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The Presidential Legacy Of Donald Trump


Thanks so much for joining us after what was a painful week. Here is where we are this morning. Investigators are continuing to make arrests after the attack on the Capitol, dozens so far, for violent entry and disorderly conduct, theft and more. And the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia says that number may reach into the hundreds. There has not yet been an arrest in the death of police officer Brian Sicknick, who may have been bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by the pro-Trump extremists.

House Democrats say they have drafted articles of impeachment over Donald Trump's incitement and plan to move forward with the process tomorrow. He will almost certainly end up being the only president yet to have been impeached twice. And meanwhile, we are getting a clearer picture of just how violent and malicious the attack on the House, the Senate and the vice president was.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a chant of Hang Mike Pence. There were also pipe bombs, threats made to Nancy Pelosi and attackers holding flexi-cuffs in the same space legislators had fled just moments before. President Trump was expected to go to Camp David this weekend, the presidential retreat. He has instead remained at the White House.

Maggie Haberman joins us now. She has covered the Trump presidency as White House correspondent for The New York Times. Good morning.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so does Adam Serwer, who covers politics at The Atlantic. Adam, good morning to you.

ADAM SERWER: Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just a few questions to you, Maggie, to start - do you know the president's state of mind this morning and what things are like at the White House this weekend?

HABERMAN: Things at the White House are actually quite quiet in the sense that there's almost no advisers left. He is - his moods are all over the place. And I confess to being somebody who thinks that we spend too much time on his moods. But he's very angry. He's not happy about his Twitter deplatforming and deplatforming on other sites, although he has told advisers he was expecting it and he knew it was going to happen once Twitter started affixing labels to his tweets.

The big thing that is going on at the White House is a discussion about how to wrap up his presidency. Basically, advisers want to, quote, unquote, "move past" what happened last week, which is sort of a breathtaking thing to think about, given the enormity of the violence and given that it followed a Trump speech. They're hoping to wrap up the next week and a half, week and a few days, with the president highlighting what they see as aspects of his legacy each day, including a trip to the border. And then he's expected to leave the White House a day before Joe Biden's inauguration. That's the current plan.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Maggie, you say we spend too much time on the president's moods. But we hear leaders, people of authority, saying he's unbalanced, unhinged, that maybe he shouldn't be able to launch nuclear weapons. Is that political hyperbole? Or should people be concerned?

HABERMAN: No, look. I think that we have seen a dramatic shift in the president's behavior and in what the president is clearly willing to do ever since the election. And I can trace it back first to November 14, when he made Rudy Giuliani the lead of his legal efforts to overthrow the results of the election and then to a meeting a couple of weeks ago in the Oval Office, where he had Sidney Powell, who is a conspiracy theorist currently being sued by Dominion Voting Systems, where he wanted to hire her for a White House counsel job. So I think that there is definitely an escalation. But I do think that over four years - and I should be more precise. The explanation given by a lot of people for his behavior on all manner of things, policy acts taken or not taken - you name it - has been about how he feels. And I think that that has been disorienting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Adam, I'd like to bring you in now. What do we know at this moment about the relationship between the president and the vice president? And how serious is the talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, which is, you know, being considered? But, apparently, Pence is unwilling to do that, maybe.

SERWER: Well, I think for the Republicans, invoking the 25th Amendment would, you know, cause a serious rift within the party. And so they don't want to do it. They want to find a way to contain a president who incited a violent attack on a separate branch of government long enough to - for him to be - for the peaceful transition of power to take place. The problem is it's not really clear that they can do that. I mean, this is a president who sent a lynch mob at the Capitol that came within moments of possibly causing a situation where we had lawmakers being, you know, killed in the halls of the Capitol. It's - I think that people - we have not yet - I mean, as reporting from The Washington Post and other outlets has shown today, we came very close to the kind of massacre that the United States hasn't seen since the reconstruction governments were overthrown in the South in the 19th century. And we didn't see that in the Capitol of the United States. We saw that across state Capitols in Southern states. But this is the first time we've seen something like this directed at the federal seat of government in the United States. It didn't even happen during the Civil War. So I think we're in a very dangerous moment. I think we didn't really appreciate how - quite how dangerous it was at the time, in part because there wasn't enough information. But now I think it's quite clear that we came very close. And Mike Pence came very close. As you can tell from the clip that you played earlier, Mike Pence came very close to being the target of a violent attack.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But if the Republicans want to prevent the 25th Amendment from playing out - and we're hearing from Maggie Haberman that the president is planning a tour to highlight his successes - how much sort of culpability do you feel the president bears for the bloodshed Wednesday? And how do you think it will play out for him to accept some sort of responsibility?

SERWER: I don't think the president plans to accept any responsibility. And I think that the - what happened at the Capitol is entirely his fault. He directed the mob. He told them that they would lose their country if they did not force the vice president to overturn the results of a democratic election to keep him in power. And they acted the way that a mob would act if told that by their leader. And then he went home and watched the whole thing on TV.

You know, I think the Republican Party understands that Trump is an extraordinarily popular figure to their voters. And they don't want to be put in a situation where they have to answer to the same kind of mob that attacked the Capitol. It's - I mean, it's difficult to explain how dangerous the situation is at this moment and how Republicans perceive that they're in sort of a political pickle that may hurt their long-term prospects if they don't sufficiently show loyalty to the man who incited a violent attack on the seat of democracy in the United States. It sounds absurd. But then, you know, the past four years have been an exercise in extremely dangerous absurdities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Maggie, what kind of effect do you think impeachment will have? And I say will because it does seem like the House will bring articles on Monday.

HABERMAN: Look. I think that there's just no time for the president to be tried before he leaves office. So we will be looking at a trial going into the weeks after. I think that Republicans are hopeful that Joe Biden will somehow intercede because their argument is this will impact his ability to confirm his own nominees and begin his government. I think that there is - I think that's going to be a very hard line for Joe Biden. And I think that there is so much anger, understandably, among Democrats, you know, who had to hide under desks and were in fear for their lives, being asked to move around and just move beyond this and not focus on it.

I think impeachments - excuse me. I'm having - losing my voice. Impeachments are traumas on a country. But the argument from Democrats that is going to be made over and over is you can't do nothing, or the lesson is this could happen again, and this is fine. It is not just about trying to cripple President Trump from trying to be president again in 2024. I think that President Trump - you asked about his state of mind before - he still doesn't fully process what has happened after he spoke on Wednesday at a riot incited by him, in his words, a march from his supporters - by his supporters from that rally to the Capitol that he had wanted to join. He had been talking for days about joining. He still doesn't quite get how bad things are, not just in the country, but for him personally the second he leaves office.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Briefly, I want to ask you both because in many ways you have both defined how the public views this presidency. Adam, you wrote the line, the cruelty is the point about this administration. And Maggie, you have had the inside track on Trump's state of mind since the beginning. How do you think these four years will be remembered? Adam, then Maggie.

SERWER: I think a great deal - I think that depends a great deal on whether the people who are responsible for this are held accountable. There's a long history in the United States of people who engage in violent attacks on democracy and then succeed so wildly that they can rewrite history to their advantage. And the truth does not come out for decades. So if people are concerned about how this will be remembered, if there is no accountability for it, it will be remembered, at least for a while, possibly generations, as something that wasn't such a big deal. But if people are held accountable, they will remember it for what it was, which was a violent attack on democracy in the United States.


HABERMAN: I agree completely. And I think, again, this is why impeachment for Democrats and for some Republicans is seen as so important. And I think that you are already seeing Republicans trying to move past discussing what President Trump's role in this was by complaining about his being deplatformed from Twitter. And I think that's very telling about what this could bring in the future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Adam Serwer. He covers politics for The Atlantic. And Maggie Haberman who has been White House correspondent for The New York Times. Thanks to you both.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.