Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

House Jan. 6 Panel Investigating Tour of Capitol given by Republican Lawmaker on Eve of Insurrection; Rising Inflation, Recession Fears Trigger Stock Selloff; Biden Heads to Asia to Bolster Eastern Alliances Amid War in West; Biden Invokes Defense Production Act to Tackle Baby Formula Shortage. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 15:00   ET


DON RIDDELL, CNN HOST: We know that he's - he is struggling today. It seemed as though he wasn't doing great on that right leg. By the way, he began his round walking down some very steep steps using his club as a cane like a walking stick to get down the stairs.


RIDDELL: And it seems as though he has kind of further bothered his right leg during the round, so he has been saying to reporters that he's going to have to do a lot of treatment overnight. A lot of ice baths try to get the inflammation out. A lot of work to be done just to get himself physically ready to better tee off here and play in the second round, which will be at 1:36 pm local time tomorrow afternoon.

BLACKWELL: All right. Don Riddell for us there at the PGA Championship in Tulsa. Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for staying with us. We have breaking news on the January 6 Committee. They are investigating a tour of the Capitol given by Republican lawmaker on the eve of the insurrection.

CAMEROTA: So let's get right to CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. Tell us the breaking news, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Victor and Alisyn. We're just getting this information in right now from the January 6 Select Committee. What they have done is sent a letter to Congressman Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, asking for information that he may have about tours that were given on January 5th, the day before the January 6th Capitol insurrection.

And this letter comes after more than a year ago Democratic members of the House had accused Republican lawmakers of giving tours to individuals that were in the Capitol on the days leading up to January 6th that then may have been a part of the insurrection after the fact.

And in this letter that was written by the Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and the Vice Chair Liz Cheney, they say to Loudermilk, the foregoing information that they've discovered over the course of their investigation raises questions to which the Select Committee must seek answers. Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings in advance of January 6th 2021.

Now, there really hasn't been a lot of talk about these accusations of tours that were given on January 5th, but it originated in the weeks immediately after January 6, and the first member of Congress to bring it up was representative Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey during a virtual town hall that she gave with her constituents at that time. Listen to what Sherill said about what she thought that she had seen at that time.


REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): I also intend to see that those members of Congress who embedded him, those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th, a reconnaissance for the next day. Those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd. Those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy. I'm going to see that they're held accountable, and, if necessary, ensure that they don't serve in Congress.


NOBLES: Now, Sherill was asked repeatedly to identify these individuals of Congress that she thought were responsible for giving these tours. She never provided that information as well as several other Democrats who had made those claims as well.

Now, Loudermilk himself actually responded to Sherill's claims by filing an ethics complaint, telling and stating very specifically that he or other members of Republican members of Congress never gave such tours and that Sherill and these other Democrats should be punished by the Ethics Committee for making these accusations without backing it up with any evidence.

And additionally, a Congressman Rodney Davis, a member of the House Administration Committee, also sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to definitively say that this did not occur and that a review by the House Administration Republicans of (inaudible) security footage of that time just did not backup this claim that these so-called reconnaissance tours that took place.

So, Victor and Alisyn, this is significant, because this is the first time that we've heard the Committee are asking serious questions about the potential that there were members of Congress potentially aiding and abetting and allowing individuals who had plans to storm the Capitol the following day, the opportunity to come here and check out the layout of the Capitol.

There's still not a lot of evidence in this letter to indicate exactly what they have to draw this conclusion. But what they're looking for is answers from Congressman Loudermilk. The big question is whether or not he will comply. We've already sent a request to his office to seeing how he will respond to this accusation. Victor and Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Ryan Nobles with the breaking news on Capitol Hill. Let's bring in now CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger along with CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams.


Gloria, let me start with you. Fit this piece into the puzzle, this request, not a subpoena, a request to this Republican Congressman to talk about this tour.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, after you see Sherill's charges, I think what the Committee is trying to get to the bottom of is trying to find out whether there were some members of Congress, who were taking specific people on a tour of the layout of the United States Capitol. If there were no large tours going on in the capitol at that time and that is what the Select Committee seems to believe, because that's what the Committee on administration seems to believe and if some people were seen and presumably that's Loudermilk, giving people tours, well, they need to get to the bottom of who those people were and what was being discussed, and why those tours were being given and where they went.

CAMEROTA: But Elliott, even if they do turn out to have been insurrectionists that were given the tours, how can you legally prove that, say, Congressman Loudermilk knew that they were doing a recon mission?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's hard to say, look, the most important line in Bennie Thompson's letter, Alisyn, is based on evidence in the Committee's possession. It's clear that they have something to support at least the inference that if there were recon tours, they were, at least, letting individuals into the capitol that day.

Now, look, if Representative Loudermilk and others who have insisted that they've done nothing wrong in this period, truly have, then they have every reason to come forward and speak to the Committee and make that case. But we've seen this narrative and this sort of game play out before, which is this - hitting the point again, and again, and again, well, I have nothing to hide and I've done nothing wrong, but therefore I still am not going to come in and talk to the Committee.

So he's sort of speaking out on both sides of his mouth now. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

BLACKWELL: So, Ryan, as we've learned throughout the months of this investigation, the members have far more than is public at the time. But why request Congressman Loudermilk before requesting to speak with Congresswoman Sherill? She made the accusation that it was a recon mission, that these members brought in. She's not naming them. Potentially she would have the name. She would have some evidence to suggest it's a recon.

NOBLES: Well, the answer to that question, Victor, is that - and we don't know the answer to this question, but there is a very good chance that Congressman Sherill has already appeared in front of the Committee, right? They've conducted somewhere in the range of 900 depositions. We don't know all the people that they have spoken to. But Congresswoman Sherill, for her part has said on occasions that she would be happy to talk to the Committee about what she knows about the events leading up to that day.

And in fact, when we were pressing her after she made these comments, she was asking, begging for investigative agencies to look into it. And after the Select Committee was formed, she said that she had hoped the Select Committee would specifically look into it. So there is a very real possibility that Congresswoman Sherill has actually already shared that information, but we don't know that to be true as of yet, she would obviously be a key person to talk to in this scenario.

And to answer your question, Victor, the difference between them making this very public push to bring Congressman Loudermilk in - versus if they were able to reach out to (inaudible) cooperated easily so they didn't have to make a big public show of it in order to get the information they were looking for. There's been a lot of people that they've talked to that they haven't had to put out a press release, saying that they were seeking that information, because those individuals were willing to cooperate.

BORGER: There - can I just say there's a specific charge ...

CAMEROTA: It's interesting, Gloria - yes, go ahead.

BORGER: ... there's a specific charge in this letter, really, which says that Republicans on the Committee on House administration of which you are a member, Congressman Loudermilk, claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6 and determined that there were no tours, large groups, no one with MAG hats on.

And what this letter says is that the Select Committee's own review of the evidence, this is a quote, "Directly contradicts that denial." So they've got pictures or they've got testimony of witnesses. They have something that leads them to go to Loudermilk and say, well, what is this Select Committee on administration of what you all remember, what are these Republicans who said there was nothing there? What are they talking about, because we know otherwise, so you have two different stories here.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That's interesting, Elliot, I would imagine to your legal mind, because Congress people do give tours from time to time.


That's not out of the question. So there must be something that Mikie Sherrill saw on that video as Gloria is describing that seemed off.

WILLIAMS: Right. Look, Alisyn, it's probably the single building in the United States that has more cameras in it and more police officers in it than anywhere else. So certainly somebody has provided something to indicate that these tours happened, number one. Number two, to backup, the point that Ryan made, it can't be said

enough and I've done this, I've worked in Congress before. Most witnesses come in and speak voluntarily. So it's highly likely that if not Congresswoman Sherill or someone from her office even, who could support the claims that she's making, clearly, there is some record somewhere of this information.

So no, it doesn't quite add up. But really, it's highly likely that the evidence is supported by something else that the Committee is already seeing.

NOBLES: And Alisyn, if I can just make one other point about what Congress was like on January 5th, if you remember, this was the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, right? We were pre-vaccine at this point. The Capitol was completely shut down to public tours. You couldn't just walk in the building and get a tour like you could have done prior to the COVID pandemic breaking out.

So in order to get into this building, you either had to have a very specific credential or you had to be escorted by a member of Congress or their staff. So it wasn't as if this building was flooded with people that normally would be during the time of the year after an election leading up to inauguration as January 5th was. So it's a little bit different calculation of the people that were in this building, it would be much easier to figure out who was here and who they were with versus what it was like prior to what things were like pre-COVID and pre-January 6th.

CAMEROTA: That is really valuable context. Thank you all very much for helping us understand this breaking news. Ryan Nobles, Gloria Borger and Elliot Williams, thank you.

BLACKWELL: President Biden is on his way to Asia right now marking his first trip there as President to reinforce alliances in East.

CAMEROTA: And while the President looks to make advances abroad, at home, he's facing significant economic headwinds, including fears of recession and soaring inflation. The markets right now are attempting to rebound from their worst day in two years. There's also $4 gas in every state and a shortage of baby formula so severe the President has invoked a wartime measure to increase production.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN is Matt Egan now. So all the headwinds, what has investors' most concerned?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Alisyn and Victor, this really all comes back to high inflation. The same thing that is angering voters and unnerving business leaders. I think that yesterday was a bit of a wakeup call for investors that high inflation isn't just bad for Main Street, it's bad for corporate America too.

Target and Wal-Mart have sounded the alarm on inflation. They've warned that high prices are eating into their profitability. They're having a hard time passing along their high cost to consumers. Target suffered its worst day since 1987, yesterday. And I think that all this has raised concerns about what other problems are out there. I mean, if Target and Wal-Mart were the best in the business are

struggling this much, what does it mean for everyone else? Our consumer starting to get tapped out. And so those are the concerns we've seen play out in the stock market. I think the good news is that the sell off from yesterday has eased at least. The markets, in the last few minutes, the Dow had actually briefly turned positive trading near the highest levels of the day, down 65 points is nothing to cheer, but at one point this morning, the Dow was down another 500 points.

We also have to talk about what's going on in the housing market because that is directly related to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. We've seen mortgage rates spike. They're near their highest levels since 2009. This has actually started to slow down activity in the housing market.

Home sales, we learned today, fell in April for the third month in a row. But like everywhere else in this economy prices continue to rise. Price is up nearly 15 percent, a fresh record high. Many first time homebuyers are simply getting priced out of this market either because of prices or mortgage rates or both.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Matt Egan, thank you.

EGAN: Thank you, guys.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Seoul where President Biden is headed. Jeremy, CNN has learned that there are new details on North Korea getting closer to a missile test possibly time around the President's visit, what do you know?



U.S. intelligence is now assessing that North Korea appears to be beginning to get it ready to fuel an intercontinental ballistic missile which is one of the final stages you launch one of those ICBMs. That's according to a U.S. official familiar with the intelligence. And this suggests that a launch, a test launch by North Korea of one of these ICBMs could occur very likely while President Biden is here in South Korea.

Now, President Biden is set to arrive here in about 14 hours and this test by North Korea, this potential test is something that the U.S. has been looking out for. They have been warning for several days now that North Korea could potentially launch a missile or could potentially test even a nuclear weapon while President Biden is in the region.

That would certainly be a provocative and headline-grabbing move up by North Korea. And it comes as President Biden is making this very important and symbolic visit to Asia, his first as Commander in Chief of the United States, as he comes here to try and shore up these key alliances with South Korea and with Japan where he heads after he visits this country.

And it also comes as President Biden tries to show that even as his attention has been so focused on the war in Ukraine, he's also trying to show that he does want to complete that long standing pivot that the U.S. has been trying to make to Asia, to talk about security, to talk about economic partnerships. The President expected to unveil a new economic framework while he is in the country.

And he's also going to be meeting with the Quad. That's the United States, Japan, India and Australia to talk about security and technology issues in the region. Again, looming over all of this, of course, is the threat of a nuclear North Korea as well as the situation with China, which has been growing in influence in the region. And the U.S. wants to make sure that it's able to have a rules based order here in the region. That's a key focus for the President.

CAMEROTA: Jeremy, also big news today regarding NATO, before the President left for Asia, he met with leaders of Finland and Sweden, and they just made this historic bid. So tell us about the significance of all of that.

DIAMOND: That's right. And that just goes to show you even as President Biden is heading to Asia, the situation in Ukraine and in Europe is still dominating his attention. The President standing alongside the leaders of Sweden and Finland, which have just put in their application to NATO. President Biden making very clear that the U.S. is hugely supportive of this even as there is some controversy with Turkey, for example, appearing to stand in the way at least for now, of these countries getting fast tracked approval. Here's the President earlier today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, there is no question NATO is relevant, it is effective and it's more needed now than ever. The indispensable alliances of decades past is still the indispensable alliance for the world we face today. So let me be clear, new members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation. It never has been.


DIAMOND: And you hear President Biden there trying to emphasize that these countries joining NATO do not represent a threat to any country. That's Russia that the President is clearly referring to there and also stressing the defensive nature of this. Now, as far as Turkey's objections to this, U.S. officials, including the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, just yesterday, making very clear, they feel that they can overcome those objections and that ultimately, Sweden and Finland will be able to join that NATO Alliance, Victor? Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Jeremy diamond in Seoul. Thank you.

Let's talk more about this now with Beth Sanner, CNN National Security Analyst and the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Beth, thanks for being with us. So the President's going to South Korea. He's going to Japan. How much of this trip is about China though?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Most of it is about China. It is about this whole idea of the Asia pivot that's been around for a while and I think it's really about alliances, partnerships matter. And with the connection of China and Russia together in this war, it kind of spreads the whole geography where we need allies across the world and we have really an open door now with South Korean and Japan, because we have two leaders who really want to have that alliance with us.

CAMEROTA: Beth, what happens if North Korea launches some kind of missile while the President is there? What would - how would the White House respond?

SANNER: Well, it's a bad PR day for sure, but I think that the big picture here is that this isn't just about Kim trying to get attention in some juvenile point of way. This is about North Korea gaining capabilities that we have been trying to avoid them having for three decades of diplomacy over Republican and Democratic administrations, that they have a credible nuclear threat against the U.S. and they are absolutely getting there and it's only a matter of time.


So really how we react now in a tactical way is important. But I think much more important is getting together with South Korea, with Japan and really thinking about our policy toward North Korea, because (inaudible) have not worked.

BLACKWELL: And you say that they have not worked. The last two administrations have been on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Obama administration was strategic patience. Trump met with them. They signed an agreement that did not lead to denuclearization. Where on the spectrum is the Biden administration. Is it clear?

SANNER: They have been just kind of continuing the sanctions, the very heavy sanctions we have had against North Korea. But those sanctions have been becoming much weaker because China has openly been flouting them and in the past few months, North Korea has popped off over a dozen missile tests and China and Russia have blocked even statements in the U.N. Security Council, because these violated previous U.N. resolutions.

So this is why I say we kind of need a new tack here and it's very hard when you have so many crises going on at once. So it's - I applaud the administration for taking this trip, but the real hard work lies ahead.

BLACKWELL: All right. Beth Sanner, always good to have you. Thank you.

Well, fears of $6 a gallon gas, rising inflation and a baby formula shortage, the Biden administration is under increased pressure to do more. We'll ask a member of the White House team what the plan is next.

And a new poll suggests a third of Americans think the pandemic is over despite COVID cases and hospitalizations on the rise again.



BLACKWELL: The White House is invoking the Defense Production Act to help fight the nation's ongoing shortage of infant formula. Now, this gives the government more control over the industry and should provide formula factories with priority access to ingredients. The Biden administration has faced criticism for its handling of this national crisis. Joining me now Director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese. Welcome back. Thank you for your time here.

So the DPA now invoked, the White House said not a week ago, I think it was six days ago, that using this would not be an immediate response. It would be a longer term solution. Here is now former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.


JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been discussion, and some members of Congress have raised questions, say, of the Defense Production Act, which that would be something which is on the table, we've not made a decision about, but would be - would help address issues over the long-term.

The reason why it would have a longer-term impact is because their production of baby formula is so specialized and so specific that you can't just use the Defense Production Act to say to a company that produces something else, "Produce baby formula." It just doesn't work that way exactly.


BLACKWELL: So six days later now, why invoke it now and will it have any immediate help offer to these families?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, thanks for having me. What we've said consistently is all tools are on the table. And what the President did yesterday was invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure that the supplies, the components that go into manufacturing baby formula are prioritized in the manufacturing process. And that's important because at this moment, the manufacturers are ramping up. They are going to a hundred percent capacity in their facilities.

But we want to make sure that as they do that, they are not slowed down by access to any supply, whether it's the bottles that they need for packaging or an input that goes into making the formulas. So with this authority now, the President has directed the Department of Health and Human Services to identify any instance where prioritization is necessary of supplies so that those manufacturers can get to and stay at that hundred percent production level for as long as we need.

BLACKWELL: So CNN has spoken with a senior administration official who says that there are conversations happening now between the administration and companies figuring out how to utilize the DPA. Let me read you the quote from this official.

"We're still having active and ongoing conversations with companies, so I have nothing more specific to report at this time about how the specific instances in which we're going to be using the DPA authority."

So is it clear how this will help? It seems from this official that, even at this point, having taken it off the table and implemented it, it's not especially clear.

DEESE: Well, this is a fast moving process and we are doing exactly that. We are in consultation with the manufacturers and suppliers to identify those instances where this will help to get those manufacturers to full 100 percent production. I was on the phone late into the night with a manufacturer. Our teams have been on the phones and engaged consistently understanding what their needs are, understanding what their constraints are and where a tool like the Defense Production Act will be helpful and that's exactly what we're going to do here on a day in and day out basis as this evolves.