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Manchin Makes Major Reversal; Pompeo Could be Deposed by January 6th Committee; Principal in Uvalde Defends Security. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 09:30   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, right now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is holding a special caucus meeting just one day after he and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin struck a critical deal on climate and healthcare spending. Manchin committing to this bill signifies a major reversal, and his announcement led to the first call between him and President Biden in seven months.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This is a remarkable development because until a few days ago people thought this was dead in the water.


SCIUTTO: And this bill includes a lot, including requiring a 15 percent minimum corporate tax, which some lawmakers, such as Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, has opposed at times in the past, though she released a statement yesterday saying that there were other times she supported it.

Joining us now, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and CNN political analyst Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

So, it's good to have you on, Zolan.

I mean my first question is, how did this deal come together because I don't know anybody in D.C. who thought this thing had a breath of life in it and then you get the surprise announcement yesterday?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was just a couple weeks ago, a short time ago, that Senator Manchin seemed to pull out of these negotiations, just before President Biden was going to Massachusetts to talk about ambitious climate proposals and the dire state right now of a warming planet. I mean most in this city who have been tracking this legislation and these negotiations, which have been going on for now a year, I mean we are at a year to the day yesterday when this news came out that Senator Manchin went to Senator Schumer and basically gave his red lines on what he would want in a reconciliation bill. So, this is really caught everyone off guard. We do know, my

colleagues reported as well that Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer have been in quiet negotiations over the past couple days.


It seems a short time after he seemed to pull out of the negotiations over that much more sprawling package. And it should be said, this - this -- what we saw come out yesterday is smaller than what was originally proposed by President Biden and Democrats in the original Build Back Better bill. But that being said, it would still include some of the more substantial investments in climate that we have seen from Congress. It would be a huge win as well for the White House if they can get it passed, there's still some roadblocks to that, and coming at a time of low approval numbers, just a couple of months before the midterms as well.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, so, a lower price tag, but still checking off a lot of the Democrats' top priorities there, including lower prescription drug costs.

But it is interesting that this now threatens to derail one of the only bipartisan bills that seem to have been green lit, and that was the Chips Act. The Republicans had been behind it. And all of a sudden, in light of this news from Manchin overnight, you have Republican leaders now calling and whipping votes against it.

What is that all about and does this not, at the end of the day, only benefit China?

KANNO-YOUNGS: Right. So, we did have a -- there have been statements from Senator Mitch McConnell, really in recent months, where he was saying that he was going to be opposed to a reconciliation package. Now, before the news came out about this new deal struck by Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer, you're right, you did have this bipartisan package that was passed that both Democrats and Republicans agreed would be a big focus on competing economically with China, as well as investing in semiconductors, really a boost for the economy there.

So that gets passed and then just a short time after that we hear about this deal that Senator McConnell and other Republicans have made clear that they would oppose. And very quickly, rapid succession, you start to see House Republicans saying that they will oppose that chips bill.


KANNO-YOUNGS: So, those are some of the roadblocks we talked about. How will that then square with the momentum behind this climate and tax bill that Manchin and Schumer have now agreed to.

Also, there's a question mark still about Senator Sinema, who has also been a holdout Democrat in these negotiations.


KANNO-YOUNGS: And we still haven't heard from her team whether or not they're supporting this package.

SCIUTTO: Well, the one thing they did, they did release a statement yesterday saying that they have called going after -- going for some sort of minimum tax for highly profitable corporations, as they called it. Something that she might support. Of course, it all comes down to how they vote, how they vote in the end, which we'll be watching.

GOLODRYGA: A big question as to how they kept this under wraps too for so long in Washington, D.C.


GOLODRYGA: A big surprise and kept (ph) one (ph).

SCIUTTO: Sometimes it's good they negotiate in quiet, right?

GOLODRYGA: Exactly. It works sometimes.


GOLODRYGA: Zolan Kanno-Youngs, thank you.

KANNO-YOUNGS: It's what they've been trying for the past years, at times unsuccessfully. But, absolutely, it's a big question going forward.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Well, this caught a lot of people by surprise last night.

Zolan, thank you so much.

And still ahead, lawmakers investigating the insurrection prepare to sit down with another Trump cabinet official. What they could learn from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. That's up next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, CNN has learned that former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will testify today before the January 6th committee. Mulvaney held that position until March 2020. He then served as the Trump administration's special envoy for northern Ireland before resigning in the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol attack.

GOLODRYGA: CNN has also learned that the committee has been engaging with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and that he could sit for a closed door deposition as soon as this week. Now, the panel is particularly interested in conversations Mike may have been involved in about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump after January 6th.

Joining us now to discuss is Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Elie, it's great to see you.

So, Mick Mulvaney has been pretty vocal on social media about his thoughts weighing in on the committee, so it may not be that big of a surprise that he is sitting down and meeting with them.

Mike Pompeo's name is a name that we haven't heard in a while. Why do you think that he would agree to sit down and talk with them right now?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Bianna, I think the focus with Mike Pompeo is going to be on the 25th Amendment. And this is sort of an overlooked part of the story that I think needs to be told. The question really is, how close was Donald Trump's own cabinet, which included Pompeo at the time, to actually invoking the 25th Amendment. And just for viewers to be clear, what that is, is, that's the constitutional provision that says you can temporarily remove power from a president who has become either physically or mentally incapacitated. And so the questions I would have for Mike Pompeo is, was that just chatter or were those sort of more developed conversations? But, either way, that's a remarkably drastic moment in our history and I think needs to be told here as part of the complete record.

SCIUTTO: So, big picture here. There's a big difference between speaking to people close to the president about their involvement in this, and their potential criminal exposure here and criminal exposure for the former president himself. But it's a possibility. And it was notable that Merrick Garland told NBC's Lester Holt that elections will not affect the DOJ decision. That whether Trump is running or not will not be the decisive factor here, that they might go ahead and charge.


And I wonder, do you believe that insurance, or does it matter if Trump is a candidate for 2024?

HONIG: I do believe Merrick Garland, that as a technical matter, when he -- the day comes when he has to sit down and decide what he's going to do with Donald Trump, he will not consider whether Donald Trump is a declared candidate for 2024. I also think, however, we have to live in reality here. And if and when Donald Trump does announce his candidacy, it becomes that much more difficult if you indict him, we don't know if there will be, but you have to think about, can we convict this person? Can we get a jury of 12 people to unanimously find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? And I think if you think that's going to be easy, you're not living in reality. And that inarguably gets that much more difficult if he becomes an announced candidate, a front-runner or even a nominee.

GOLODRYGA: And it comes just as CNN has confirmed that Cassidy Hutchinson has said that she will work and cooperate with the DOJ. You call her testimony among the most consequential throughout these hearings. But you also raise questions about what she can provide to the DOJ given what we heard from her already cooperating with the committee and testifying before the committee.

HONIG: Yes, Bianna, well, big picture, I think Cassidy Hutchinson is a gold mine of evidence, both for the committee and for the Justice Department. I think the vast majority of her testimony would go to Donald Trump's potential criminal liability. Things like Donald Trump acknowledging that the crowd he spoke to was armed, Donald Trump's desire to go down to the Capitol and his anger when the Secret Service wouldn't let him do that.

So, if I am a prosecutor, first of all, they never should have been taken by surprise. They should have known everything she was going to say when she testified about a month ago. Apparently they were taken by surprise. But now DOJ has made up for lost time, apparently, and they are in touch with her.

So, I think she's a very valuable witness. Some of what she testified about in the committee was hearsay. But I want to say this, the claims that her whole entire testimony is hearsay, that's nonsense.


HONIG: That's just a cheap and I think unavailing attempt to discredit her. A very small percentage, 5 percent, 10 percent of what she said is hearsay. The rest of it, to me, is fair game for prosecutors and for a criminal trial.

SCIUTTO: And, by the way, our -- CNN's reporting is that other witnesses have corroborated key elements of her testimony.


SCIUTTO: I do, before you want to go, mention another development, this, and that is that prosecutors in a court filings just on Wednesday said the DOJ has now obtained a second warrant to search the cell phone of the right wing lawyer John Eastman, who was central to the efforts to overturn the elections. What does it tell you about the progress of the investigation of his involvement?

HONIG: So, Jim, first of all, sometimes prosecutors do have to do this in two steps. You need one search warrant to grab the phone and then another one to download the contents. But in order to get a search warrant, you, as a prosecutor, have to establish probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that you'll find evidence of that crime on, in this case, the cell phone.

So, that's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but that's a big deal. Prosecutors don't do that lightly. You have to write out your evidence in an affidavit, and a judge has to approve it. So it shows me that prosecutors at least have a reasonable suspicion that John Eastman was involved in a crime.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's hard to get a judge to give those warrants.


SCIUTTO: Elie Honig, good to have you on. HONIG: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, a CNN exclusive interview with the Robb Elementary School principal who has now been put on leave. Hear what she says about accusations of lax security at the school before a gunman went in there and killed 19 children and two teachers.



GOLODRYGA: The principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, breaks her silence in a CNN exclusive, denying that school officials were complacent about campus safety.

SCIUTTO: This comes, of course, after a damning report by Texas lawmakers that criticized the school's lax security, as well as the law enforcement response. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed there in May. Near the end, actually, of Mandy Gutierrez's first year as principal.

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores, she joins us now live, had an exclusive interview with the principal.

I wonder, what was her explanation?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, she stands by her actions that day, Jim. She says that she followed her training and that she really wouldn't change anything that she did on that day. But, like, as you mentioned, the Texas house investigative committee report was very critical of her and the school administration. Some of the things that they pointed out and criticized was the -- what the report called a culture of non-compliance with safety protocols. Now, that's something that she said was not accurate. She was also criticized for some of the spotty wi-fi that was at the school. She said, in fact, that on May 24th she had to get clear - get close to a window in order for her to get enough signal to initiate the lockdown that day, but she says that indeed - that lockdown did go out.

And she was also criticized for not using the intercom system to initiate the lockdown. And she says that she followed her training, because their training taught her that if she used the intercom system, that that could panic students and that it could also alert the gunmen, something that she didn't want to do. So, overall, she defended herself.

Take a listen.


MANDY GUTIERREZ, PRINCIPAL, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I feel that I followed the training that I was provided with to the best of my abilities. And I will second guess myself for the rest of my life. But, again, there's things that could change that are not in my circle of control.


FLORES: Was there a culture of non-compliance at Robb Elementary?

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely not. Any time that an alert went out, every single teacher on that campus took it to mean it could be a potential escalating situation. And so every -- everybody follows protocol.

FLORES: Do you feel you share some responsibility?

GUTIERREZ: I believe that there is always room for improvement. I believe that I did my job to the best of my abilities. I believe that as a campus principal, if I did the job to the best of my abilities, then I would hope that I -- nobody says that I am fully responsible for what occurred that day.


GOLODRYGA: Just a horrific tragedy any way you look at it.

Texas house investigative committee stands by that report, we should note.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, we're going to get White House reaction to today's economic report showing the U.S. economy shrunk for a second consecutive quarter. I'm going to speak to the director of the White House National Economic Council. That's next. You'll want to hear it.