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Inside Politics

Texas GOP Rewards map as Senate Republicans Block Voting Bill; CNN Hosts Biden Town Hall at Critical Moment of Presidency; Biden Ramps up Agenda Sales Pitch as Dems Race to Finalize Deal; Today: Garland Testifies, House Votes on Bannon Contempt; CDC Advisers Reviewing FDA's Booster Authorizations Today. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 12:00   ET



BEN GINSBERG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: --how to make close relations?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: A broken dream this could actually be solved. I think will continue to try. Thank you both, really appreciate it. Thanks for being here everybody. "Inside Politics" with John King begins now.

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.

Tonight President Biden gets a big opportunity and a big test the live CNN Town Hall to sell his agenda. Today the House Speaker says Democrats are moving closer to a deal.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Great progress to our goal of securing a framework agreement for Build Back Better in a timely fashion. Although it's a smaller bill, it's still historic.


KING: Plus, the FDA green lights mixing and matching your COVID vaccines. Experts also now tracking new Delta variants spin off but so far, they see no reason for alarm. And Virginia's Terry McAuliffe gets a little help from his friends tonight. Vice President Harris tries to rally the Democratic base. Saturday, Former President Obama hits the trail this as the polls show the Governor's Races in Virginia, neck and neck.

We begin though with the president tonight he will step up his efforts to sell his sweeping agenda directly to you, the American people, taking questions from voters at a CNN Town Hall live in Baltimore. It is a fascinating and a consequential moment, it is hard to sell a package that is still TBD, because of big differences within the Democratic family.

So as the president tells the voters asking the questions and those of you watching at home, he will also be both trying to sell his favorite pieces of the plan and persuade Democratic lawmakers it is time to make the tough decisions needed to make a deal.

The president's first year scorecard and his long term legacy hanging in the balance so do the narrow Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate and perhaps that big Governor's race in Virginia that will be settled 12 days from now.

Everyone in the negotiations you heard the Speaker at the top of the program. Everyone says things are closer. Everyone also says there are giant issues still among them getting a key moderate Senator on board with how to pay for 1.5 to $2 trillion in new spending.

Let's begin the hour with our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, the president trying to sell the American people tonight he's also trying to sell his own party?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about it. One of the most interesting things you heard the president say yesterday when he went to Scranton to rally support for this legislation was making the point that he believes people now understand the stakes here.

The stakes of this domestic agenda and that wasn't to the American public. That was lawmakers. That has been a big pitch in a big shift we've seen Democrats on Capitol Hill least that I've been speaking to over the course of the last several days.

Part of the reason there is very real momentum right now part of the reason it's true, they're closer to an agreement than they ever have been, is because people are willing to let go of some of their critical issues are at least maybe the duration of them the full scale of them in order to reach a deal because they understand the significance.

One of those people appears to be Senator Joe Manchin. Now we know there are two moderate Senators that the Biden Administration, the president himself had been working behind the scenes tirelessly at a granular level for the better part of the last two or three weeks trying to narrow down their differences.

You take a look at Senators Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema they're not monolithic. They have very, very different issues that they have raised. And if you look at what Senator Manchin has raised, whether it's the scale of the child tax credit, the expansion of Medicare to include dental hearing, and vision, climate provisions that he's had major issues with.

A lot of those have already been addressed, if you listen to some of the things we've been reporting about with leaked out about a potential scale of the package. Climate still very much a negotiation that's underway, but a lot of Senator Manchin's issues have been addressed are being addressed.

And that is why the White House over here with advisors here, as well as people on Capitol Hill feel like Senator Manchin is very much on track to eventually come to an agreement. Senator Sinema is just a different story. She has been in intensive negotiations with White House staff, not so much on Capitol Hill very focused with the White House.

And it has been according to many people involved a bit of a roller coaster trying to figure out where she is what she wants? One thing that is exceedingly clear. She is opposed to any rate increases in the corporate tax rate that is a central component of the revenue piece of this bill also has issues with some of the individual tax rates as well.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi responding to our colleague Manu Raju said that it is possible this package will not include either of those. Those were central pieces and yet, they have to figure out a way to get her to yes or at least get her close to yes. They're trying to get creative right now, John, and you know when staffers get creative, and they can come up with solutions. The question is how fast can they do it?

KING: How fast and every time you solve one problem as you've been through your notes are fascinating every morning. You solve one problem somehow creates another. Phil Mattingly, we appreciate you kicking us off from the White House on a big day for the president.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Dana Bash CNN's Eva McKend and Olivier Knox from "The Washington Post" well, let's start with Senator Sinema and the idea that this is one Democratic Senator. She has all the power in the world right now because of the narrow Democratic majorities.

But just about every Democrat who ran in 2018; and all of the Democrats who ran for president 2020 said we need to repeal the grossly unfair Trump tax cut on the rich. Rich people corporations got this huge benefit we're going to repeal it.

Now the President of the United States trying to get his agenda past apparently is willing to because of one Senator to say let's find another way.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because it looks like he might not have a choice. It was so telling what the Speaker said and Phil just alluded to this to Manu Raju just an hour ago, not saying no, we're going to make sure that we make the corporate tax rates to restructure them in a fair way, the kind of thing that was one of the biggest applause lines in any Democratic rally no matter who was giving it.

And she didn't say that, because they need to find a way to get to yes. And the fact that Kyrsten Sinema, just like every Democrat in the Senate, if they choose to use them holds a lot of leverage. But she's using her leverage here.

I have to say I was with Arizona Republican yesterday, who kind of said in a not joking way, but joking way, you know who the best Republican we have out in Arizona is Kyrsten Sinema? Because they feel like she is doing the bidding for them in a way that they never expected watching her path starting as a progressive in the state that when she was --

KING: We're going to talk more about that later in the program about her politics back home. But in terms of the politics here, this is - the president's going to address the American people tonight. As I said, it's hard to sell your plan when so much of your plan is still TBD.

But the president wants to say that we know the basics, we know the basics. We're going to have Universal Pre-K, how long it lasts, that will that's to be determined? Community college scholarships you know money for housing, Medicare expansion, Obamacare subsidies.

But because one of the challenges for the president is the debate has been about the price tag because until you get to that it's hard to know Olivier exactly which of those pieces you get?

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I throw in rural broadband is another thing that it's wildly popular. One of the interesting things about the tax question is that it makes the bill more popular, right?

When you just pull here's what you got that look that list of policies, you get one level of popularity, if you say also this is going to be paid for by raising taxes on the rich and on corporations, the thing gets more popular, but it is difficult to sell.

It's typical to sell because the size scope and even the specificity of the programs is unclear. That said Congressional Democrats have been pretty frustrated until this week, with Biden on two fronts. One is his involvement in the negotiations and saying what he wants, that's turned a corner now he's being a lot more specific behind the scenes about what he wants to see in this thing.

And then in the sales pitch. One of the reasons that the Afghanistan withdraw was bad for President Biden politically is that's - that coincided almost exactly with when he and Cabinet Officials were going to fan out across the country to start trying to build momentum behind this legislation.

And it meant that they couldn't and in particular meant that he couldn't. And so what you're seeing now is this delayed ramp up in the sales pitch, and we'll see if it works?

KING: So a new take, if you will, almost to take two or take three and because of the unfortunate timing, political timing there, which is why it is interesting to listen to the president.

And if you talk to people in the White House who were with him through their campaign remember, you know, Joe Biden lost Iowa, he lost Nevada, he didn't do well in New Hampshire and everybody said, Joe Biden is done. The president yesterday in Scranton said I've been here before. Now it's my agenda. I'll fix it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This has been declared dead on arrival from the moment I introduced it. But I think we're going to surprise them. Because then people are beginning to figure out what's at stake? There about leading the world and continue to let the world or let it pass us by. And by the way, they will not increase one single penny of the deficit. They are fully paid for.


KING: It is you know, he has been written off many, many times over his career and in recent years. And so he has optimism; he's going to get there in the end. There are some Democrats worried that even if you do it's been pretty messy along the way.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Oh, absolutely John. And you know he has to put the best spin as he can on this, but it is a huge disappointment. And I think that we should note that it is constantly progressives who are asked to make these concessions.

They are always the ones at the end of the day who are getting the short end of the stick here. When this is all said and done and this is whittle down the moderates of the party both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema and then also the moderates who we don't talk about who are hiding behind them.

They will - they will have one. But progressives will have had to swallow another loss here. And it is President Biden and moderates who will ask them to go back to their constituencies and support moderates that they don't - that they don't largely don't want to support and yet they are often they are often in this position where they have to make these concessions.

BASH: Although that's certainly the way some progressives are going to see it, definitely the activists, you ask somebody like Joe Manchin, you asked Joe Manchin, he will say when I came from 0 dollars to at least $1.5 trillion. That's a huge leap and did it to compromise with progressive.

So you know, because the focus has been so much about the sausage making the forest has been a little bit lost through the trees and that's what the president's challenged.


KING: And look, it's a complicated Democratic family. It just is. Joe Manchin comes from a very different place than most of the House progressive and his politics back home. David Cornyn wrote a story this week. I've taught - Jones about the idea that Manchin had voiced his frustration and he said you know what; I might just leave the Democratic Party if they tried to do this big bill.

I might just be you know, I've walked away and become an independent and then he was quoted as saying it was bullshit excuse my language. Today he says actually, no - not it wasn't.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Nothing was ever said. We never talked about if I'm an embarrassment to my Democrat colleagues, my Caucus, the president being the Democratic veto Democrat Party, Chuck Schumer and all them and I said me being a moderate centrist Democrat if that causes you a problem let me know and I'd switched to be an independent but I'd still be caucusing with Democrats.


KING: Therapy in public a serious threat. What do we got here?

KNOX: I think it's always a serious threat when you're clinging to this razor thin majority. You know there was a couple days ago not that Twitter is real life but a couple days ago the name Jeffords was trending. The Vermont Senator who actually did you knows switch parties on a tipped control of the Senate to the Democrats.

You know that you hear some progressives loudly saying he's not a centrist. He's not a moderate. He's a conservative. And you know what the heck is he doing in this party? But if push comes to shove, they don't want him to go anywhere they want him to stay to say there because they - it's only thinking they don't have 57 Democrats in this chamber. And so they need him.

KING: They need him. I got to write that Twitter is not real life.

KNOX: It turns out.

KING: There was a second source.

BASH: Yes, Twitter.

KING: We're going to hear from President Biden himself tonight. That is a very important CNN Town Hall in Baltimore. It's a CNN Exclusive the president taking your questions. Anderson Cooper is the moderator of CNN Presidential Town Hall with Joe Biden 8 pm Eastern tonight. Don't miss it the big night.

Next for us, crime and punishment, the Attorney General facing questions on Capitol Hill right now about the prosecution of the January 6th rioters that as the full House prepares to vote tonight for recommend criminal contempt charges against Trump ally Steve Bannon.



KING: Well show you some pictures. This is just moments ago, the President and the Vice President of the United States arriving at a really spectacular place. This is the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington D.C.

It was dedicated 10 years ago, 10 years ago, the ceremonies today, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of this remarkable monument and memorial. The president will speak there will take you there live for the president's remarks a bit later. Just wanted to show you these pictures and let's just stay with it as they walk in, you get a glimpse if you've never visited it is truly one of the spectacular places in this town. And you should visit it.

We'll get back to that as soon as news develops. Later today the House though votes on a very important matter contempt referral for Trump ally Steve Bannon. Right now, a contentious hearing is underway with the Biden Administration Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Democrats trying to extract a promise from the Attorney General that he will see through that charge prosecute Bannon.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Will the department follow the facts in the law and expeditiously consider the referrals put forth by the Select Committee if and when they are approved by the Full House.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances. We'll apply the facts in the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.


KING: Panel is back with us also joining the conversation our Legal Analyst, Former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams. I suspect you would have given the same exact answer. The attorney general has to be careful. Democrats are saying Steve Bannon essentially just flipped the bird at the United States Congress. And we want and held accountable.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And maybe he did but there's one correct answer that is the Justice Department will make an independent judgment on this. You know look this case does not exist yet.

It would be grossly inappropriate for an attorney general to start opining and weighing in on something that number one Congress hasn't even voted on and number two hasn't even sent to his desk yet. So why should he be out there saying absolutely rent to lock this guy up? It just wouldn't be appropriate.

KING: But it does get to - it gets to number one, will this January 6th Investigative Committee which is critically important get to the truth? Who organized it? What did they know? Who came actually with the determination to commit violence? What did the President of the United States at the time and those closest to him know about it?

Adam Kinzinger, you just heard Jerry Nadler Democrat, the Chairman asking the committee, this is Adam Kinzinger I know too many to Donald Trump, a rhino to others, you know, a member of the armed services and somebody who's trying to get to the truth says please, please general.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think it's certainly the case, particularly if you see real movement in the Justice Department. So after tomorrow, it'll be out of our hands. I hope the Attorney General does the right thing. I hope the Justice Department does the right things.


KING: Again, you can hope in the here and now you can also look at the history of the Trump impeachment stuff, the Don McGahn case taking, I think, two years to make its way through the courts. The question is, you know, will Congress prove that if we say you must comply, you must comply.

BASH: They're determined to. But it to Elliott's point, the best way for them to do that is to keep it as separate from politics. I know that sounds like a silly thing to say in the context of what we're talking about, but separate from it as possible, meaning go through the proper procedures.

And the proper procedures are the full House vote which will be later this afternoon. And then they will refer it and then it will be up to them. But this is this kind of because we're so used to in the last five years, presidents tooing and froing about will I won't hire worldwide people go for subpoenas or not?


BASH: The notion of holding somebody like Steve Bannon in contempt of court is rare is very rare and the reason is because people like Steve Bannon used to people who were associated with presidents and others understand and respect the confines, or at least the construct of what the Constitution says, which is if Congress wants to talk to you, you should go talk because that's your duty.

KING: And yet, yet in the current - in the current environment, even members of Congress say, oh, wait a minute, the ones who are not in power right now let's see what they would say if they actually got power back? They might have a different view of this.

But one of the reasons the Bannon thing is so important, is A, to get to the truth. What were his conversations with the then President of the United States? What were his conversations with other people around Trump? What were his conversations with other organizers of the rally?

Someone else who has critical information could be Congressman Jim Jordan, a Trump ally, who still serves in the House. He could potentially be a witness. Congress might ask him, and might have to actually you're laughing at me already subpoena him if necessary, but would he - would Jim Jordan, tell the truth? Well, listen --


REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): --former president on January 6, did you have acted the former president before during or after the attack on the Capitol?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Of course, I've talked to the president --

MCGOVERN: --three. JORDAN: Of course, I've talked to the president. I've been clear about that. I talked to him the entire time course I talked to the president. I talked to him that day. I've been clear about that. I don't recall the number of times.

MCGOVERN: Was it before, during or after the attack on the Capitol?

JORDAN: I talked to the president after the attack?

MCGOVERN: So not before or during?

JORDAN: Right.

MCGOVERN: OK. And you --

JORDAN: And I've been clear about.


KING: More clear about it there then maybe in the past, but the actual question is what did you talk about now? Not just that, did you talk --

KNOX: You first you get to establish that they did talk and the timing of the conversation, then you can move on to some of the substance stuff, right? Yes. And that - those answers are why I was kind of grinning about this stuff. Because what Congressman Jordan is saying is he does not recall the number of times he spoke to the president on a day when hundreds of the president's supporters stormed and ransacked the Capitol interrupted this certification of an American election.

You know, so was it 10? I mean, I - at what point do you start to forget how many times you spoke to the president under those circumstances? That's why I was.

KING: Right. No, I completely get it in the conscious of the day. That's the reason why you subpoena records, because you can look at the record of this and find out exactly how many times you talk to somebody? And how long those conversations were?

And then you put the person in the chair and you say; now you tell me what they were about? But you first have to respect the institution and cooperate before you can get to that. And Mr. Jordan does not now, if he's in power, I suspect you'll have a different view about congressional subpoenas or congressional cooperation.

We'll continue that conversation. Coming up for us, COVID boosters and who is eligible? CDC experts meet today to decide whether to recommend boosters for those who received the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?


[12:25:00] KING: Today CDC advisors will vote on recommending Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus booster shots. They'll also take up the mix and match approach for booster doses. This is a three step process. The FDA yesterday gave its approval to the new boosters plan.

If the CDC Advisor sign-off, which we expect today, then the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gets the final decision. Let's bring in to discuss this and share her insights and expertise is Dr. Megan Ranney, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney a grateful for your time I just want to walk through show our viewers what's at stake here? What we expect to happen here is the CDC to support the FDA which says you should get a half dose of Moderna at least six months after your second dose if you're 65 or older, or if you received Moderna, and you're 18 and older and at high risk, a second dose of J&J for those 18 and over who got the vaccine at least two months ago.

And they're saying they think the data supports if you want to mix and match if you for example, got J&J and want to get Moderna this time, that's OK? What is most significant about this movement toward boosters?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: So I think there are two really big takeaways here. The first is that movement on the J&J vaccine, our 14 million recipients of that one dose of the J&J vaccine have been largely left out of the discussion about vaccine efficacy and vaccine boosters, despite the fact that we know that J&J at this point, is not quite as strong as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

So it's really important for those folks who showed up and got the one shot. The other really exciting thing about this news is that mix and match strategy, which many of us in public health and medicine have been advocating for, for months, there's great preliminary data from the UK on how well it works?

I think this is going to be our path forward; it's going to pave the way for how we handle vaccines against COVID throughout the rest of the pandemic? And I'm really excited to see the FDA approving that and the CDC moving forward.

KING: There's still a huge issue of those who are unvaccinated and obviously the wish that they would get vaccinated to help with protection. But among those who are vaccinated I just want to show you can see more than 11 million people who are eligible for boosters have gone out and gotten them over half a million alone between Monday and Tuesday.

Yesterday it was 334,000. How important is that? I guess people are already vaccinated but getting extra protection as we head into the winter.

DR. RANNEY: So this is the big discussion, right? And the FDA had some really serious debate yesterday. The CDC is currently discussing it a few weeks ago when we approved the Pfizer boosters. This is the thing it is those first doses that matter most for community spread for hospitalizations and for death.

Listen, I'm in one of those high risk groups. I'm a health care worker.