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Biden Administration Moves to Lower Nicotine Levels in Tobacco; Congress Nearing Gun Deal; January 6 Committee Seeking Pat Cipollone's Public Testimony; President Biden to Call For Gas Tax Holiday. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 13:00   ET




ANGEL GARZA, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: And we were right outside.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, there's really no words to follow that.

There's so many parents here who feel the exact same way.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There are no words.

Rosa Flores, thank you.

Thank you for your time today.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thank you so much for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Minutes from now, President Biden will call for a gas tax holiday. He will ask Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months. He says it will provide some relief to Americans battered by record high gas prices. This move would shave off about 18 cents per gallon of gas and 24 cents per gallon of diesel.

But the move faces a skeptical Congress. Would this really help? Or is it just a ploy for political mileage? And President Biden will have to counter this dismal -- dismissal, I should say, by then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're arguing over a gimmick to save you half-a-tank against over the course of the entire summer, so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something.

Well, let me tell you something. This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer. It's an idea designed to get them through an election.


CABRERA: CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now at the White House.

Phil, this is another effort by President Biden to deal with gas prices. He's, of course, released oil from the Strategic Reserve. He will traveled to Saudi Arabia in hopes that they will increase oil production. He's also called on us oil refineries to ramp it up.

But even some Democrats don't support a gas tax holiday. So help us understand the White House thinking here.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Ana, vote counts is just one of a myriad of reasons why White House officials have been reluctant to give their supports of this idea for several months. It's been on the table.

It's been something that's been under consideration by President Biden and his team. And yet they waited until now to pull the trigger on the support. And it is no guarantee there will be the votes in the House, certain there will not be the votes in the Senate.

However, what this moment underscores perhaps more than anything else is the urgency inside the administration to show they are trying to take action. There's a recognition that, while maybe this doesn't filter down dramatically to consumers if it is enacted, maybe there are concerns about the Highway Trust Fund and the funding for that -- there are downstream concerns as well -- they need to show that they both understand the problem and are trying to do something, no matter how small, to address that problem.

As one official told me a couple of days ago, it doesn't take a political savant to recognize the connection between gas prices and approval numbers. We have seen that play out over the course of the last couple of weeks. But we also have seen the complicating factors of this moment. Oil is a global marketplace. Obviously, the war in Russia when it comes to energy prices -- war in Ukraine, when it comes to energy prices is certainly a major driver, energy prices seeping into all corners of inflation at this point in time.

And that has created very real political and very complicated policy questions for the White House up to this point. Clear -- at this point, there is no clear pathway on Capitol Hill. But the president and his team trying to take action, trying to show action at a moment where Americans clearly want it -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Phil Mattingly, thank you.

Again, the president's remarks here expected at the top of next hour.

Let's crunch the numbers now and weigh the pros and cons of this federal gas tax holiday idea.

CNN's Matt Egan joins us to walk us through all of it.

Matt, obviously, this sounds good. How much would Americans actually save?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, on the this is not going to be a game- changer.

Even if it gets through Congress, which Phil just said would be a pretty big if, we're talking about 18 cents a gallon. That is less than 4 percent of the total cost of gasoline. Let me show you what that means. If you have an average gas tank, 15 gallons of gas, that's only going to save you $2.70. Every little bit helps. But this is really not going to move the needle for anyone.

On the state level, some states have suspended their gas tax. That has helped. Look at Georgia. Georgia actually has the lowest average gas price in the whole state, at $4.45 a gallon, well below the national average.


CABRERA: And that's because of the state gas tax?

EGAN: That's because they suspended their 29-cent-a-gallon fuel tax.

But unless the governor in Georgia takes action, prices are going to snap back because that holiday is going to end in mid-July. And I think that's one of the problems here, right? Tax holidays are popular, ending them, not so much.

CABRERA: And so talk about how this move would have that obviously temporary relief. Even if it is a little bit, it's something. But it could backfire too, right, according to some of the economics experts you have been speaking with.

EGAN: Right.

Let's look at supply and demand. So, this does absolutely nothing to fix the supply problem, right? There's not enough oil, there's not enough gasoline, not enough jet fuel, diesel. This doesn't do anything to fix that


And, on the demand side, which has been really strong, this actually could support demand, because it artificially lowers the price. So that's not great. There's also no guarantee that all of the savings are going to be passed along by the oil companies to the consumers.

Goldman Sachs just put out a report casting some skepticism there. They said it seems likely that less of a federal suspension would pass through to retail prices. Statewide, consumers have benefited. Federal, it might not be the case. Also, let's not forget the gas tax actually goes to fund infrastructure, highways, roads, bridges. The gas tax has not been lifted since 1993, despite the fact that all these projects are costing more, especially now because of labor costs, material costs.

So there's a lot of drawbacks here. CABRERA: Right, robbing Peter to pay Paul, it sounds like, in this particular case.

EGAN: Exactly.

CABRERA: Thank you, Matt Egan.

We will see what happens here. Obviously, Congress would have to support this as well and pass it for it to actually go into effect.

Let's turn to the investigation of January 6 now. Tomorrow, the House select committee will hear testimony from former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

The focus will be on how then-President Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to intervene in the 2020 election. There's also growing pressure from the committee to secure testimony from then- Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone. You might recall this testimony from Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, about Cipollone threatening to resign ahead of January 6.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Jared, are you aware of instances where Pat Cipollone threatened to resign?

JARED KUSHNER, FORMER SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I kind of -- like I said, my interest at that time was on trying to get as many pardons done. And I know that he was always -- him and the team were always saying, oh, we're going to resign, we're not going to be here if this happens, if that happens.

So I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.


CABRERA: CNN's Sara Murray joins us now.

Sara, what more can you tell us about the effort to try to get Cipollone to testify?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's certainly not a secret effort.

Liz Cheney was pretty clear in yesterday's hearing that she wants Pat Cipollone out there testifying in public. Here's what she said:


CHENEY: Our committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here. Indeed, our evidence shows that Mr. Cipollone and his office tried to do what was right.

But we think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally. He should appear before this committee, and we are working to secure his testimony.


MURRAY: Now, look, this is someone who is Trump's former White House counsel. He has already sat for a private interview with the committee. We have heard him come up during the committee testimony, as you saw there with Jared Kushner in this exchange about how Cipollone threatened to resign at various points.

And from Cipollone's point of view, he sort of feels like he did this behind-the-scenes interview. He's participated enough. But this is a person who knows a lot, who was there in the White House, who saw a number of critical meetings during this period in January 2021, where Donald Trump was looking at ousting the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replacing him with someone who would go along with Trump's plans to try to overturn the election results in states like Georgia.

Cipollone was around for the president's thinking. He was around for various meetings. He was around when these Justice Department officials were essentially saying, look, President Trump, if you decide to oust Rosen, we are all going to resign en masse.

So, it would certainly be compelling testimony if we did see Cipollone decide to come forward, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Sara Murray, thank you for your reporting.

Let's discuss now with CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig.

Elie, let's talk more about the growing pressure to get ex-White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify. What do you see as the significance if he were to testify?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Ana, Pat Cipollone could be the ultimate insider witness.

One of the things that's emerged here is there's really very little question about what Donald Trump did and said publicly. And the big questions here are, what was in Donald Trump's head? What was his state of mind? What was his intent?

And when it comes to those issues, really, the people best equipped to speak to that, other than Donald Trump himself and maybe Mark Meadows, would be Pat Cipollone. He was White House counsel.

That said, Ana, I would not hold my breath expecting him to testify. As Sara just reported, he's already expressing some reluctance. He seems to think he's done enough by talking behind closed doors. That really is not up to Pat Cipollone. And let's also remember, the committee just cannot force him, as a practical measure.

If they had to go to court to try to force him, they just don't have enough time to get that done in the next couple weeks. CABRERA: But why not testify? We already know he had threatened to

resign. He's been presented by this committee as someone who kept the guardrails up in the White House. Why do you think he's holding back?

HONIG: Well, Ana, it looks to me like this is yet another person from Donald Trump's orbit who's trying to have it both ways, who is trying to sort of thread the needle.


Yes, we do know that, in certain instances, Pat Cipollone did the right thing. We know that when Donald Trump was trying to install a loyalist to take over DOJ, Cipollone stood on the right side of that. He said: I'm not going to stand for this and I might resign.

We just heard that testimony. At the same time, it seems he doesn't want to put himself out there, and he doesn't want to potentially alienate any of his friends. So we don't have sinners and saints here. I think there are shades of gray.

CABRERA: Tomorrow, we will hear from other former DOJ officials. What are you going to be listening for?

HONIG: So, the attempt to take over DOJ was really all about validation in my view.

We have seen that Donald Trump was casting about desperately to find any person, any entity, any governmental body to lend any support or heft to his false claims of election fraud. And, to me, the most audacious of those efforts was his attempt to try to get DOJ to say, we found election fraud, when they had done no such thing.

And so we're going to hear tomorrow about how Trump tried to install this underqualified loyalist, this guy Jeffrey Clark, who we will hear about, to take over DOJ to help with that effort. Ultimately, the career professionals at DOJ stood up and did the right thing and refused to let that happen.

CABRERA: And so every hearing has been sort of a building block to develop this conspiracy and the many different aspects of it.

For you, what was the biggest takeaway from yesterday's testimony?

HONIG: The quote from Rudy Giuliani: "We have no facts, but we have plenty of theories."

That, to me, in one sentence summarizes what this effort to spread the election fraud lie was all about. They had no facts. They had theories. They tried to corrupt Congress. They tried to corrupt the vice president's office. They tried to corrupt state legislators, state and local election officials, and finally DOJ.

And they did it all because they knew they had no facts. All they had was theories. And, ultimately, as we're seeing, that effort failed. But, Ana, one thing that's really sort of driven home to me is, even before anyone stormed the doors of the Capitol, even before 1:00 p.m. on January 6, there were the makings of a full and well-developed conspiracy here.

So I think that the committee has done a really good job of describing that for us.

CABRERA: The committee actually implicated members of Congress, right, in the fake electors scheme yesterday, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.


CABRERA: Senator Johnson has tried to distance himself, saying he didn't know anything that a staffer was up to when he allegedly tried to pass along those alternate slates of electors from Michigan and Wisconsin to Vice President Pence on January 6.

Beyond that, the committee says members of Congress asked for pardons related to January 6, and they're preparing to name names. Could members of Congress be in legal trouble?

HONIG: Well, to me, Ana, this is the most underdeveloped aspect of this investigation so far.

Look, I have been critical of the committee. They only subpoenaed their fellow members of Congress, Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan, very, very late in the game, and they never followed up on that. They never sought contempt, even though those people sort of blew off the subpoenas.

Ron Johnson's explanation to Manu Raju yesterday about the whole exchange with fake electors is ridiculous and makes no sense. Scott Perry claims he never sought a pardon. The committee says he did.

But we need to see more evidence here. That's one area where I do not think the committee has given us enough facts. And I want to see more on that, because, obviously, if Congress was involved in this, that's very, very significant.

CABRERA: The committee says they're getting new information. They're still getting new information, that more people are reaching out since these hearings began. Your thoughts on that?

HONIG: That happens in investigations. I can't tell you how many times I was in the middle of a trial or an investigation and we got some new information.

So it's smart of the committee to do these hearings publicly. I think they have made a compelling case. And it's smart of the committee to solicit people who have relevant information. You never know where an investigation is going to go, Ana. Sometimes, one thread leads to another. That's why we call them leads.

So it'll be really interesting to see what the committee makes of this. And maybe they will have even more new revelations for us as this progresses.

CABRERA: OK, Elie Honig, as always, thank you so much for offering your insights and expertise.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana. All right.

CABRERA: A bipartisan deal on gun reform could soon become law, but can it really reduce the gun violence in America? We will take a look.

Plus, straight ahead: The White House wants to make cigarettes less addictive. We will have a live report on an unprecedented plan.

And later in the show, Yellowstone National Park back open for business, tourists lined up just a few days after devastating floods forced the park to close.



CABRERA: Congress is closer than it's been in decades to passing bipartisan gun safety legislation.

Last night, the Senate voted to advance a bill to toughen federal gun laws. Now, the bill includes money for school safety, mental health resources and crisis intervention programs. It also closes the so- called boyfriend loophole and enhances background checks for people 18 to 21.

CNN's Chris Cillizza is here now to break it all down for us.

Chris, this bill still has a few hurdles to clear. But if it passes, how would it help reduce gun violence?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, let's go through a few specifics.

And let's also note, Ana, that this is the first time since 1984, the assault weapons ban, that Congress looks to be close to passing some sort of major gun legislation. But let's go through what's actually in the bill. You mentioned a few things.

All right, let's start with the so-called boyfriend loophole. OK. It is currently federal law that domestic abusers, people convicted of domestic abuse, whether they're a spouse, a partner who lives with the other partner or a partner that -- and they have child together, they cannot buy a gun. OK?

But this was the loophole. People who were intimate partners, they may not live together, they may not share children, they may not be married, but they are partners, they have a relationship with a person and have convicted of domestic assault, those people used to be able to buy guns.


This would close that loophole. They wouldn't be able to buy guns for five years. I just want to highlight this, because I think this is stunning. An average of 70 women per month are killed by an intimate partner with a gun. So the boyfriend loophole, that would speak to it.

Let's keep going. Background checks. This bill does not -- we will talk about this more in a minute, Ana. This bill does not address background checks broadly, but it does address background checks for those 18 to 21 years old.

It's a more thorough review process that's put in place. Into -- this is important, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, into that is put things like mental health now, their juvenile record, so that we might be able to flag that stuff a little bit quicker. That's in the bill.

Why does that matter? Six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the United States in 2018 were by people who are 21 years old or younger. That is -- this is from "The New York Times." That is a change from a decade or two ago, when most of the shootings were done by 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds. Amazing.

Red flag laws. This is probably -- if you're following this debate loosely, this is probably the thing you're most familiar with. The goal of these laws is to restrict guns for people that pose a threat to themselves or others in the immediate term, that there is some red flag that goes off that says this person should not have access to buying a gun.

What this does, what the bill would do, law, if it becomes law, it would implement more money to the states to either enhance the red flag laws or fund other programs similar to red flag laws. That would help the authorities the government, the courts, flag these people before they committed those crimes or potential crimes.

Now, this is important. This is states that already have red flag laws. There's 19 of them, OK? Before 2018, the Parkland shooting, these, one, two, three, four, five, had them. In Connecticut -- obviously, I'm not going to write this up. But Connecticut, my hometown, Newtown, in my home state, Newtown in 2012 was an occasion for major gun controls.

After 2018, the Parkland shooting, Florida, which, by the way, had Rick Scott, a Republican governor, these 14 states passed it. So it would enhance red flag laws in these places. It would give funding to similar programs in states that don't have red flag laws. Many of them are Republican states. So it would do a lot.

Would it do everything that gun control advocates want? No, it would not. It's relatively narrow bore. That's the way that it looks like it's going to get passed.

CABRERA: But, as you point out, it could make a difference. But there is still a massive loophole.

And here's what I don't understand, because so many people are in support of universal background checks.


CABRERA: I mean, we know that, right now, there are still so many people who can buy a gun legally with no background check at all.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Yes, that's exactly right.

So 21 states, Ana, have a law that prohibits that -- sorry -- that institute's background checks in private gun sales and gun sales at gun shows. Well, that, obviously -- do the math -- means 29 states don't have that law.

There's a huge amount of guns that are bought private seller to buyer privately and a huge amount of guns that are sold at gun shows. This would not cover that. I will note on, Ana, just quickly, the last time we thought we had a major gun control proposal, Manchin-Toomey, Joe Manchin, a Democrat, Pat Toomey, a Republican, back last decade, that did include universal background checks that would have closed things like the gun show loophole and private sales loopholes.

This doesn't have that. And I think the reason is, Republicans didn't think they could get 10 of their own to vote for it.

CABRERA: Yes, but this one appears to have the votes in the Senate, although we should note that the House, the Republicans in the House are whipping against this bill. They don't want their members to support it.

Chris Cillizza, thank you for helping us understand what it does.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Ana.

And now to what public health experts are calling a transformative move to make cigarettes less addictive. The Biden administration is moving to limit the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products. And the idea is to reduce the nicotine, then reduce the addiction, make it easier to quit or even keep people from starting the habit.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard joins us now.

Jacqueline, how soon could this happen?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Ana, this won't happen overnight. There's still some few steps that need to take place before we could see this possibly being put into effect.

But what happens next, the FDA will have to issue the notice of this proposed rulemaking by May 2023, so by May of next year, and then there will need to be some time for public comment, for the public to weigh in. And we have to keep in mind, Ana, that companies could sue for this rule not to happen.

So there are so many possible scenarios here before we could see this possibly becoming a real thing. But here's how some public health groups are responding to this. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says this -- quote -- "This is a truly game-changing proposal, but these gains will only be he realized if the administration and the FDA demonstrate a full-throated commitment to finalizing and implementing this proposal" -- end quote. [13:25:08]

So you see there, Ana, that there's some excitement around this. But, of course, public health groups are saying they want to wait to see if this will in fact happen.

CABRERA: OK, Jacqueline Howard, thank you.

And still ahead for us: The mayor of Uvalde, Texas, unleashes on state investigators, questioning their credibility, as we learn more about what happened inside Robb Elementary.

Plus, the mayor of Plano, Texas, joins us. He's one of 13 Texas mayors demanding Governor Greg Abbott call a special session to deal with gun reform and mental health. That's next.