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At This Hour

Biden Begins First Foreign Trip As Domestic Agenda Stalls; Lawyer: Rioter is Victim of Conspiracy Theories, "Lies"; Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) is Interviewed About the Capitol Attack and the Bipartisan Senate January 6 Report. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 09, 2021 - 11:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Kate Bolduan.

Here's what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:


President Biden on the world stage. A packed schedule for his first trip abroad. We'll lay out what's at stake for the White House.

Priorities in peril. As he heads to Europe, his domestic agenda seems to be falling apart. So, is Biden's trip coming at the worst possible time?

And Dr. Anthony Fauci has led the fight against two of the world's worst economics, COVID and AIDS. He'll join us to talk about what worries him with the COVID crisis and his legacy.


HILL: Right now, President Biden is on his way to England for his first international trip since taking office. But he leaves behind a domestic agenda stuck in gridlock.

He lives that as he faces the major challenge of bolstering relationships with international ally and his scheduled is jam-packed, eight days of diplomacy from England, to Brussels, to Geneva, where he'll end with that high stakes meeting with Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is in England where President Biden will soon land.

Arlette, what do we expect from this first foreign trip for President Biden?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, President Biden made clear that an overarching message during this trip to Europe will be ensuring that the U.S. is shoring up its relations with allies while also putting adversaries like China and Russia on notice. You will see that take place with that high-stakes meeting one week from today when the president sits down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And just a few hours ago, before the president left Washington, D.C.,

he told reporters what his goals for the trip are. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Strengthening the alliance. Making it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight and the G7 is going to move.


SAENZ: Now, this is a carefully choreographed trip. And at the start, the president will be focusing on those alliances. He will be traveling here to the Cornwall area for the meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as the G7 summit over the course of the next few days. This evening when the president lands, he'll be speaking to service members and meeting with service members and their families at Mildenhall Air Base, a little bit closer to London.

But while the president is here at the G7 summit, at the top of the agenda, they're expected to focus on things like climate change, countering China, and also COVID-19.

At some point, over the course of the next few days, the president will be making an announcement when it comes to the global production of a vaccine. So many countries around the world are still trying to get their hands on vaccinations for their people.

Now, after the meeting at the G7, the president meets one-on-one and with the first lady with Queen Elizabeth. Biden will be the 13th American president that Queen Elizabeth has met during her time as queen of England.

Now, the president will also head to Brussels where he'll participate in NATO and E.U. summits, once again trying to shore up relationships with allies.

And then there's the critical meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next Wednesday. The president -- there had been debate over whether this meeting should actually take place. The president, believing that face-to-face interaction is critical as he's trying to set the course for the relationship with Putin going forward.

HILL: Arlette Saenz with the latest for us on that agenda -- Arlette, thank you.

Joining me now, Max Boot, CNN global affairs analyst. He's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Max, always good to see you.

Now, this reporting that Arlette just mentioned that there was some debate in the White House about whether this meeting should happen with Vladimir Putin.

Do you think it should? Where do you stand? MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it makes sense. I mean,

after all, we had U.S. presidents meeting with leaders of the Soviet Union even at the height of the Cold War when we were much more antagonistic than we are today.

There's no doubt that Vladimir Putin is an international criminal, that he needs to be called to account. But you still got to be able to have face to face conversations with leaders of major countries such as Russia or China, however much you might abhor their conduct. And, in fact, talking to the leader of that country like Putin is a way to signal your displeasure face-to-face, while also finding areas where you can work together, for example, on reducing the nuclear arsenals of both powers.

So, you know, as long as we don't see the kind of appalling performance that we saw from Trump when he met with Putin in Helsinki -- and, of course, we will not see that. We will not see, you know, Biden paying homage to Putin the way that Trump did. As long as Biden stands up for American interests, and levels with Putin, which I'm sure he'll do, I think it's a good idea to have the meeting.

HILL: Well, he's asked specifically what he's going to say. Here's a little bit of what he just told reporters.


REPORTER: Do you expect Putin will be able to work out any kind of understanding with you on the cyberattacks?

BIDEN: Who knows?


It's going to be a subject of our discussion.


HILL: There's a lot, obviously, that stems down from the cyberattacks. The president saying it's going to be part of the discussion.

How much of a priority should addressing these cyberattacks be for president Biden?

BOOT: There's no question that the cyberattacks have to be a priority because they have been very damaging to the United States. But there's a whole host of other issues where Russia's actions are also very damaging, you know, in the way they're continuing their invasion of Ukraine, for example, in the way they continue to metal in politics in Europe and the United States, or the way Putin has backed his ally Luka -- has backed his ally Lukashenko in Belarus after he hijacked a civilian aircraft to arrest a dissident.

So there's a whole range of issues where Russia is an international outlaw regime. And, you know, I think Biden needs to lay down the law to Putin and make clear there will be escalating sanctions and consequences for Russian misconduct.

HILL: As we look at -- this is a big week as we've said for President Biden. It's not just his first overseas trip. When we look at the administration as a whole, we have Vice President Harris just finishing her first international trip and, frankly, being met with criticism on both sides.

In fact, our reporting is that within the White House, there was -- I want to make sure I get this wording correct -- the staff was quietly perplexed about how she answered questions about why she hasn't visited the border with Mexico.

What's your take on this first trip for her as vice president?

BOOT: I think she did fine. She could have handled the questions about the border visit better. But to my mind, it's basically a phony baloney scandal. You have the right wing attack machine led by Fox and others, and they need to attack Democrats for something, but they can't lay a glove on Joe Biden because he seems so innocuous and so likable, so they're looking on somebody else in the Democratic Party to beat up.

And Vice President Harris as a woman of color is a prime target. And so, they've created this pseudo scandal about why hasn't she visited the border? Well, maybe one good reason she hasn't visited, she's not in charge of the border. She is not the secretary of homeland security. Her remit from President Biden is to deal with the Central American states and to try to get them to reduce their migration to the United States. That's what she was doing when she was visiting Guatemala and Mexico.

So, this notion she has to go to the border, it's really this Fox News concoction, but they've had enough success blasting it out into the atmosphere that the vice president certainly has to be able to handle those kinds of questions in a better way.

HILL: Max Boot, always good to talk with you. Thank you.

BOOT: Thank you.

HILL: As President Biden heads overseas, his agenda here at home appears stalled. Efforts to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal, hopes for a police reform bill, even voting rights efforts also facing major setbacks.

CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju joining us now with the details.

So, Manu, where -- where do the president's key agenda issues stand at this point?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of them are stalled and are on the knife's edge right now and will determine -- this month will determine whether or not he can get much of his agenda through, whether or not it will fall by the wayside. And at the center of that is a major infrastructure package. We did

see those talks be with Senator Shelley Moore Capito abruptly scrapped last night. I just talked to her moments ago.

She was somewhat critical of this new effort, a bipartisan effort to try to get a deal, suggesting it impacted her ability to get a deal, may have undercut her as she was trying to get a deal with the White House.

Now, what the White House is focusing on is the new bipartisan effort to try to see if there's any sort of consensus around an infrastructure proposal. But in talking to the key negotiators this morning, there's very clear how high of a hurdle it will be to achieve a deal that can get across both sides of Congress as well as support within the Senate Democratic Caucus. And for one reason is because Senate Republican negotiators are saying that tax increases are completely off the table, and that's what Democrats are demanding to pay for a massive package.


RAJU: What about raising taxes? Are you open to raising taxes?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We're not raising taxes. No.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): The last thing we want to do in an infrastructure package is to hurt the economy. As we come out of COVID, we want to actually help keep the economy moving in the right direction. So, you know, taxes will be a huge mistake.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): This is the problem. Republicans always say they want to modernize our infrastructure. They just don't want to pay for a thing.


RAJU: And that last comment, Kate, from Chris Van Hollen. He's not part of the negotiating group, but he represents a view of a number of Senate Democrats who simply will not go along with what Republicans are talking about, how to pay for the package.


That's long been the sticking point on a major infrastructure deal. This bipartisan group is talking about repurposing money that had already been enacted under the massive COVID relief law. Some money that has not been spent, sort of user fees as well. But there are concerns among the White House about doing just that.

So, whether they can get a deal and how to pay for it continues to divide the two parties.

And one key Democratic senator who is part of that negotiating group, Jon Tester, I just spoke to him as well. He did confirm that tax increases is not part of what they're discussing here. But he said he's going to give the bipartisan talks about a week, and if they don't reach a deal, that's when you can expect Democrats in the Senate and the White House to get behind an effort to try to pass a bill along straight party lines, through a budget process that can prevent Senate Republicans from filibustering that.

But to do that, you need support of all 50 Democrats including those like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who are not in line with the Democrat leaders on this point -- Erica.

HILL: We are going to keep you very busy for the next week, Manu, is what that means.

Meantime, there is so much uncertainty surrounding the president's agenda right now.

Is this the right time for him to be travelling overseas? What are you hearing in the halls there?

RAJU: You know, some of his negotiators are involved, aides are involved in some the negotiations here. They are being kept apprise of what's happening.

And one key issue could actually happen in the days ahead, and that's the issue of policing legislation, overhauling police practices in this country. I'm hearing that they are close to a deal, that they can announce as soon as next week, including dealing with that key issue about how police officers are treated in civil court and whether that victims of police violence can actually go to court, in civil court and sue.

And I'm hearing they're talking about police departments being liable in civil courts. That will be a key compromise if they can reach.

But, still, Erica, if a negotiating team can reach a deal, they've still got to sell it to Congress. That is also a high hurdle -- Erica.

HILL: That it is. Manu, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, a rioter seen chasing police through the Capitol building on January 6th says he is not responsible for what he did that day. And now, he's asking to be released from jail.

Plus, Dr. Fauci joins me live. His warning about a new highly contagious COVID variant now spreading in the U.S.



HILL: At this hour, new developments in the investigation into the January 6th insurrection. A man caught on video chasing a police officer through the Capitol building during the riots is now asking the judge to be released from jail.

Doug Jensen who's pictured here wearing a QAnon shirt says he was misled into taking part of the siege, deceived by a, quote, pack of lies from QAnon and former President Trump. CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington with the latest for us.

So, Whitney, what is going on here?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Douglas Jensen was among the most visible rioters on January 6th. He's seen on video wearing a QAnon t-shirt pursuing Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman ahead of an angry mob following them up the stairs inside the Capitol.

Jensen claims he was misled into joining the deadly insurrection, that he was not part of any mob and simply came to Washington from Des Moines, Iowa, to observe the events of the day. He even argues he felt threatened by Officer Goodman. Jensen is asking to be released from jail until his trial.

In a court filing, his lawyer writes, Jensen's initial attraction to QAnon with a stated mission to eliminate pedophiles from society. For reasons he doesn't even understand today, he became a true believer and was convinced he was doing a noble service by becoming a digital soldier for Q.

He fell victim to this barrage of Internet-sourced info and came to the Capitol at the direction of the president of the United States to demonstrate that he was a true patriot.

Prosecutors, Erica, see this very differently. They say as the crowd coalesced into a violent mob, Jensen was among the first people to push his way inside the Capitol. Jensen is just the latest Capitol riot suspect to express remorse and blame either QAnon or the former president for inciting the violence.

So far, federal judges overseeing these Capitol riot cases have not been swayed by this argument. Jensen has been charged with seven crimes including obstructing congressional proceedings, interfering with police officers, civil disorder, I mean, the list goes on.

He has pleaded not guilty. He's been in jail since his arrest in January. There's a hearing scheduled for next week to keel with his continued detention, Erica. But there are a lot of defendants trying to say, look, they're the victims here, and he's one of them.

HILL: Whitney Wild, great reporting as always. Thank you.

Joining me now, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. She's a Democrat from Virginia.

Good to have you with us.

You know, if we pick up on January 6th, we just talk with Whitney there, the Senate report which came out on January 6th, I know you said highlighted that we did learn about some of the failures in terms of intelligence communication and security failures at the Capitol. We didn't learn about the root causes there. No mention of former President Trump.

And we know this bipartisan attempt to learn about -- to learn more about what happened leading up to January 6th and on that day just failed in the Senate.

I mean, is it your sense now that this ship has sailed, some sort of bipartisan effort or even a real desire to learn about what happened?

REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): Erica, I don't think that's an acceptable option. We have a circumstance -- and I was in the Capitol on January 6th. I was in the House chamber when we had to lock down the doors, get down -- I was there as I watched police officers put benches and tables in front of the doors trying to stop the insurrectionists from being able to break through the doors.


This was a serious assault on our democracy. More than 140 police officers were brutalized, losing fingers, losing eyes. We saw deaths on that day, and there were people who, as they say, as mentioned in your prior reporting, were focused on digesting a pack of lies and came to Washington, as they say, at the urging of former President Trump, attempting to stop Congress from doing its duty.

And so, while it's important that we saw the first report, and this report about the actual failures that occurred on that day of January 6th in terms of an operational failure to keep the building secure, what's really important is understanding how we got to January 6th in the first place. It's important to know the intelligence wasn't passed to all the people it needed to be passed to.

But when there's intelligence saying there are American citizens who plan on marching on the Capitol. They think they're doing it because they believe the president wants them to do it and they plan on stopping Congress and they plan on terrorizing lawmakers, we need to understand what got our country to that point.

I mean, frankly, Erica, if your roof collapses and someone says, well, there was structural damage -- well, of course, there's structural damage. But we need to know why that structural damage was there so we can prepare and ensure it never happens again.

This is the very structure of our democracy. So, it's incredibly important that we understand the root, root causes that got us to that day.

HILL: So how do you do that? What in your eyes would be the best path, and is there a bipartisan path to do that? Because as we know, if it's not bipartisan, it's going to be viewed in that light.

SPANBERGER: Yeah. I mean, arguably, it has to be non-partisan, or it has to be bipartisan in terms of who is coming to the table. But everyone sitting at that table doing the review of what led us to that point has to be committed to taking party out of it. It isn't what happened to Democrats or Republicans. It's about what happened to the American people and the American democracy.

So, certainly there are on going discussions about potentially a presidential commission. There's ongoing discussions about a congressional select committee. If there's a select committee for it to have the real -- the power that it would need, it has to be bipartisan.

And it has to be bipartisan in that it's not a group of Democrats talking to a group of Republicans. It's a group of Americans who represent a broad array of political philosophy perhaps, but united in their desire to truly understand what led our country to such an unthinkable event, that we would see our fellow citizens conducting an insurrection, beating police officers and walking through the halls of the United States Capitol screaming "hang Mike Pence."

HILL: We will -- we will be watching and seeing what happens there.

I do want to get you on infrastructure as well. You're part of the Problem Solvers Caucus. We know you just put your own proposal, $1.25 trillion, I believe.

The big question and the big sticking point, as we know, is how to pay for this. How do you pay for that? That's what we need, right?

SPANBERGER: Absolutely. And, Erica, those conversations are still ongoing. I think many people across Capitol Hill have been of the opinion that we have to first agree upon what it is we are actually wanting to fund, and then have the next discussion of how we pay for it.

Certainly, I align with many of my colleagues and say we have to recognize the real need of paying for these major investments. And, frankly, we're looking at making record investments in American infrastructure in our nation. So, I don't think there's a need for us to rush through this process.

We should be focused and determined and informed by the president's proposal, certainly the American Jobs Plan, which is physical infrastructure and more expansive elements of our social infrastructure. And we should really drill down on what it is that we are putting forth in terms of the investments we're making, and from there continue the conversations about how to pay for it.

So, those conversations are on going. As you might imagine, a lot of people have a lot of opinions and we're working through them trying to come up with agreements that are going to be productive and useful and helpful to the Biden administration as we move forward.

HILL: So, I have ten seconds. So what you're saying is no timeline?

SPANBERGER: Currently -- ideally -- you know, the first step was agreeing to what we wanted to pay for. The second step is agreeing how to pay for it.

HILL: All right.

SPANBERGER: So, I would say thoughtful, purposeful legislating doesn't always need to have a fixed timeline.

HILL: Fair enough. Well, we look forward to the updates when they come.

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, thanks for your time today.

SPANBERGER: Thank you so much.

HILL: Just ahead, Dr. Fauci joins me live. Some progress, still some major concerns on both.



HILL: When it's time to pay taxes, new reporting from "ProPublica" says the nation's top 25 richest people pay little to nothing at all. The revelation after an anonymous source sent the publican years of tax returns, and thousands of the wealthiest Americans. Among them, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos.