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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: Open to Ending Filibuster for Certain Issues; Alec Baldwin Fired Prop Gun in Deadly Film Set Shooting; Trump Going Public By Taking Advantage of Wall Street Fad. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A major revelation from President Biden at CNN's town hall. What it means for voting rights and negotiations for his domestic agenda.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking overnight, one person is dead, another hurt after a prop gun was fired on a movie set by actor Alec Baldwin. A tragedy there in New Mexico.

It is Friday, October 22nd. Happy Friday, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. A lot to get to this morning.

But we begin with a major development on CNN's town hall with President Biden last night.

In his strongest statement yet, the president signaled that he would be supportive of the Senate scrapping the filibuster. Remember that's the rule that requires 60 votes to end debate and pass most legislation.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Are you saying once you get this current agenda passed on spending and social programs that you would be open to fundamentally altering the filibuster, or doing away with -- or doing away with it?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally, whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up. There are certain things that are just sacred rights. One is a sacred obligation that we never are going to renege on a debt. We're the only nation in the world. We have never, ever reneged on a single debt.

COOPER: But when it comes to voting rights --

BIDEN: Voting rights particularly is consequential. COOPER: But when it comes to voting rights, just so I'm clear,

though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue? Is that correct?

BIDEN: And maybe more.

COOPER: And maybe other issues?


ROMANS: So some progressives have been pushing the president to do more on voting rights for months now. The problem, of course, is his economic agenda, $4 trillion in traditional infrastructure what he calls the care economy could be at risk if he pushes moderate Democrats to change the filibuster.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond live this morning for us -- hi, Jeremy -- in Washington.

You know, gutting the filibuster would have major ramifications for Congress and the country. But really, it's not up to him.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not up to him. But certainly if he pushed for it, we would have perhaps a very different conversation. But one thing that the president made clear yesterday in the same breath as he was saying that he is open to fundamentally altering the filibuster, perhaps even scrapping it all together for issues like voting rights, the debt limit, and maybe even more, the president also making clear that the current dynamics in Congress and his current priorities don't allow that conversation to move forward. Or at least he won't allow himself to have that conversation for those very reasons.

The president making clear that if he were to move forward to try and scrap the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, for example, that he would lose, he said, at least three votes in the Senate. We know at least two of those votes are Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kirsten Sinema, both of whom are opposed to altering the filibuster.

And right now, the president has decided that he wants to spend his political capital trying to get those senators on board with this reconciliation package.

And, look, it's interesting because the White House walked back a couple of things the president said last night, including this idea of using the National Guard to address some of these supply chain issues. But they didn't walk this back and that is certainly telling in this moment.

Look, voting rights issues have failed now three times because of the filibuster in the Senate. The president voiced those frustrations when it happened most recently this week. We will see how much he's willing to actually move that forward once he gets his legislative agenda that he's currently working on passed in the Senate if indeed he can.

JARRETT: So, Jeremy, the president also went into some new specifics, some new details about the negotiations for his plan to reshape the American economy, really the negotiations on Build Back Better specifically. What stood out to you there?

DIAMOND: There was a lot of news. There was a lot of news even just in those first 20 minutes of that town hall. We heard the president really pull back the curtain on some of these negotiations, making clear what is still in and what appears to be out.

One of those things that's out, the free two years of tuition-free community college. That we had seen through some reporting. The president also making clear that expanding dental, vision and hearing through Medicare would be a, quote, reach, but he did say that he's looking to do something like an $800 voucher for Medicare recipients for dental coverage.

The president also making clear that there would be no corporate tax increase in this bill, and that's because of opposition from Senator Sinema.


It was one of several moments where we heard the president being very, very clear that Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kirsten Sinema are the ones standing in the way of some of these proposals he wants to get in and forcing some of these hard choices. But we also heard the president talk about the value of compromise. Listen.


BIDEN: Look, it's all about compromise, you know. It's compromise become a dirty word. Bipartisanship and compromise still has to be possible.

COOPER: Bottom line, do you think you will get a deal?

BIDEN: I do think I'll get a deal. Look, when you're in the United States Senate and you're president of the United States and you have 50 Democrats, every one is a president. Every single one.


COOPER: And the president getting some laughs there, but that is indeed the reality right now that President Biden is facing in Congress.

And, look, president talking about bipartisanship and compromise. Right now that compromise is happening entirely within the Democratic Party, and we will see whether or not the president can get to a deal.

In just six days, the president leaves Washington. He's heading abroad for the G20 Summit as well as this COP-26 climate summit. The president has stressed in recent days to lawmakers the need to have a deal before he goes to that climate summit because he wants to be able to use those climate provisions to get other countries around the world to ramp up their commitments to tackling climate change. The president looking for a framework on an agreement as soon as

today. Right now, that seems very hard to accomplish. We will see whether or not the president's town hall was able to ratchet up some of that pressure and the president can get a deal before he leaves on that.

ROMANS: How do you pay for that deal? That corporate tax rate, that was a cornerstone of this whole thing, investing in working people, paid for by companies who have -- whose share into the treasury has been declining for 50 years. That seemed like a slam dunk not too long ago. Now, the president --

JARRETT: But notable that he had only nice things to say about Senators Sinema and Manchin there.

DIAMOND: He needs them. He needs them.

JARRETT: Can't do without them.

ROMANS: Fifty presidents, all of them are presidents.

All right. Thanks. Nice to see you, Jeremy.

Breaking overnight, police say a prop gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin killed one person and injured another on a movie set in New Mexico. You're looking at photos of the actor appearing to show him distraught after this incident. This appears to be an accident on the set of the movie "Rust." Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed. She was the director of photography on this film. The film's director, Joel Souza, was hurt. No charges have been filed. Production on the film production there in New Mexico has been shutdown.

JARRETT: It's a terrible freak accident. But still, not that many details. More to come for sure on that.


JARRETT: And still ahead for you, will the Justice Department prosecute Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena? Why the decision could set a historic precedent next.



ROMANS: The fate of Steve Bannon now in the hands of the Department of Justice. The full House has voted to hold the Trump ally in criminal contempt for defying a congressional subpoena.

Bannon refused to provide documents or show up about the January 6 insurrection, claiming executive privilege even though he had left the White House years earlier.

ROMANS: And the January 6 committee had reason to talk to Bannon. Remember Bannon said this on his podcast the day before the riot.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.

It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen, okay. It's going to be quite extraordinarily different, and all I can say is strap in.


JARRETT: Strap in.

Bannon and others were holed up in that war room at the Willard Hotel the day before the Capitol siege, plotting how to apply pressure to lawmakers to overturn the election, and according to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book "Peril", Bannon had begged Trump to call Pence off the ski slopes in Colorado and get him back to Washington immediately.

ROMANS: All right. Only nine Republicans voted in favor of contempt charges against Bannon. Among them, Liz Cheney who suggested this week Bannon's role went farther than the public knows and criticized her colleagues for protecting him.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): There are people in this chamber right now who were evacuated with me and with the rest of us on that day during that attack, people who now seem to have forgotten the danger of the moment, the assault on the Constitution, the assault on our Congress.


JARRETT: Here to break it all down with us is former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin.

Michael, nice to see you this morning. So, this now heads to court, right? The legal battle begins.

Will the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. put this to a grand jury?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it should be put to a grand jury. Bannon has no defense to not showing up. The notion of executive privilege or no valid legislative purpose, that which they are standing on, is frivolous as it applies to him because he was neither a government employee, nor was he submitting to the president candid advice. So I think this is a case where the defense is frivolous. The power of Congress is being tested in a very fundamental way. And an indictment is warranted.

JARRETT: Well, he may have been giving him candid advice. It may not have been about government business or legitimate government business as opposed to overturning a legitimate election.

ZELDIN: Well, that's true. But also he has to have been an employee of the government.


ROMANS: At that town hall last night, the president walked back his comments about anyone who defies a subpoena should be prosecuted, saying he should have chosen his words more wisely.


Why the change in position do you think by the president?

ZELDIN: Well, because he came in saying that the Justice Department was going to be independent of White House pressure. And so he should have said this should be a prosecution if in their independent point of view the Justice Department feels that the facts and law warrant it. He just said it in a shorthand form, and so they're walking it back because it appears to be a conflict from his initial position when coming to the office of the president that he would stay clear of interfering with Justice Department decision making.

JARRETT: And you noticed that the attorney general spokesperson pushed back on it very hard right away, basically saying, butt out, Mr. President.

ZELDIN: Right.

JARRETT: In some ways, Michael, and we've talked about this before, this Bannon situation is really a litmus test for Congress and what kind of precedent would it set for the Justice Department if they don't prosecute this case, given as you point all the weaknesses in Bannon's case?

ZELDIN: Well, that's right. Merrick garland in his opening statement said this was an intolerable assault on the Capitol, the Capitol police, and the transfer of power, of fundamental premise of our democracy.

So given that, given that Bannon was not an employee, therefore, there is no executive privilege, therefore, and because there is a valid legislative purpose here -- remember, after 9/11, it passed the USA Patriot Act after January 6th. They're most likely looking at other legislative corrections. So everything here indicates an indictment is warranted because Congress must assert its power under these circumstances.

JARRETT: All right. We'll see how quickly the acting U.S. attorney acts and how much we hear out of him.

Michael Zeldin, former federal prosecutor, thank you so much, Michael.

ROMANS: Nice to see you. Thanks.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Planned testimony in the first trial of the Capitol riot defendant could highlight the very real peril officials, including Mike Pence, faced during the insurrection. Vice president had to be whisked away as rioters chanted, "hang Mike Pence" outside the Capitol. The Justice Department plans to call a Secret Service official to testify on the trial of Guy Reffitt who has pleaded not guilty to obstructing Congress's certification of the 2020 election.

JARRETT: That will be important testimony, for sure.

So, how long will gas prices stay high? It's something everybody hates. How long will this supply chain tangled bottleneck last? What the president said on CNN about all of this next.



ROMANS: At CNN's town hall, the president of the United States with this forecast for pain at the pump.


BIDEN: My guess is you'll start to see gas prices come down as we get by and going into the winter -- I mean, excuse me, into next year, in 2022. I don't see anything is going to happen in the meantime that's going to significantly reduce gas prices.


ROMANS: Several factors driving prices higher, for one, OPEC is gradually increasing output despite calls from the White House to do more. National average is up 3.37 cents. That's up 7 cents in a week. You can see how it compared last week. Last year it was shutdown.

So, this is -- gas prices are rising because we're using it so much more. We're driving so much more. The economy is growing so quickly.

The same time, the U.S. supply chain is still a tangled mess. Containers are sitting in ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. There aren't enough truck drivers to move the goods.

Biden said he is considering deploying the National Guard to help ease the stress on the privately controlled supply chain, but a White House official quickly walked that back.

The president's comments highlight just how serious the crisis is. There is no quick fix. The bipartisan infrastructure bill could help prepare the supply chain for the next problem. That bill calls for federal investment in each step of the network.

JARRETT: Former President Trump using a Wall Street financing gimmick to take a new media company public and access millions of dollars. He wants to bank roll his so-called free speech social network which is already banned users from criticizing it.

CNN's Matt Egan explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Christine and Laura, former President Trump is planning a return to Wall Street. Trump is launching a new social media platform that will stand up to what he called the, quote, tyranny of big tech.

The new company is known as Trump Media and Technology Group and it's going public through what's known as a SPAC or Special Purpose Acquisition Company. Essentially, it's a shell company that has a blank check, and he can use that money to merge with private companies and bring them public.

SPACs are all the rage on Wall Street, with athletes, including Shaquille O'Neal and Alex Rodriguez, along with politicians like former House Speaker Paul Ryan, all of them get involved. It's gotten to the point that the SEC recently warned investors not to invest in a SPAC simply because a celebrity is involved.

In this case, Trump is teaming up with Digital World Acquisition Corporation, a Nasdaq-listed shell company. Wall Street gave the Trump deal a standing ovation on Thursday. Digital World shares more than quadrupled finishing the day 357 percent higher.

That's despite the fact the latest security filings don't indicate how much revenue, if any, the new Trump company generates. It's likely to be minimal because the social media company hasn't even launched yet. For Trump, going public via SPAC will give him the money that he needs to build this social media platform without the scrutiny of a traditional IPO.


It's worth noting, Trump's companies have a history of filing for bankruptcy, filing for Chapter 11 four times throughout his career. This is also not Trump's first foray with Wall Street. In his only previous IPO, Trump raised $140 million in 1995 from public investors for Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.

But, Christine and Laura, the company posted losses every year it's public and a decade later, it was bankrupt.


JARRETT: Matt, thank you for that.

A little weekend programming note for you here. As Princess Diana's popularity reached new heights, her private life became a lot more difficult. In a new episode of the CNN original series "DIANA" premieres Sunday night at 9:00, only on CNN.