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President Biden in Connecticut; Bill Clinton Hospitalized; FDA Evaluates Booster Shots; Capitol Police Officer Facing January 6 Obstruction Charges. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 15, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Some good news today for fully vaccinated travelers, the White House announcing, if you are fully vaccinated, foreign travelers will then be able to come to the United States beginning November 8.
Thanks for joining us today on a busy INSIDE POLITICS. Have a great weekend.
Ana Cabrera picks up right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We began this hour with breaking news.
Right now, a U.S. Capitol Police officer is appearing in federal court in Washington facing newly filed obstruction charges in connection to the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is gathering the latest details and joins us now with more.
Jessica, what do you know?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a Capitol Police veteran with 25 years of experience now under arrest appearing in federal court at this hour charged with tipping off a Capitol rioter that the FBI was investigating and also instructing that rioter to delete social media posts documenting their time inside the Capitol Building.
So this is Capitol Police officer Michael Angelo Riley. He is now facing two counts of obstruction, one for instructing the rioter to take down Facebook posts, another charge for deleting his own Facebook messages with that accused rioter.
So, this indictment, it details how officer Riley first sent a friend request to that accused rioter on January 1. They didn't know each other, but they were both members of fishing-related Facebook groups. Then, on January 7, one day after the insurrection, the indictment
says Officer Riley reached out with this message after seeing some of the alleged rioter's Facebook posts, saying this: "Hi. I'm a Capitol Police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building. They are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out."
Well, their communications allegedly continued for several more days. It included, according to this indictment, a 23-minute phone call between the two in mid-January. It was on January 19 that the Capitol rioter was arrested. And the rioter a day later actually revealed to the Capitol Police officer that he had told the FBI that he had been in this communication with the officer.
That is when the officer presumably got spooked. He allegedly deleted all of the Facebook messages between himself and the accused rioter, and then tried to cease all communications. But, of course, at that point, it was too late. The investigators had the information. And now this Capitol Police officer, Ana, is arrested, in court right now facing these serious charges of obstruction.
We did just get a statement from Capitol Police. They do say that the department was notified about this investigation several weeks ago, and Officer Riley has since been placed on administrative leave, but serious charges for a 25-year veteran of the Capitol Police force now in court facing these charges at this hour -- Ana.
CABRERA: And, as you pointed out, just in, he is on administrative leave.
Jessica Schneider, thank you for breaking it down for us.
I want to get some legal expertise to weigh in here.
Norm Eisen served as special counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during President Trump's first impeachment trial. He's also former White House ethics czar and former U.S. ambassador.
Ambassador, this is a Capitol Police officer with 25 years of experience. And in this indictment, it shows how he allegedly helped a capital rioter essentially destroy evidence. What's your reaction to this?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ana, thanks for having me back. It's very disturbing, the fact that this one bad apple that we know of so far. There could be other isolated incidents.
But that fact mustn't detract from the overwhelming heroism of most of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police and the others who responded to the terrible events incited by ex-President Trump of January 6.
However, even this one is too many. And, Ana, it shows you how deep this rot of the big lie that Trump pushed, how deep it runs, if even one of those entrusted to guard the Capitol is affected by it. But then, last week, we saw the minority of the Senate Judiciary
Committee also whitewashing Trump's big lie. So the cancer is spreading.
CABRERA: And no one is immune, clearly.
I mean, this message that Jessica Schneider just read verbatim from the indictment in the court documents came on January 7, the very day after the attack. I mean, how many -- what's the penalty for charges like this?
EISEN: Well, the penalties are severe for obstruction of justice.
And, here, this -- at the sentencing, it includes, can include substantial fines, can even include jail time. That will be for the court to determine after trial.
We have to remember, Ana, everyone, even those -- that's the hallmark of a rule of law system -- even those that we have accused of the most heinous crimes, entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But, if proven guilty, or if the Capitol Police officer pleads guilty, jail time potentially, fines. That will be up to the court, including assessing whether there was any remorse, a prior record, and all of the other -- prior bad acts -- and all of the other issues that may come into play here.
But this is serious. When the guardians themselves are part of the insurrection, that is serious.
CABRERA: These were private Facebook messages. So they are fully documented. Does that make this a slam-dunk case for prosecutors?
EISEN: Ana, one of the things that saved our democracy -- and we know from the 1/6 committee's work, from the Senate majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and so many other sources, we now know how close we came to a coup.
And one of the things that saved us, this is the gang that can't shoot straight, the clumsiness of it. And so leaving the evidence, then deleting the bad evidence, it is a set of proof.
Ana, it's like the president's own apparent, alleged solicitation of election fraud in Georgia. Remember? He called the Georgia secretary state. We have a tape of that. Same thing with these Facebook messages, incompetent alleged criminals.
CABRERA: Norm Eisen, don't go anywhere. I want to ask you about another development because, remember, we have two separate investigations happening right now. There's the DOJ investigation, in which these new charges were just filed.
There's also the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. That is now moving forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Trump ally Steve Bannon. The political strategist snubbed a subpoena to testify yesterday, at the direction, apparently, of his former boss.
CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here now to walk us through this.
Paula, how can you lay out the path going forward for us?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a lengthy process, and it's one that's not commonly invoked.
But it will start with a meeting Tuesday night, where lawmakers will compile a report detailing how they sought Bannon's testimony and how he refused. That will then move on to the House for a vote. And if it's successful, it moves to the Justice Department, where things could potentially get complicated.
It's supposed to go to a U.S. attorney, with the expectation that that U.S. attorney will put it before a grand jury. But it's ultimately up to the attorney general, Merrick Garland, if he wants to move forward on this.
And, at this point, it's just not clear what he's going to do. Now, Bannon has argued repeatedly that he will not comply unless ordered to do so by a court. He notes that he has been directed by former President Trump not to cooperate because he wants to raise issues of privilege.
Now, the committee has said they flatly reject that argument.
CABRERA: Remind us of the consequences Bannon could face or anyone else, for that matter, if convicted of criminal contempt of Congress.
REID: So a lot of ifs here. If, Ana, this goes to court, if this goes to trial, he's prosecuted and he's convicted, he could be looking at a fine and/or jail time. Again, this is incredibly rare.
But I'm told, even by lawyers of friendly to the former president, they said, look, jail time is a real possibility here if he is convicted. But, Ana, there's another possibility here, which is, if he's prosecuted, he may not be convicted. And that is certainly very different than the message that the committee is intending to send here.
And something like that could certainly embolden others who are thinking about not cooperating in this investigation.
CABRERA: Paula Reid, as always, thank you.
Let's bring back Norm Eisen now.
Ambassador Eisen, if the House does vote in support of the criminal contempt resolution, it would be up to Attorney General, ultimately, Merrick Garland to decide whether to prosecute Bannon. How much goes into that decision?
EISEN: Well, it's a weighty decision, like any criminal charging decision, Ana. And, of course, when I worked on the impeachment, we were involved in the House side of those deliberations, did do contempt, a civil contempt resolution against Don McGahn.
And one -- and the Attorney General Barr himself, the prior attorney general, was the subject of one. Here, though, it doesn't seem like a very close case for Attorney General Garland.
The notion that Bannon is even covered by executive privilege, he left the administration in 2017, Ana. You can't use privileges for alleged frauds or crimes. This is an insurrection against the United States. And Donald Trump is not the president.
The decision about whether the privilege applies in the first case, the threshold issue, is up to Joe Biden, Joe Biden has not asserted the privilege for Bannon. So there's no legal basis not to show up. And Attorney General Garland was a judge. He's a lawman. i think he's going to look at these facts and say, this is not a close call, put a grand jury together, charge him.
CABRERA: And then, of course, it's the question of, how long is that going to take?
That aside, let me ask you about whether this committee should call Trump and subpoena him, because the chair of the committee, Bennie Thompson, was asked about whether they would do that.
Here's how we responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I want to be precise. Are you ruling out or ruling in the possibility of eventually subpoenaing Trump?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, I would say this at this point, Wolf. Nobody is off-limits to a subpoena from this committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Nobody is off-limits. Should the committee go after Trump directly.
EISEN: The chairman was articulating the bedrock principle of American law, Ana. No one is above the law.
I think that the committee needs to make that decision after it has collected some of this initial evidence, needs to see what happens with Bannon. The other subpoenas -- there are 17 other subpoenas pending. That's part of the reason it's important to prosecute Bannon, so the others won't be scofflaws.
I think that they need to give it a little bit of time. They're moving quickly. But this decision is so momentous. Let's see how the next couple of weeks ago, then make the call. My own judgment, yes, we must hear from the insurrectionist in chief, the one who threatened our elections and so our democracy and who, Ana, he's still spreading the big lie with all the damage that it does.
CABRERA: Yes. Yes. He is.
EISEN: So, I come down in favor.
CABRERA: So why wait is my question, because you know that Trump has a history of stonewalling, of trying to make sure this gets tied up in litigation. The delay tactic has worked for him. So why wait?
EISEN: Well, I have the bruises from running into that stone wall over and over again while I was co-counsel on the impeachment.
But when you subpoena a president, such a momentous decision, you need to be able to enforce the subpoena, which means you got to be ready to go to court. I think the court is going to want to see that you have laid the foundation. I'm not saying wait months or years. They're moving with extraordinary speed, Ana, in this committee.
It's a shock and awe subpoena, shock and awe campaign. But lay the foundation so you can assure the public and the courts, if it comes to it, hey, I built the case. Here's why we need the president. We can wait a few more weeks, but not too much longer, for that decision.
CABRERA: Norm Eisen, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate your expertise.
EISEN: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Happy Friday.
EISEN: You too.
CABRERA: Right now, another major meeting under way on COVID booster shots. This time, an FDA panel is discussing whether to green-light a second dose for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Plus, a firestorm erupting after a Texas school official tells teachers that they must balance books about the Holocaust with opposing views, as if there is an opposing view to genocide.
And the Justice Department says it will ask the Supreme Court to step in after an appeals court reinstates the controversial Texas abortion law. What happens now?
CABRERA: Right now a critical meeting on COVID boosters is under way.
Any minute, FDA vaccine advisers are expected to vote on whether to recommend booster shots for millions of Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Also on the agenda, mixing and matching boosters. New data suggests doing so appears to be safe and effective. I want to get right to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, who is following today's
meeting for us.
Elizabeth, this FDA advisory group voted yesterday to go forward and recommend Moderna's booster under emergency use authorization. What can we expect today?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think today we can expect, Ana, that they will also recommend a booster for those of that Johnson & Johnson. And it is possible that it will even be earlier, that maybe people who got it just say two months ago should be getting a booster now. You don't have to wait the six months, as has been instructed with Moderna and Pfizer.
Also a note, this booster may not be for everyone, even if you are the required amount of time after the original vaccination. For Pfizer and Moderna, you still had to be over 65 or have other kinds of high-risk things going on.
So let's take a look at something that the head of this FDA advisory committee said to me. He thinks that a booster for J&J is especially important. Dr. Arnold Monto telling me: "It's critical to get the J&J people more protected. They are starting at a lower level of protection."
Here's what Dr. Monto meant by that. Moderna and Pfizer soon after their vaccination, folks were about 94, 95 protected against getting sick from COVID-19. But soon after the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, it was 72 percent; 72 percent is still a good vaccine, but it is not as good as Moderna and Pfizer.
So I think there's more of a feeling of urgency that a second shot is especially important for those who got Johnson & Johnson. Now, Ana, you mentioned mixing and matching.
This -- these vaccine experts will hear about a study where some people got Pfizer and then as a booster got Moderna or got Moderna and then as a booster got Johnson & Johnson or sort of all the possible combinations.
What they found was that it worked and that it was safe, and that actually folks who got Johnson & Johnson, they were actually better off getting a booster from Pfizer or Moderna, rather than getting another Johnson & Johnson shot.
But, right now, this is a relatively small study. It's just under discussion. There will be no recommendations today about mixing and matching -- Ana.
CABRERA: OK, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. We will stay on top of that meeting.
We're also staying on top of new news involving former President Bill Clinton, who is currently in a Southern California ICU for a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream.
I want to get right to CNN's Sara Sidner, who's there in Southern California for us.
Sara, we're now learning President Biden will speak with Clinton later today. What is the latest on Clinton's condition?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we are hearing from Jamie Gangel, who has been talking with his spokespeople, that he is on the mend, that he is feeling good, that he is very thankful to the doctors here.
He came in on Tuesday night. He was feeling some fatigue. And then he was meeting with friends. And then he ended up having to come to the hospital here and has been here the whole time since Tuesday night in the ICU, the intensive care unit.
But doctors are saying he doesn't need to necessarily be in the ICU. But for privacy and security, that is why he is in the ICU, not for physical reasons.
I'm going to let you get a shot of the scene here, because we have seen a flurry of activity this morning, where we're seeing those large SUVs that you see there with members of the Secret Service who have been coming in and out. And we have seen them sort of with their doors open and people going in.
We are waiting to hear what the status of former President Clinton is, whether or not they're going to keep him here longer for observation or not. He has been given intravenous fluids, as well as antibiotics, to try to clear up the infection in his bloodstream, which can be, by the way, very dangerous.
It can be fatal, if not taken care of, something like sepsis that came from a urinary tract infection, according to doctors. But, indeed, so far the news is that he is on the mend, and they're hoping to have him out of here in the next hopefully few hours, maybe a day or so -- Ana.
CABRERA: OK, it's good to hear that the news is he's on the mend.
Sara Sidner, thank you.
Let's bring in Dr. Saju Mathew. He's a primary care physician and public health specialist.
Dr. Mathew, former President Clinton, we know, has had some pretty serious health issues before. He had quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2004. He's also had two stents inserted to open one artery. That was in 2010. We understand those aren't related to this current situation, but just how serious is this?
DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN AND PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: You know, Ana, any time an older male has a urinary tract infection, I'm very quick as a doctor to figure out the source.
You see, it's more common for women to have two or three infections during the year. But when a male comes in with a bladder infection, I want to find the source. Is it coming from the prostate, is it coming from the kidney?
You want to act immediately because these patients can go into sepsis, which is, if you will, bacteria that goes through the bloodstream that can infect the kidneys. It can also infect other organ systems, and people can die.
And always something else that we are taught in medical school, Ana, is that older men don't present like younger people. So if they have a bladder infection, they may be fatigued. I have got patients' kids that will call me and say, Dr. Mathew, dad has been delirious, altered mental status.
So you want to have a high index of suspicion. Act quickly, do blood cultures, order antibiotics and follow the patient regularly.
CABRERA: OK, so that -- let's put that story to bed for a moment, because I want to ask you about the pandemic as well.
New CDC data shows that unvaccinated adults face an 11 times' higher risk of dying from COVID than fully vaccinated adults, 11 times. Dr. Mathew, there are still 66 million Americans who are unvaccinated who are eligible to get the vaccine.
If this doesn't convince them to get a shot, what?
MATHEW: Yes, Ana, you and I have spoken so many times about different stories we can share.
I just saw a 41-year-old mail, in shape, athlete, no asthma, no diabetes, was in the hospital four weeks, intubated three times after getting COVID. I saw him eight months later. He's still has brain fog. He was supposed to get married to his fiance.
He has two kids. And he's now seeing a neurologist, a pulmonologist. I'm his primary care physician, and I'm actually applying for disability. There's no doubt in my mind now, 18 months into the pandemic, I have two groups of patients, those that are unvaccinated, those that are vaccinated.
My unvaccinated patients are falling sick. A lot of them are having long COVID, like this gentleman. And the people that are vaccinated, yes, to be fair, they are having breakthrough infections, but they're healing. They are recovering at home. They're not going into the hospital and dying.
CABRERA: Yes, huge, huge difference there.
I got to get your thoughts on this new announcement from the White House today allowing fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter the U.S. starting November 8. Now, unvaccinated foreigners will be broadly barred from entering. Essentially, this is another vaccine mandate of sorts. Do you agree with the Biden administration's approach on this? MATHEW: I mean, I think that people coming in from other countries
absolutely should be vaccinated.
We have had difficulty convincing 60 million people in this country to get vaccinated as well. I'm not 100 percent sure about barring entry for those that are unvaccinated. That may be a bit unfair. We should require a COVID test 24 to 48 hours before they come into the country. And then maybe they get tested again once they arrive.
But I still think, though, the whole goal here is making sure people are vaccinated or people are tested regularly before coming into our country.
CABRERA: Dr. Saju Mathew, good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
MATHEW: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: On the road and on the stump.
Just minutes from now, President Biden speaks in Hartford, Connecticut. He's there to sell his massive Build Back Better agenda, and specifically highlighting how much families could save under his universal child care proposal.
His salesmanship may face its toughest test among fellow Democrats, especially given the divisions pitting moderates against progressives.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House.
Kaitlan, where does the White House think they are in the negotiations?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, they keep saying that they are making progress, that they feel like negotiations are happening behind the scenes, though they have been very hesitant to detail what those are publicly, talking about the calls that the president has had, of course, those two key moderates who have been at the center of this standoff among Democrats in Congress, Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin, though we know that President Biden has spoken with both of them this week.
And Senator Sinema has said that she's made clear to the White House what exactly it is that she's looking for when it comes to an agreement on this proposal. And so, of course, the White House says that progress is being made.
But there are real questions about just how much progress is being made, because we know that, based on a call that happened this week that Manchin and Sinema were on, it's far from clear that they are anywhere near an agreement on this, because Senator Sinema said on that call, according to our colleague Manu Raju, that should be hesitant to endorse any final reconciliation package -- that's that bigger social safety net and climate change package -- unless there was a first a vote in the House on the infrastructure deal, the hard infrastructure deal. Of course, we know that is what progressives have said is going to be the holdup there, because they want an agreement on that bigger package. And so President Biden is selling this on the road today, but he is also still very much trying to get support here in Washington for it.
And just to give you a sense of how far away they could be from an agreement, we have not seen an agreement on a top-line number yet, numbers that have been floated from $3.5 trillion. Of course, you know Joe Manchin has said his number is $1.5 trillion.
We are told that they have not come to any kind of agreement on that $1.9 to $2.2 trillion number that they have been looking at with these two key moderates. And, of course, that is just a big first step that they have to get to before they can hammer out the rest of the details.
CABRERA: OK, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you. We will keep an eye on that shot we see on the right side of the screen, that lectern for where the president will be speaking here at the bottom of the hour.
Expected to talk to us before the end of the hour, so stay with us for that.
Meantime, the controversial Texas abortion law could now be headed to the Supreme Court. We will have details next.