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Senate Bickering; Jobs Report; Insurrection Investigation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And this Haitians have AIDS stigma is not new either for this country. In the early '90s, during the Haitian refugee crisis, then-Attorney General William Barr, who was serving under George H.W. Bush, created this detention program, as it is, at Guantanamo Bay, where thousands of Haitians were detained there, kept there for months, more than a year, because they were HIV-positive.

So, this country, not just former President Trump, has a history of this type of activity.

Mara Schiavocampo, thank you so much.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, for a more in-depth discussion of Haiti, you can listen to the latest episode of Mara's "Run Tell This" podcast.

Mara Schiavocampo, always good to have you on the show.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: Top of the hour, I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off.

We're following a lot of breaking news on the investigation into the January 6 Capitol riots and the battle over testimony and documents. A few minutes ago, President Biden refused to assert privilege over Trump era documents. These are the ones sought by the House select committee looking into the insurrection. That paves the way for the National Archives to share documents with the House probe.

Also today, a lawyer for Trump associate Steve Bannon informed the select committee that he will not cooperate with a subpoena. A short time ago, the committee responded, threatening a criminal referral for any witness who continues to obstruct.

Trump's legal team set off this battle earlier this week, telling Bannon and three others, three of those key allies, that they should not comply with the subpoenas.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House. And CNN's Sara Murray is in Washington as well.

Kaitlan, tell us first about the decision by the Biden administration not to assert executive privilege here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they say this is an extraordinary set of circumstances that has led them to make this decision. So they have sent this letter saying that they are not going to assert executive privilege over these documents.

Now, one thing we should be clear here is they are saying this is just about this specific request of documents that the White House and then, of course, the National Archives has received from the committee investigating what happened on January 6. And that is related to a lot of things that happened in the White House that day, which has been, of course, a massive question at the heart of all of this given to essentially what it was that for President Trump knew and was doing and was saying on that day.

But now Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirming that President Biden has made this decision.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives.

We will evaluate questions of privilege on a case-by-case basis. But the president has also been clear that he believes it to be of the utmost importance for both Congress and the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again.


COLLINS: So, making clear again that this is on a case-by-case basis.

But we should note this initial set, this request of documents from the January 6 committee is pretty big. And it talks about how they want things from calendars, schedules, logs of movements by former President Trump on that day. They want communications that happened within the White House related to that rally, of course, that happened before the riot on Capitol Hill, the one that happened over here on the National Mall.

And when you look at this request, they say they want documents and communications within the White House on January 6 related to Hope Hicks, Sarah Matthews, who was an assistant press aide, Mark Meadows, of course, the chief of staff, Dan Scavino, the president's top aide, Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, Marc Short. That was former Vice President Pence's chief of staff.

Several of the highest of the highest officials who were in the White House on that day, that is what these documents relate to. And now the White House is saying they are not going to assert executive privilege over those documents.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sara, to you now on the subpoenas and this letter from the committee, their response. Walk us through what we're learning from that letter, and also what the chair and vice chair are saying.


Well, yesterday was the deadline for a handful of these Trump loyalists to hand over documents, folks including Mark Meadows, including Dan Scavino, including Steve Bannon. And it became very clear early this morning that Steve Bannon was not planning to comply either with a request for documents or the request for testimony.

Here's a portion of the lawyer that his attorney sent to the committee yesterday. It says: "The executive privileges belong to President Trump. We must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege."

So, Steve Bannon, even though he wasn't working in the White House at the time of the January 6 insurrection, or even leading up to it, is still trying to hide behind this sort of privilege claim that may not hold up when it's tested in court, but that's where he starting from.

The committee, for its part, said that they have had some engagement with Kash Patel, who is one the folks who was subpoenaed, some engagement with Mark Meadows. But, obviously, they're getting stonewalled by Steve Bannon.


And they said in the statement: "We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock. And we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral."

The one thing we should note is subpoena fights do take time. It's unclear how much time they could take, but it's not like this is a committee that has years and years to let these fights languish, so it'll be interesting to see how this proceeds.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sara Murray, Kaitlan Collins, thank you both.

Let's discuss now with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams.

Elliot, first to you.

Saying that the White House will not assert executive privilege, this is specifically for the questions and the documents and the records that have been requested thus far. That's not a blanket response. At some point, it's possible that they could.


And that's the way privilege works. It would never apply to a whole class of documents or every word that came out of someone's mouth. What lawyers for the parties for sort of the former president and the current president would do is go through each document, all of the materials, and identify what would be subject to privilege. Now, that's if they were asserting it. It wouldn't be the case that the Biden administration would say every single word that came out of Donald Trump's mouth for the entire time he was president is now subject to disclosure. So what they have done here is, for this tranche of documents, those are not going to be protected by executive privilege, and they won't assert it over them.

BLACKWELL: To you, Gloria.

Part of this statement from the committee, Bennie Thompson, Democrat, who is the chairman, Liz Cheney, vice chair, they write that: "We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock."

That certainly is what the playbook has been for the former president and his allies up to this point. The question is, will the DOJ -- and I will then put this to Elliot afterward -- then follow up with this criminal referral?


Well, it's funny, because Elliot and I were just talking about that before we came on the air, and he's the lawyer, so I will defer to him. But it seems to me, as you're pointing out, time is of the essence. You don't -- if you're the committee, you don't want to let these witnesses run out the clock. So you could have a criminal contempt referral to the Department of Justice. That can take an awfully long time.

Or you could go the civil contempt route and give it to a judge. Or you could try and do both and see which works faster. There's no guarantee that if they sent this over the Justice Department that the new attorney general would say, sure, go right ahead. There really isn't.

So I don't know what they're going to decide. I think they have options. And I will let Elliot tell the rest of that story.

BLACKWELL: So, Elliot, about that, I mean, what is the standard then for, if they were to get that referral, to make the case that it reaches a crime?


Yes, again, there's two very different things. One, a criminal referral, you're just seeking to punish a person for not complying with the investigation. And, frankly, even if you punish them, you don't get the testimony. You're basically slapping them on the wrist with a misdemeanor, putting them in jail, of course, but you're not getting closer to getting the testimony.

You could sue in civil court to enforce the subpoena. And in all likelihood, I would think what Congress could do is just do both at the same time. Meanwhile, they're also still conducting their investigation, which is moving at a breakneck pace. Next week, they have got more documents coming in and presumably more testimony. So they have a bunch of tools. And when they issued that statement,

they sort of hedged a little bit about whether they would definitely do it, but they can easily go down the road of both simultaneously. And they work. They have been tested in the courts before. There's a basis for them, yes.


BORGER: Remember, this is a Congress that has been -- this has been a problem for years with the Trump administration, now with the people who were part of the Trump administration.

And so they have been thinking about this a long time. And they are -- clearly understand what's going on here and want to get this done. They have a clock. The clock is, you have the midterm elections coming up, obviously. They want to get to the bottom of this. I don't know whether they're interested in criminal referrals for people.

I think what they're interested in is finding out the truth about who knew what when, particularly the president of the United States, on January 5, on January 6. And I think that's their goal. And the fastest way they can get there is probably what they're going to do, because remember Don McGahn, the former White House counsel. It took an awfully long time to get him to testify.

So they don't want to go through that again. They have been thinking about this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, of course, the point of all this, as you point out, Gloria, although we're talking about the legal avenues and the opportunities and avenues for the attorney general, is, who was involved with the planning of the January 6 protests that turned into an insurrection? Who is responsible?


BORGER: Right.

BLACKWELL: Elliot, let me come back to you on the A.G.

We have now got this report from the Senate Judiciary Committee that shows there was this pressure on the Department of Justice to overturn the election. What can on that specifically Attorney General Garland do if the select committee doesn't get something done?

WILLIAMS: Yes, right.

Well, look, more important in that report, they say that it's not just Attorney General Garland, because it's also Congress. There's a few things that can happen now. Number one, Congress can tighten the rules on the type of communications that can happen within the White House and between the White House and the Justice Department.

The Justice Department can also clarify its rules with respect to communications in the lead-up to an election. Look, it's egregious conduct when we talk about a White House communicating with the Justice Department on any occasion, let alone nine times in the run-up to or immediately after an election.

So, look, they have things they can do. I'm, quite frankly, quite thrilled that Congress recommended things and steps to be taken, rather than simply just saying, oh, this is so egregious, and we hope that it never happens again.

They even floated the prospect of bar sanctions against Jeffrey Clark, which was itself significant. So it's very important when Congress actually does something or recommends something, rather than just complains. And they have done that in just this report, which is only interim. There's still going to be another one after this that is going to lay out even more of the misconduct, I think.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, we saw the rebuttal from the Republicans out of Senator Grassley's office says that everything's fine here, he acted inconsistent -- consistently with the role of his office.

Gloria, one more to you.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. He's been impeached twice. And we know that he potentially will run in 2024. If nothing happens after this, what do future elections in this country look like?

BORGER: We don't know the answer to that.

We know that Donald Trump and his supporters are trying to pick and choose people who agree with him that the election was rigged. And we all know that that's a big lie, and that the election was not rigged. I don't think we can answer that question at this point, which is why the select committee is so important.

The select committee has to let the American public know exactly what occurred, exactly what the president the United States did, calling more than 30 elected state, local officials, pressuring the Justice Department, trying to undo the election and have a coup.

And I think that the American people then would have to go to the polls if he were to run again. And I think maybe it would be litigated at the polls, rather than in court.

BLACKWELL: All right, Gloria Borger, Elliot Williams, thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Victor.


BLACKWELL: So, the vote on raising the debt ceiling led to lots of intraparty feuding by both Democrats and Republicans. They wound up lashing out at each other, at the leadership. And the fight is not over.

Also, the September jobs report is in. We will tell you how the administration is responding to really disappointing numbers. We have got more on that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLACKWELL: It may not be a setback, but it's not a step forward as big as some had hoped for.

The U.S. recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. Not many jobs returned, 194,000 jobs in September, falling far short of expectations. It marks the second straight month of discouraging job news. The unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent. But speaking this afternoon, President Biden said the numbers show that Congress should push forward with his Build Back Better agenda.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These bills are about competitiveness vs. complacency, competitiveness vs. complacency, opportunity vs. decay.

They're about leading the world or whether we're going to let the world pass us by.


BLACKWELL: With us now, Catherine Rampell. She's a CNN economics and political commentator and an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post."

Catherine, welcome back.

We were in these same seats a month ago talking about the disappointing August jobs numbers, talking about the influence of Delta on those numbers. What happened this time? Same thing?


I think there had been these optimistic hopes that, in September, we would finally see a little bit of a hiring boom, because unemployment benefits or at least the federal expansion of unemployment benefits had expired. Schools were reopening. So maybe that meant that more parents got their child care problems pushed to the side.

And instead, of course, the Delta variant had other plans.

BLACKWELL: So I said at the top that it's not exactly a setback. It's just not as big of a step forward as people had hoped for. There is some good news here?

RAMPELL: There is some good news, yes. I mean, it was job growth. It wasn't a job loss. The unemployment rate did decline, although the reasons why the unemployment rate declined are a little bit mixed.

That's partly because people dropped out of the labor force, partly because people got jobs. So, I think the most positive way to read this report is that, if it is the Delta variant that was really causing the slowdown in hiring, it looks like this wave may have peaked.


This wave of the pandemic, I should say, may have peaked, right? Hospitalizations seem to be slowing down, maybe even declining in some places. Deaths, a lagging indicator, may show the same thing.

And if that is the case, then maybe next month will be a little bit better. Now, we still have a lot of headwinds in this economy, not just the pandemic itself, per se, but also the fact that there are child care shortages. Workers face other obstacles for getting back to work. A lot of health care workers are burnt out.

I mean, part of the reason why the job growth numbers were so bad is that health care hiring went down. Some of that may have to do with the fact that hospitals aren't doing as many elective surgeries and things like that. That may also have to do with the fact that workers are just burnt out and quitting.

So the pandemic alone, or, rather, the decline -- a decline in hospitalizations alone will not get us where we need to be. But it'll help.

BLACKWELL: So we have talked before about how the pandemic economy has hit women harder than it has men. And we have seen that in this report.

Women lost 26,000 jobs and September. Men actually gained jobs. What's behind that?

RAMPELL: Well, I think it's partly this child care issue, right?

As I said, schools have reopened. And that's good. That should be good for women's employment in particular, because women are more likely to be their family's primary caregivers, but you still have school shutting down periodically because there's an outbreak or kids -- isolated kids get quarantined, so that's still bad for women.

And then the fields that women are more likely to work in have also struggled. So, for example, women are more likely to work in certain service sector areas, retail, leisure and hospitality, things like that. And while leisure and hospitality did gain jobs in the past month, it was a sharp slowdown from previous months.

So all of those things combined, I think, suggest that, again, things are going to be very difficult for workers who are eager to go back to work. Some are not, of course. People are burnt out, et cetera. But even those who do want to go back to work face all of these other obstacles in their way.

BLACKWELL: All right, Catherine Rampell, thank you.

So the drama on Capitol Hill, it did not end with that vote to temporarily put off the debt limit crisis until early December. Let's bring in CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, we have got a lot to talk about with the Democrats and the Republicans. Let's start with the Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, that speech after the vote, and the reaction from Senator Joe Manchin. Let's first look at the moment.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone by going through a drawn-out, convoluted and risky reconciliation process.

That was simply unacceptable to my caucus. And, yesterday, Senate Republicans finally realized that their obstruction was not going to work.


BLACKWELL: So, reportedly, Senator Manchin told Leader Schumer that his speech was F'ing stupid.

First, what was the point of that really partisan speech at that moment for Leader Schumer, and what do you make of this exchange between the two?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Manchin, actually, last night, I asked him about that because I had heard something similar out of the vote that he swore at Chuck Schumer afterwards.

I asked him specifically. He denied making that argument -- that comment to the Senate majority leader, but he did say that the Senate majority leader's comments were -- quote -- "inappropriate." And he said that is not -- it's only going to inflame tensions as such a precarious time in the Senate.

Now, this is not unusual for Chuck Schumer to lay into Republicans. They have been battling over the debt ceiling for months, and then, ultimately, they were able to get a deal, just a punt for two months, extending the debt ceiling up until early December and only after 11 Republicans agreed to break a Republican-led filibuster after an intensive effort by the Republican leaders to get enough to do just that.

And Schumer made clear where he stands. Now, what's different this time was that this was a full Senate. Typically, when the Senate majority is making a speech in the morning, it's an empty Senate. The senators are doing different things at that time, but, at that moment, all 100 senators, well, the senators who were in attendance, 98 senators who were there, sitting there, were listening to Chuck Schumer give that speech and directed very pointedly at the Republicans. And that's why, when I talked to a number of them afterwards, they call it a classless, according to Mike Rounds, who was one of the 11 to vote for it, as well as John Thune, the Senate -- number two Senate Republican. And Rounds himself warned he would not cooperate in the future. So we will see if that happens.

But, nevertheless, it didn't go over well, particularly with Republicans.

BLACKWELL: Now, staying with Senator Manchin, you have got new reporting about the difficulty of getting Senator Manchin even into the same room with Chairman of the Budget Committee Senator Sanders. Tell us about that.


RAJU: Yes, this actually came up on a conference call earlier this week in which House progressives were talking to President Biden about the way forward.

One congressman, Ro Khanna, suggested why don't we get the two different leaders of the factions, Manchin, the leader of the moderates, of sorts, Bernie Sanders, the leader of the progressives of sorts, get them in the same room, try to come up with a deal on the larger Democratic agenda, because, ultimately, if they sign off, probably all the different quarters of the Democratic Caucus will sign off as well.

Biden responded, I'm told, said that would be like committing -- quote -- "homicide," saying: I have been in politics for a long time. Perhaps that's not the best way to go.

Now, there was a bit of a joke, but it also underscored the dynamics on the Hill. Those two men are at sharp odds over some of the major issues in this larger package, not just on the policy, but also on the price tag. And the Democratic leaders are trying to get a deal by the end of this month. Can they do that? Hard to see that at the moment, particularly given how opposite, how divergent of views Manchin has, who's having his conversations with the president, and Biden is having as he's having his conversations with his own allies on the Hill.

Can they get to an agreement here? Really uncertain at this point, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn to the Republicans now and some senators', let's call it, disappointment in Mitch McConnell and making this deal to avoid this debt ceiling crisis for just a few weeks.

Here they are.


QUESTION: Do you believe Senator McConnell made a mistake in this deal?


GRAHAM: We had a plan, and we threw it over.

QUESTION: Do you know why he threw it over?

GRAHAM: We can't let the threat of changing the rules drive us every time.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think the Democratic threats to destroy the filibuster caused him to give in. And I think that was a mistake, a serious mistake.

QUESTION: Were you surprised?

CRUZ: Yes.


BLACKWELL: Manu, we don't hear Republican senators criticize Leader McConnell publicly often.

The implications of this, not just for his grip on the leadership, but also when we get to December, and this has to be faced again.

RAJU: Yes, that's really the challenge here. How do they deal with this again?

Now, Mitch McConnell is someone who has long prized unity, unity, unity for Mitch McConnell, trying to keep Republicans united. But when dealing with something that has to be done, such as a debt ceiling increase, and there's no path forward, he was ultimately forced to suggest a deal, this two-month increase in the debt limit, even after months of saying Republicans absolutely would not supply any votes to do just that.

He said Democrats had to use their own process to move forward through the budget process to raise the debt ceiling. That's something Democrats that they would not do, ultimately leading McConnell to take this step. He suggested -- McConnell told his conference repeatedly he was concerned Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema would break the Senate's filibuster rules that required 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and lower that to a simple majority of 51 votes.

He said that was the reason for doing that. He wanted to preserve the Senate's filibuster on this issue of the debt limit. But still that did not go over particularly well with a lot of senators.

So, Victor, come December, how does this get done? How do they extend government funding, also expires in December? Congress kicking the can down the road, but more crises ahead.

BLACKWELL: All right, Manu Raju for us there us there on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Manu.

Florida's Board of Education has voted to punish the school districts that defied Governor Ron DeSantis. When we come back, I will speak to two of the superintendents at the center of the fight over mask mandates.