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January 6 Committee Interviewing Trump Cabinet Members; Biden Urges Congress to Pass Inflation Reduction Act. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

Moments ago, President Biden responded to the latest GDP report showing the U.S. economy shrank for the second quarter in a row. Now, in the past, economists label that a trend that leads to a recession or is a recession. But the president says today's situation is different.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a record job market of -- record unemployment of 3.6 percent today.

We have created nine million new jobs so far just since I have become president. Businesses are investing in America at record rates. That doesn't sound like a recession to me.


CAMEROTA: The president also applauded a major energy and health care bill that could breathe new life into his agenda. He urged Congress to act quickly and pass it.


BIDEN: And the fact is that my message to Congress is this. This is the strongest bill you can pass to lower inflation, cut the deficit, reduce health care costs, tackle the climate crisis, and promote energy security, all the time while reducing the burdens facing working-class and middle-class families.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, how did this come together? And do Democrats have the votes?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, over the last 10 days, these negotiations between Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer have been picked up. They have happened behind the scenes.

They have really happened only between those two. Other people were really not involved in these discussions. In mid-July, the talks broke off for a little bit of time, after Manchin saw the June inflation numbers, about 9 percent.

He came out. He was concerned about it. He indicated he did not want to move forward on climate and energy provisions and tax provisions. At that point, Schumer said that they could agree and potentially a narrow health care bill.

But things changed over the last several days. Manchin said -- told a group of reporters, including me, earlier today that he continued to negotiate over that time. He said he never walked away from this.

He said he was not reversing his position and ultimately signed on to this bill, significant in its size and scope, because not only would it give the power of Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs and extend health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for three years, but it would provide more than $300 billion to deal with climate change and energy issues, as well as implementing a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations, also taxing the issue of carried interest as well to raise revenue on this package.

Now, the question right now is, do they have the 50 votes in the United States Senate to move forward? It is still uncertain because of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat from Arizona, someone who has raised concerns with other proposals in the past and still has not taken a position this issue.

But Democrats are indicating to me that they are confident she will ultimately get on board.


RAJU: Have you spoken to Senator Sinema?

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): I'm not going to get into any conversations with colleagues that I have had.

What I will tell you is, the reviews the thus far have been very, very positive. My phone was ringing off the hook, as I said late last night.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I just think that everybody got surprised by certainly, I think, representations that have been made by the Democrats about this deal, and that I think there was a certain amount of people getting blindsided not only on our side, but on the Democrats' side.


RAJU: So the last part in particular significant, because Republicans had threatened to withhold support for the so-called CHIPS bill, a larger version of that bill, until Democrats walked away from this deal that Manchin and Schumer ultimately cut, catching a lot of people by surprise.

But, again, the question is, do they have the votes? They will have to try to get it together by next week. That is the goal in the Senate. And then the question will be the House. Can they get that done by August? Optimism in the Democratic circles, but just not there yet.

BLACKWELL: Manu, let's talk about this CHIPS bill in the House.

House GOP leaders are now whipping against that bill that you mentioned passed by a bipartisan vote in the Senate. Can they block it?

RAJU: At this point, it appears unlikely. Both Democrats and Republican sources are indicating to me that they believe that this bill will pass, but on a narrower margin.

Apparently, there were a good number of Republicans who were willing to support this bipartisan deal, but there were some drop-off on Republican support since the announcement of that Manchin-Schumer deal. Republican leaders are in fact whipping against it, trying to urge their members to oppose it.

There are some concerns, philosophical concerns about this bill, which would spend -- authorize about $280 billion to deal with science -- money for science and research to prevent -- to try to reposition the U.S. vs. China, but also provide more than $50 billion to bolster semiconductor chip production, which are in short supply right now.


But, nevertheless, there are enough Republicans and Democrats who expect to get this over the finish line and send this to the president's desk today -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu Raju, thank you.

BLACKWELL: CNN business reporter Matt Egan joins us now.

So we have heard from President Biden today, also from Secretary Yellen echoing what we heard from the Fed chair, that this is not a recession. Where do we stand?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, at a minimum, this economy is clearly slowing down. There was blockbuster growth last year, 6 percent most quarters for GDP growth. That's like China-like growth.

But we are now seeing a really sharp slowdown, GDP in the latest quarter declining at an annual rate of 0.9 percent. That's after it declined in the first quarter. Why is this happening?

Consumer spending slowing down in part because of the crushing weight of inflation. The housing market, as we have been talking about, is stumbling. Government spending declined. And the big one is, there's this inventory glut.

Retailers like Target and Walmart, they stocked up on too much stuff. Now there's a hangover. Now, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, just a few minutes ago, she talked about this. And she's clearly in the camp that this is more of a slowdown than a recession.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Our economy remains resilient. Our unemployment rate stands at 3.6 percent. Household finances are strong, and industrial output continues to grow.

Overall, with a slowdown in private demand, this report indicates an economy that is transitioning to more steady, sustainable growth. This path is consistent with one that eases inflationary pressures, while maintaining the labor market progress of the past 18 months.


EGAN: This slowdown, though, is a concern because the economy has not even felt the full impact of the Federal Reserve's monster interest rate hikes. And that could slow things down even further.

CAMEROTA: Matt, your morning e-mails have been so helpful trying to navigate through this, because what I have learned from you is that determining whether or not something's a recession, it's not a hard- and-fast science.

There are all sorts of different variables.

EGAN: That is right.

There's some that would define it as back-to-back quarters of negative growth, for good reason, because, if you go back to 1948, there's never been a period with back-to-back negative GDP quarters without a recession. Every time, there has been.

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's fair to call this a recession, at least not yet. The actual decision is left up to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And here's how they define it. They say a recession is -- quote -- "a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy" and lasts more than a few months.

That is kind of vague, some wiggle room, right? They look at monthly indicators. We're talking about retail sales, manufacturing, consumer spending, employment and income. Now, some of those indicators are flashing yellow. Consumer spending is slowing down. Income, if you adjust for inflation, is negative. That's why people are pretty upset right now.

But also jobs, that does not seem to check the box of recession right now. If you look at the unemployment rate, it is 3.6 percent right now. That is historically low. It is just above a half-century low. Remember, during April 2020, during the height of COVID, it was 15 percent almost.

So this is a far cry from that. So we're not seeing the layoffs that are typically associated with a recession. So, unless that changes, we may have a continuation of the situation where people are not happy with the economy, but economists are saying it's not officially a recession.

CAMEROTA: OK, Matt Egan, thank you very much for explaining all of that.

EGAN: Thank you, guys.

BLACKWELL: With us now to talk more about this, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" Abby Phillip.

Abby, good to see you.

I want to start here with this decision by Senator Manchin to now sign onto this spending bill. Put into context, give us some perspective, really, about the size of this reversal. He would say it isn't a reversal. But from what we have heard from him over the last several months, it looks like one.


I mean, I think that Manchin's last comments on the previous state of negotiations was, let's wait to see what another month of inflation numbers and GDP numbers look like. And then, lo and behold, this deal was struck even before the latest GDP numbers came out today.

So, Manchin clearly made a determination that he was willing to do something and that he was willing to do something if it could be sold publicly as an anti-inflationary measure.

And the ducks really lined up here. I mean, they have Larry Summers going out there and saying, I counseled Joe Manchin that this is not going to add to inflation. They changed the name of the bill. It's no longer Build Back Better. It has inflation in the headline.

And this is all part of an effort to meet Manchin where he is. And the signal was sent a few weeks ago from the White House to congressional Democrats to basically say, we need to take whatever Joe Manchin offers us.


And, in their case, this is something that they want too. It's a significant climate investment. It's a significant piece of legislation when it comes to prescription drugs. And it also includes some of the tax provisions that Democrats wanted.

So this is a big win for the Biden administration and a big reversal for Manchin.

CAMEROTA: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not like it. He has called it basically nonsense.

Let me play for you what he said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes, it's the nonsense that Democrats are focused on, not helping you put gas in your car, not helping you afford your groceries.

They want to use the middle-class economic crisis they themselves created as an excuse to raise your taxes and ram through their Green New Deal nonsense.


CAMEROTA: Does he have an alternative idea for the climate crisis?

PHILLIP: Look, the Republican plan for the climate crisis is to not talk about the climate crisis. That has been true for a number of years now. And it's no different now.

One of the reasons this is also such a big victory for Democrats is because, in the Obama administration, when they tried to pass cap and trade, it was such a spectacular collapse of an effort to make a big movement forward on climate, that this step, while it is incremental, is really a big change in Washington's ability to deal with this problem.

But, also, on the political side, look, Mitch McConnell would prefer that really nothing happen in Washington between now and November, because Republicans are running on stagnation in Washington. They're running on the Biden administration not doing anything, congressional Democrats not doing anything.

And so any time a bill is passed, I think that cuts against his argument and the Republicans' main argument going into November.

BLACKWELL: So, then how would you describe how this -- the chronology of the passing of this bill, the CHIPS bill, and Manchin coming on board for the spending bill?

Because Leader McConnell said that he would block the CHIPS bill if Democrats move forward with their funding bill. That didn't look like it was going to happen. McConnell said, all right, we're moving forward with CHIPS. And then, hours later, Manchin says, oh, yes, I will make a deal on the funding bill.

Is this trickery? Is it strategy? Is it coincidental?

PHILLIP: You know, I do think that there's some -- at some point, it matters whether the American -- you're on the right side of the issue, as far as the American people are concerned. And it also matters whether you can sell this to your constituents.

It is actually, I think, very hard for opponents of the semiconductor bill to argue that it's not something that needs to happen. It's a piece of legislation that has bipartisan support that is clearly necessary for the economy, given the challenges with car manufacturing and all kinds of issues related to semiconductor CHIPS.

I think just the reality of the politics of it all is what is weighing in here, is that, at some point, the American people are looking at Washington, and they're wondering, what are people doing? And it becomes untenable for even McConnell to hold up things that have a sort of a clear push forward on a bipartisan basis.

You're also -- I will add to the list that you said. There's also this question of the same-sex marriage bill. This is something that I think no one thought was going to be on the agenda this summer, but looks like it might be moving forward in a bipartisan basis.

I think people in Washington know they are accountable to their voters, and that, when issues come up to them, they have to vote one way or another on it, especially as it relates to their lives.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby Phillip, thank you.

So, the January 6 Committee questioning several Trump Cabinet members, including former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Ahead, what the committee wants to know.

BLACKWELL: And the death toll is climbing in Kentucky after historic rainfall. The governor calls the flooding one of the worst in the state's history.



CAMEROTA: Donald Trump's former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney today is talking to the House committee investigating the January 6 attack.

According to sources, these other top Trump officials are also about to talk to the committee or already have.

BLACKWELL: Sources say the panel is particularly interested in conversations among then-Cabinet members on possibly invoking the 25th Amendment to remove former President Trump from office after the attack.

CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles joins us now.

Ryan, do we know if Mick Mulvaney is with the committee now, if he's still testifying?


As a matter of fact, Victor, our sources telling us that Mulvaney is still testifying, he's in the room with investigators right now. And, of course, Mulvaney is someone who was once a loyal member of the Trump administration, served as his acting chief of staff, and now has since become a pretty vocal critic of the way that the former president handled everything leading up to end on January 6.

Now, his insight might be a little bit different than some of the other members of the Trump Cabinet that they're at least trying to talk to or have already talked to. We know Mulvaney is in there today. Another person we know that they're interested in speaking with is the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

And Pompeo acknowledged today on FOX that he is engaging with the committee about a possible interview. We thought that could happen as soon as next week. It looks -- or this week, I should say. It looks like those negotiations are ongoing.

But we already know that the committee has spoke to a number of Cabinet officials, including the former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller. They also spoke to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, the former Attorney General Bill Barr, the former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and the former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. That's new reporting that we were able to confirm today.


Where many of these players could provide the committee information is about those conversations related to the 25th Amendment. We know that was an active conversation in the days after January 6. Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Mike Pence, said today on our air that those conversations never really went that far, just because there wasn't enough time to try and actually physically remove the former President Trump office.

There was just a week or so left in his administration by that point. But we also know the committee is still reaching out to others, including the former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who could be a key player in all of this.

Ratcliffe is someone that there was pressure being put on Ratcliffe from members of the House of Representatives, Scott Perry in particular, to look into some of these accusations of foreign interference in the election that really was not based on any evidence, and that they have also engaged with the former acting Department of Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf.

So, what this tells us more than anything -- we have done a lot of reporting on the expansion of the Department of Justice investigation, which is a criminal probe. But Victor and Alisyn, we should not forget about the January 6 Select Committee. They still have a lot of work ahead of them.

And, of course, there's still the possibility of public hearings in September -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ryan Nobles, thank you for giving us the latest.

Let's talk about this. Let's bring in Scott Jennings. He's our CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush. And Nick Akerman is a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Gentlemen, great to have you.

Nick, I want to start with you and former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who is, we understand, testifying today. So here's what we know he was doing on January 6. He was trying to get the current, at that time, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to do something.

So he sent this e-mail to Mark Meadows: "Mark" -- oh, it's a text. It's a text. "Mark, he needs to stop this now. Can I do anything to help?"

But, Nick, he wasn't in the White House at that time. So how valuable can Mick Mulvaney be?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: He can't be too valuable in terms of actually substantive information.

I mean, I'm sure he never got an answer to that e-mail, that Mark Meadows was basically just hunkered down, following the lead of Donald Trump, who purposely did nothing, hoping that the violence would basically stop the count of the Electoral College vote.

But he does add some color to this, in the sense that he knows Cassidy Hutchinson. He can speak to her credibility. In fact, it was her testimony that really turns him around to the point of saying that what happened here was really bad, and was really a threat to our democracy.

So, he knows a lot of the players. His sense of Mark Meadows is that he was either incompetent or he was having a nervous breakdown during this whole time. So, he does add certain amounts here because he has an insider's view. He knows a lot of the people.

And some of the stuff he may add will be hearsay and statements that he learns -- learned from other people in the Trump White House.

BLACKWELL: Scott, let's turn to this focus now on potentially invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the former President Trump from office, and specifically former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ryan mentioned he was on FOX today. Here he is on the potential to engage with the committee.




POMPEO: We're trying to figure our way out. I want to make sure the American people get the full story of the things that happened in the Trump administration.


BLACKWELL: Short of a subpoena from the committee, what are the political considerations of a potential 2024 presidential candidate of engaging with the committee?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that -- you just nailed it, Victor. I mean, Mike Pompeo clearly wants to run for president and he wants to

court some of the voters who supported Donald Trump that may be looking for other alternatives. So he's walking a bit of a tightrope there.

Another potential 2024 candidate, Vice President Mike Pence, is not engaging with the committee. So there are considerations for him. And when I heard him say just now that he wants to make sure they get the full view of what happened in the Trump administration, what I think he potentially wants to do is to go to the committee, and then come out and say, well, I told them the truth about what we did, and some of the things, they didn't want to hear it, but I told him anyway.

I mean, I ultimately think it's important for people to answer questions about what they saw and what they know. But for him specifically, there are political ramifications here as he tries to launch a campaign. I don't know where he fits in, in this primary just yet, probably not in the top tier just yet, but, certainly, he's going to get a little bit more publicity over the next few weeks, given his engagement with this committee.


CAMEROTA: Nick, here's an interesting, I think, though sidebar question about the 25th Amendment conversation that was happening. So we know from various sources, but Cassidy Hutchinson, that the 25th Amendment was being spoken of on that day for President Trump.

If he was not in sound mind, would he be less legally liable for the events?

AKERMAN: Well, certainly, if he wasn't of sound mind, his defense would be some kind of a mental defect defense.

It would be a hard defense for him to make, considering he was acting as president of the United States up and through that period of time. He would have to get a psychiatrist basically to testify to some kind of defect in his ability to actually act on that day and act properly.

But I think what we find is that what he did was very calculated and well-planned, and it was all part of a continuing plot to try and keep the electoral count from being voted upon and from basically interfering with the peaceful transfer of power.

I mean, this was a very sophisticated plan. And somebody who is mentally ill or has a mental defect could not engage in that kind of sophisticated planning.

BLACKWELL: Scott, these are not never-Trumpers. I mean, almost all of the witnesses thus far have been Republicans, most who worked for the former president.

Ratcliffe, Mnuchin, Scalia, Pompeo stayed until the end of the administration. So would testimony critical of the former president be damaging for Donald Trump?

JENNINGS: Well, of course.

I mean, these people were loyal to him. They executed his agenda. They, like millions upon millions of Republicans, voted for him twice and helped him win his race in 2016 and wanted to see him win again in 2020.

And that's the thing, Victor, about the group you have justified. They ultimately are going to be potentially representative of millions of Republicans who all were in the same boat, voted for Trump, wanted him to succeed, and then realized quite quickly after the election January 6 that he was in the wrong about this.

It doesn't mean -- it doesn't invalidate your work in the Cabinet. It doesn't invalidate your support of your party, but it certainly invalidates what Trump did on that day and may affect your political judgment about whether he should be rewarded with a nomination of the Republican Party for president in 2024.

So when I hear about these people going in, I think about what it means for the millions of rank-and-file Republicans out here who did their level best for Trump, but are learning that he did not do their level -- his level best for them.

CAMEROTA: OK, we will see what we learn about any or all of these testimonies.

Nick Akerman and Scott Jennings, thank you both.

BLACKWELL: Brand-new CNN poll has just dropped. It shows where Americans stand on the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. We're going to break it all down.

CAMEROTA: Plus, the Biden administration frustrated as they wait on the Kremlin's response to their proposed prisoner swap. Will Russia take the offer to swap a convicted arms dealer for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan?

Whelan's brother is going to join us live ahead.