• Transcript
  • Show Notes

In this emergency episode of CAFE Insider, “Capitol Coup,” Preet and Anne react to today’s riots inside the Capitol building.

We hope you’re finding CAFE Insider informative. Email us at [email protected] with your suggestions and questions for Preet and Anne. 

This podcast is produced by CAFE Studios. 

Tamara Sepper – Executive Producer; Adam Waller – Senior Editorial Producer; Matthew Billy – Audio Producer; Jake Kaplan – Editorial Producer

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 

“Statement by President George W. Bush on Insurrection at the Capitol,” George W. Bush Presidential Center, 1/6/21

“Romney Condemns Insurrection at U.S. Capitol,” Senator Mitt Romney statement, 1/6/21

VIDEO: Donald Trump Speech “Save America” Rally Transcript, 1/6/21

In this emergency episode of CAFE Insider, “Capitol Coup,” Preet and Anne react to today’s riots inside the Capitol building.

Preet Bharara:

Hey, folks. Welcome to a special edition of Stay Tuned. We usually don’t tape on odd days. We’re recording this after hours on the evening of January 6th, Wednesday, and I’m joined by my friend and special guest, Anne Milgram. The reason we’re taping is it’s been quite a day in American history, I think. Anne, I don’t know if you’ll agree with me, but the day started out pretty great. I was in a pretty good mood with the news out of Georgia, that it seemed like both Democratic candidates had won. That Senate control was going to pass to the Democrats. My former boss, Senator Charles Schumer, was going to become the Senate Majority Leader. Then we got news sort of mid-morning or late morning that our very close dear friend, and friend of this podcast and podcast hosts in her own right for CAFE, Lisa Monaco is going to be nominated to be the next Deputy Attorney General of the United States.

Preet Bharara:

Lots of good vibes, lots of good feelings. And then everything turned dark this afternoon, as you all know, with basically the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, provoked by, incited by the president of the United States. By the way, those aren’t my words. Those are the words of the former president, George W. Bush, who called it an insurrection, incited by Donald Trump. And so I went from feelings of euphoria, and elation, and optimism, to feelings of anger, and sadness and disbelief over the course of three or four hours. Anne and I were texting each other, and we thought we, maybe partly to inform, but also partly as therapy for us, we should get together remotely from our homes and talk about it for a few minutes. Anne, how angry are you?

Anne Milgram:

It’s hard almost to put in words how both angry and also heartbroken I feel by what we saw today. I would echo what you said, Preet. This morning, I woke up seeing the Georgia win for Warnock, and then later today seeing the other race called for Ossoff, and just having this sense of a lot of things that really matter in our country right now, getting COVID under control, getting the vaccine to all Americans. It helps those things enormously. And just feeling just a real sense of relief in the morning from that. And then seeing Merrick Garland, who we’ll talk about this more I know next week. Merrick Garland, who is a deeply, deeply well respected, apolitical, thoughtful-

Preet Bharara:

… Honorable.

Anne Milgram:

Lawyer, who just… Very honorable. Just a man of integrity and good judgment. There are so many other ways to say it, but just someone who I think we both respect a great deal. Seeing him nominated to be Attorney General. Lisa Monaco, who I think is one of the most extraordinary lawyers and human beings in the entire world, become the Deputy AG. Vanita Gupta to be the Associate Attorney General.

Preet Bharara:

Also a friend, yeah.

Anne Milgram:

She’s an extraordinary… Yes, also a friend [crosstalk 00:03:06].

Preet Bharara:

It’s amazing team. It’s amazing team.

Anne Milgram:

It’s amazing team. A great civil rights leader. Kristen Clarke, who I worked with at DOJ, also phenomenal. And so it just made me feel really… And I sort of stopped to mention that, because it made me feel really good about the institutions of our government and about the rule of law. And like this feeling-

Preet Bharara:

… But they can’t take office for another few weeks.

Anne Milgram:

They can’t take office. Yes, [crosstalk 00:03:25].

Preet Bharara:

So we have this interim time [crosstalk 00:03:27].

Anne Milgram:

I sort of have this hopefulness

Preet Bharara:

Right. Yeah. No, I did too.

Anne Milgram:

And all this happened. You and I talked also on Tuesday, and I think one of the other things I wanted to ask you about, and I know there’s so much for us to cover. But on Tuesday, we both said just yesterday… It feels like it was a million years ago. But just yesterday-

Preet Bharara:

… Tuesday. You’re uttering as if it was four weeks ago.

Anne Milgram:

Yeah. I’m talking about it like it was a million years ago, because it feels that way. We both said that this was a stunt in some ways. That this was what Josh Hawley was doing, what Ted Cruz was doing, what Donald Trump was calling on Mike Pence to do, to disregard his constitutional obligations. That it wasn’t going to work. And you and I, I think were working really hard to make sure that listeners understood that Joe Biden will be president. And so, there was something about watching today, what is supposed to be just a symbol and the peaceful transfer of power, turned violent. And then watching this… And we should talk about the images in the United States Congress, but it did make me angry. And it also, it made me heartbroken. I think our country lost… It’s a very, very sad and I think deeply disappointing day for our country as a whole.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Look, we’re not Belarus, no offense to the people of Belarus. You see people breaking down the doors, breaking down windows to get into the Capitol Building, which you and I have spent a lot of time in, in our prior lives. A woman was shot and killed. We don’t know all the details yet. There’s a woman who’s dead because this mob descended upon the Capitol and somehow were able to gain access. Not only to the periphery of the Capitol, but they went to the House floor, they went to Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Anne Milgram:

And the Senate floor.

Preet Bharara:

And the Senate floor.

Anne Milgram:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

There’s a picture, I took a screenshot, I took of CNN because I couldn’t believe it. There’s an armed standoff on the House [crosstalk 00:05:27].

Anne Milgram:

I can’t believe that picture in the House of Representatives.

Preet Bharara:

On the House floor. And people engaging in all sorts of violence. People carrying guns and-

Anne Milgram:

… In to the United States Congress, where they’re prohibited [crosstalk 00:05:39].

Preet Bharara:

Into the United States Congress-

Anne Milgram:

… By anyone other than law enforcement. Yes.

Preet Bharara:

I want to come back to something that you and I have been texting about all day, which is what was going on with the police force. But our friend, Joyce Vance, made a good point on social media earlier. She said, “There’s time to talk about it, and we should talk about the lacking police presence and how they dealt with the rioters and the mob. But before we do that, we should acknowledge where the blame lies and who was fomenting this and who was inciting this.” And I think even people who have been kind of silent about the president, and pulled their punches about the president, even they today, 14 days away from the end of his term, finally are acknowledging that the president is dangerous and the president has blood on his hands from this. Is there any other way of thinking about it?

Anne Milgram:

Well, the speech the president gave… Remember that the president called on his supporters to come to Washington today for this specific event.

Preet Bharara:

Right. Angrily.

Anne Milgram:

There was considerable… Angrily. And there was a lot of reporting about the president’s call to action to get people to come to DC. And that he’s also been tweeting and out there in the media all week long, talking about trying to get Pence to not agree to certify the electors. And as we know, it’s a pretty administrative role for the vice president. The vice president didn’t have power to do what the president was asking him. But the president was calling on his supporters to show up. He then went to that protest today to address that protest. And he said, quote-

Donald Trump:

… And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.

Anne Milgram:

He encouraged his supporters at that rally to go to the Capitol. And there were already a large number of people who were at the Capitol. It was shortly thereafter that people broke through barricades. They went to the Capitol and we should point out the violence of this. It’s both that people were armed, who entered the Capitol building. It’s also that they took, it looked like, and there’s been a lot of footage of this on the media, but they took plexiglass to break the glass. It’s breaking and entering into a federal building. And it’s not just any federal building. This is the home of the United States.

Preet Bharara:

It’s the seat of democracy. [crosstalk 00:08:28].

Anne Milgram:

Where our laws are made. It is the seat of democracy.

Preet Bharara:

Of the United States of America. I’ve traveled by those subways, from the Senate buildings, as you did many times, and also from the House buildings. I don’t mean to be corny, but if there’s going to be a day to be corny, today’s the day. It’s like a temple of democracy. I never walked into the rotunda, or I never walked onto the floor of the Senate. Only some Senate staffers have access to the Senate floor. And I never walked in any of those places without sort of thinking, this is an unbelievable place to be and what a privilege it is to be there. The idea of those places [crosstalk 00:09:06].

Anne Milgram:

It’s a hollow place.

Preet Bharara:

It’s a hollow place.

Anne Milgram:

Yes. My first job ever was as a United States Congressional Page, in the House of Representatives.

Preet Bharara:

I always forget that.

Anne Milgram:

I was 15-years-old when I… Yeah. It is very formative in my mind. I cannot tell you how many days and nights I spent on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. And just, I have the deepest regard. I’ve certainly complained about members of Congress sometime, but I have the deepest regard for the institution and for what the men and women who serve there are trying to do, which is to make laws. When I saw that picture of the barricade of the front door to the House of Representatives, with armed law enforcement drawing guns to keep out violent, they’re not protestors, rioters.

Anne Milgram:

Whether we call it riot insurrection. I don’t know if you’ve gotten this question, but a lot of people have asked me, is this sedition, the violent overthrow of government? It is just… And we can debate, I think, in the future what we should call it. But just that image, it just brought home to me so powerfully that our government, like we just take for granted that it will be a peaceful transfer of power and that we will have free and fair elections.

Anne Milgram:

And we did have a free and fair election, and the president of the United States… We should also just talk for a minute, and I don’t want to… I’m giving him too much airtime, I think. When people told him after the protests had gone this incredibly violent way, and the president supporters stormed the Capitol, and basically took possession of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the president went to a videotape and basically said, “The election was stolen from us.” And doubled down on [crosstalk 00:10:49].

Preet Bharara:

He mildly said, probably because he was forced to, but we’re not forced to, because no one can force him to do anything. But was impressed upon to do something, and tell people to be peaceful and go home. He had that very weak tweet. But in the context of telling people to sort of not be violent, he also fed them the lies. He sent another tweet where he said [crosstalk 00:11:10].

Anne Milgram:

Yeah, I mean, he started with a lie.

Preet Bharara:

“Always remember this day.” Yeah. He’s encouraging them. Look, the other reason that I blame Donald Trump and his enablers is it’s a combination of things. It’s the combination of lying about the election, over, and over and over again, from the biggest bully pulpit in the world. And then inciting them to come and to go to the Capitol, provoking them. And then when the pyromaniac that is Trump has lit the fire, he does nothing to mitigate.

Preet Bharara:

Now, the reports are that he had no interest in telling people to stand down. He likes… I forget what this is from, and I’ll remember it eventually after we’re done taping, I’m sure. But some people just want to see the world burn, particularly after they’ve lost something. And that’s him. But we should talk about some of the sort of more legal law enforcement aspects of this. As much as we blame Trump, talking about mitigation, there was notice, there was forewarning that there was going to be this big demonstration on the part of perhaps angry, violent people.

Preet Bharara:

And we know that DC is no stranger to protest, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or something else. And we see, and have seen, how strong the police response can be with respect to rioting. And I haven’t seen all of it, and this is still unfolding, but a lot of these folks were able to get a little bit too easy access to the U.S. capital. And there is some footage that I saw today, that’s very disturbing, where it looks like there’s some law enforcement officials. I don’t know if it’s Capitol police or other folks, who are kind of letting folks approach the building. How do you feel about the police response?

Anne Milgram:

Yeah. I think this is a really important part of the conversation. And I want to agree with you strongly that I think the blame for what happened today lies with the president of the United States. And we should be very clear about even when he gave that sort of speech saying go home. He was busy saying, the election was stolen from you. And I love you guys. Ivanka was tweeting out about calling the people there who… Calling them Patriots, as though there were something noble about what was happening when it is the exact opposite. It is efforts to undermine our democracy. I think we had just have to make it really clear where the blame lies. That being said, there was notice that this was coming. We have seen, I mean, remember when the president had the square in front of the White House cleared, so he could go to the chapel right across the street.

Anne Milgram:

We have seen the National Guard. We have seen use of force. We know that there were a lot of conversations about the number of people that were coming and some concern that was expressed. It is really almost impossible for me to understand how they did not have more officers who were present there. Because one thing I will note is just looking at it. It did not appear to me that there were enough officers present. And again, I think Joyce is right, that we can talk about this down the road. But people have to understand that when something like this happens, the responsibility of the Capitol police is they have a lot of responsibilities at the same time. The secret service is getting Mike Pence out. There are individuals who protect the leadership of the House and Senate. They have to be gotten out.

Anne Milgram:

The rest of the members of Congress have to be secured because they don’t… There was later reporting that there was a pipe bomb that was found near the RNC, the Republican National Committee. And so you’re just in a very intense threat environment. People are breaking through the glass to the United States Capitol storming the floor of the House and Senate. And so there’s a lot of tasks that have to be done that require that you have enough officers. And it looked like they might not have. The other question that a lot of people have asked is why were people not arrested?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. How many arrests? [crosstalk 00:14:59]. The report I saw, just so we… At this point, we’re recording this at 8:00 PM on Wednesday evening. A total of 13 arrests. Maybe that’s not correct, but that’s a small number, as I’m sure you’ll say in a second.

Anne Milgram:

That was information provided by DC earlier. Yes.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah, 13 arrests.

Anne Milgram:

A very small number of arrests. Which it seems… And we should also just note, and I think a lot of people have probably seen this picture, but I was reminded of the photograph of what Congress looked like in preparation for the Black Lives Matter protests. And there were [crosstalk 00:15:27].

Preet Bharara:

Rows and rows of armed-

Anne Milgram:

… Rows of completely armed, riot gear, law enforcement outside. And so, there are a lot of questions I think that will need to be answered. And there is time for that going forward. Look, I mean, I’m just hopeful again, we’re sitting here at eight o’clock, and I’m hope… Here’s my question for you. Does this get resolved peacefully tonight? How do we think about additional protest in the next two weeks?

Preet Bharara:

I’m very worried.

Anne Milgram:

Joe Biden doesn’t become president. Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

I’m very worried. And what’s interesting is at this moment, as we said earlier, there are people who have kind of been silent before, who are talking about the 25th amendment. Who are talking about impeachment, even though there’s only two weeks left. I think there’s a real galloping concern that this man is not fit to continue leading in office for two weeks. I wonder if now that both the House and the Senate are in the hands of the opposing party, if there are things that they can do. I think the 25th amendment remains a reach, even though I think it may be appropriate at this point. I think it’s time for radical action. As people know it, neither you nor I are radical people. Today’s events are so shocking, and the evidence that the president is utterly unhinged, and out of his mind, and crazy with envy and anger, is becoming so clear that he doesn’t care about violence.

Preet Bharara:

He doesn’t care about burning down the principles of democracy in this country. What he cares about is A, remaining in power. And if that’s not possible, B, saving face. And in combination with that, C, attacking and hurting his adversaries, including the incoming president of the United States, who’s going to be the president for all of us. He’s a dangerous man. He’s a dangerous man right now. With respect to the people who are being arrested. I think there will come a time where there will perhaps be accountability, because some of these people are bragging on social media. Some of these people are on videotape. Some of these people may have been stopped and IDs seen by officers.

Anne Milgram:

Yes, I agree with that.

Preet Bharara:

And in part, look, as a tactical matter, based on some of the videos that I’ve seen, if you’ve got one officer in a stairwell and there 18 people coming up, the idea of arresting one [crosstalk 00:17:53].

Anne Milgram:

Yeah. You can’t make an arrest.

Preet Bharara:

You can’t do that.

Anne Milgram:

Exactly.

Preet Bharara:

You’ve got to do it later, because they were overwhelmed. But it is true that the crowd ultimately dissipated, and the National Guard came out and the FBI SWAT team came out. And the question I have, again, not to divert blame at all or shift it, but why weren’t they there in place at the outset to prevent the overrunning of our Capitol?

Anne Milgram:

Yes. I would ask why they weren’t there at the outset. I would also ask why it took them so long to respond. If you follow the reporting on the National Guard, DC is not a state. And so the mayor has to appeal to federal officials in order to get the National Guard to be present. And the conversations took place about that with the vice president, with senior ranking members of Congress. Not the president. And so, there’s a real question in my mind of whether there was any… I don’t know the answer to this, but I would really very much like to know, was there a sort of dragging of the heels by the federal government in responding to this. You cannot let armed individuals take possession of the United States Congress.

Anne Milgram:

And so, Chuck Ramsey, who I respect a lot, is the former Chief of DC, of Philly, of Chicago. Basically said, “You got to get people out. You got to take control back.”

Preet Bharara:

He was angry. [crosstalk 00:19:17]. Did you hear him?

Anne Milgram:

He was angry. Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

He was really angry.

Anne Milgram:

He was angry. And look, he also, I think is incredibly talented and knows how to run situations like that. But what he said was true. We were essentially watching for hours when no one was taking control of the situation. The first incident shouldn’t have happened, the door should not have been breached. But even if we sort of move beyond that point. At the next moment, once it’s happened, the reaction was way too slow. Again, I’m not expecting the men and women who were clearly outnumbered and were dealing with individuals who were armed, there are a lot of reasons [crosstalk 00:19:53].

Preet Bharara:

They never should have been in that position.

Anne Milgram:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

In that building, in that building was the sitting vice president of the United States of America. And in that building, I believe was also, unless I’m mistaken, but I think it was the case, the incoming vice president of the United States. United States Senator. Both of whom were taken to secure locations. You can’t take that kind of chance. And then obviously not to denigrate the members of Congress, basically an entire branch of government and the leaders of another branch of government were all in one building with violent mob people outside the building.

Preet Bharara:

I think there was a failure in a lot of ways. And then you think about not just the damage to credibility here in this country, but how does it look in the rest of the world? I was getting text from lots of people today, including from folks who were in DC, who were saying they were okay, about whom I was worried. But also I’ve gotten some texts from people who live in other countries, like what is going on in America? What is going on in America? Part of the reason we did this, we had some lovely tweets from people who said, “It’d be great if you and Anne came and talked about this. We’d love to hear your calm voices.” I don’t feel very calm. I’m ultimately very confident that this will be resolved, that Biden will be sworn in, that cooler heads will prevail. I’m overall optimistic and calm. I am.

Anne Milgram:

I am too. [crosstalk 00:21:31].

Preet Bharara:

But I’m a little not about the next 14 days.

Anne Milgram:

The question I have.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Anne Milgram:

Yeah. The question I have, I have sort of two questions. Which is one, will there be accountability? And what will that look like? I think that’s a really important part of the conversation going forward. Because there has to be a line. And when that line gets crossed, there has to be accountability. Otherwise, you sort of moved where the line is in the United States of America, of what we think is okay and isn’t okay when it comes to democracy and elections. I think it’s a really important question of, will there be accountability and what will that accountability look like? All of us have spent a lot of time talking about it over the last couple of years of, well, the biggest form of accountability for the president is to vote him out of office.

Preet Bharara:

We did that. We did that. [crosstalk 00:22:19].

Anne Milgram:

We did that. Exactly. And I think that’s the point in my mind is like, okay, well, that’s supposed to be the thing. And to see this sort of armed insurrection is really troubling.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. I guess the final point, we just wanted to do a quick addressing of the topic for folks, not belabor it. And we’ll talk about it at greater length, having digested more information next Tuesday on the Insider Podcast. But there have been some extraordinary statements by Republicans, not people who are big fans of Trump, which I appreciate. Mitt Romney has said some very strong things. He said some things before. But there’s a statement from the former president, George W. Bush. I cited him at the outset. It’s a pretty strong statement from the last Republican president, who served two terms, to basically call out the president of his own party who succeeded him for inciting violence. I don’t know if this is a watershed moment or not. It comes a little bit late, and it comes while an angry president still has two weeks left in office. But do you hold that hope for sort of a circle of fire building around Trump, so he can’t do more damage?

Anne Milgram:

I do hold out some hope. Not that Trump is going to act differently than we’ve seen him act during the past four years. But I thought George W. Bush’s statement, it was very strong. Basically, he couldn’t have called it out in any more… He basically laid it on the line. And I think the divide now is, or the question now is, the flag that the rioters put up outside the Capitol, it wasn’t the U.S. flag. It was the Donald Trump flag. And the Republican party faces this incredible pivotal moment. They’ve always been a party that adhered to the constitution. I’m not saying both Democrat and Republican, I’m not saying either party is perfect. But both parties have always very much adhered to the rules and norms of democratic leadership and elections.

Anne Milgram:

And this is really a transgression on that. And so the question in my mind is like, I believe that there are Republicans who do not want to be the party of Trump and want to follow the constitutional norms. And we’ve seen Mitt Romney. We’ve seen Liz Cheney. We’ve seen George W. Bush today. We’ve seen actually, Mitch McConnell gave a speech today on the floor of the Senate talking about democracy and how elections work.

Preet Bharara:

It was pretty good.

Anne Milgram:

It was pretty good. And so I think we have to be really clear in saying even people whose policies we often criticize and who I personally think have not been vocal enough during the past four years and stopped a lot of the problems that we’ve seen. I still believe that there is this line of a number of Republicans really believe deeply in the constitution. Current Republican elected leaders, I mean, believing deeply in the constitution and thinking that this is absolutely abhorrent. And so the question is, what happens to that? Tomorrow, does that go away? Or tomorrow, do they take a stand against Trump? And tries to stop [crosstalk 00:25:25].

Preet Bharara:

Who knows if there’s an inflection point.

Anne Milgram:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

Or not? And by the way, I want to make clear [crosstalk 00:25:29].

Anne Milgram:

And what does it mean for next elections?

Preet Bharara:

I’m not applauding Mitch McConnell in any way. I’m just saying that against the backdrop of how he has acted and what he has done, and against the backdrop of some of his colleagues, continued to be mendacious about what happened in the election and craven, it was at least something to hear him stand up for [crosstalk 00:25:51].

Anne Milgram:

Look, and we talk about this [crosstalk 00:25:52].

Preet Bharara:

This idea of not stealing elections. I’m not giving him too much credit.

Anne Milgram:

And you’re right. We should remind ourselves of this, that we always say, you don’t get points for doing the right thing. My point on McConnell is he did what he should have done today. And a number of other Republicans did what they should have done. And the fact that all of them did not, and that this sort of… I don’t even know what to call it. What Hawley and Cruz, this insurrection that they were trying to lead today. The goal was in, I think, to overturn a free and fair election. And that’s been the president’s goal. I think it’s really important to call that out.

Preet Bharara:

Look, I think it was in some ways, one of the worst days in modern times for American democracy, but also a good day because power has shifted, it will inevitably shift in a concrete way very soon. By the way, we had a very strong statement from Joe Biden, who appeared incredibly presidential. Said all the right things. In a moment of a flourish, I think I tweeted that it was his best and most important speech to-date. And in some ways, maybe it was. And he was the president today, not Donald Trump. We will be focusing on the aftermath. We’ll be looking at what happens with the objections, which are continuing into the night this evening.

Preet Bharara:

We’ll be looking to see if people get arrested and on what kinds of charges. And talk a lot more about it on the CAFE Insider podcast next week. Thanks, Anne.

Anne Milgram:

Thanks, Preet.

Narrator:

That’s it for this week’s CAFE Insider podcast. Your hosts are Preet Bharara and Anne Milgram. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior producer is Adam Waller. The technical director is David Tatasciore. The CADE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, Nat Wiener, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, Geoff Isenman, Chris Boylan, Sean Walsh, and Margot Maley. Our music is by Andrew Dost. Thank you for being a part of the CAFE Insider community.