>> at this time i will administer the oath of the senators in the chamber, and in accordance with -- in conformance of article one, section 3, clause 6 of the constitution and the senate's impeachment rules. will all senators now rise and raise their right happened. right hand. do you sole uply swear that all things pertaining to the trial of the impeachment of donald john trump, former president of the united states, now pending, you do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws so help you god? >> i do.
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>> calling the names in groups of four, senators will present to the desk to sign the oath book. >> mr. baldwin, mr. barrasso, mr. bennett, mrs. blackburn. >> so let's just tell our viewers what we're watching here. we're watching senators swearing an oath, right? >> swearing an oath to be impartial jurors in this trial. and it is something that now, because this is the second time this happened in a year for the same man, maybe have gotten accustom to seeing but we have
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to emphasize this is a very, very rare event in american history, only the fourth time this kind of thing has happened, that senators have had to line up of both parties to swear to be impartial jurors for an impeachment trial of the president of the united states, now former. >> and they're doing it in alphabetical order. that's senator roy blunt, a member of republican leadership who has a potential primary challenge to worry about for 2022. senator cory booker of the new jersey. and that primary challenge threat looms over a lot of this, abby, for many of these senators if they deviate from allegiance to trump, that might be held against them and they might face a challenge, even if they've been incredibly loyal to donald trump, as have marco rubio and robert blunt, if they deviate from complete and utter loyalty,
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they might face defeat in the primary. >> that is the predominant force that is going to be driving what we see over the next several weeks, where republicans are not entirely sure what the politics of donald trump is going to be in the long term but they certainly know in the near term that he has overwhelming support among republicans. and those are the people that they need in their primary fights, in their -- when they go up for re-election, especially in these off years, like 2022. so it's driving everything. and there are some real questions about whether president trump's threats about some of these individuals, retribution against those who cross him will actually materialize but you see many republicans in the senate following, frankly, many republicans in the house in basically making a determination that they would rather be safe than sorry. they would rather no the cross
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trump and not take a risk and just avoid the issue altogether. >> and they're looking for ways out. >> off-ramps, right. >> as jamie called it, a chair to hide under. and one of those chairs argue it is not constitutional, a motion we will likely see come up from senator rand paul. you're probably going to see a lot of republicans take that off-ramp, to use your metaphor. >> and they had a meeting today at lunch, at the senate republican lunch, with one of the republican lawyers, jonathan turley, who's been putting forward this idea that it's unconstitutionally unwise to impeach a former president. it just gives you a sense that they are trying to find a place where they can be comfortable going that does not involve them actually dealing with the substance of what -- what trump did, which by the way, actually
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is not that dissimilar from what happened a year ago during the last impeachment trial, where you saw a lot of republicans doing the very same thing, basically implying that, you know, they didn't like how the call with ukraine went but, you know, i don't think we should impeach him over this because technically, he was allowed to have a conversation with, you know, the ukrainian president about this general subject. just looking for technicalities i think is where republicans have been with president trump not just in these two impeachment trials, but really the four years in which he was president. >> that's delaware senator chris coons and here's john cornyn from texas. let's bring in cnn legal analyst norm meyers. he served as special counsel to president obama, and he joins us now to talk about this impeachment trial. norm, you were the former impeachment counsel to the house democrats last time. does the constitution differentiate when it comes to
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impeaching and potentially convicting a current president versus a former president, because my understanding is that is the objection senator rand paul and others are raising, because he's no longer president, three say, this is not constitutional. >> jake, thanks for having me back. that argument, like so much we hear from the gop in defense of trump, is constitutional nonsense. the constitution has a remedy of disqualification. that applies to former officials and former presidents. it's been done before with other officials in the 19th century with bill knapp, in the 18th century with blount. and as john quincy adams said, "i could be impeached until my
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last dyeing day." jonathan turley, who's advancing this argument, wrote in a law review article it was proper. it's just specious and cowardly, jake. >> in fact, several years ago a lot of trump's minions, house republicans, were talking about how you can impeach a former president, referring to president obama with the nonsensical obamagate, nonexistent crime. they were saying then you could do it to a former president. now they're singing a different tune. norm, many senators cited chief justice john roberts not presiding over this trial is a sign it's not constitutional. is that any argument? and why isn't he presiding? >> the constitution provides the chief juice presides over the trial of a current president. so there's a distinction that is
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rooted in the constitutional language. typically for all other trials, including ex-officials, you have the president pro tem of the senate, and that's going to be senator leahy, the most senior ranking member of the majority party who will preside. that's been done many, many times. but to jump from that constitutional distinction to the completely cowardly ostrich like bury your head in the sand position, we can't sit in judgment on trump, is just ridiculous. it just doesn't hold up legally. >> that's lindsey graham signing in right now, lindsey graham, who's been helping former president trump quite a bit in finding representation, defense counsel. norm, the last impeachment trial a year ago took 21 days. how long are you expecting this one will proceed? >> well, i think the last
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impeachment trial is probably not a bad template for us to study, jake, as we look at how long this one will go. there's some things that could lead to a faster trial here, as you and our colleagues have noted. every single person in that chamber is a witness. they saw what happened so the facts are well known. but there are some things that require maybe a little more time. we haven't put together the full picture of what happened and the complicity of the president of his enablers and complicity of some in that chamber, jake. >> norm, norm, let me interrupt you because senator josh hawley was just signing his name in the missouri republican, who was one of those who was pushing this big lie that the election could be overturned on january 6th that was part of the reason there was this incitement and
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false belief by many of the insurrectionists when they stormed the capitol. laura coates, let me bring you in along with norm, how does somebody like josh hawley get treated in this? he's obviously a juror but one could argue he should also be a co-defendant in the sense that he and ted cruz were also responsible for pushing the big lie which maybe their words that day didn't incite but their contribution to this fiction that the election was stolen and could be overturned on january 6th, they played a role. >> that's an important point to raise, jake. as is the idea of what they're going to have to prove to see who would be a co-defendant of sorts. remember, we still don't know what mitch mcconnell meant when he said other important figures. maybe he meant hawley and cruz. maybe he meant somebody else
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that we're not yet privy to. but it's important to think about what the stapped ard will be standard will be when you're trying to prove this is not protected speech. and one of the characteristics that you have to prove is it had to be an indefinite point in time. it can't be some indefinite point in the future. your comment about making comments in the past, whether he has now we saw that in terms of january 6. there was a straight line right down constitution avenue. many. insurrectionists seemed to rely on the president's own comments for that very reason. that's going to be a very big hurdle for the house impeachment managers to convince of that, and they will be able to corroborate or contexturalize by giving more information like warren was talking about, not only about what president trump said at the real but what he did or did not do to quell the unrest, what he did or did not do to aid and abet insurrectionists. did he provide some ability to have military law enforcement to reinforce the capitol police, or
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what happened on that call when he phoned senator mike lee inadvertently hoping to get senator tuberville instead? what was going on at that point in time. all of these context you'll ways to get to the president's state of mind are going to be part of any effective impeachment evidence by the managers. the if they don't have that, you will run into what you're talking about, the idea, well, what distinguishes president trump from say a hawley or a cruz? what makes them different, the uniqueness of the president in that moment and who they were following. >> it's interesting that they have -- that i think they are about half done. senator langford was the last one i saw who signed the book so they still have maybe 50 to go. norm, let me ask you forgetting for a second the issue of co-defendants because there's obviously a complaint before the senate ethics committee when it comes to the roles that senators cruz and senators hawley allegedly played in the
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insurrection. senator ben sasse, a republican from nebraska, shortly after the insurrection went on the hugh hewitt radio show and said that he had called the white house while attack was going on and senior white house officials told him that the president was, quote, delighted at the images he was seeing with his supporters staging this terrorist attack on the capitol. is ben sasse a witness? who would you call as witnesses? >> jake, you read my mind. i was going to supplement laura's brilliant analysis by saying that senator sasse may have the key to helping prove this case as well, and he's sitting in that chamber because he knows who in the white house saw trump celebrating this insurrection against two branches of american government, not just congress but his own vice president from the
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executive branch. i think that very important witnesses will also include to prove that legal issue, what did trump intend? what did he want here? let's have the insurrectionists appear whether in person or by video one after another. they have said i attacked the congress because the president told me to. he wanted me to do it. i was acting on the orders of the president. when you hear his words that you won't have a government left unless you fight for it, let's march down pennsylvania avenue. that is directly foreseeable and that's the kind of legal proof, but no matter how good the case, jake, we need courage. that is ultimately what this is about, and as we seat senators taking their oates, will they have the courage to honor those oates? that's the american story for almost 250 years of americans who health courage to honor what they pledged to this country.
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that's what this trial above all is going to be about. >> we just saw the senate, now minority leader mitch mcconnell sign his oath. we'll continue to watch this. let me throw it back to wolf. >> still on the letter "m." they will go through the awful better, all 100 senators signing this book. they are jurors now in this trial. i want to bring in cnn presidential historian douglas brinkly. this is an historic moment. only fourth time that the u.s. senate has tried to deal with the impeachment of a president, in this particular case, now an ex-president. >> well, that's right, wolf. jake tapper had a book called "unpresent" and we've used that word over and over again to define anything that donald trump has done but this is something that's sort of mind-boggling, that we're having a senate impeachment trial of an ex-president, one who in incited an insurrection on the u.s. capitol and we're really having a solemn ceremony we're
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witnessing right now pausbecaus we're hoping that each of these senators will be an impartial juror, that they will put blinders on to some of their partisan thinking and just look at the evidence that's going to be presented, and i do think, wolf, the moment -- the man of the moment in the spotlight is mitch mcconnell because we're going to be almost body language on him as the trial as we do sometimes at the state of the union addresses. does he have the power to bring so 10, 15 republican senators to meet a ben sasse or meet a mitt romney and come up with 17 senators or not, and he's going to be poker-faced for a long time. let's just hope that he's earnestly going to listen to the information and do what's best for the country, not whatty he thinks is best for the republican party in the future. >> rob portman signing right now, and then they will get up to the letter "jack reed" of rhode island will sign. they are getting close to the end. what do you make of the fact
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that this very chamber, the u.s. capitol, capitol hill was actually the scene of this crime on january 6th, some 20 days ago. >> i think, wolf, that the crime scene is going to be a term -- the new term used over and over again because it is quite surreal. the fact that opentives or senators, people working in the capitol, the police could end up being witnesses for all of this. it makes it -- you know, they are going to be in the chambers rethinking what transpired on that heinous january 6th of 2021. they will be thinking about the blood on donald trump's hands and they will think is he fit to serve of in any capacity? is he fit to be in city council or state rep, or has this person done damage to the united states, actually behaved in a criminal conspirator call
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sdegsist fashion, whether donald trump gets away with what happened on the 6th or whether history holds him accountable, and that's all going to be on trial here in the next few weeks. it's an inconvenience to joe biden. he'd rather be focusing on other things, but alas, history always seems to be an inconvenience. >> i know you're a presidential historian and an excellent one at that, douglas, but what do you think of the argument that some of the republicans are going to be making that this whole trial of the senate is simply unconstitutional. you can't have a trial like this of a former president? >> well, that's foolhardy. that's typical rand paul talking nonsense. i mean, one could go through, you know, the belknaps of the 19th sun try and run some of those through but if you took rand paul's logic at face value, that means any u.s. president in his last three days could burn a white house, could create havoc, could empty the entire jail
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systems of america with a pardon, could -- could set militia groups on citizens. that would mean any u.s. president in his last days in office would have carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to do and never face an impeachment trial. so, of course, the founders didn't want, that and there's no problem with having senator leahy preside and not chief justice roberts. those are just talking points to the trumpians and the hope of the ceremony here is when you're signing your name, you're thinking back to history that your name is going to live forever and that you need to be righteous and justice and honest and fair and not get tangled in, you know, trump shenanigans and thinking about 2022 or 2024 too fast. deal with the crime scene of january 21st -- i mean, january 6th in a pure, patriotic and
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coherent way. >> stand by for a moment. you know, john, the senator, senator rand paul, there's a lot of speculation he may actually call for a point of order vote on the whole issue of the constitutionality of going ahead with the trial of a former president. >> and that vote will fail, but, remember, to convict you need t two-thirds so it could be an odd way, first test case. how many republicans support rand paul trying to throw this out at the beginning by saying the whole thing sun constitutional? let's stop this before it begins. there will be a trial in two weeks. the there is an early test of republicans and doug is making an important point from a historical perspective you can't ignore the president's politics. this is an insurrection born of his big lie and big rhetoric of the 2020 election but the republican senators are going to be thinking a lot about 2022 and it's interesting and noteworthy that mitch mcconnell is standing
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by. mitch mcconnell will not say how he'll vote. mitch mcconnell promised there who not be a conviction from the beginning so it is very different, but republicans have 20, 20 seats now held by senate republicans in 2022 and mitch mcconnell is hoping to get their power back. is it a traditional mid-term? in a traditional mid-term, the president's party lose seats or is it like 2002? is the pandemic, is this the insurrection that created a climate when george w. bush's party gained seats in the first mid-term because the country was in a national crisis. we don't note answer to that crisis, but i get people at home who think this should be about the facts and the violence insurrection. this should be about the fact that everyone has said that that is a crime scene. where this is going to play out. it should be about what the president said, the former president now said, what donald trump said and what he did. i get that. however, it's a political institution. there's an election in less than two years now and a lot of those republican senators will be thinking about that. they will be thinking abou