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We 'can’t just ignore what happened on January 6th’: Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense and The Panetta Institute for Public Policy Co-Founder, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest news out of Trump's impeachment trial and gives his thoughts on the Capitol Hill riots that took place on January 6th.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Secretary, it's great to have you on Yahoo Finance. Let's just start with the trial because when it comes to the trial, I know you've recently said that it's important for the country to go through this process. My first question to you is, why is that the case? And what message do you hope this trial sends?

LEON PANETTA: Well, for anybody who's been watching that trial, I just don't think there's any question that when the US Capitol was attacked and our democracy brought to a halt in an effort to try to stop the vote count on the presidential election, that this was a major insurrection in our country, and that the president was responsible for that insurrection.

The country needs to come to peace, really, in understanding what happened, who was responsible for it, and how is that individual going to be held accountable. We, in our democracy, can't just ignore what took place on January 6th. We have a responsibility to, under our system of government, to make sure that what happened will never happen again.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Secretary Panetta, we should point out to people, you were also director of the CIA and oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden. When you use the term domestic terrorists, as you did in an op-ed with CNN, that's very serious. And you said terrorists will not accept the truth of why they are wrong, but they will accept the reality of overwhelming force. What does that look like within our own borders?

LEON PANETTA: Well, I think we have to recognize that what happened on January 6th is, in many ways, similar to what happened on 9/11. On 9/11, we were attacked. And we recognized the threat from foreign terrorism. And we realized that we had to go after those who had attacked our country and bring them to justice.

And I think the same thing is true on January 6th. We saw domestic terrorism in this country and what it could do in undermining our democracy and tearing away at the fabric of what our democratic systems are all about. And therefore, I think we can't underestimate domestic terrorism. We can't assume that somehow it will never happen again.

So it means that we have to build the same kind of cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement and other law enforcement entities to try to make sure that we are keeping track of domestic terrorism and making sure that what happened on January 6th doesn't happen again. That is extremely important to the security of our country.

SEANA SMITH: Well, and secretary, talking about that, I guess taking it a step further then, how exactly does dealing with domestic terrorism, how does that differ than when you're dealing with terrorists from outside of this country? I mean, how does the approach on this differ from each other?

LEON PANETTA: Well, on foreign terrorism, the real basis for our ability to go after those who were involved in the 9/11 attack was intelligence. We were able to gather important intelligence on who were those that were involved in the attack, where were they located, how are we able to go after them and make sure that they would not attack our country again. And we were largely successful in that effort, and it was a combination of good intelligence and targeted operations, particularly by special forces, to assist us in those efforts.

And I think here in this country, it's going to be a combination of good intelligence, the ability to understand where these threats may be coming from, and then the ability of law enforcement and the FBI to be able to go after those that might be involved in conspiracies to bring down our country.