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NYC Mayor Defends Vaccine Mandate For Private Sector Workers; Rep. Nunes Leaving Congress To Lead Trump Media Venture; Biden DOJ Sues Texas Over Its Redistricting Plans. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 07, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: And then they're going to start living their lives. And I think that will help to convince a much larger group of parents to get their kids vaccinated as well.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And so if you look at this now, this map here, again Maine is at 73 percent, Vermont's at 74 percent. That's fully vaccinated. You see the deep green, you come down in here, West Virginia is at 49, Tennessee at 50. It's the New York City Mayor looks at a map like this. He's obviously looking at a city as well.

But this is why, listen to Bill de Blasio. Bill de Blasio says, yes, I now want everybody in the private sector to be vaccinated. It's not just for restaurants. It's not just public sector employees. I want the mandate on private sector employers, tell your employees to get vaccinated. He says he looks around the world. And he looks at Omicron, which you talked about and says, we have to do this now.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): In Germany, a very advanced nation. They're going through those restrictions and shutdowns. Look, my message every governor, every mayor in America, get in place some mandates now before it's too late, because we cannot people's livelihoods, people's lives, we can't go through more shutdowns and restrictions.


KING: Do you agree with that, everyone keeps saying we still don't know enough about Omicron to know exactly what to do. Is the mayor Right? Or is he getting out ahead putting the horse to have a cart ahead of the horse if you will?

WEN: I think we should be worried about Delta right now. I mean, we're seeing this terrible Delta surge. And yes, there is the threat of Omicron as well. But let's worry about Delta. And so even if we just had Delta and not Omicron, I do think that vaccine requirements are appropriate and necessary at this point.

Although I do wish that in New York City, they were offering an out when it comes to testing as in, I would much rather that this be framed as a testing and masking requirement, which you can opt out of if you're fully vaccinated. There is a real danger to having vaccine requirements across the board, but with a religious exemption out, because then what ends up happening is that that loophole gets bigger and bigger.

And if many people are now claiming a religious exemption, that could also bleed over into childhood immunizations, which we have spent in the public health community so many years trying to close those loopholes that could end up expanding. So I actually I think that what the New York City mayor is trying to do is the right thing, but we should have an opt out for testing.

KING: Dr. Wen, as always grateful for your time and your insights.

WEN: Thanks, John.

KING: We have some more details now and that just ended phone call between President Biden and Putin. The White House telling reporters to call ended at 12:08 p.m. here Eastern Time, two hours in one minute after it began. We're waiting on more details about the actual substance of the call. We'll bring that to you as soon as we get it.

Up next for us, the curious case of Devin Nunes, Republican lawmaker in line for one of the most powerful jobs in Washington but he's quitting to go to work for Donald Trump.



KING: Devin Nunes is leaving Congress to help Donald Trump launches new media startup. It's an interesting choice to say the least. If reelected next year, Nunes could be in line to lead one of the most powerful committees in Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee. Instead, he will leave the house in December and start as CEO of the new Trump Media and Technology Group in January.

In a statement Congressman Nunes said the time has come to reopen the internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship. The panel is back with me for the conversation. That right there in the end, that's how Donald Trump talks. A Donald Trump kicked off Twitter, kicked off Facebook, because he lies and tries to attack America's democracy. Devin Nunes essentially, no wonder.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, it's been interesting to watch his sort of evolution over the years. I mean, I remember when I was covering the House Republican majority, you know, several years ago, he was a member who would, you know, gab with reporters. Now he attacks them regularly.

He used to be close with Republican leadership considered more of a mainstream Republican. But then when Trump came to town, just like a lot of Republicans, he sort of rebranded. And, you know, he became sort of a leading critic of the Mueller investigation, always calling it a witch hunt, just like Trump trying to push to investigate the investigator. And so the decision is not super surprising. Although there are lawmakers in Congress who literally wait decades to try to become the Ways and Means chairman, it's an extremely powerful position. So for him to sort of throw his hands up when he was next in line for this job, if they flipped the house, which is likely this this fall is significant, but it just shows you, you know, where Trump allies are right now, they'd rather be close to the former president than in a position of power in Congress.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. But one of the issues I mean, for sure, to all of that. I mean, he is loyal to -- he likes the executive branch more, he got a taste of it from the Trump administration, to say the least. But his district has also being redrawn in pro Trump about a plus five or so district likely going to be plus nine Biden district.

So that is probably reason number one, two, and three. But, you know, clearly he likes to be close to who he believes is the proximity, the center of power in the Republican Party, and that's Donald Trump.

KING: I mean, just one reminder, you make a key point. So let's just go back, a little trip down memory lane.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There's clear evidence of collusion that the Democratic Party in the Hillary Clinton campaign colluded with the Russians.

I don't think Mueller has any report to put out that would be worthwhile of anything new.

After years of false accusations and McCarthyite smears, the collusion hoax now defines the Democratic Party.


KING: If you look at the Nunes statement yesterday about why he thinks this job is important if you look at what Donald Trump does every day, if not by the hour, which is issue statements that are full of lies. Sorry, but they are full of lies and attacks on American democracy. Does that tell us what this new company if it ever actually gets off the ground is going to be, a propaganda machine for Donald Trump?


TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: I mean, I think that's almost certain. But you make a good point. We don't know a lot about what this company is going to be. We've heard a lot of promises from Donald Trump. But also, he's really set his sights on, like you said, rivaling Twitter and Facebook.

And we know there are a lot of conservative social media companies that have sprouted up in the recent years, and they haven't been able to unseat those two big ones in the social media age. So it's not clear if Trump is going to even be able to accomplish what He says he'd like to do with this new platform. But we don't even have many specifics right now.

KING: One of the specifics we do have is that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into it. Trump announced it then there was a merger agreement with another company. And the SEC is looking into it. It could be routine could be a paperwork thing. We don't know the answer to that. But we know the former president he was on another network with his former press secretary last night doesn't like it.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Devin is a fantastic guy. I think that he will do an incredible job. If our side doesn't have a voice, eventually you're not going to have -- you're going to end up with pure communism. It's a disgrace what's going on.


KING: The disgrace part was about the investigation and the like. Again, we don't know what this is going to be. But we do know that to your point. Devin Nunes evolved to become a pea in the pod.

BADE: Yes, I mean, and it'll just, you can kind of see that -- you can see where this is going, right? It's going to be slamming the mainstream media. It's going to be probably very conspiratorial, making a lot of false statements. But look, you know, in terms of Trump, this is one investigation he has to deal with.

There's a bunch of investigations that are still ongoing, we don't hear them -- hear about them all the time in the news. And so you know, it could have difficulty taking off and who knows where this is going to go.

KING: Does it tell us anything to Miller, who used to work in Republican politics and became an anti-Trump or so the anyone out there who supports Trump won't believe him. You know, says this growing up every story I was told about politics, the Ways and Means chairmanship, the height of power and influence.

Nunes is taking a pass on it to run Friendster for bigots. Well put, Congress' declined in miniature. Is it -- again, you're right. He was being redistricted. But he also has raised a ton of money. He could have picked a new district. He would have had a lot of money at his church. Chances are he could have come back to the Congress. But?

ZELENY: He could have done it without a doubt. But he thinks that President Trump is going to come back and he has his eye on the other side of Pennsylvania. I mean as you said he's fallen out of favor with Republican leadership. He could have run again, a lot of people were in competitive seats, but this is more lucrative and, you know, a more, you know, interesting, I guess.

KING: Make a bet on the comeback. Well, see.

Up next for us, the Biden Justice Department is suing Texas again. This time DOJ says Texas Republicans punished voters of colors when they drew new district lines for the 2022 election.



KING: And voting rights now to the list of legal battles between the Biden's Justice Department and the State of Texas. The administration sued Monday over the Texas plan to redraw its congressional districts. The government, the federal government alleges Texas did so in a way that's unfair and discriminatory against black and Latino voters.

The suit is the fourth time the Justice Department has brought suit against the state of Texas since President Biden took office in January. This becomes a voting rights issue except the Voting Rights Act, the old preclearance is no more. It used to be states covered by the Voting Rights Act had to submit their plan.

So the burden would have been on Texas to prove you were doing this right. Now the burden is on the Biden Justice Department say they did this deliberately to undermine the influence of voters of color. Can you make that case?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's dilute their vote in their voting strength, right? You have obviously necessary blocks are happening to voters and housing, the voting section in the Department of Justice working on these cases, it was always about trying to figure out who was trying to dilute that strength.

And this is one way of doing it through gerrymandering, obviously, or ways in which you extent and expand the -- expand that you could have big enough that they can actually have a voice and have the opportunity to like want they want in office. But also hear about the notion of why section five and why the formula no longer being valid or available is so problematic.

Section two is oftentimes reacting to something after an egregious error has occurred or some dilution, you can react to it. Preclearance allows you to stop in its tracks. This case, though, is about trying to balance those two and say, listen, before you have vote dilution before you do not allow people to have a voice, either a language minority, a racial minority, those who are disabled, we're going to try to reach out to those actual maps. This is a way of trying to blend those two things where you can't without section five.

KING: And so let's listen, this is the Associate Attorney General $saying we looked at the map, we studied it, and no, can't do this.


VANITA GUPTA, ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Attorney General has made clear that the Justice Department will not stand idly by in the face of unlawful attempts to restrict access to the ballot. Today's filing demonstrates that commitment to this charge. The Justice Department stands ready to protect the constitutionally guaranteed voting rights of Americans in Texas and indeed throughout the country.


KING: It'll be interesting to see if there are additional suits if it -- or is just Texas here. If you look at the map, it's pretty clear you can go to online find the maps and you see in the Dallas area, in the Houston area, we have areas where you have voters of color and they were in one or two congressional districts.

Texas Republicans using their power and that's what they're going to say we won the election we have the right to do this essentially drew like you're going to be in this district and it stretches out into a red ruler area. You're going to be in this one, they split them up. So instead of being able to elect a most likely Democratic Congress person, they're in what is most likely now a Republican district?


MITCHELL: Yes. And I want to make two points. You know, it is about preserving political power. And with Republicans in charge, they're the ones trying to keep their power, but it still comes down to race, you know, and when Democrats did it, you know, in the 90s, yes, they were preserving their power, but it still came down to race then too.

And so in a state like Texas, where 40 percent of the population is Latino and 12 percent is black, and then you look at the makeup of its congressional delegation or its state house, then you see the discrepancies. But the other point is the earlier Supreme Court ruling this year, in a redistricting case shows that the Voting Rights Act has been weakened in ways beyond just the section five preclearance.

And that's why, you know, the DOJ is still taking the risks by filing this lawsuit, because it's not certain the courts will continue to protect the Voting Rights Act in a lot of different ways.

KING: The Justice Department would say politics does not come into play here. They're studying the facts. But there's a lot of pressure from progressives for the Justice Department to go after whether it's the changes in election laws, whether with Texas, you have the changes in the election laws, you have border issues, you have mask mandates.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General there saying, the Department of Justice absurd lawsuit, is the latest ploy to control Texas voters. I am confident that our legislator's redistricting decisions will be proven lawful. That's in the case of the one filed yesterday. But this has become a big thing for the Biden Justice Department and the State of Texas on a lot of issues.

ZELENY: It absolutely has. In the state of Texas, I mean, like look what is happening there. We've all been hearing for a very long time, when is Texas if it is going to turn blue or not, that has been one kind of thing hanging out there. Back from the Karl Rove days. I mean, they've been thinking about maybe by 2024. Look, you know, this is a central issue, the population change in Texas.

Now this is guaranteed to be at center stage of all the races going on in Texas now the governor's race, the attorney general's race, et cetera. But this is a big challenge for the Biden Justice Department. They've done very little if anything on voting rights overall, this is something that they're going to try and make a point here, we'll see if it works. It is, you know, uncertain, of course.

BADE: And of course, the whole reason this whole focus is on the Justice Department is because Congress has enacted, I mean, you heard Merrick Garland say, you know, when they filed the suit that he wants, this is something Congress can fix, just pass a law pass the John Lewis bill, and this is something Democrats have been trying to do for a long time.

It's been stuck in the Senate, they can't get the 60 votes needed to clear that threshold and sort of fix this issue to sort of stop this so that the Justice Department wouldn't have to go through these legal challenges. But, you know, it'll be interesting to watch, I guess, in the coming months, as we see more of this happening in various states, you know, does that heat up the discussion about getting rid of the filibuster? Obviously, there's two Senate moderates who don't want to do that, but that conversation is not going away --

COATES: They have to go all in though. It's only once every 10 years. There's a lot at stake if they don't get it right right now it's over.

KING: That's once every 10 years and these are dramatic changes, today marks 80 years, 80 years ago today, the attack on Pearl Harbor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.



KING: More than 2,000 Americans were killed on December 7th, 1941. And that surprise attack led the United States to join World War II. President Biden and the First Lady paying respects at the World War II Memorial earlier this morning. A traditional wreath lying with this special added tribute, the wreath contained one sunflower.

The sunflower is the state flower of Bob Dole's Kansas, the late Senator and World War II veteran died on Sunday. Dole enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He will lie in state, in the Capitol rotunda on Thursday. We'll be right back.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a big development connected to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. French police detaining a Saudi national this morning 9:30 a.m. local time, as the man was trying to board a flight to Riyadh. A French radio station names the man as Khaled Al-Otaibi. Al-Otaibi was placed under sanctions by the U.S. State Department for his role, alleged role in the Khashoggi killing. French police have not confirmed the man's identity to CNN. Some promising economic news today, you Americans are paying less at the pump, the average price per gallon of gas down nearly a nickel from just last week. Prices hit a seven year high back in October. Natural gas prices also down 40 percent from the recent peak due partly to warmer weather. We're also seeing signs of supply chain crunch is improving poor congestion in both California and Georgia is easing, the number of anchor chips down by half since October.

And with just eight days left until the Treasury Department warns the government will hit its debt limit and risk default, Senate Republicans are rejecting a proposal to attach a debt ceiling fix to the must have national defense spending bill. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell briefed his leadership team this hour on separate legislation to allow the debt ceiling to be increased by 51 votes. Just this one time McConnell says, something he will try to sell to the Republican conference later today.

And a panel that was supposed to help President Biden decide if he should push to add justices and Supreme Court could issue its final report as early as today. Except there are no real firm conclusions, we are told. The 30 commission members had profound disagreements over the idea of adding more seats to the High Court.


Thanks joining us in Inside Politics. And don't forget you can also listen to our podcast download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.