SCOTT DETROW, HOST:
Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the Biden transition.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: I'm Kelsey Snell. I cover Congress.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.
DETROW: Well, as we were talking about last night, Congress did reconvene last night. Very early this morning, they certified the results of the election. Joe Biden will be sworn in as the nation's 46th president on Wednesday, January 20. That's 13 days from now. He spoke again today in Delaware, reacting to everything that's happened.
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JOE BIDEN: What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was not disorder. It was not protest. It was chaos. They weren't protesters. Don't dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It's that basic. It's that simple. And I wish we could say we couldn't see it coming, but that isn't true. We could see it coming.
DETROW: There are so many things to talk about, but, Kelsey, let's start with this - a lot of questions this morning about how exactly this happened. There is always so much of a police presence and yet a mob overwhelmed it, forced its way into the Capitol and ransacked the halls. How did this happen?
SNELL: That is the question that members of Congress are asking, that reporters are asking. And we're really simply just not getting enough in terms of answers. I was on a press call today with Congressman Tim Ryan, who says that he is in the process of starting a minute-by-minute investigation into what happened. He has concerns about what he says are inconsistencies in the way that use of force has been used in the Capitol. You know, from being up there, there are protesters, peaceful protesters in the Capitol on a regular basis. And the Capitol Police on a regular basis round up peaceful protesters, arrest them and remove them from the Capitol. But what we saw in videos and in, you know, from firsthand accounts were, you know, Capitol Police officers not doing that with violent - rioting mob coming into the Capitol. It's a moment where, as Ryan said, it's like the veil of security has been lifted from the Capitol. And there are a lot of questions about how it got to this point.
DETROW: And the obvious contrast from the images we saw this summer, the way that law enforcement was very aggressive with protests that sprang out of police shootings of Black men. And you contrast that with some of the images that we saw yesterday. And again, we don't know the full context, but it sure looked like police officers were opening the gates at times. There was a picture of a police officer holding a woman by the hand, taking her down out of the Capitol - drastically different approach.
SNELL: Yeah. And, you know, one of the things Ryan said is that the Capitol Police force, close to 4,500 to 1,500 officers were available and on duty that day. And he said that he received a briefing from the people who coordinate these kinds of responses before these events happened. And he was told that they - those people who were coordinating the law enforcement response did not expect violence, which he raised and as many other Democrats have raised, the Internet was full of threats. And there is kind of a sense of disbelief that that could have been the response in the lead-up to what happened yesterday.
RASCOE: It just seems like, you know, this was, you know - here you have these people who were saying, as you said, you would see on the Internet where they say they're going to take the Capitol. They're going to take this over. And they were saying these things. But obviously, this was a pretty much - this was a white crowd, mostly white crowd. And it seems like the response was obviously different than if it had been Black people, if it had been Muslims or any other group, that they don't wait until there's a threat of violence. They crack down quickly. And so the difference there is - it's not surprising in America, but it is jarring nonetheless.
SNELL: As we've been talking, we just learned that Speaker Pelosi is having a press conference right now. And she says the House sergeant-at-arms has resigned. She's calling on the Capitol Police chief to resign. And that is added to the calls from Schumer for the Senate sergeant-at-arms to resign. And it looks like the wheels are in motion for a pretty swift change in leadership in terms of law enforcement in the Capitol.
DETROW: So there's the police side of this. There's also the National Guard side of this, a lot of questions about what happened with the D.C. National Guard and what orders were or were not given. Ayesha, you were you were doing some reporting at the Pentagon yesterday.
RASCOE: Yeah. So we, you know, are trying to find out more about this. You know, there's still a lot of questions. One thing that stood out to me - I talked to Kash Patel, who is the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, Chris Miller. And what stood out to me about that conversation really was when I asked him whether the president had spoken to the acting secretary of defense yesterday while all this was happening, Patel could not give me an answer. And he could not say that the president had spoken with his secretary of defense when the Capitol was under attack.
DETROW: To state the obvious, that is a pretty key and pretty straightforward question that you were asking.
RASCOE: Very straightforward question. And this is someone who is working directly with the secretary of defense, who presumably would know. And so this - that is what stood out to me when I had that conversation.
DETROW: All right. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, there is a lot more to talk about, including calls from top Democrats for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment right now and take President Trump out of power.
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DETROW: All right. We're back. And one of the things that is getting a lot of attention today is the fact that you have key Democrats, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling today for Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump's Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from power right now, with 13 days to go in his term. And, Ayesha, it has come up in different contexts over the course of the Trump administration. But can you just give us a quick reminder of what exactly the 25th Amendment is and what it does?
RASCOE: Yeah. So this is an amendment that is designed to allow for a transfer of power to the vice president if the president becomes incapacitated or is unable to serve or unfit to serve. And so in the past, people have talked about it, you know, when a president has, like, gone under anesthesia or something or if you get into - put into a coma. But there has been talk of it with President Trump as well because of his behavior and some of the actions that he's taken.
SNELL: Yeah. And Pelosi at her press conference said not just that she supports using the 25th Amendment, but if the vice president and Cabinet will not do it, that Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment again. There's not a lot of time to do impeachment. The House can move quickly, but removing him from office is another matter, could take a long time. But that is a very forceful statement from the speaker, in part because a growing number of her rank-and-file members, including some of, you know, the people who are really skeptical of moving ahead with impeachment in the early days of the investigation last time around have been calling for it this time.
DETROW: I mean, Kelsey, like you're saying, it feels very hard to see how that could happen in such a short period of time, especially given the fact that, you know, Senate trials are written into the Constitution as part of that process. Ayesha, the 25th Amendment, that being invoked feels equally tricky for a lot of different political and logistical dynamics.
RASCOE: Yes. That would require the vice president, a majority of the Cabinet. We have not heard from the vice president today. We don't - and I was reaching out to a lot of people with the vice president yesterday, some of his aides. They haven't really been talking very much. You know, we haven't heard much from the White House today on this, you know, on these issues. So it's really unclear what is happening right now. It does seem like they want to say that President Trump is in charge. He's still - he's working. But he hasn't had public events. And I don't know, other than that speech yesterday, in a long time, he's not doing them on a regular basis and we're just not hearing from him.
DETROW: He's been banned from Facebook and Instagram for the duration of his term at minimum. That happened today. He had been suspended from Twitter for 12 hours, though that suspension has now lifted. When he put out that statement last night saying that, you know, he would concede to an orderly transition of power, of course, several hours after a mob attacked the Capitol, that was put out through the Twitter feed of one of his advisers because he was unable to tweet. So, I mean, his typical ways of communicating have certainly been shut off at the moment.
One thing that did come out of the Trump administration just a few minutes ago was the resignation of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. We have seen several resignations. You can argue about their value or their symbolism with so little time left. Several of them clearly were because of what happened yesterday but did not mention them. She did mention that in the statement that she posted on Twitter. This was an email to the Department of Transportation. Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.
RASCOE: And Elaine Chao is, of course, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And so her being the first Cabinet member to resign after this and to resign in protest after what happened yesterday stands out in particular because of that fact.
DETROW: Kelsey, we saw a - for the Trump era, a remarkable break from the president on the Senate side, if much less on the House side yesterday - McConnell, the majority of the Senate Republican caucus voting to certify the results of the election, rejecting attempts to undermine the election. Has he or have any key Republicans said anything on this 25th Amendment or impeachment push?
SNELL: We have only heard from one Republican, and it's House member from Illinois Adam Kinzinger. And he said he favors the 25th Amendment. But Republicans have been virtually silent about this.
DETROW: And that's obviously one of the most important factors to pay attention to in the coming days - what, if anything, key Republicans say about all of this inside and outside of the Trump administration. That is it for today, though. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the Biden transition.
SNELL: I'm Kelsey Snell. I cover Congress.
RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.
DETROW: Thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.
SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")
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