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NYT: Alito's Home Displayed "Stop The Steal" Flag After Jan. 6; House Committee Hearing Devolves Into Chaos; Rep. Greene Lashes Out At Dem Reps. Crocket, Ocasio-Cortez; House Committee Hearing Devolves Into Chaos. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has some explaining to do. An upside down American flag, a symbol of the Stop the Steal movement, was seen hanging outside his home. And that happened, what you're looking at, apparently just days after the January 6th insurrection. Now, that is according to a new report from the New York Times.

Listen to Jodi Kantor, the reporter who broke the story, describe how it evolved.


JODI KANTOR, CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The first thing people felt was really just very great surprise. And this wasn't up there for just, you know, 10 minutes. What neighbors say is that it was there for a few days.


BASH: Justice Alito was responding to the report, sending an email to the New York Times, claiming he had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag.

Our great panel is back now, and we have two New York Times reporters not on the byline, but I want to -- actually, I want to start with you, Heidi, because just -- you know, there's been so much talk about what's going on with officials who are supposed to be separate from politics.

Even though we know, even in the best of times on the Supreme Court, they're -- they don't have their heads in the sand, or they shouldn't, they should be aware of what's going on around them, but this is next level. And the question is whether or not his apparently, as he is saying, his wife did it and he didn't know about it or -- and if that's true, OK, and then that begs other questions about him walking outside his house and passing a flag that was upside down and not knowing it.


HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Look, regardless of who done it in this case, there's two things. One, it's part of a pattern, and two, it tells you about the intensity of the emotion within that household around this issue. And when I talk about a pattern, we all remember the email or the text correspondence around the insurrection involving Ginni Thomas, another Supreme Court justice.

And that's what I mean when I talk about pattern. Pattern is also Clarence Thomas speaking to a group funded by the Koch brothers, and a lot of the Koch brother money was behind campaigns to see all of these justices. So it's really the broader tapestry here that is the problem, and it's only going to pour kerosene are in this already burning fire for calling for court reform by the Democrats who say there's no way that these justices and they look at these things can be impartial when we're looking at an election where this court could very well be the final decider.

BASH: I want to read the longer Alito statement to the New York Times. Quote, "I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag. It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard sides."

OK, let's just keep that up and break this down. First of all, second time in a couple of days that a high profile person blamed his wife. Bob Menendez, did that in court. But also, let's just look at the actual --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, she's suffering from breast cancer.

BASH: Oh, she had, that's right. Thank you for adding that. In response to a neighbor's use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs. Why do you think it is OK to turn a flag upside down, which even if you don't know, it reflects Stop the Steal.

You do know if you're most Americans, especially if you are a justice on the high court -- highest court in the land, that it's intended to send a message or at the very least be disrespectful to the flag.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a sign of distress. The -- that is what it is. I mean, it is -- you don't fly the code, the U.S. code about flying a flag. You can't fly it upside down in lessen times of distress. So to have it -- whether or not his wife did it, it's his home. It's on the Supreme Court justice's property, and the American flag is being hung as it is in a statement that the country's in distress.

And, yes, it is also a symbol of the Stop the Steal movement. It's unthinkable, and I understand. Yes, we should not be naive. We understand that these are political figures, but there is a difference. This is the Supreme Court of the United States, and yes, they are political figures, but they don't -- there has not been a long tradition of them being sort of partisan political activists in that way. That is -- this appointment to that court should really live above. BASH: I want you to hold -- I know you have something to say. I want you to hold your thought because I want to talk about this as an -- relates to your book --


BASH: -- because I think it very much does. Final thought from you.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was going to say also, it's worth reminding folks. This court is currently has some decisions afoot that that's, you know, directly relate to this too. I mean, this is the Supreme Court that could decide whether -- could decide Trump's immunity case. Also, whether or not there's any penalty for January 6 as it -- when it comes to the former president.

So, you know, this isn't just the matter of whether an individual justice is being political here, but also whether or not there's -- this is going to spark questions of a conflict of interest with future cases.

BASH: Everybody stand by.

Coming up, can't we all just get along?


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R), GEORGIA: I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on.


BASH: Looks like the answer is nope. We'll be right back.



BASH: I remember when my son was a toddler, and he would get pretty cranky before bedtime, which brings me to last night's spectacle inside the House Oversight Committee room. Let me set the scene. Republicans called the hearing to vote on holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over the audio recording of President Biden's interview last year with Special Counsel Robert Hur.

Now, they didn't begin until 8:00 p.m. Why? Because so many Republicans were absent during the day. They were instead in New York to support Donald Trump at his hush money trial. The melee began with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She accused one of her Democratic colleagues of employing the daughter of the judge in the New York case. Now there's no evidence that that is true. The voice you hear at the beginning of what I'm going to play is Democrat Jasmine Crockett of Texas.

CROCKETT: Do you know what we're here for? You know we're here about A.G. --


GREENE: I don't think you know what you're here for.

CROCKETT: Well, you're the one talking about, I guess --

GREENE: I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.

CROCKETT: No, I ain't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, would you --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's beneath --

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I would like to move to take down Ms. Greene's words. That is absolutely unacceptable. How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person.

GREENE: Are your feelings hurt?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Move her words down. Oh girl, baby girl.

GREENE: Oh really?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Don't even play.

GREENE: Baby girl? I don't think so.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We are going to move and we're going to take your words down. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I second that motion.


BASH: So as you just heard, Marjorie Taylor Greene set the whole thing off with that personal attack on Congresswoman Crockett which, today, Crockett called racist. During the hearing, Democrats demanded not only that Greene's remarks be stricken from the record, but that she apologize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [12:45:03]

GREENE: I'm not apologizing.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well then, you're not striking your word.

GREENE: I am not apologizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, let's cut. Come on, guys.

GREENE: Why don't you debate me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, the minority --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's pretty self-evident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, the chair -- you're not --

GREENE: Yes, you're -- you don't have enough intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I order chair recognizes Mr. Perry. OK, move to strike --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I'd like to strike those words as well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to strike the lady's words again.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That's two requests to strike. That's two requests to strike.

GREENE: Oh, they cannot take the words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's another motion to strike her words again, please get your members under control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, here's the --


BASH: Republicans block an effort to strike her words from record. Then came this from Crockett.


CROCKETT: I'm just curious, just to better understand your ruling, if someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody's bleach blind, bad built, butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman, I make a motion to strike those words. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that's a --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- part of it.

CROCKETT: I'm trying to find clarification on what --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman, motion to strike those words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no idea what you just said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to do this. Look, you guys earlier literally just --

CROCKETT: You just voted to do it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to get clarification.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look it, calm down. Calm down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no, no, because this is what you all do. So I'm trying to get clarification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Ms. Crockett, you're not recognized. Ms. Crockett.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't hear you with your yelling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you've noticed, but I have two hearing aids. I'm very deaf. I'm not understanding. Everybody's yelling. I'm doing the best I can.


BASH: Now, amid the chaos, you can probably tell there that the committee Chair James Comer needed some help and ranking member Jamie Raskin begged for an adjournment for the night. Now, the voices that you are going to hear now, but don't see are Congressman Dan Goldman and Congresswoman Paulina Luna.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think these 17 hour days might not work for us.

REP. PAULINA LUNA (R), FLORIDA: Something about working, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, maybe showing up for a vote.

LUNA: You have a lot to say being that you're on retainer for the judge's daughter. Sorry, trust fund kid.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should strike those words, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope you brought your popcorn.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- we have to strike those as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All strike those after we strike the fact that they called -- they were making comments about Marjorie's body. So we can do this all night long, but I have a motion at the desk I'd like to get.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, this is out of control. We should adjourn, Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Motion at the desk.


GREENE: I think my body's pretty good and I'm going to be (inaudible) this month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Point of order.


BASH: Now, again, there is no evidence that congressman was definitely not on retainer, but that he employs anybody from the judge's office. All of this begs the question. Why is everyone so angry? Well, it is something that Frank Bruni explores in this new, very important book. We're going to talk about it after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people. Now, you're going to hear about it. You, Kroger (ph). My son tells me your company stinks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? You'll get yours in a minute.


BASH: That was a 1997 episode of "Seinfeld" where George Costanza's father, played by the late, great Jerry Stiller, kicks off. A ceremony he calls airing of grievances. It's top of mind today because Frank Bruni's new book is entitled, "The Age of Grievance." And he writes in part, quote, "The American soundtrack has become a cacophony of competing complaints."

So beautifully said as is everything that you write, Frank, so much. Thanks so much for staying and talking about this. That was at a time where if you had to air grievances a la Frank Costanza, you had to do it in person. That was before even the notion of social media. I think this is such an important book because you're saying so much of what I think people are thinking who are wondering what's happening in society.

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: And what's happening is we're at each other's throats and sometimes for reasons that make sense, but just as often for reasons that make no sense. We've lost the ability to draw distinctions and discern between the battles that we really need to fight and the ones that we can let go. People are itching to take offense in every situation.

I mean, you just showed everyone that crazy scene in the House. Now that's a cartoon version of American life. But it's a version of American life, and it's an emblem of American life right now. And, you know, the story you had earlier about Justice Alito, and the upside down flag outside his house. That's something I don't think we would have seen 20 years ago, and that, too, is a reflection of how much we've fallen.

BASH: And he makes an appearance in your book, early in your book, when you talk about -- obviously not the flag, but the reputation you said that he's developing for using appearances at conferences and so forth to use -- to deliver screeds against secularists, same sex marriage and saying things that make him sound less like a black robe sage than Rush Limbaugh -- more like Rush Limbaugh back in the day.

BRUNI: Yes, and that make him sound perpetually and preternaturally aggrieved. I mean, he -- after Roe v. Wade was overturned, right? That was a decision he wrote. You had to know that that was going to have a seismic effect on the population. You had to know if you were him that people were going to complain and say nasty things because it was so important.

And he then went into the court of public opinion and said, woe is me, they're so rough on us justices.

BASH: Yes.

BRUNI: Come on.

BASH: I want to read another excerpt. "We've let the kind of sensitivity we lacked in the past and very much need in the present morph in many instances into hypersensitivity so strange and even illogical that it's kind of insensitivity all its own."


As we sort of sit on that and think about that, I want you to talk about solutions because this isn't just explaining grievances. It's coming up with ideas for how to overcome this place we are in society. BRUNI: Yes, I think we can pivot in a better direction. I think we could do it in a number of ways. I think there are political reforms. We need to pay more attention to that might give us candidates who prize consensus as opposed to some of the extremists that we see in the House right now.

I think there are things we can do with social media regulation and with education. I think above all, we need to talk to young people because I teach now at Duke. And I know from my students, there are a lot of them end up with a news diet and a social media feed that they didn't consciously construct and it isn't aligned with who they really mean --

BASH: Because it's the algorithms --

BRUNI: Right.

BASH: -- that push things to them (ph).

BRUNI: Right. They chose a few things. The algorithms kicked in and you can get them to pull back to think about what they're doing and to reorient what they're doing so that it's in line with who they want to be and their goals. We need to have these conversations with young people constantly and from an early age.

BASH: Frank Bruni, thank you. We're going to continue talking. We'll post it online, so don't go anywhere.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics today. CNN New Central starts after the break.