CNN Transcript of William Cohen, Former Defense Secretary
December 31, 2020 17:00 ET
The Situation Room Special Report
ACOSTA: This hour’s breaking news, a GOP congressional source predicts there will definitely be a spectacle next week because at least a handful of Republican senators are expected to join the congressional challenges to the Electoral College vote. Let’s get the insights of former defense secretary and Republican Senator William Cohen. Secretary Cohen, thanks for being on with us.
Let me get right to this. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now giving Republicans room to vote their conscience is how it’s being described on these objections. And as a Republican and former U.S. Senator, what is your response to this effort at this late stage, last ditch stage in the process despite all the evidence, to try to overturn the will of the American people?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think it’s shameful. And those who are going to express their conscience by voting to support this effort to overturn the elections are shameless. We have to remember that the current occupant of the White House is a ringmaster. And what he expects to do is a snap his whip, and all of the elephants jump on the chairs.
And what they have to understand those who are so eager to support this effort to overturn the vote of the American people, what they have to understand is, he’s going to continue to snap the whip, whether he’s in office or out of office. And every time they’re going to have to jump up and sit on that stool in order to satisfy him and his supporters.
So this is a time when the senator says, it’s time for him to stand up. I think it’s time for him to stand up for the Constitution. I think it’s time for the senators to stand up for the Constitution. That’s the oath that they swore to, to abide by and to enforce. Instead, they’re trying to please the man who has lost the election. By every — he went to the voters, the voters voted him out, he went to the electors, the electors certified the results, he went to the courts and the courts rejected them. Now he’s making a last stand with the United States Senate and the House in order to overturn and invalidate the votes of those principally in the states where there’s a large minority voting population. You know, it seemed, given the history of this country in terms of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and now the effort to go to those particular areas and say, you want to minimize or overturn the votes of minorities, black people and others. It’s shameful.
And I think that they have to understand you’re never going to satisfy President Trump. He is always going to up the ante. He cannot be satisfied. There’s nothing him. There is no moral core. And so, you’re going to be extorted or bribed in order to avoid a primary in 2022 or 2024.
And Senator Hawley wants to be the first out of the box to say I’m the new Trump. I’m the me two Trump, I’m the mini me Trump. I mean I think it’s just shameful that the Senate is going to do this. And those senators who are lining up to support Senator Hawley they have to understand they’re going to have to keep doing it over and over again whenever the ringmaster cracks the whip.
ACOSTA: Yes. It is peculiar, because typically, a losing president and an outgoing one term president would not have any control over his party anymore. He would, he would be upset that he lost and mope about it and groan about it to people around him and that sort of thing. But then he would go off and ride off into the sunset and write a memoir or go to the beach or something like that.
But yes, President Trump has this grip over this party for being a one term president just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How do you view the state of the party, the Republican Party, a party that you’re a member of on this final day of this terrible year of 2020?
COHEN: Yes. Well, for Trump, it’s pathological. For those who are jumping up to support him, it’s diabolical. I don’t think is diabolically clever. I think they will find they’ll be hostage for the rest of their time in the Senate and going forward if they’re only there to appease the Trumpsters. So, I think there’s a real division.
I would like to see, you know, the Mitt Romney’s, the Susan Collins, and the others, the Ben Sasse, Governor Thornburgh just died today. Where are the Governor Thornburghs in the United States Senate, why aren’t they standing up for the rule of law that used to be with the Republicans most prized ourselves on, rule of law, peaceful transition of power, engaging with our allies, yes, fiscal responsibility to be sure.
But where, where’s the principle, the ethics involved? We had a young congressman-elect just died at the age of 41. And now we have a young senator standing up saying, it’s my chance to stand up for what, for Trump or for the Constitution? And so, I think there’s a real split there. I don’t know how Mitch McConnell is going to handle it going forward. But maybe it’s time for a new party, one that abides by the rule of law, abides by balanced budget opportunities with fiscal responsibility, but also faithful to the people of this country who vote to elect them.
ACOSTA: All right. Very interesting and potential call for a new party there from former Republican Senator. That is very interesting. Senator Cohen —
COHEN: One final comment. I think Shakespeare said it all. He said beware caches is lean and hungry. Those men are dangerous. Those people who are out jumping to the tune of Donald Trump are going to be dangerous for democracy.
ACOSTA: All right, and we’ll leave it at that. All right, Senator Cohen, thanks so much for joining us, Happy New Year. We appreciate it.