Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden to Survey Wildfire Damage, Campaign for California Governor; Manchin and Sanders Spar Over Biden's $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan; Larry Elder Baselessly Raises Prospect of Voter Fraud. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Biden heads west. California, Idaho, Colorado all on schedule, but also a critical week for his agenda back in Washington.

Recall decision time. The political fate for California's governor will be decided this week. He's getting some last minute help from the president himself to try and save his job. The state's lieutenant governor is our guest.

And vaccines by the numbers. The debate over vaccine mandates is always been heated, has been for the beginning. Yet new polling shows there is more consensus than you might think.

Thanks for being here, you guys.

AT THIS HOUR, President Biden is on his way to Idaho to begin a two- day trip on the West Coast. It's his first official trip to the region since taking office and CNN has learned that the president will once again tie the extreme weather events that we've been seeing across the country with the need to pass his infrastructure plan and the bigger broader economic agenda.

President Biden will be surveying the damage from the recent wildfires there which has burned millions of acres in several states this year. He will also campaign for California Governor Gavin Newsom ahead of tomorrow's recall vote that could decide Newsom's political fate.

This visit comes as so much of the president's domestic agenda, though, is hanging in the balance. Top Democrats have set a Wednesday deadline to finalize a deal on their massive $3.5 trillion budget proposal but major differences between moderate and progressive Democratic lawmakers is threatening to derail the whole thing.

The Wednesday deadline seems like a no go at this point.

Let's begin with CNN's John Harwood who's live at the White House for the preview of the president's travels.

John, what is the White House looking to get from this trip?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're looking to mix a heavy dose of disaster relief with some politics and advancing their legislative agenda. So, today, the president, he's now on his way to Boise, Idaho. He's going to look at the interagency fire center there, as wildfires burn across the West. He will then go to Sacramento and look at fire damage, and make an appearance for Gavin Newsom.

Final day of voting in that California re-election is tomorrow. Prospects are looking fairly good for Gavin Newsom. But the president is trying to help at the last minute.

But he's also going to take advantage of this trip to do the same thing that he did when he looked at flood damage and hurricane damage from the Ida and its remnants in New York and New Jersey last week. Turn it to the climate agenda that is part of the infrastructure bill that he's trying to advance and they're seeing some progress, very difficult, divisions within the Democratic Party, a long way to go.

But they put out a statement praising the product that the Ways and Means Committee published last night toward rewarding work and not wealth in this economy, cutting taxes for the middle class and providing benefits for middle class families while making corporations an the wealthy pay their fair share. So, with a very tight legislative deadline, the need to unite the Democratic party and keep things moving, they're trying to make everything count, Kate.

He's going to do the same thing tomorrow when he goes to Colorado, push the infrastructure agenda there as well.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. John, thank you so much for that.

And really what John is talking about, this bigger broader agenda facing this deadline in Washington, let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is throwing a major wrench in this timeline the Democratic leaders have laid out for trying to pass and move forward this $3.5 trillion spending package that's part of all of this. Manchin says clearly he's a no on the overall price tag and says Democrats, they need more time to work out these differences.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more on this.

Manu, Manchin is -- it's very evident from yesterday -- at odds with progressive senators like Bernie Sanders on a lot of this. Where -- what is going on here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and this is significant, because in the Senate he would have all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in agreement to move forward. If one defects, Joe Manchin defects, this whole effort could collapse.

And this is all tied to also a separate effort, the bill that passed the Senate last month to provide about $1.2 trillion to build up the nation's infrastructure, roads and bridges, et cetera. That bill is awaiting a vote in the House. But if this larger Democratic plan stalls in the Senate, progressives in the House are threatening to tank that infrastructure bill.

So all of this could collapse and that is when the next few weeks are absolutely essential right now. But what Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders both of them representing the different wings of the Democratic Party, made very clear how they view this differently. One, Joe Manchin wants a significantly limit in the scope of the plan. He thinks about $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion. Bernie Sanders said $3.5 trillion at least, not to mention their differences on a whole host of policy issues.


The question, though, is how will the Democratic leaders bridge the divide? But yesterday, both of those senators made clear their differences on this package.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): He will not have my vote or 3.5 and Chuck knows that and we've talked about this. We've already put out $5.4 trillion and we try to help Americans in every way we possibly can and a lot of the help that we put out there is still there and it's going to run clear until next year 2022.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): The bottom line here is if you think about the house as well, these two bills, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill are marching down the path together. It would be a terrible thing for the American people if both of those bills fail.


RAJU: But there are still so many differences. Today, the House Ways and Means Committee put out plans on how to pay for the proposal including tax increases on corporations and the wealthy. Joe Manchin for one has some differences on that, some negotiations to be had, and also staring a key deadline to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the month. They have to raise the national borrowing limit to avoid a death default.

And then some key hearings, including today on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we'll be hearing from testimony from Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the first time a senior administration official has testified before Congress.

So, a significant moment for the Biden agenda. Can they get all this done in just a matter of few weeks? Major questions ahead -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Manu, thanks for your reporting as always.

Joining me now for more on this legislative agenda and where it's headed is CNN chief political correspondent, co-anchor of the "STATE OF THE UNION", Dana Bash.

I mean, Dana, it was your interviews with Manchin and Sanders on the show yesterday that really crystallized what they're up against right now. Where -- how real the differences are. I mean, from your conversations, was it clear where the fault line really is right now? Is it price tag or is it specifics?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Such a good question, Kate. You must have covered Capitol Hill for a while.

Because it's both. And I'll add a third. It is timeline.


BASH: So it's the top line number, it's how -- it's what that number composes, the policies, that add up to that number and how quickly they're going to do it.

Joe Manchin is opposed to what the Democratic leadership, not just Bernie Sanders who, of course, is the budget chair and the leading progressive, but it's the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate and the White House. He opposes all of them, on all three of those things.

But, you know, we've been talking a lot about what we call here in Washington, the top line, is it going to be $3.5 trillion? Is it going to be what Joe Manchin wants, you know, $1.5 trillion?

But the question is, the policies that are underlying. And one of the key priorities for Democratic leaders, because this has been a progressive priority for a long time, is that expanded child tax credit. It's already on the books right now. It will expire and what they want to do is make it permanent.

So I asked Joe Manchin about that example of something that is in this big budget bill. Listen to what he said.


MANCHIN: Let's make sure that we're getting it to the right people. Let's make sure that people on poverty -- I can tell you, people that are working and working poor and making every effort they can to get ahead in life, that's in the $50,000 and below. I've got people that making combined $200,000 and $300,000 and more up to $400,000 saying they're getting checks. You know, if we have X amount --

BASH: But it's on a sliding scale. They shouldn't be doing that.

MANCHIN: Well, it's happening, though, this is happening because of the sliding scale. If it's child tax credit, you want to help the children and parents that are basically providing for their children. There's no work requirements whatsoever. There's no education requirements whatsoever for better skill sets. Don't you think if we're going to help the children, the people should make some effort?


BASH: So, that's one example. That's a big part of the price tag that will be in the Democrats' bill once they actually write it. Another big difference is on clean energy. The senator from West

Virginia says that he thinks that the way that the leadership is going at it, it is too -- basically too punitive. These are my words not his, for the energy companies and at the end of the day will make it harder for in case of emergency people to get energy. There will be no, you know, kind baseline for them.

Also on other questions, other big issues, the only one that I could find that I asked him about that he supports is universal pre-K. That is one area where they -- where they agree. So the question, Kate, is going to be, how they can bridge all of these where, when you have fundamental priorities by the White House and Democratic leaders that he doesn't support and I should say that he was the guy on set with me. There are others namely, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona on the Democratic side who may have problems with those things too.


BOLDUAN: Talked to you about the remarks given by former President George W. Bush on Saturday and I know you're part of our important coverage commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11. He very specifically in his remarks in Shanksville and precisely drew a parallel between the 9/11 attackers and the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, though not saying it by name.

Let me play a key part for everybody.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country could come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there is disdain for pluralism and their disregard for human life and their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


BOLDUAN: What did you make when you heard this from the former president, equating these two things? Because I wonder what the impact of this could be?

BASH: That is unclear what the impact is going to be in the short- term. But I could tell you, I covered the Bush White House and I got to know him a little bit and that was the man that we all knew, his legacy was and still is always will be what happened in the Iraq war. Let's be clear about that.

But I think especially seeing and hearing the reaction to this speech, particularly that line that you just played, that this will now be built into his legacy. And what I mean by that is, what is the biggest void right now in the Republican Party? It is leadership. It is standing up and saying things like that before truth and about what is real and what is right and what is factual. BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Dana. Thanks.

BASH: You too.

BOLDUAN: All right. We got to get to some breaking news, though, in Washington. U.S. Capitol Police have arrested a man armed with a bayonet and machete near the DNC headquarters. This arrest is coming against the back drop of growing concerns about security near the Capitol just days before a scheduled rally of far right supporters and -- far right supporters who are supporting the insurrection rioters.

Let me get over to Lauren Fox. She's live on Capitol Hill. She's got the details that are just coming in.

Lauren, what more are you learning about this arrest?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we are learning that around midnight last night as part of a routine patrol, a capitol police officer noticed a man in a pickup truck that had a swastika and instead of a license plate, there was a picture of an American flag. When the officer went to go talk to this individual, they noticed that there was a machete and a bayonet, both prohibited weapons in the District of Columbia inside of that truck and they made an arrest.

The individual was a 44-year-old from Oceanside, California, Donald Craighead (ph), who is potentially someone that lawmakers are trying to understand or Capitol Police officers have trying to understand whether or not this individual was here as part of that planned September 18th rally coming up on Saturday. That is something that they still don't have the answer to. And they're continuing their investigation.

But obviously, this is coming as lawmakers, top lawmakers and leaders are expected to be briefed this morning on this security posture around Capitol Hill heading into that Saturday rally. There are a lot of concerns up here on Capitol Hill about that rally because there was that violence on January 6. There is a feeling that lawmakers are trying to do the best they can to be prepared because they fear that they did not take the warning seriously enough leading into January 6.

So they're about to have a security briefing this morning. That is going to be important. How much of this latest arrest is going to factor into that security briefing. We still don't have an answer to, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We will find out very soon, though. Thank you, Lauren. Appreciate that update.

Coming up for us, California's recall election is now in the final stretch. The mudslinging is getting nasty, including personal accusations against the governor's wife, as well as baseless fraud claims. A live report coming up.



BOLDUAN: One day left to vote in what has become a wild and bitter California recall election. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, he's getting some help today from president Biden who will be campaigning with him tonight but there are 46 names appearing on the ballot of people who candidate want to replace Newsom if he is recalled.

And the final stretch, the leading Republican candidate, Larry Elder, is utilizing what's becoming a Republican strategy, spreading baseless claims of voter fraud and more.

CNN's Dan Merica is live in Los Angeles for us at this hour.

Dan, what is the latest one day out?

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: We really have seen a frenetic pace of campaigns over the last weekend with both candidates crisscrossing the state. But as you note, Larry Elder is closing out this campaign by largely pre-butting the results and saying that if he doesn't win, he's expecting shenanigans.

Now, he's being -- that is being echoed by people from Donald Trump to Republican media figures and Elder is saying that he sees the same shenanigans that he saw in the 2020 election which, of course, are baseless.


He expects them to happen in California.

Governor Newsom is taking these on. He's questioning this closing argument.

Here's what he said to an audience in Sun Valley, California, just yesterday.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: His closing argument is I will fight a lawsuit because of the voter irregularities in this race with no evidence whatsoever. It is act two of the big lie. That is what we're up against, Democrats.


MERICA: Newsom's strategy has been to take on accusations like that, call them baseless and then also to nationalize this race, to talk about the national implications of having a Republican governor. What that would mean in the state like California and that's going to continue tonight obviously as you note with Joe Biden coming to town to rally on Newsom's behalf.

He joins a long list of top Democrats who have come to Newsom's defense and also all of them hope come tomorrow, he's still the governor of California.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Dan. Thanks for that reporting.

Joining me right now is California's Democratic lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis.

It's good to see you, Lieutenant Governor. Thanks for coming back on.


BOLDUAN: Tomorrow is last day of voting. Is the governor going to succeed and fend off this recall?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, we certainly hope so. But, of course, we have to let Californians vote. As you noted, President Biden is coming here today. People are very excited.

President Biden won California by 29 percent. He's very popular here. He's coming here to help the governor and all of us fight this Republican assault on our system.

So, we're all working very hard to mobilize and get out the vote and beat this recall attempt.

BOLDUAN: What do you think the governor needs from the president in this effort?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, as I said, Joe Biden is very popular in the state of California. It's his first visit here. They're going to be going up to Northern California to survey the wildfire situation up there, of course brought on by climate change, which we know the Republican Party has tried very hard to -- to say is a fraud. But, of course, we know in California it is real.

And then they'll be in Long Beach together, really talking about what this is, which is the weaponizing of a recall process to try to elect a Republican governor in the blue estate in the nation. So, people are very excited to see the president. Of course, he chose his vice president, our senator, the first woman vice president, Kamala Harris.

So there is a lot of excitement about the visit. And of course I think we're also going to be hearing a lot about the way that Governor Newsom has dealt with the COVID crisis, far more successfully than many other places in the country.

BOLDUAN: You know, it has gotten ugly if the final days. Larry Elder is trying to draw the governor's wife into this fight suggesting that she had been working on the behalf of Harry Weinstein years ago to silence one of his accusers. The governor's wife vehemently denies that.

Does it surprise you that it is gone this route, that it has gotten this personal?

KOUNALAKIS: No, because this is what Larry Elder does. He's a right- wing extreme Republican shock jock and a lot of, as you noted, baseless claims of all sorts of things, and mudslinging are happening now in the last 48 hours or so. So, we're not surprised. But again, I -- I think the people of

California are smart enough to be able to rise above the mudslinging and ask themselves what is really at stake here. And as we know, the governor has been very aggressive in really making sure that vaccine access is an adoption here in California is high. We're at about 80 percent of Californians having received at least one dose compared that to Florida which is at 65 percent, where the hospitals are overloaded and they've had the worst fatalities of the entire crisis in August, when all of the life-saving vaccines are widely available.

So, people are looking at those questions and I think that is why in spite of the fact it is been a hard time. And we understand that people are hurting and trying to do the best during a difficult time with the COVID crisis. But ultimately, the governor has done a very, very good job, the best he possibly could during a very difficult situation, and I think that voters are recognizing that now here in the final hours.

BOLDUAN: Well, and in the final hours we'll find out very soon if the voters agree, and a lieutenant governor making the final argument for the governor on this. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor, for coming in. Appreciate your time.

KOUNALAKIS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, North Korea says it has successfully fired a new long range cruise missile.


What the regime is claiming and what this means for the region. That's next.


BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, North Korea claims that it has test fired a new long-range cruise missile --