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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview with Sen. Angus King (I-ME); General Milley Confirms Call with Nancy Pelosi after January 6; New Details about Laundrie Family Camping Trip after Brian Laundrie Returned without Gabby Petito; Pres. Biden Cancels Trip To Chicago; Legislative Agenda Hangs In The Balance; Progressive Democrats Demand Sinema And Manchin Reveal Views On Biden Agenda; NY Mandates Vaccines For Health Care Workers; Thousands Still Not Vaccinated; Obama Breaks Ground On New Library; Calls Out Those "Turning Away From Democratic Principles"; LeBron James Confirms Covid Vaccination. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 28, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He also talked of course about starting his political career right there in Chicago.
Thanks so much for watching. It's time for Anderson.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: What two of the nation's top military commanders thought about keeping troops in Afghanistan, what the Commander-in-Chief did instead and what he told the public about the advice he got, as Taliban forces took over the country.
John Berman here, in for Anderson.
That was a big headline maker and Senate testimony today, but it was by no means the only one as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, and general Kenneth McKenzie head of Central Command appeared before the Armed Services Committee.
In his opening remarks, General Milley addressed phone calls he made with his Chinese counterpart to defuse fears Beijing had at the end of the prior administration, about the former President possibly ordering a strike on China.
Authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa who described the calls in their new book "Peril" join us shortly.
General Milley testified he spoke with Bob Woodward for the book as well as the authors of two other bestsellers, which for any author might be tempered somewhat by his subsequent admission that he has actually read none of the three.
But the main focus today was the final chapter of this country's 20- year involvement in Afghanistan and the country's sudden collapse during which Allied Forces conducted a near miraculous airborne evacuation, but which also saw 13 American troops and many more Afghan civilians killed in a suicide bombing. The question has always been: Could different choices by this
President and the former President have kept the Taliban at bay? Generals Milley and McKenzie, who goes by Frank, were asked about the former administration's deal with the Taliban in Qatar known as the Doha Agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (D-RIPLEY:): Did the Doha Agreement affect the morale of the Afghan forces, i.e. was there a sense now that even though it was months away that the United States was leaving since we had agreed to leave?
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I'll let Frank talk the details. But my assessment is, yes, Senator, it did affect the morale of the Afghan Security Forces.
REED: Yes, General McKenzie?
GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, JR., COMMANDER, CENTCOM: Sir, it is my judgment that the Doha Agreement did negatively affect the performance of the Afghan Forces, but in particular about some of the actions that the government of Afghanistan was required to undertake as part of that agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: General Milley today confirm that the former President had ordered all troops out of Afghanistan by January 15th, but later backed away from that notion. The current President though, followed through and much of the question today focused on the military advice he got in making the decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): General Milley, it is your testimony that you recommended 2,500 troops approximately stay in Afghanistan.
MILLEY: As I have said many times before this committee and other committees, I don't share my personal recommendation with the President, but I can tell you my personal opinion and my assessment, if that's what you want.
COTTON: Yes, please.
MILLEY: Yes, my assessment was back in the fall of 2020, and it remained consistent throughout that we should keep a steady state of 2,500, and it could bounce up to 3,500, maybe something like that in order to move toward a negotiated gated solution.
COTTON: Did you present -- did you ever present that assessment personally to President Biden?
MILLEY: I don't discuss exactly what my conversations are with the sitting President in the Oval Office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: General McKenzie, when asked that he shared his colleague's assessment and also declined to say what he told President Biden. The implication though is, Biden got the word.
The President, as you know, has said otherwise, or that his military advisers were split. In this clip from August 18th, he sort of says both.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, they did. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn't tell you that they wanted troops to stay?
BIDEN: No. Not -- not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your military advisers did not tell you no, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It's been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that, we can continue to do that.
BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: At the White House today, Press Secretary Jen Psaki maintain that there wasn't any contradiction between the testimony today and the President's full interview with George Stephanopoulos, essentially, that the clip being circulated, she says doesn't tell the entire story.
But then when asked, okay, who are these other military advisers on the other side of what you just heard President Biden call a split, the water got muddier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to get into specific details of who recommended what, but I can -- I would reiterate a little bit of what I conveyed before, which is that there were recommendations made by a range of his advisers, something he welcomed, something he asked them to come to him clear-eyed about, to give him candid advice.
QUESTION: You were saying here that military advisers to the President said it was okay to pull all the troops out and said it would be fine.
PSAKI: That's not what I said. What I said was they recommend -- and I think we should not dumb this down for anybody here. We're talking about the initial phase, post May 1. We're not talking about long-term recommendations. There was no one who said five years from now, we could have 2,500 troops and that would be sustainable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Which doesn't really answer the question, nor does it address the President saying that he didn't recall anyone recommending keeping troops in the country.
Regardless, though of the advice he got or what he said subsequently said about the advice he got, this was the President's decision to make, and as General Milley made clear today in this memorable interchange in Civics lesson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COTTON: I understand that you're the principal military adviser, that you advise, you don't decide, the President decides. But if all this is true, General Milley, why haven't you resigned?
MILLEY: My job is to provide advice. My statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice, or best military advice to the President and that's my legal requirement. That's what the law is.
The President doesn't have to agree with that advice. He doesn't have to make those decisions, just because we're generals. And it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken.
This country doesn't want Generals figuring out what orders we're going to accept and do or not, that's not our job. The principles that are being controlled in the military is absolute. It's critical to this Republican.
In addition to that, just from a personal standpoint, you know, my dad didn't get a choice to resign at Iwo Jima and those kids there at abbey gate, they don't get a choice to resign, and I'm not going to turn my back on them.
I'm not going to resign -- they can't resign, so I'm not going to resign. There's no way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining us now, Armed Services Committee member, Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine who caucuses with Democrats on the committee.
Senator King, thanks so much for being with us today. Look, General McKenzie and General Milley, they wouldn't say exactly what they recommended to the President, but they were pretty clear with what their assessment was, and what their desire would have been, to keep some troops in Afghanistan for a longer period of time, and that was presumably what they advised the President. So when the President said he didn't get that advice, do you think he
was being honest with the public?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): I don't know, because, you know, I wasn't in on those conversations. But I think it was clear from the testimony today that the military, or at least the two Generals that were in front of us believe that maintaining some presence in Afghanistan would be a good idea. The President obviously rejected that advice.
I don't know what he was told or what the conversations were in the Oval Office. Neither General would testify about what the exact content was, but they told us what they thought their preference was.
But I think, John, the interesting thing about the hearing today was, it was if there's something that's the opposite of deja vu, that's what we had today. We had a hearing that should have been taking place a year and a half ago when the Trump administration made an agreement with the Taliban that we were going to leave Afghanistan on a date certain, May 1st of 2021.
So, there was a lot of the debate today about whether that was the right policy, and I think that's a legitimate subject for debate, but that really wasn't the subject of the hearing. The hearing today was supposed to be about the withdrawal, and you can argue whether we should have stayed -- General Milley did say something important I think in the hearing. He said a lot of things that were important.
But one of them was, had we decided to stay past August 31st, we would have definitely taken casualties. We would have had the Taliban attacking our people, which they had held off from since the Doha Agreement, and a heightened problem of likely terrorism.
So the President made a judgment on August 31st that he was going to remove the final troops and not trigger what would have turned into another war probably requiring more troops back in.
BERMAN: You just scooped me, I was going to play that exchange. That was an answer to a question that you asked about the August 31st withdrawal date. You, Senator, have written extensively on needing to take time to know really what happened there, to ask the right questions and get the right answers. So what questions do you still have after today's hearing?
KING: Well, a lot of them were cleared up, and unfortunately, part of the -- one of the best pieces of testimony took place in the closed session. And by the way, John, you would have been amused. You saw a lot of speechmaking and table pounding in that open session. We had a closed session a few hours later, none of that occurred. It was like a whole different set of senators. All of a sudden, all of the histrionics sort of went away.
But anyway, we had really good testimony about a number of topics. One was, what was the expectation of the timing of the collapse of the Afghan government? Nobody anticipated it would happen even before our troops were all the way out of the country. It happened on August 15th. Even the Taliban was surprised according to press reports that Ghani fled and the Afghan Army just melted away.
KING: So one of the key questions is, should the Biden administration have anticipated this and be better prepared for it? Number one, nobody was predicting it. Number two, we learned today that they were prepared for it. That they had war gamed the possibility of something like this, and that's why they had troops stationed in nearby countries that were brought in once things got out of control with the airport.
Within 16 hours, they regained control of the airport, because they had troops from the 82nd Airborne and Marines that came in, so yes, the first day was definitely chaotic. We've all seen those pictures. But after that, when they got control of the airport, getting out 120,000 people in 17 days, flights every 45 minutes with no breakdowns and maintenance problems and those kinds of things, was really an amazing achievement involving nine countries that they had to line up on the fly to take a lot of these folks.
BERMAN: Senator, very quickly. You heard General Milley's explanation regarding the calls he had with his Chinese counterpart. What if any concerns are you left with about how these calls played out?
KING: None. He was doing it at the direction of the Secretary of Defense. He was doing his job and he may well have prevented a war. From the reports that he released in a public statement, the Chinese were worried about an October surprise. They were worried about some kind of provocative attack and they were thinking about whether they had to preemptively come against us. He calmed them down and that was an act of patriotism.
BERMAN: Senator King, thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate watching you during the hearing. Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you.
BERMAN: A moment ago, we mentioned General Milley's admission that he was a source for three inside accounts of the Trump administration. Here's that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Did you talk to Bob Woodard or Robert Costa for their book "Peril"?
MILLEY: Woodward, yes. Costa, no.
BLACKBURN: Did you talk to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their book "Alone Can I Fix It."
BLACKBURN: Did you talk to Michael Vender for his book "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost"? Yes or no?
BLACKBURN: And were you accurately represented in these books?
MILLEY: I haven't read any of the books. So, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining us now, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, authors of "Peril," the bestselling, news-making inside look at the final days of the Trump administration and General Milley maybe the only person in Washington who hasn't read your book.
Bob Woodward had he read it, he would know that you write extensively about the different voices who were telling President Biden that they thought that leaving some troops in Afghanistan might be advisable. I'm curious and how you then explain the apparent contradiction in the interview with George Stephanopoulos?
BOB WOODWARD, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": Well, it's most interesting always when there's an apparent contradiction. What the reporting that Bob Costa and I did shows that in March of this year, not only Secretary of Defense Austin, but the Secretary of State Tony Blinken went to Europe and met with the leaders -- with the foreign ministers there who were saying, don't pull out completely, gate it or slow it down.
And so they both came back and made formal recommendations to President Biden, slow it down or gate it. But then they changed. Our reporting shows very specifically, they changed their minds and went along with the rapid withdrawal and their argument was, and this is very important to understand, we had only 3,500 troops there, that was low, and they both concluded that this was not a sufficient leverage with the Taliban to achieve anything.
And I think military experts would agree on that that's just not enough. And so, they changed their point of view on this. Now clearly, there was a lot of hydraulic pressure from one Commander-in-Chief, President Biden, he clearly wanted to get out when he worked as Vice President for Obama, he was the agitator, don't send a lot more troops. In fact, we quote him in an after action report from 2009, Joe Biden, then Vice President, saying, "The military doesn't F with me." Very, very strong.
And, you know, let's get out, let's end this war and we've seen it.
WOODWARD: So like, all presidential decisions that are difficult, it goes one way, the recommendations, then they change, and then there's a decision made. History is going to judge whether that decision is wise, good, or sound. Obviously, the outcome has not been a happy one.
BERMAN: Robert Costa, your book when it was published and the excerpts came out very early, the stuff about China and General Milley calling China caused a giant stir and Republicans -- and I'm going to use the word that they love -- they pounced on that. Right? They pounced on that reporting from you. Do you think now with the benefit of this testimony, the benefit of
reading your whole book now, that General Milley's actions and explanations are more clear and justified,
ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": Whether it's a Senate Republican or a Democrat or an Independent, I would urge them to read the whole book because the reporting's context is so important.
Chairman Milley, our reporting shows did not make these calls in a vacuum. He is reading in and briefing other officials -- the head of the N.S.A., the head of the C.I.A. He is also talking to Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Chairman Milley testified today under oath, he did this under the civilian direction at different times, both before the election and during the transition period.
And this context also includes a very dangerous transition period, not just in terms of National Security, but President Trump's conduct. So Chairman Milley is weighing many factors based on our reporting. The unease on the Chinese side to the point of maybe fearing a wag the dog attack, to also President Trump's unraveling conduct behind the scenes. That was Milley's assessment and the assessment of others.
And of course, that January 8th call comes two days after an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. All these factors, along with the President going outside of the usual channels on Afghanistan, CNN has reported on that memo, it's in our book as well. All these factors played into Milley's decision to make these calls and to take certain steps.
BERMAN: So Bob, when General Milley was asked about his call with Speaker Pelosi, Robert Costa talked about Trump unraveling and her concerns about then President Trump's mental stability, he said that he was, quote, "Not qualified to evaluate the mental fitness or the health of a former President, present President or anybody else or anybody in this room, that's not my job." Go ahead.
WOODWARD: Yes, but I think that statement is not denial. He said very clearly -- and by the way, this is added in ad lib, to the formal statement he presented this morning to the committee and as you said, "I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the President of the United States."
It is perfectly consistent. You know, I think all of us are psychologically and medically unable to make judgments of the mental health of anyone, but clearly from a transcript we've got, when we got it, we sat around just shaking our heads because Nancy Pelosi is on fire, and she is second in line for the presidency. She knows what the protocols are and she is saying to General Milley, I want some guarantees. My people, Members of the House want guarantees that Trump is not going to go off and use nuclear weapons.
He assures her, but then he realizes that she has got a point. This power to launch nuclear weapons or an attack are solely in the President's authority, and so he calls in the experts from the war room and says -- and this is something that didn't happen until at least my knowledge 1974 with Nixon, when Schlesinger -- James Schlesinger, the Secretary of Defense -- put the cap on Nixon and said, "Don't take orders from him."
Milley was not saying, don't take orders from the President, just involve me in the process.
BERMAN: And my journalistic journey is complete because Bob Woodward just told me General Milley essentially gave a non-denial denial.
Bob Woodward, Robert Costa, thank you both for being with us. I appreciate it very much.
COSTA: Thank you.
BERMAN: Next, breaking news in the manhunt for Brian Laundrie. New reporting on a camping trip he took with his family after returning from Wyoming and the mystery surrounding it.
And later, breaking news on the President's latest effort to get his divided party to come together on the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. A Democratic Congressman joins us.
BERMAN: The search for the late Gabby Petito's wanted fiance, Brian Laundrie still fruitless. There is breaking news tonight that fills out a piece of the timeline after he returned to Florida without her. That said, it also raises nearly as many questions as it might answer.
Our Randi Kaye joins us now with the latest on that. So, Randi, what do you know about this visit the Laundrie family apparently made to a campground after Brian Laundrie returned home from Wyoming?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really interesting information, John. We know that Brian Laundrie returned from Wyoming in Gabby Petito's van by himself here to the Laundrie home on September 1st, but now we're getting some new information about this camping trip.
CNN has confirmed with the Laundrie family attorney that the family went camping to the Fort De Soto Park which is about an hour or so north of the Laundrie home where we are on September 6th and 7th. That's what the family attorney says. He says they all went camping together and that they all left the campground together.
What we don't know is if they all came home here together. So, that is still a question.
KAYE: But the Pinellas County Parks check-in report, which was obtained by CNN says that there's a record of Mrs. Laundrie, Brian's mother, registering for a waterfront site to go camping, September 6th to 8th.
So the dates don't exactly line up, but say the family did take this camping trip, the question is, why did they take it? This was happening in the window that Gabby was missing. We know that he returned home as I said on September 1st, and then we know she was reported missing on September 11th.
So, what happened in that window of time? Did this family discuss why Gabby didn't return home from Wyoming with Brian Laundrie when she lived here at the family home with his family? So those are all questions about this camping trip.
But the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is telling CNN that they are not conducting any type of search effort at this Fort De Soto Park and that they have not had any confirmed sightings of Brian Laundrie there -- John.
BERMAN: So, Randi, there has been a lot of speculation, a lot said about the role of Brian Laundrie's parents, may or may not have played here. Are they reacting to any of it?
KAYE: They are because there's been a lot of talk about perhaps they gave him this three-day start. So, this is the statement that was released by the family attorney for the Laundrie's.
They said: "Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the F.B.I. can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong."
But it's important to note here that the family reported him missing on September 14th, but they said the last time they saw him was September 11th. So, what happened in those three days? Why wasn't he reported missing?
Clearly, there is some speculation that perhaps they waited to report it or perhaps they dropped him somewhere. But in that statement that we're getting now from the family attorney, they're clearly denying that -- John.
BERMAN: Randi Kaye, terrific reporting, as always. Thank you very much.
More now on what life on the run could be like for Brian Laundrie, if he indeed is on the run. Joining us survival expert, Steve Claytor. He is the leader of the Marion County, Florida Search and Rescue Tracking Task Force. Steve, if Brian Laundrie is in the Carlton Reserve, what would his biggest challenges be right now?
STEVE CLAYTOR, SEARCH AND RESCUE TRACKING TASK FORCE LEADER, MARION COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, right now I think the heat and humidity are going to be his biggest challenges. He is going to have to stay hydrated. He could have lots of ways to do that from using iodine, liquid or tablets or he could use chloride or water filtration system, or even a pot to boil water, but that's going to create heat, which is going to be -- his biggest adversary right now would be heat and humidity.
BERMAN: And fire, showing fire might give away his location if he is trying to hide. What items would he have had to bring with him in order to survive? And what do you think he could be doing for food?
CLAYTOR: Okay, well, I can tell you what I would take with me. Being a survival instructor, I would take definitely some type of water purification. Shelter is going to be key to keep me dry, if it's rainy outside, as well as ability to keep my clothing dry so that I don't create a fungal growth or anything in my feet or any of the moist areas on my body.
As far as food, there's plenty of it out there. If he's an avid outdoorsman, he'll be able to find plenty of edible plants that he can harvest and forage. And he can also set traps and catch a lot of small game that's relatively easy to catch.
BERMAN: How would you be searching for him, if it were up to you in that reserve?
CLAYTOR: If it was up to me, in an area that big, boots on the ground, I think are good to keep them on the move maybe. But I think probably aerial using drones with forward looking infrared are probably going to be the best bet, especially at night when the temperatures have cooled off a little bit as they are right now.
So I would probably try to use drones, set up a grid and look for any kind of body or heat signatures that might resemble a person.
BERMAN: How long do you think Laundrie could survive in those conditions? And do you think he'd still be there?
CLAYTOR: Well, I'll tell you, the National Association of Search and Rescue gives the average person less than five percent chance to live past 72 hours. If he has some training and some equipment, he could definitely go past that.
How long could he stay out there? It is completely up to his will and whether he wants to turn himself in or to stay out there if indeed that's where he's at. So, it all depends on him and the variables that he is presented with in the wilderness.
BERMAN: Steve Claytor, I appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you very much.
CLAYTOR: Yes, thanks for having me.
BERMAN: Up next, breaking news. President Biden cancels his trip to Chicago to deal with important business he says in Washington, a sign of just how critical the next two days will be in determining the fate of the centerpieces of his legislative agenda.
A congressman who holds some of that fate in his hands will join us after the break.
BERMAN: Breaking news out of Washington. CNN has learned that President Biden is canceling plans to travel to Chicago tomorrow in order to continue leading crucial negotiations over his legislative agenda. The President scrapped his travel plans following meetings today with senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema aimed at bridging the gap between moderate and progressive lawmakers over the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation legislation and the fate of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal.
And that's not all Congress is dealing with this week. Congressman Ro Khanna is one of the progressive lawmakers the President is trying to win over. He joins us now, live from Capitol Hill.
Congressman Khanna, I'm getting word that Senator Kyrsten Sinema has made a third trip to the White House today to meet with the President and also his aides. She is sort of seen as on the other side of where you are on this. She's one of the moderate Democratic senators trying to work out a deal from the other side. Have you gotten any word about whether there might be any breakthroughs tonight?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): John, the President has already won me over I'm on his side as by the way is 99% of the Democratic Party. We want to deliver on his message for the working and middle class. That means giving affordable childcare to everyone watching. It means seniors are finally going to get dental and hearing aids covered. It means that if you're sick, you're going to get paid leave. And you don't have to go into debt to go to community college. And what we have said is that if there is an agreement that the President strikes on this bill back better agenda, we will vote for the bipartisan bill, we're willing to negotiate. We've set front load the benefits don't have them as many years.
All of the folks at the White House know we're being reasonable. And literally one senator, one Senator Kyrsten Sinema is holding up the wheel of the entire Democratic Party.
BERMAN: What is she said that she wants as far as you know?
KHANNA: That's the question, the President keeps begging or tell us what you want. Put a proposal forward. You see the progressives, look at what we've compromised on. We went from 6 trillion to 3.5 trillion. Then they said we need to pass a bill in the Senate first. We said even if you come up with an agreement, that's fine. Then they said, go blow 3.5 trillion. We said, OK, we're willing to negotiate front load the benefits. Let's talk about the years. We are willing to compromise. How do you compromise, John, when Sinema is not saying anything?
And what's mind boggling is you have unanimity in the House. Tomorrow the Speaker could get a deal in the House on a number, and I believe you have 48 senators, I believe Senator Manchin would come on board. It's important for people to realize this. This is not progressives versus moderates. This is the entire Democratic Party and Joe Biden versus Kyrsten Sinema.
BERMAN: And you have no idea what she wants. KHANNA: I have no idea what she wants. I don't think her colleagues know what she wants. I don't think the President knows what she wants. I don't think House moderates knows what she wants. We've said let's get in a room. Let's negotiate. Let's come up with a deal. And I just don't understand it. I mean, the President carried her state.
Look, I respect Senator Manchin, he's in a state that is 30%. Trump, and he always comes through at the end, and he's a person who votes his conviction. Kyrsten cinema is -- Kyrsten Sinema is an estate that Biden carried her colleague, Mark Kelly, who has higher popularity ratings, he's totally on board with the agenda. And Sinema is out there saying she doesn't want to raise even a dime of taxes on the wealthy multimillionaires. You know, they're all in my district, I'm saying raise their taxes. But we don't know what she wants. It's really odd.
BERMAN: All right. So, Pramila Jayapal is head of the progressive caucus in the House has said that she will not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure plan unless there is a deal or also a vote on the larger reconciliation bill. Where are you on that? If Nancy Pelosi as promised brings the infrastructure plan to a vote by itself on Thursday, are you yes or no?
KHANNA: I'm a no as are about 40, 50 other members. But I don't think the President frankly, wants that. I mean, no one at the White House has said go vote for an infrastructure bill without the rest of the President's agenda that helps the working class and tackles climate. And they've been very happy that we're willing to negotiate. And what we have said is we're behind the President who will come up with a deal. You know, we've could be seen as unreasonable if the President has struck a deal, and we're not willing to budge from our number. That's not the case.
All we're saying is come up with an agreement to implement the President's agenda, which 48 and probably 49 senators agree with and all of the House can live with. Why is it that one senator should have this much power? I mean, you know, we're in a democracy, where one senator is holding things up and the Senate parliamentarian it's absurd, really, to be this dysfunctional as a system. And I think the Democratic Party around the country everyone watching should mobilize and take its time we respect our President, I cheered Bernie Sanders campaign. I'm behind this President.
BERMAN: So --
KHANNA: Let's get behind him.
BERMAN: -- have you told Nancy Pelosi this?
KHANNA: Yes, I said it actually in the caucus meeting today. And it got a lot of applause from moderates, from centrists. I think there's a -- the frustration is that this is 99% unanimity. And yet one person it's not just that they're --
BERMAN: Can I --
KHANNA: -- oppose, they're unwilling to negotiate.
BERMAN: I'm going to ask the same question to Josh Gottheimer tomorrow, a moderate who sort of on the other side of this. So don't think I'm just picking on progressives here.
BERMAN: But how nervous are you at the prospect of nothing? Of getting nothing? Because if you don't get great at anything, no infrastructure, no reconciliation, there's nothing.
KHANNA: Josh Gottheimer is a friend, I had zero nervousness if it was Gottheimer who's negotiating. He's negotiated in good faith, we can sit down, we can come to an agreement. I can't predict the actions of Senator Sinema and if this deal goes down, it will be on her shoulders. I don't think that will be the case. I think the President will prevail on her.
But, you know, there's no one else I have a concern about in the House. There's no one else I haven't concerned about in the Senate. I don't think one senator will block this President's agenda but that's really the -- that's the state, those are the stakes.
BERMAN: Needless to say, we will reach out to Senator Sinema to get her reaction to what you're saying here. Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks very much for being with us.
KHANNA: Thank you.
BERMAN: Still ahead, a vaccine mandate now in effect for healthcare workers in New York. So why are thousands still refusing to get the shot though I should say thousands and thousands more did get the shot under the wire. Miguel Marquez has some answers, next.
BERMAN: A huge hospital system in North Carolina that made the COVID vaccine mandatory for its employees says 99% complied, 99%. But according to The Washington Post, 175 employees who refuse to get vaccinated have been fired.
Meanwhile, here in New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order to mitigate potential health care worker shortages due to the state's new vaccine mandate. The mandate that went into effect today requires all state health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID. The governor's order significantly expands the eligible workforce and allows additional workers to administer COVID testing and vaccinations.
According to the latest information from the governor's office 92% of hospital staff, 92% of nursing home staff and 89% of adult health care facility staff had at least one vaccine dose a lot over the last few days. But that still leaves thousands of healthcare workers who are refusing to get the shot. The question is why? CNN's Miguel Marquez sat down with two of them to find out.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): At some point, it pushes going to come to shove and they will say you must be vaccinated or you will not have a job.
DONNA SCHMIDT, REGISTERED NURSE, NEO-NATA ICU: I will not --
STEPHANIE TOUCHET, MEDICAL ASSISTANT: I will not take it.
SCHMIDT: -- be vaccinated, not --
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Healthcare workers Donna Schmidt and Stephanie Touchet are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine no matter what.
(on-camera): Do either of you have a job today?
TOUCHET: Currently, I am employed.
MARQUEZ (on-camera): And do you have a job?
SCHMIDT: I do have a job. I'm actually out of medical leave for a surgical procedure I had but --
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both expect they won't have a job for long. Both don't trust the vaccine and its possible side effects. Both have requested religious exemptions.
(on-camera): What religion are you?
MARQUEZ (on-camera): Catholic. And even though the Pope got vaccinated and says vaccines are fine and we should be getting them that doesn't --
TOUCHET: I feel he's a hypocrite. My whole life --
MARQUEZ (on-camera): This is God's messenger on Earth. This is the Bishop of Rome.
TOUCHET: He is, he was elected to that position. However, he's not abiding by the Bible.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both say they gladly test for COVID on a weekly basis, instead of getting the vaccine. That's not enough for the state of New York.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): You need to be assured that the person taking care of you is not going to give COVID to you or your newborn.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Donna Schmidt works in a neonatal ICU. (on-camera): Do you worry about giving something COVID or anything else, even to a child that's in your care?
SCHMIDT: No. Because we're all required to wear and use PPE, we're trained professionals, we know how to use it properly.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both believe COVID-19 is real. But don't believe the statistics when it comes to reporting COVID deaths and whether the vaccine is effective.
(on-camera): The number of people who are hospitalized and die that are vaccinated is extremely low, compared to those who are dying by the thousands every week of COVID-19.
TOUCHET: That's a misconception. And --
MARQUEZ (on-camera): I've seen them myself.
TOUCHET: -- I can speak to that. I know --
MARQUEZ (on-camera): I talked to them myself, thousands of people are dying from COVID-19 every week --
TOUCHET: Here's the --
MARQUEZ (on-camera): -- in this country.
TOUCHET: Here's the thing, there are several hundreds of thousands of people that were put on hospice, five months before COVID came, they had brain tumors, they had lung cancer, they had COPD, they had other elements, illnesses, and yet on their actual death certificate, they deemed it that it was for COVID.
MARQUEZ (on-camera): You can't even accept that the vaccines work?
SCHMIDT: No, I'm not convinced that they work yet.
MARQUEZ (on-camera): You either?
TOUCHET: Me neither.
SCHMIDT: No, because there's so much suppressed science out there globally.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both women who got COVID-19 feel betrayed. Year ago, people cheered them. Today, they feel their options for a livelihood, are being ripped away.
(on-camera): So what's next for you two?
TOUCHET: And that's the number one thing that frustrates me the most is that we were all together, we were all united, and then all of a sudden, these mandates come out. And then they're fearful of losing their jobs. And they're being told, oh, this is safe, and you're in the wrong. SCHMIDT: I believe the fabric of our civilized, free society is truly at a precipice. And when I lay my head down, not only at night, but at the ends of my life, if I'm given a moment, I want to know. And I want my descendants to know that I did everything that I could. And then I fought --
TOUCHET: For what we believe in.
SCHMIDT: -- for what I know to be true and right. And if that cost me everything, so be it.
MARQUEZ: So look, a lot of people are not going to agree with these two women said but I will say I thank them for speaking to us. It is not easy to speak about these things. They feel very deeply in what they believe. All that said they thought they were going to have a lot more people, a lot more nurses and healthcare workers who did not get vaccinated who would be on their side that could pressure that the government of New York to not put this mandate into effect, but we saw those numbers go from about 84% last week to over 92% now, it is clear that if you want people to get vaccinated, mandate it.
BERMAN: A lot of people rushing to get the vaccine under the wire because of the mandates. Miguel Marquez that was terrific. Thank you very much for the conversation.
Next, the Obamas in Chicago breaking ground for his presidential library and what the 44th president had to say about the 45th.
BERMAN: This afternoon, former President Obama and his wife Michelle were in Chicago breaking ground on the Obama Presidential Center, his future library on the south side of the city where he began his political career and in 2008, celebrated his presidential victory.
During his remarks, the 44th President appeared to direct some rather unsettled commentary at his Republican successor and the divisions in this country that former president help so.
Joe Johns has the details.
BARACK OBAMA (D) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: And too often, it feels as if our major institutions have failed to respond effectively to these disruptions, to help people find economic security or manage our differences or protect our planet.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And the long delayed groundbreaking for his Presidential Center in Chicago, a glimpse of the former president as philosopher, briefly describing a now familiar global political phenomenon. OBAMA: And what we've seen is that in the breach, a culture of cynicism and mistrust can grow.
JOHNS (voice-over): Obama did not mention Donald Trump by name or Trump's clones in power and pockets around the world, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Erdogan in Turkey, he didn't have to.
OBAMA: This is true in Europe, and in Asia. It's true in Latin America, and in Africa. And it happens to be true here at home, you start seeing more division, and increasingly bitter conflict. The politics that feeds anger and resentment towards those who aren't like us, and starts turning away from Democratic principles in favor of tribalism and might makes right.
JOHNS (voice-over): But the former president is also offering a message of hope.
OBAMA: I don't believe it's inevitable that we succumb to paralysis or mutual hatred, or abandoned democracy in favor of systems that reserved power and privilege for the few. As has been true throughout our history.
JOHNS (voice-over): Today's event has been a long time coming. Construction has been tied up for years by opponents who don't want it here in historic Jackson Park in Chicago, but it's going forward anyway. It will have 19 acres of mostly green space, a presidential museum, and a fruit and vegetable garden, also a branch of the Chicago Public Library.
Envisioned with some of the elements of a traditional Presidential Library, but unlike all the others dating back to Hoover, it will be run by his own foundation, not the National Archives.
OBAMA: It won't just be an exercise in nostalgia or looking backwards. We want to look forward.
JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Chicago.
BERMAN: And next why LeBron James says he finally got vaccinated and what he made a point of not saying.
BERMAN: One of the most famous athletes in the world is now vaccinated. LeBron James says he was initially skeptical of the vaccine. But at the Lakers Annual Media Day in California, he now says he got vaccinated. However, he said he wouldn't use his platform to urge others to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES PLAYER: It's almost like people's bodies and well beings, you know, so I don't feel like for me personally, and I should get involved in and what people should do for their bodies and their livelihoods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: To shame, it can make a difference. Back in May James had refused to say whether he was vaccinated at all.
The news continues. So let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."