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Klobuchar On Inauguration Day Security

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

America united - that is the theme for tomorrow's inauguration at a time when the country feels anything but united. Tomorrow at noon, Joe Biden will be sworn in at the U.S. Capitol under the protection of up to 25,000 National Guard troops. The National Mall is closed to the public. So in place of the crowds who normally gather shoulder to shoulder to witness history being made, acres of flags have been installed, representing all who cannot be there. For more on what to expect tomorrow, we are joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Senator Klobuchar, welcome.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Mary Louise. It's great to be on.

KELLY: First question, the question on everybody's minds - are you confident tomorrow's inauguration will be safe?

KLOBUCHAR: The Secret Service is in charge of this inauguration. And they have traditionally been in charge of it. And we listen to them, and they're feeling good about this. As you've mentioned, they have ramped up the military presence, although we know there's military presence at past inaugurations. I remember my own Minnesota National Guard at President Obama's inauguration. Mostly, that has to do with crowds, but it also has to do with security. And I think one of the things we've learned from the horrific events on January 6 is that we need security changes, yes. But I also think we've also had to focus on our democracy and that is that we can't take it for granted. And this moment on that stage is when the leadership on both parties sits behind the new president, the new vice president and say, thank you for serving, and we welcome you to this new role, and we want you to do well. That's what this is about.

KELLY: How much have you had to shift and rethink and reorganize after the riot at the Capitol?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, when Senator Blunt, the Republican from Missouri, and I started planning this inauguration, we did not know that our portfolio would include a pandemic, a insurrection and now an impeachment trial. But all of that has involved its own form of shifting. But we have always maintained that this will happen. And it has happened for over 200 years. And there has always been a peaceful transfer of power. Of course, we've limited the number of people. That was hard. We had to tell people that they couldn't invite the hundreds they usually invite and members of the U.S. Senate that they only had one ticket. And most of them are using it for a family member. We canceled the lunch with the leaders of Congress. Instead, we're just giving them gifts. We have made sure with the security that that's taken into account. And you will see on the platform - I was there yesterday - there's still spray painting at the bottom of some of the columns that they couldn't get out of the marble that will be a stark reminder, a chilling reminder of what happened there only two weeks ago.

KELLY: Wow.

KLOBUCHAR: But this will go on. And the new president and new vice president feel very strongly about that, that this angry mob is not going to take this moment of majesty away from our country.

KELLY: There had been calls to move the swearing-in indoors somewhere to try to guarantee that there would be no incident on that same platform where, as you say, there were very different events in effect two weeks ago. Was that ever seriously considered?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it's always on the table because of weather and even security. Things have been moved inside in the past very rarely. And so there would still be security, Mary Louise. Think about it. If this was inside, there would be a huge amount of security surrounding buildings and the like. And so that was one of the factors. And also because of COVID, doing it inside would mean a very, very few people.

KELLY: Right. It presents its own dangers.

KLOBUCHAR: It does. And also, you wouldn't have what I think the country deserves. And that is after what we saw two weeks ago, that showing of bipartisan support that we need and that Joe Biden needs up on that stage because he's got a huge agenda that he wants to accomplish. And I think it's doable - getting the vaccines out, producing more vaccines, getting our economy to the place it should be, doing something about climate change, immigration, which had bipartisan support in the past, infrastructure. And I think he has to have that moment to lay out his vision with, yes, not millions of people because of COVID but with that field of flags. And I bet you it will be the biggest viewership you've ever seen for an inauguration.

KELLY: Well, let me...

KLOBUCHAR: Go ahead.

KELLY: Forgive me for jumping in, but let me pivot us slightly because you mentioned there's a whole lot else looming for you in the Senate, including this impeachment trial. And I want to draw attention to something that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today. He was speaking on the Senate floor. He blamed President Trump for the insurrection. Here's what he said.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.

KELLY: Senator Klobuchar, that is further than we have heard Mitch McConnell, who leads Republicans in the Senate - further than we've heard him go before. Do you think conviction in the Senate is possible?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I do. And I would call those remarks direct and to the point. And Mitch McConnell will, of course, be with us in the morning at the church service with the Bidens. He's going to be as he should be, as a leader on that stage. So what do I think? I think, one, the president did incite an insurrection, and he should be impeached. Number two, the Senate can do this and still do its other business. There was a number of hearings just today for the defense secretary and others that must get confirmed. We could do those in the morning. In the afternoon, we could do an impeachment hearing a number of days. And then in the evening, we can pass legislation. Americans are juggling their toddlers on their knees and their laptops on their desks. They're teaching first graders how to use the mute button to go to school. I think that Congress - it's high time that we juggled a bunch of things at the same time, as well, and get this done.

KELLY: Let me follow on your exact words there. When I asked if you think conviction in the Senate is possible, you said, I guess I think it is.

KLOBUCHAR: No, I think I said yes. It was probably...

KELLY: Because the - it's uphill - right? - with still a 50-50 split in the Senate.

KLOBUCHAR: I believe, yes, that it is possible. And I believe it's possible because of the severity of these actions of the president. Not only did he incite an angry mob to go down the mall, which is now filled with beautiful flags, by the way. He also didn't do anything to stop it until urged over and over again by his aides. And then he did a week statement as opposed to putting an end to it when it started. So all of those things - I call them as a former prosecutor pieces of evidence. And that's what you're going to see in the trial. But again, tomorrow - could I make clear? - is not about Donald Trump. It is about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, this historic moment, first African American, Asian American woman vice president and a president that has his heart in the right place and is going to bring in a competent administration for our country. And I think you're going to see a majestic moment and the one that he deserves.

KELLY: Senator Klobuchar, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: That is Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. She has a speaking role tomorrow. So we'll be listening out for you there, as well. Thanks again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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