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Today; House Votes on Sweeping $750 Billion Health Care, Climate Bill; Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Says, Battle for Democracy Taking Place at Nation's Statehouses; Ohio Police Kill Armed Man Suspected of Trying to Breach FBI Office. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 10:30   ET



REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): We need to be very concerned about not only gasoline prices but prices at the grocery stores, and also the supply chain. The fact that we -- baby formula was not available and still is in short supply, not acceptable. We need to deal with that, we have dealt with it, and we're going to continue to deal with it.

But, yes, I think it's not -- there are a lot of economists, you've quoted some, but a lot of economists who believe that, in fact, this will bring down inflation now. All of us know that the Federal Reserve is trying to deal with this inflation, making judgments on interest rates, which is really how you deal with inflation. That's how Reagan dealt with inflation. That's how Chairman Powell is trying to deal with inflation.

So, are we going to snap our fingers that overnight and into tomorrow we pass this bill and prices come down dramatically, no, but will drug prices come down? Yes, they will. Will they be maintained? So, that's our point.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. I want to get to a few other things, sir, if I could while we've got you on. You have been quoted saying that you think President Biden is a good president, he's doing a good job.

HOYER: Absolutely.

HARLOW: I mean, huge number of major legislative wins for him and the Democrats in just the past few weeks, for sure. But I wonder if you think President Biden is the single-best candidate for your party moving forward in 2024. And you chuckle, right? I know this is not the headline you guys want to talk about but there has been a lot of debate within your party, within the House, about if he should be the one to run again, to represent you guys. What do you think?

HOYER: Yes. Look, I think the president has had a huge success. Yes with this bill, but remind, I'm going to mention this on the floor of the House, we passed the American Rescue Plan, which saved families and individuals and businesses from going through the floorboards, giving them some dollars in their pockets so that they could pay their bills. We got shots in arms so that most people are not wearing masks. Why, because they've gotten vaccines. That was the president's program. And we got kids back into school, which everybody felt was the right thing to do. So, huge victory there.

Then we passed a bipartisan infrastructure plan that the president was very involved in forging with the Senate and the House. Unfortunately, we only had 13 people vote for it in the House of Representatives on the Republican side of the aisle.

HARLOW: So, that's a yes?

HOYER: That's a yes.

HARLOW: A yes to Biden?

HOYER: Well, I'll get to the yes.


HOYER: We passed the chips bill. Very, very important, the make it in America bill, a bill that's going to make us more competitive in the global community and create hundreds of thousands of jobs along with the infrastructure bill.

And now we're passing this bringing cost of health care down, bringing the deficit down, and making the largest investment in history in making sure that we meet the climate challenge that confronts us and bring environmentally sound energy online.

So, those are great victories for the president. He ought to be out campaigning. He will be out campaigning. And if he runs again, we're going to support him.

HARLOW: Okay. All right, well, thank you for clarity on that.

And I do want to turn to a very serious topic finally, and that is what we're seeing -- the rhetoric that we're seeing from your colleagues on the other side of the aisle after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice would move to unseal the warrant from the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. That decision in part was made because of the stunning rhetoric from those online about the agency, some of it coming from your Republican colleagues slamming the Department of Justice and the FBI. Here's just an example of some of that.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens.

The way our federal government has gone, it's like what we thought about the Gestapo, people like that, they just go after people.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I actually don't think they went in looking for documents. I think that was probably their excuse.

I think they went in looking to see whatever they could find.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago, that they won't put things in those boxes to entrap him?

How do we know that they're going to be honest with us?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): We need to have trust in the Department, of FBI, and this just destroys that confidence.


HARLOW: Those are sitting members of Congress. And this morning, we know a lot more about why the FBI carried out the search. The Washington Post reporting is that federal agents sought classified documents related to nuclear weapons. The New York Times reports officials were worried leaving those documents at Mar-a-Lago could leave them vulnerable to foreign adversaries acquiring them.

So, I just wonder if the tone of rhetoric you're hearing this morning given all of those developments is different now from your Republican colleagues.

HOYER: The Republicans fell all over themselves to demand accountability of Hillary Clinton.


They are now saying, in effect, this president should not be accountable. Their remarks are dangerous, despicable and disappointing. The fact of the matter is in America, no one is above the law. No one. No president, in my view, certainly no former president is above the law.

The FBI, unlike Mr. Comey in the Hillary Clinton case, acted consistent with their ideals and with their protocols. The response has been to threaten law enforcement officers for doing their duty. That's what I say is despicable., threatening them. We saw this -- whatever happened in Cincinnati at the FBI office with somebody who is aligned with Trump, we're not sure -- the initial information is that they have his name and know that he has been involved with Trump and was involved with the January 6th apparently. But the fact of the matter is --

HARLOW: Just to be clear, we don't have that part confirmed.

HOYER: Right. I understand that. That's why I said we don't know specifically.

Having said that, though, we do know that the rhetoric online of Trump supporters threatening law enforcement, threatening the judge, having the synagogue cancel its service because of the threats that occurred is despicable. It's un-American. And every American ought to oppose that, and, certainly, every elected official who has pledged to defend the laws of the United States of America should condemn that kind of violent reaction. No one is above the law.

HARLOW: No question about that. Well, Congressman Steny Hoyer, I appreciate your time very much, especially on a morning like this for you guys. Thanks again. HOYER: You bet. Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Well, the changing landscape of American politics is not just being decided in Washington, D.C. Up next, how state lawmakers are rewriting the rules, some argue, of democracy, ahead.



HARLOW: Welcome back. The battle for democracy taking place not just in Washington, D.C., but as one of my next guests puts it, the fight is much closer to home, in statehouses across the nation.

David Pepper, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, has been sounding the alarm about what he says is the danger from far-right Republicans who control those statehouses thanks in large part to gerrymandering. He says they're pushing extremist laws against, this is the key part of his argument, the will of the majority.

In a new piece in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer, she writes, quote, David Pepper is determined to get the Democratic political establishment to stop lavishing almost all its money and attention on U.S. House, Senate, and gubernatorial races and focus more energy on what he sees as the greater emergency, the collapse of representative democracy in one statehouse after another.

Mr. Pepper's book on this, Laboratories of Autocracy, dives deep into this fight. He joins me now. Also joining me, Steve Vladeck, professor of law, constitutional law expert at the University of Texas Law School. Great to have you both.

And, David, let me just start with you. Jane Mayer's piece of fascinating, I'd encourage everyone to read it. And you make the case that, quote, the frontlines of the attack on democracy is actually taking place at the statehouse level. I want to know what you think most of us are missing.

DAVID PEPPER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I think most of America just doesn't pay attention to statehouses. And America just also assumes democracy is intact. So, we watch Mar-a-Lago, we watch Marjorie Taylor Greene, and we don't understand what the other side has figured out which is that democracy for the most part is shaped in statehouses.

The problem is that statehouses also, if gerrymandered, become the ideal place to ram through a minority world view without any political accountability because there's no choice left in these elections. So, for a generation, it's kind of been hitting -- what I wrote in my book -- the far-right has been using statehouses to subvert democracy but also to ram through laws like to force a ten-year-old Ohio rape victim to go to Indiana, other crazy laws that would never succeed in a viable democracy. They can get away with it in states like Ohio once they've rigged these statehouses.

HARLOW: And to be clear, and Jane points this out in her piece, there's been gerrymandering by Democrats, as well. But, Steve, to something that's going on now, the Supreme Court is actually right now -- this court is allowing states' congressional maps that lower courts have found to be illegally drawn on partisan or racial lines to stand. So, to quote The New York Times --

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Poppy. I mean, I think this is part --

HARLOW: Go ahead. I'm just wondering like that is happening right now ahead of the midterms.

VLADECK: Yes. We've seen a couple of decisions from the Supreme Court in these unsigned, you know, unexplained shadow docket orders. One in Alabama, one in Louisiana, and these orders have had effects in Ohio, in Georgia, and other states where as many as ten seats that actually would likely have been drawn to favor Democratic candidates in the 2022 midterms, if these lower court rulings had been followed, are now probably going to favor Republicans.


And, Poppy, I think this is part of a larger trend where the Supreme Court is at once inserting itself into at least some of these cases, but then when it comes to partisan gerrymandering, as opposed to racial gerrymandering, saying that the courts have to stay out of these cases altogether leaving more room for state legislatures, like here in my state of Texas, to do what David was writing about.

HARLOW: David, you had this really fascinating Twitter thread earlier this summer calling on people to pay a whole lot more attention to the guarantee clause. You want people to read Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution a lot more closely. Why?

PEPPER: Because the founding fathers literally worried about this exact scenario happening. James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers that statehouses in the wrong hands, in corrupt hands, could subvert democracy because statehouses were given so much power. Again, they draw the districts, they write the election rules for the most part.

And so the guarantee clause is basically telling the United States if states are no longer democratically governed, small D, the United States must do something about it. And that's why I continue to be very outspoken. I know that the Democrats have got a lot of things done, but they should not end this term without also protecting democracy in states. And if they need any guidance as to why, I'd say read the guarantee in the Constitution that you took an oath to uphold.

HARLOW: Let me read it to people and I want the constitutional law scholar on the other side, Steve, to weigh in. Quote, the United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government and shall protect each against evasion and on application of the legislature or the executive when the legislature cannot be convened against domestic violence. Do you agree that with David's interpretation of the Constitution saying this is not being upheld right now? VLADECK: Poppy, I do. I think the problem that David knows very well is, in 1849, the Supreme Court decision, I suspect most folks have never heard of, where the Supreme Court in opinion by Chief Justice Roger Tawny held that the guarantee clause can't be enforced in court. And so even if David is right, as I think he is, about what that text means, about how the federal government was supposed to guarantee representative government to the citizens of the states, the question is how do we accomplish that if the Supreme Court says you can't go into court and say Texas is violating the clause.

PEPPER: Can I jump in one sec?

HARLOW: Very quickly.

PEPPER: Basically, that decision is saying the court can't review it, which means it's fully in Congress' and the president's power.


PEPPER: They can act on the guarantee clause. You can't sue saying the guarantee clause is being violated. But this makes it even a stronger power for Congress. They can act upon it, and the courts can't review it. And I think when states start falling away from democracy itself, the Congress has a duty to actually stand up democracy, just like we'd expect them to stand up if the state was invaded by a foreign power. We should stop that.

A state that's falling away from democracy itself, while courts can't review it, the Congress certainly can. They should ground all their voting rights legislation and pro-democracy legislation in the guarantee clause. It actually makes it a more robust defense of what they're doing.

HARLOW: Nothing makes me happier than a good, robust constitutional debate on a Friday morning. Thank you both for making us smarter. Steve Vladeck, David Pepper, we appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

And, David, congrats on your new book. You write like one a month apparently, a political thriller called a, Simple Choice, just came out last week.

PEPPER: Thank you so much. I'm excited about it.

HARLOW: You're welcome.

All right, next, Ohio State police have just confirmed the identity of the armed man who was shot to death after trying to enter an FBI field office armed. The new details, next.



HARLOW: We are learning more this morning about the gunman who was killed in a standoff with police after he tried to storm the FBI field office in Cincinnati. Our Brynn Gingras joins me now. This is terrifying, with an AR-15.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: AR-15, he had body armor, we're told by sources also a nail gun. Now, we've actually learned officially from authorities now, his name is Ricky Shiffer. And now, law enforcement is really just digging into this man's past even though he was killed during -- after that several hours' long standoff there in rural Ohio.

They're basically trying to answer a lot of questions here, who is this person, does he have any extremist group ties, and did anyone report to him, what's his social media platform like.

One thing I really want to get to is that these posts by a user is on Truth Social. That is a social media platform, of course, by -- started by former President Donald Trump. The user has the same name as Ricky Shiffer.

And we have not been able to confirm with authorities if it is the same person, but there are definitely similarities here. One of them I want to point out to you is a post that was made really just several minutes after authorities tell us this Ricky Shiffer went into the FBI field office in Cincinnati with that nail gun, with that AR-15.

And that post says this, well, I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass, and I didn't. If you don't hear from me, it is true, I tried attacking the FBI, and it will mean either I was taken off the Internet, the FBI got me, or they sent the regular cops while.


And it just sort of stops there presumably because there was a chase that ensued where there was a shoot-out with police that we know about.

So, again, there are just so many details in the social media account, which I know the FBI is still even looking into trying to figure out who this person was, what was the motivation. But it does seem like what we saw earlier this week, the violent rhetoric we are hearing about lately, that may have played into it.

HARLOW: It's absolutely terrifying. It's why every single word matters posted online and by these sitting lawmakers, as well.

GINGRAS: And the warnings seem to have come true.

HARLOW: Brynn, thank you for the reporting and all of those updates.

And thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim will be back Monday. And I'll see in a week.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a break.