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Inside Politics

Tonight: Lawmakers Votes on Holding Bannon in Criminal Contempt; Jan.6 Committee Seeks Wide Range of Docs from Bannon; Trump Sues to stop Jan.6 Committee from getting his Records; Dems Debate Climate Provisions, Means Testing; 57 Percent Total U.S. Population is Fully Vaccinated, about 65M Eligible are not Vaccinated. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The January 6th Committee collides with Trump defiance today, the panel plans to hold the top Trump ally in contempt and this the former president Sue's to stop that committee from getting access to his records.

Plus, and Joe Biden deliver this afternoon the president posts a slew of critical meetings with fellow Democrats still divided over the size and the scope of the Biden agenda. Plus this the FDA plans to OK mixing and matching your COVID vaccine. This is the clash over vaccine a mandate grows in a power five school fires its football coach.

And today an American first Dr. Rachel Levine is sworn in as an Admiral in the Public Health Service. She is the first openly transgender woman to hold four Star rank. Up first for us, though a pair of law and order showdowns today over the January 6th investigation.

Tonight, the Capitol Riots Committee plans to refer Steve Bannon for criminal contempt Bannon one of the former Trump officials and allies who pledges to not cooperate with the January 6th investigation. And the former president himself now tries to stymie that committee's work.

Donald Trump is suing to stop the National Archives from forking over documents. Trump lawyers say executive privilege applies. But the committee says former presidents have no such power, no such privilege. And the chairman says it's time to teach an accountability lesson to Trump and to his allies.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): If he refuses the subpoena like we expect him to continue to do then we're left with no other choice, then to axe the Justice Department lock him up and hold him in contempt. And clearly, that might send enough of a message that he will agree to talk to us.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights Margaret Talev of "AXIOS" Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "T0he New York Times" "POLITICO's" Heather Cagle and CNN's Paula Reid.

Paul, let's start with you. You're here the Chairman, Congress votes to hold him - the House votes to hold Steve Bannon in contempt they refer to the Justice Department he says lock him up, send a message, how likely how long?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear how long but it will be up to the Attorney General Merrick Garland and he's facing a lot of political pressure right now. President Biden weighed in on this saying that, yes; he believes Bannon should be in contempt.

So for all the talk and all the criticism of the politicization of the Justice Department under Trump, we're seeing pressure come from several lawmakers on the Attorney General here. It is likely that he could decide to move forward with contempt proceedings, because Bannon has made it a lot easier on it. He's really made his own case.

He could have made this difficult. He could have shown up he could have answered questions, and perhaps said, well, I can't answer that because potential executive privilege or I can't answer that, because I plead the fifth.

But he didn't do that he just issued this blanket defense that I refuse to comply citing executive privilege, which would not necessarily apply at all with certain aspects of these requests. So he could have done this in a way that made this decision more difficult for the Attorney General. But at this point, our reporting is it is unclear how the Attorney General will proceed.

KING: And so you asked the question why? I mean, obviously, Steve Bannon enjoys the attention and he enjoys his resurgence, if you will, as one of the faces of the Trump resistance, if you want to call it that. Adam Schiff, a member of the committee says they need to talk to Steve Bannon because he was talking to key people at key times.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What's going to happen? We're going after him. What he knows is really important. And on January 5th, the day before the insurrection, he was telling people that all hell was going to break loose the next day. But it's also really important right from the start that we establish that if you ignore your lawful requirement of testifying when you're subpoenaed, you will go to jail.


KING: So two points information and the credibility of the institution of the Congress in this case. Here's what they're asking for in the subpoena for Steve Bannon, which he is flatly said no go away. Communications from planets of the rally, communications with Trump between the election and the inauguration of Joe Biden, communications with Trump officials about January 6th details of meetings at the Willard Hotel presumably with rally organizers the day before the rally.

You see communications about contesting the election, any possible communications with the Proud Boys with the Oath Keepers or with Rudy Giuliani and other Trump big liars. This is a test of the credibility of the institution, which frankly was frustrated throughout the Trump years even when he was in the White House. He pretty much forgive me flip them the bird.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, no, absolutely. I think what you see now is a Democratic Caucus that is determined to move fast while they still have the majority until next year.

Especially they learned lessons from the impeachment investigation right? Where they really got accused of dragging their feet they hemmed in hard on whether to hold potential witnesses in contempt whether to subpoena them how fast to move?

And so this time, they're determined to say we're moving fast if you don't want to cooperate, we will take it to Merrick Garland. We will push this as far as we can. And this is a message I would say as much to Bannon as it is to other witnesses that they want to participate in this investigation.


ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The second point there, as well as the one that officials often highlight that point of what were the conversations like with the former president, right? Taking a step back here, just to remind everyone.

I mean, this whole thing, one of the goals here is yes, of course, about protecting the value of the institution, and making sure that you still have an oversight mechanism, but also to find out more information about the movements and the conversations of the former president from the days leading up to January 6th, and on January 6th.

And, you know, there's a fascinating point here that Paula noted, as well as that the White House has come out and really been vocal about this issue, too. I mean, you have something which is very interesting, and some legal scholars say on precedent, where you have a former president seeking the confidentiality of the White House, that most of the time presidents tend to guard and an incumbent saying not actually we're backing this investigation here. You don't have that exactly.

KING: That is - you're jumping. Let me read the former president is trying to sue, he's saying, well, I have a privilege. The law, at least as we know it, we'll see what happens? Judges can decide different things are that the privilege rests with the current president.

To your point that Joe Biden would have to say, for the good of the institution, you cannot have Donald Trump's records, because then in the future, you could get access to private documents. But Joe Biden is not saying that at the moment.

This is what Donald Trump's lawyers say in his lawsuit. The committee's request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and decides to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration. That's the Trump argument. But we're going to court again.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, posturing and its messaging. I think there's an irony here, which is that there are these two kind of concurrent fights right? There is this Steve Bannon fight and the Donald Trump fight.

You would think that the former president actually has more protection, but it's entirely possible that the wheels of justice are going to move much faster on the Trump case than they are in the Steve Bannon case November 12th.

Is this magic date by when the former president knows whether his time has run out or whether he can get someone to agree with him? Otherwise, those records are going forward and a White House even the Trump White House keeps records differently than Steve Bannon does.

It is one thing if the courts compel Steve Bannon and the Committee somehow compels Steve Bannon to either participate or be in trouble or be punished. But even getting someone to participate doesn't mean you're going to get all the records that you want the information you want.

What could come out of a Former White House, the place where government records have been kept could actually be much more substantial.

KING: Of course, including not only that before. Number one, the committee wants to know what was - how aware it was the former president of who was coming, what their plans were? So what did he know on January 3th, January 4th, and January 5th but then on January 6th, the vice president is under siege.

The lawmakers being rushed out of the Capitol, the chambers themselves are under siege. And what did the president do? Who did he talk to? We know he made a few phone calls from members of Congress, but the key details of what Trump was doing or not doing, there's still a lot of questions.

REID: A lot of questions. And if you look at the report that the committee put out last night detailing its efforts to get vantage to cooperate, you see just how extensive and how broad their requests are?

Now, Trump is of course attacking these requests as being too broad. But it's interesting in talking to sources over the past few weeks, I found that a lot of people in Trump's orbit have hoped that the Biden Administration would be inclined to protect privilege here to protect themselves in about a year and a half, two years from now when Republican turning around and using it against them.

But in speaking with at least one source within this White House, they don't necessarily seem to be that concerned. They believe that these circumstances were extraordinary, which is why he has so far not been afforded that protection.

KING: And the Committee responding to the Trump suit, in a statement says it is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. It's hard to imagine a more compelling public interest in trying to get answers about an attack on our Democracy.

That is the point they are trying to make. To your point that yes, future congresses might try to their point is this was such a defining day. The rights to secrecy gets Trumped forgive me by the right to the truth.

CAYGLE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they are trying to lay the groundwork with this Committee to say we can never do this again. And we will not make exceptions, like the privilege argument for future administrations and things like that.

Because what happened here is so important and shook our foundation as a country so much that any other political argument or previous historical argument kind of you know, as outweighed by that. I think the question now talking to Democrats on the Hill, the Committee votes tonight, how fast is the House move to vote, they could vote as soon as this week.

Leadership tells me they will definitely vote before Thanksgiving, and then it goes to DOJ. And as Paulo was saying, before we went on air. Merrick Garland is very methodical, you know, so the question is just because this is Biden's White House Biden's DOJ does DOJ move very fast on this? And Democrats don't know the answer.

TALEV: But it's a question of the power of a person who was president versus the power of the presidency. And that's ultimately what's at stake here. The privilege is meant to protect the institution so that there can be Democratic governance, not to protect individuals so that they can, you know, work around.

KING: And the question is just do both the political and the legal systems get the urgency of this? The urgency of that day and the urgency of the truth of Don McGahn's subpoena in the impeachment inquiry issued in April 2019, the case ultimately settled in May 2021.


KING: So the evidence - in the past rearview mirror this can take too long. Question is what it is like out the windshield? We will see.

Up next for us, are meetings signs of progress? The president's day is full of lawmaker meetings and key players at odds over the size and scope of the Biden agenda. Well, they're getting together too, but are they solving anything?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're bringing you some breaking news into CNN. You see the pictures there on your screen a small plane crashing this morning outside of Houston's Executive Airport. The Waller County Sheriff's Office says all passengers were safely removed from that plane. Look at the pictures with just one minor injury. That is remarkable. We'll continue to stay on top of that story if there are any new developments.

Back here in Washington if meetings guaranteed movement, then the Biden agenda would be in much better shape by the end of this day.


KING: This afternoon, the president holds two key meetings first with House Progressive then, with a group of moderates already this morning; the president met with critical Central Senator, Kyrsten Sinema that after speaking to the other key Senator Joe Manchin yesterday.

The panel is back with me now, meetings are important meetings help, it's especially important when you get the key players in the room with each other. But meeting so far have not guaranteed progress, correct?

CAYGLE: No, absolutely not. I mean, we've been doing this for a few months now at least right? I think what Democrats' Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Schumer are trying to do right now is show momentum and the hopes that that makes momentum happen.

You know, they were saying, and they're still saying today that they want to vote on a reconciliation bill by the end of this month, and the infrastructure deadline is approaching again, the end of this month, they're not going to get a reconciliation bill on the floor in the next few weeks.

I mean, that's just the fact what it is. But I think they're hoping that they can get a framework agreement with Manchin and Sinema and some of the key progressives, and the next few weeks, and that will unlock votes for the infrastructure bill, because they're feeling now is we need to offload one of these hostages, we are carrying too many on the boat, frankly.

And if we can get this infrastructure bill passed and sent to Biden, we can all focus on the reconciliation bill and hopefully get something by December.

KING: And you mentioned they've been at this for months. The question I have is that now that you have the president A, more involved and B, people leaving meetings with the president and we can show you leaving meetings with the president a phone conversation with the president then going in with the other side.

Congressman, Jayapal, for example, the Head of the Progressive Caucus has had meetings with both Manchin and Sinema, the centrist Democrats that she says, don't want to do enough. They're not big enough. They're not bold enough. Bernie Sanders, who would be the key progressive, Jayapal to the House Sanders to the Senate, the key progressive to make means he's actually sat down with Joe Manchin last night after they publicly support. So you're getting the right people in the room. The question is, can they start to shrink their differences?

KANNO-YOUNGS: And can they come to an agreement on some of these policies that the Biden Administration has really focused on in saying just how impactful these legislative bills can be, right? I mean, one example is climate change, right?

That's something that the Biden Administration, White House officials have continued to tout. He's taking pretty key trip in two weeks as well that will center and focus on climate change. Can you have these two sides that being Senator - Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as a Joe Manchin, comes together, right?

Manchin has made it clear; really for weeks now for a while now that he does not support some of the key provisions in that part of the bill when it comes to the clean energy program and what have you. It also seems like he's not going to move when it comes to a carbon tax.

The progressives are saying that they at least some are saying that they're not going to vote for this unless it has those sweeping policies as well. I mean, that's one of the specific examples of yes, you're in the room. But are you going to reach a consensus on one of these?

KING: And so I want you to listen to some of that because you watch this play out in real time, Senator Chris Coons is a key ally of the president, Senator from Delaware. Senator Manchin, you're right objected to a clean energy plan they had in there. So they said, what can we do to get around that? What else can we do? What's Plan B?

Some people say bring back the carbon tax, right? So OK, we're making progress, then we're limited. He's objected to this. So let's do that except this happens.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): The question is whether we can include a polluter fee. That's something I'm still hopeful we can include, and what allow us to go to Glasgow to the Global Summit on climate in two weeks, showing some ambition.


COONS: No, no, we're not talking about that's - we haven't talked about that.


KING: Look, this is the entire first year Biden agenda number one. So it also makes another key point the president's about to be on the global stage. He wants to say my country is taking the climate crisis serious finally, and right now he can't?

TALEV: Right. Everyone has these sorts of parallel interests that exists on two levels. President Biden has the message internationally as a world leader. And domestically, as leader of the United States, Joe Manchin has the message to his constituents of Virginia, because he's got to get re-elected.

But he also has to, you know, if he's the reason why this falls apart, that could put him in a really bad place. And so everyone has these kinds of dual tracks. I think what's going on is, when you look at, we talk a lot about how Republicans and Democrats don't talk to each other, not socialized with each other anymore, and it makes it harder to find a middle ground Democratic Party so fractured.

That's true inside the party, I actually think there is merit and getting, you know, progressives and conservatives or moderates together will replace for all of these people, including Joe Manchin, it is a matter of branding and packaging just as much as matter of substance.

He cannot have things that make it look like he's going to put a death knell on the coal industry. And that's going to drive a lot of his negotiating on this in the final weeks.

KING: Well, you're right. They're not going to get there by the end of the month. The question is, can they get a framework that allows them to free the bipartisan infrastructure bill or as you call it, that one of the hostages? We'll see. We'll see. At least the meetings are coming we'll stay on top of it.

For us, and this will help answer this question. The CNN Exclusive President Joe Biden takes questions from the American people. CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate the CNN Presidential Town hall with President Biden Thursday night, eight o'clock eastern only right here.


KING: And next for us, the FDA poised to green light mixing and matching Coronavirus booster shots plus COVID misinformation. Right wing TV ignores science and suggests Colin Powell's death is proof vaccines don't work.


KING: The FDA now said to be ready to give its approval to mixing COVID vaccines when you get a booster shot.


KING: The agency says it is generally preferable to get the same brand as your initial vaccine when you get that additional shot but getting a different brand is fine too. With me to share her insights and expertise on this big question Dr. Leana Wen the Former Baltimore City Health Commissioner.

Dr. Wen, appreciate your time as I do so I just want to put up for our viewers just to show that since boosters have become available first, it was Pfizer now they're going through the other vaccines, more than 10 million 10.6, almost 10.7 million Americans have said, great let me get a booster shot.

On this question of mixing and matching you received the J&J vaccine. When you get a booster will you do J&J? Or will you go to Pfizer or Moderna and why?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I am not going to get a second J&J dose. Although I will say that for some people, it may be the right choice. For women under the age of 50, of which I'm learning the J&J vaccine has been associated with a very rare but extremely serious side effect of having a blood clotting disorder.

And so for women in this category, I would encourage them to seek out one of the mRNA vaccines, the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine. Overall, I think that the idea of mix and match is a good one, because it allows for flexibility and convenience.

Many local and state health officials have been asking for this because we're in the middle of a pandemic. And if we're going to be getting boosters to people, it's really important that people get a choice. But even more importantly, then people are able to get whatever booster they have access to and especially if we're going to nursing homes, having proper clinics, et cetera.

We really should be able to have interchangeable boosters and when possible, accounting for patients' individual preference.

KING: Yes. You used the key term there saying in the middle of the pandemic and I want to help for your context because we've been through this sadly too many times. But you see right now - right now the seven day average of new Coronavirus infections is down 51 percent from its September high.

On Monday, the average was 84,932 down from more than 172,000. If you look at hospitalizations as well, hospitalizations down 45 percent, they tend to track cases dropped by more than 50 percent over that period hospitalizations down by 45 percent over their period.

Dr. Wen, I just want to go back to the cases map. However, as these come down, my fear is we have come down before only to go up because of 66 percent of the American people being fully vaccinated. The more we know, the better we can treat, are we coming down, meaning all the way down coming down? Or are we coming down and we'll see?

DR. WEN: Definitely the later. I don't think any of us can really predict what's going to happen, especially as it's getting colder, people are going indoors more. And also we know what's happened last time that when the numbers come down, people start letting down their guard. And then as a result, we may see an upsurge again, especially come holiday season.

Now I do want to say that we're in a very different place than we were last year at this time because of vaccines. So I want people to take into account not only the risks, but also the values in what it is that they care about.

I want families to be gathering. I want for Halloween for kids to be going trick or treating for people to see each other over Thanksgiving and Christmas. But we have to take reasonable measures into account. And that includes if you're indoors in crowded places in public, and there's a lot of virus in your community, you should still be wearing a mask.

If you're getting together with extended family, for example and there are some vulnerable members or young kids who are not vaccinated consider everybody getting a test. Those are the types of measures that we can implement so that we're reducing risk, but also take into account what is the level of community spread where we live.

KING: Right. And a piece of that you mentioned masking common sense worrying about vulnerable people. A piece of that is if you haven't been vaccinated, maybe think again, maybe reach out to your doctor, maybe have that conversation to get you over or at least try to get you over your legitimate hesitancy questions if you have them.

Some of those questions are legitimate. Yesterday, America lost a treasure General Colin Powell. And we had to sadly Dr. Wen listen to this.


TUCKER CURLSON, FOX NEWS: You've been lied too, vaccines may be highly useful for some people, but across the population, they do not solve COVID. That's not speculation. It is an observable fact. People who've been fully vaccinated can still get the virus, they can still transmit the virus to others, and they can still die from COVID.

Colin Powell is hardly the only example of that. Colin Powell followed the instructions he did with Joe Biden asked sorted 40 percent of fully vaccinated people who recently died in Maryland, they all died anyway.


KING: At the very end of the program, Tucker Carlson said, oh, I forgot to tell you what the top Colin Powell had a couple other health conditions that made him vulnerable. That it's - it ignores science and it's reckless, right?

DR. WEN: That's right. It's offensive and really dangerous because we need to state what the facts are. The facts are that vaccines are safe and extremely effective. The CDC data from just last week found that the vaccines protect you six times from getting infected 11 times from dying from COVID-19.

Yes, there are some people who are particularly vulnerable individuals who are older with chronic medical conditions who are in immune- suppressed and unfortunately in General Powell was in this category of people who are very vulnerable. If they are to contract COVID, they may have significant outcome --