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Democrats Explore Options to Raise Debt ceiling Amid Standoff with GOP; Zuckerberg Says, Argument We Put Profit over People is Deeply Illogical; New York Times Reports, CIA Admits to Losing Dozens of Foreign Informants. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Senate Democrats weighing the options to avoid default, including discussion of a one-time carve-out, as it's known, of the Senate filibuster rules in order the country's bills, raise that debt limit. President Biden suggested late last night that he would support or could support such a move. The Bipartisan Policy Center just released a new estimate that the government could run out of money without action as soon as October 19th.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joins us now on the Hill. So, Manu, we just learned that Senate Democrats meeting with White House officials right now. We have got this vote at 3:00 Eastern time. Republicans, it looks like they are going to block it. So, what comes next from Democrats and when?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still trying to figure that out. And there is significant debate about the next steps. One thing that appears to be ruled out is what Republicans have demanded. They've demanded that the Democrats go through what's known as the budget reconciliation process on Capitol. That can actually circumvent a Republican-led filibuster and it can be approved by a simple majority.

But that takes a couple weeks to go through. It's a very arduous process because a flurry of amendment votes would happen on the Senate floor, putting Democrats in a difficult political spot, which is why they've essentially ruled out that process.

Now, the other option is to get support from Republican senators, get 60 votes. That is not going to happen. Today, Republicans will filibuster that. And then the other thing is to try to get an agreement so this can be approved on a simple majority basis. There's no agreement for that.

So, now there are serious discussion ongoing about changes in the Senate filibuster rules to allow potential a one-time carve-out to raise the debt ceiling in order to approve this on a simple majority basis. But to do that, they need the support of all 50 Democratic senators, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Both Manchin and Sinema have opposed any changes to the Senate filibuster rules. Yesterday, when I caught up with Manchin, I asked him if he was open at all about the possibility of a carve-out on the filibuster rules.


RAJU: The Democrats in the caucus have talked about a carve-out of filibuster rules on the (INAUDIBLE). Is that even something you'd even remotely consider?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): They've got to work through it. Let the leaders work it out. They should work it out. They vote on what this country needs. We should take care of our country.


RAJU: So, he's not saying no there, even though earlier in the week, I had asked him about the same issue. And he said the filibuster -- it's not about the filibuster. It's about doing it in another way. But now, he's not saying one way or the other, because pressure will undoubtedly grow if that appears to be the only option to avoid the first ever debt default.

And just moments ago, I talked to Senator Dick Durbin, who is the number two in the Senate Democratic Caucus. I asked him about that possibility. He did not want to go there. Instead he said Democrats are losing patience with Republicans. He's demanding they vote today to move forward on the suspension of the debt ceiling. That's not going to happen. They don't want to talk about those next steps but the next steps could very well be a change in the Senate procedures. Guys?

HILL: Manu Raju with the latest for us, Manu, thank you.

SCIUTTO: All right. So, let's discuss now with Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan. He is the chief deputy whip for the Democratic Caucus. Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: So, you heard Manu there saying that out of this meeting between Democratic leaders in the White House, that at least for now reconciliation is off the table. Is that your view?

KILDEE: Well, we have to use any tool we can to fix this. The problem is, as was said, reconciliation takes a long time. But it's important to examine sort of the McConnell position. He says that if we go through regular order, we'll support it and they'll block it and force a default. He says that we should use reconciliation but still would oppose using that tool. They would vote against it.

What I'm frustrated with, and I think the American people are, is that this sort of obsolete, quaint filibuster rule, which is a remnant of Jim Crow, is now getting in the way of us just doing the basics, taking care of business, paying our bills when they're due. The idea that Senator McConnell would see such political gain in the default of the United States' obligations and be willing he would do everything he can to sort of engineer that is almost beyond comprehension.

SCIUTTO: You know Mitch McConnell, man. If your bet is waiting for him to bend, man, you're going to lose the bet, right? So, why don't Democrats just see that and use reconciliation noting they don't seem to have 50 votes to break filibuster here, right, with Manchin and Sinema not loving that option?

KILDEE: The thing that's frustrating about this is that reconciliation takes 50 votes. Not using the filibuster, overlooking filibuster is 50 votes. One takes a long time, the other one we can do right now. The idea that we would hold on to this filibuster rule when Mitch McConnell ignores it every chance he gets, the 2017 tax bill, set that aside, because that was reconciliation.


The confirmation of Supreme Court justices to lifetime appointments, Mitch McConnell looks the other way when it comes to filibuster. Why Democrats apply rules to ourselves that Republicans repeatedly ignore I think is beyond logic. We ought to just face up to the facts that the Republicans don't want to govern. We have 50 votes in the Senate. We ought to use those 50 votes to meet the minimum obligations. And whether it's through reconciliation or by making an exception to the filibuster, it's still 50 votes. We might as well get it done now.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you. I mean, is a carve-out actually a practical thing? Because there is a view that, listen, even if you say that carve-out is just about raising the debt limit, that in reality that opens the flood gates. So what's to stop breaking the filibuster for voting rights or any other legislative priority?

KILDEE: Well, I would advocate for doing that, so I'm probably not the right person to answer that question. I think (INAUDIBLE) get rid of it altogether. When the American people support moving forward on voting rights, we ought not have some old antiquated tool that is not in the Constitution be in the way of us expressing the will of the American people.

So I think this idea that we have to hang on to it because if we don't as Democrats it will be used against us in another time is laughable, because they already ignore it when it suits their purposes. Mitch McConnell does that routinely when he's in the majority.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, let's talk about where the budget stands. You have even President Biden saying, we ain't going to get $3.5 trillion. You've had this number floated of 1.9 trillion to 2.2 trillion. And, by the way, I know it's not just about the number, it's about the constituent parts of that number.

But given the blowup within the Democratic Party last week over this and very public disagreement, is there any movement towards a compromise figure in that range?

KILDEE: I think there is movement, just from the signals that we're hearing both from comments made by Senator Manchin and the chair of the progressive caucus, Congresswoman Jayapal. I'm a progressive so I share her views on this. We're seeing that we're coming to this place where we understand some middle ground has to be found. We're not quite there yet, but I think it's important to keep this in context.

This is the Democratic process, even if it's only occurring within the Democratic Party. This is the give and take, the argument over policy, the argument over scale. So, when we talk about this, a lot of people refer to this as a breakdown or dysfunction. I think it's the absolute epitome of functionality, we're arguing out our differences. We're not storming the Capitol with a violent overthrow. We're not ignoring the outcome of an election, we're arguing out our points and trying to find common ground. That's a good thing.

SCIUTTO: I hear you. And, of course, I'm not going to contend that storming the Capitol is better, right, in terms of democracy.

But let's be frank, on the public messaging here, you guys aren't doing great in terms of how the public sees this, right? That their attention is focused, and Republicans want this, by the way, just on that top line figure. Forget the constituent parts that actually many of which are popular, universal pre-K, for instance, child tax credit and so on.

How do you turn that around? How do you win back some sort of public support to say, hey, this is what we're pushing for, right? We're not just pushing to write a blank check.

KILDEE: I think what we have to realize is that in this moment we have to argue this out. The most eloquent message is if we get something over the finish line. There's nothing quite as eloquent as a paycheck, as food on the table, as allowing people to get child care so they can get back into the workforce. That's the most eloquent message we can deliver.

So, on the short term, it's difficult. If we can get around the corner and deliver something for the American people, that message is overwhelming.

SCIUTTO: Just quickly, will you have that message of success by October 31st, the new deadline?

KILDEE: I believe we will. I think we're moving in that direction. The president's engagement is making a difference. I was with him yesterday here in Michigan. I think he can bring us together. It's not easy. We have different points of view, but I think we all recognize the common goal and I think we'll get there.

SCIUTTO: All right. Congressman Dan Kildee, we'll have you back. We'll test that out. We'll see that as we get closer to the end of the month. Thanks very much.

KILDEE: Thanks, Jim.

HILL: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the defense after a former employee told a Senate panel the company is choosing profits over people. Whistleblower Frances Haugen testifying on Tuesday that the social media giant, which owns Instagram as well, knows how to make the platform safer but hasn't done so.

SCIUTTO: Zuckerberg, not surprisingly, in a Facebook post, responded, saying, quote, at the heart of these acquisitions is the idea that we prioritize profit and safety and well-being -- over well-being.


That's just not true. The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical.

CNN Correspondent Donie O'Sullivan joining us now. Donie, so, lawmakers are now calling for Zuckerberg to testify, which he's done before, on the Hill, but this at a more precarious time, it should be said, with bipartisan support, it seems, for some sort of regulation here. Will that happen?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Possibly. I mean, Zuckerberg last night posted what essentially was this 1,300-word screed trying to undermine this whistleblower. Senator Blumenthal, who was on that committee where Frances Haugen testified yesterday, he saw that and he said, well, if you've got so much to say, if you really think this whistleblower is totally wrong, come speak to us. This is what Blumenthal had to say on air this morning.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): If he has disagreements with Francis Haugen or the whistleblower, if he wants to explain these documents, thousands of them, his own research, his own reports, that show how they're putting profits ahead of people and endangering children, he should come tell it to our committee and to the American people himself.


O'SULLIVAN: And I mean, her testimony yesterday really resonated. It was quite compelling. I mean, she broke it down. She was speaking like a human being. Oftentimes when tech executives go to Capitol Hill, they sort of sound like robots. And, I mean, we're now going through this period where there's going to be this back and forth between Zuckerberg throwing stuff at the whistleblower, back and forth, but, I mean, pulling it all back out, the issue is still on the platform, particularly this issue for children and young people, and we should not forget that.

HILL: Right. And even some of the suggestions that have been thrown out there, right? So, Francis Haugen said maybe we could -- part of one solution would be maybe amending section 230. We spoke with Tom Wheeler earlier who said we really need a new federal agency for oversight of these digital agencies and we have to prepare better for what's coming along.

But the reality is this is a problem that needs to be addressed yesterday, not even today. And that immediacy, that urgency, it's still sort of in question as to what's actually going to be actionable. O'SULLIVAN: Yes. I mean, it's quite scary. We've had many people on air over the past 24 hours, researchers have said there are terrible, terrible things on these platforms right now, particularly if you are a young teenager.

I think what's interesting about all this though is what Haugen has effectively done is sort of move the conversation beyond where Facebook wanted it to be. They like talking about -- they're okay talking about saying we'll ban this group and we'll ban this, or we won't do this, won't do this. She's getting at the algorithm, right?

And she's saying, no, we need transparency on these algorithms. We need to know why and how you're feeding us this stuff. And that I think is why Facebook is scared of it because it's the algorithm that makes their money. That's their business.

HILL: She's also getting at Facebook's credibility. Let's be honest here.

SCIUTTO: She is --


SCIUTTO: -- from the inside. And it seemed that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers were listening to her yesterday. She had an impact. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks very much.

HILL: Thanks, Donie.

Still to come this hour, an unusual disclosure from the CIA. We'll have more on that New York Times reports that a troubling number of informants in other countries have been killed or captured.

Plus, new details at the ISIS-K bomber who killed 13 American service members and dozens of Afghans during the final evacuations from Afghanistan was released from prison just days before that attack. We're live in Kabul.

SCIUTTO: And a major raid in New York, why the president of the NYPD's second largest union had to resign and what we're learning about the investigation targeting the union.



HILL: And alarming suggests the CIA has lost a, quote, troubling number of U.S. informants abroad. The New York Times reporting the agency sent out a cable last week warning intel agents about a rise in U.S. assets being captured, killed or compromised and also highlighted how the CIA is struggling to recruit new assets in difficult environments.

SCIUTTO: U.S. adversaries, such as Russia and China, are also hunting down CIA sources attempting to turn some into double agents. Joining us now is Evan McMullin. He is a former presidential candidate. He just announced he is running as an independent for a Utah Senate seat in 2022. He is also a former CIA officer.

So, before we get to the politics, Evan, I do want to begin on the CIA story. It's reminiscent of what we saw with U.S. sources in China about a decade ago when many were exposed and killed, frankly, by Beijing. That was the result of a breach.

And I wonder, do we know, is it just bad practice that is leading to the loss of these agents more recently? Is it a breach? Is it a combination of those things?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, it could be a combination of those things. But I would guess is the issue is a broader matter because I think we're seeing this across the agency based on this report, and that is that, look, we've been fighting terrorists and insurgents in war zones and other hostile environments for 20 years. That means there are a lot of officers who entered the agency and who have only or largely had just that experience.

And in those environments, what happens is the C.I. risk goes down, the counterintelligence risk. There are not -- you're not working against a foreign government that has technology and human resources and so many things to use against you, to discover you and stop your operations. You're working against a terrorist organization, for example.


And they have certain tools. But the C.I. risk goes down and the physical risk goes up.

And so in those environments, you need to do things to protect yourself physically. You're often working alone and you're worried about being kidnapped and tortured and ambushed, and all these things. And so the things you do to increase your physical security go up. Those things generally make your C.I. risk mitigation decrease, but you're willing to make that tradeoff because your life is what matters most and the C.I. risk is low.

But what's happened now is that we still have terrorists to fight and to defeat, but now we've got to focus more on our strategic adversaries, China and Russia, et cetera, and that requires a different skill set. If you're operating against them, those operations require a different skill set. And I remember that most -- during my time I spent a lot of time fighting terrorists, but then transitioned to working against some of our major adversaries, strategic adversaries, I had to be retrained and retooled.

And I think that's the critical thing here. We've got to make sure we're taking the time to retrain the officers who are moving on to different missions with different kinds of operations.

SCIUTTO: Yes. HILL: And, I mean, look there's a lot to be concerned about, I think, bottom line, especially for a lot of people reading it. We do want to talk to you about, as we mentioned, just announced you're running. It's interesting when we look at where things stand this morning. There's so much talk about how much hold President Trump will still have over the Republican Party. You're running as an independent. How concerned are you about what that means in Utah?

MCMULLIN: Well, look, I'm concerned about the polarization in this country, the rise of extremism that is making it impossible for us to govern ourselves. And we've got a different way of doing things here in Utah. I mean, Utah was originally founded by people who had fled religious persecution, and they came to this desert where many other people who had traveled to the west coast to settle the west coast, et cetera, passed over this land because they thought it was too harsh and impossible to live in. But we came here, my ancestors came here because they were seeking refuge and freedom and opportunity, and they had to work together in order to survive here, literally.

And because of that, still today in Utah, we have this way of leadership that tries to find common ground while still sticking to principle in order to solve problems, frankly, because we have to. We live in a harsh environment and that's what we have to do. I think our country needs that. We're not getting that out of our current senator in this seat, Senator Mike Lee, who has become a part of this divisive politics that dominate our country, but we have a better way. That's what I'm running to take to Washington on behalf of the people of Utah.

SCIUTTO: Okay. I appreciate the thought. I'm sure many of our viewers do. The fact is though the Republican Party remained enthralled of Donald Trump. You see that in the polling. You see that in Republican leaders who had expressed criticism or even alarm in the past, like a Nikki Haley, now sort of -- not sort of but expressing their fealty to him. Is it quixotic to challenge that in the party or is there a realistic challenge to Trump as we face 2024?

MCMULLIN: It's not quixotic and it's not naive. It's what we need. And if we're not going to do this kind of campaign that seeks to unite people in the face of the kind of division that you're describing, then we're going to see more chaos, more dysfunction, compounding crises that are making our -- that are negatively impacting our quality of life, weakening the republic. We have to do this.

And, by the way, part of the answer is to unite people, to build new political coalitions. That's why I'm running as an independent. This is the only way to win in this race, and I think it's the kind of leadership that our state and that our country needs that is uniting Republicans, uniting Democrats, uniting independents and members of third parties. We have to be willing to build new coalitions.

And I think that's partially why the Republican Party is struggling right now because it's unwilling to build new coalitions that could put it on healthier ground and more competitive ground. So, that's what I'm doing as an independent because that's what Utah needs and I think that's what the country needs too. HILL: Evan McMullin, I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, Taiwan says tensions with China are at the most serious point they've been in 40 years. We're going to have the reality check from the region. There's real alarm there, coming up.



HILL: New details this morning about that suicide attack in Kabul that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans. CNN has learned the ISIS-K bomber who carried out the attack had been released from the abandoned Bagram Air Base prison just days earlier. Three U.S. officials say that happened when the Taliban took control of the area. We learned this morning the Taliban are conducting raids against ISIS-K in Kabul.

SCIUTTO: CNN International Correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us now from Kabul. And, Clarissa, one, we know many thousands of people were released from prison there going back to Trump's original deal with the Taliban last year.


And now you have this remarkable new reality where it's the Taliban who is