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New Day

Cat's Cradle; House Democrats Outline Tax Increases For Wealthy Businesses and Individuals; Soon: Blinken Faces Grilling On Hill In Afghanistan Hearing; Melania Trump Refused To Condemn Violence On Jan. 6, Ex-Press Secretary Claims. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So fans attending Saturday's Miami Hurricanes home opener against Appalachian State saw one of the craziest things you will see at a college pro High School, any game and it had nothing to do with football.

All right, so that was a cat falling from the upper deck. So OK, first of all, it's odd to have a cat falling from the upper deck or the sky during a football game. But then what happened also amazing, a couple, save the cat catching it, you can barely make it out of this video, catching it in an American flag.

So those fast acting fans Craig Cromer and his wife Kim are joining us now. First of all, nice catch, nice work. Extraordinary. Can you explain what happened because I've never seen a cat fall from the sky in a football game.

CRAIG CROMER, USED AMERICAN FLAG TO RESCUE FALLING CAT AT MAIAMI HURRICANES GAME: We - We've never seen it either. We've seen you know, cell phones fall and stuff like that. And to tell you the truth, at that time, that was the first thing that happened was somebody's cell phone fell down onto the ramp, the Loess, security got up and they were looking at the -- looking at the phone to secure it to get it back to the rightful owner. And then they started pointing upward.

And at that time, you know, my wife and I, we looked up, and we could see the tail of a cat, the butt of a cat that was in between like the fabric and the concrete. So they -- I think they were trying to save the cat from up above. And it was actually driving it further down and they couldn't reach it.

So my wife, she always brings the flag to the football games. I'm retired military. So we've, you know, we've had a long career in the military and obviously very patriotic, and she secures the flag to the to the handrail in front of us at each game.

So when we thought saw the cat, and it was looking pretty clear that it was going to fall, I didn't think we would be able to catch it with our hands. So I pulled the flag from the handrail. And I held one hand while she held the other. And there was even a fan or two that was helping to hold the flag as well.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Unbelievable Kim, and can you tell us a little, look, I mean, your skills, both of you. That's like catching some kind of fly ball, right? A fly cat there. Tell us what happened. I know there were a few minutes where the cat was dangling. You were waiting. And then tell us about what happened from the moment that it dropped.

KIM CROMER, USED AMERICAN FLAG TO RESCUE FALLING CAT AT MAIAMI HURRICANES GAME: Well, the students that were below us were kind of pushing us in one direction or the other because they couldn't tell exactly, you know, how -- if we were over the cat or not, it was really hard to tell. But once the cat fell, it fell on Craig's end of the flag and then kind of roll down to the seat, the area that was below us, which was only about two, two or three feet.


And the students were right there and they pick the cat up and the cat appeared to be OK. And then all of the -- because we sit right above the student section, so the students were just super excited that the cat was OK. And I think it kind of scared the cat a little bit. But it seemed to be fine.

BERMAN: OK, so where's the cat now? Or do we know and I have to also ask. I mean, I think it's impressive. The fact that you caught this cat is amazing. But I also understand that some of the people around you, the cat was like relieving itself. I mean, this cat was not necessarily popular in your section.

C. CROMER: The cat knew exactly how much trouble it was in and it urinated pretty much all over everything.

BERMAN: And you still caught it. You guys are -- you guys are big. I have to say. You step up in adverse situations.

C. CROMER: Yes, it was it was good to see that the cat was OK. But between the urine and the coke that was spilled on me. I was sticky and stinky.

KEILAR: Well, Craig --

K. CROMER: It may frown on my pleasant ride home.

KEILAR: Oh, my goodness. But look at you now. I mean, it's just so wonderful that you took one for the cat and for all of the fans. I just can't imagine. Honestly, I can't imagine if this is at head ended a different way you guys. It's amazing to talk to you, Kim and Craig Cromer. And Craig, thank you so much for your service as well.

C. CROMER: Thank you so much.

K. CROMER: Thank you.

KEILAR: New tax hikes would target corporations and the rich more in the plan under consideration, next.

BERMAN: Plus the former aide dishes a Melania Trump's initial reaction to the January 6 insurrection and whether she believes the election was stolen.



KEILAR: Today, House Democrats will unveil specifics on how they plan to pay for their three and a half trillion dollar budget plan. They want to hike taxes on wealthy Americans and on corporations. And we're about to learn what those hikes will look like. CNNs Lauren Fox is live for us on Capitol Hill this morning. What are we waiting for here?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Brianna, we got a little bit of a sneak peek into how Democrats plan to pay for that $3.5 trillion economic plan. And one thing that we are starting to see is that they're going to be targeting corporations and wealthy individuals including raising that top corporate tax rate to about 26.5 percent.

They're also going to be looking at raising the tax on capital gains to 25 percent for people who make more than $400,000 a year, the also the individual top marginal tax rate that's going to go up to 39.6 percent.

And Brianna, this really is important because Democrats are going to have to pay for this bill, if they are going to be able to pass it through the U.S. Senate where you have moderates like Joe Manchin, who are arguing that he is not going to just increase the deficit with this legislation.

So if you want to expand health care, if you want to do more on paid family leave, these are the kinds of tough decisions that you have to make. But look, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has been keeping this under wraps, in part because once you start to display exactly how you're going to pay for this bill, you start to have folks downtown lobbyists, other special interests coming after you.

And so this is going to be a very tight rope for Democrats to walk in the next couple of weeks as they try to maintain their unity. And it's going to be a difficult slog ahead because you already have people like Manchin saying they don't want that corporate tax rate to go much above 25 percent. Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. You put the details out, they start to pick it apart. That's just what happens. I know the administration really wants to turn the corner on this evacuation from Afghanistan, Lauren, but today, perhaps not the day for that because Secretary of State Tony Blinken is going to be facing questions on the Hill about withdrawing from Afghanistan, you know, give us a sense of what we're expecting here. FOX: Well, Brianna, sometimes when folks come up to Capitol Hill, you have people of the opposite party ready to attack them people of the same party ready to defend them. I think this is going to be a little different today in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. You're going to see Republicans and Democrats asking really tough questions about what went wrong in the waning days as the U.S. was exiting Afghanistan. And they're going to have some tough questions about what is still going to be done to get people who are still in that country out.

And I think that those are going to be discussions that are going to happen on both sides of the aisle. I'm told that Republicans have been preparing for this moment, but Democrats were very frustrated with the administration as well, just a few weeks ago. So this is not going to just be a partisan food fight, although there may be those moments on the Republican side.

There are also going to be Democrats who want answers to what went wrong. You have veterans, former State Department officials who serve on this committee, Brianna. And they are going to have pointed and tough questions for the Secretary of State starting this afternoon. Brianna.

KEILAR: Will be tracking that this afternoon. Lauren Fox live on the hill. Thank you.

BERMAN: So for the first time we are hearing how then First Lady Melania Trump responded at first the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. Joining us now CNN White House correspondent Kate Bennett and CNN anchor and chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt, Kate, take it away. What do we learn?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think the thing here, John, is that we are hearing from the First Lady, which is that we never really do any way, the former First Lady. And it was her idea to do a photo shoot of a carpet inside the White House on the day of the insurrection. Not funny, I shouldn't laugh.


But, you know, Stephanie Grisham at the time tried to say as her communications director, as her Chief of Staff tried to say, hey, shouldn't you be saying something? Shouldn't you be condemning what's happening on Capitol Hill? And the stunning response was a simple no, this is not something I'm going to do. This is not a choice I'm going to make. This is something that doesn't concern me right now. And she continued on with her photo shoot.

And I think what we're seeing is a first lady, a former first lady who was very apathetic to the role she all but disappeared towards the end of her tenure. She was rarely heard from. She was rarely seen. She was packing up, she was wrapping up. Meanwhile, the country's in turmoil. There's questions about the election coming from her husband.

And this was really her feeling and the one word answer of no is so sort of standard Melania, very, a woman have very few words, and most importantly, very few words, when words are needed the most.

KEILAR: You've also reported that she doesn't really have an interest in campaigning again, or being first lady again. And yet also, we're finding out some new information about where she is on whether Donald Trump actually won the election or not. Right?

BENNETT: Yes. And this is surprising.

KEILAR: Perhaps just if he didn't, but just --

BENNETT: And this is interesting, always, to me, when people say, well, she wants to escape, and she's, you know, tapping SOS on the White House windows, and she's trapped. She's not, and she's not trapped in her marriage. And they're not two strangers, really, in the night. She is more aligned with him philosophically, ideology -- with her ideology than most people think.

And so when she does say something that is, politically, you know, on par with her husband, people go, Oh, that's, that's odd. But it's not really they've been together for more than 20 years. She's watched him have this political aspiration. And we'll watch him again from a distance happen next time if he does, but it's not unusual. She is aligned with him politically.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's clear to that she knows the power of sending a message. I mean, she used her clothes to send messages. And we all saw that. And the idea that there isn't a role for her because, you know, I want to underscore what and I know you've confirmed this reporting and Stephanie Grisham's new book is she wasn't necessarily asking her to tweet Oh, my, you know, my husband didn't win the election, stand down. They weren't, right, trying to get her to say, everyone has a right to protest, but no one has a right to be violent.


HUNT: But it was not a political statement. It was just stand down. Don't be violent.


HUNT: And, you know, I spoke to one of the cops who was on the front, during the insurrection. And the reason that they wanted people to do things like this inside the White House was because these insurrectionists were only listening to the Trump's, the cop, you know, on the front said, Look, man, like I've been a Republican my whole life. I'm a cop, you have to stop and the insurrection said back to him. I'm only going to do what Trump says, right? Trump has to say it. So that's why this is such. so critical in context here.

BENNETT: And it's such a good point, because at times during Trump's presidency, she would sometimes say the opposite. And that always made news. She would say thoughts and prayers when he would forget, she would say, you know, don't do this or do that or have her own independent thinking. And so it wouldn't have been a heavy lift for her to do. She certainly was not, you know, beholden to the West Wing in terms of messaging. They rarely checked in with each other, the East and West Wing on what she did, or what she said most of those texts from Stephanie Grisham. I should remind people, I mean, from the First Lady vs. Stephanie Grisham, but it's not unusual.

I mean, she could have said something. She's, again the ask was --

HUNT: Speak her mind.

BENNETT: -- denounce violence. Right. And that was the --

HUNT: Say something political.

BENNETT: That was the tipping point for Grisham to resign. And she was the first person in the Trump administration in the White House of significant stature to submit her resignation that day.

HUNT: On the sixth. I mean, me and Brianna, we're were talking about this earlier, too. I mean, there were so many people in the end, who did step down because of what happened on January 6, but now of course, we've swung entirely in the other direction. And it's suddenly unacceptable for so many Republicans to denounce what happened that day. I mean, it's just it's absolutely mind boggling.

BERMAN: Look, silence is acquiescence. This was a choice that Melania Trump made, it was a choice to engage our support, I suppose the big lie, and it's also not at a place, right. I mean, this is someone who despite, I think, sort of the hagiography that exists (INAUDIBLE) first lady.

I mean, she dabbled in birtherism, too, beforehand. So this is, you know, she needs to be held to account for the choices that she makes.

HUNT: Well, I for one, I'm really looking forward to Stephanie Grisham's book.

BENNETT: I am too.

HUNT: There's a lot more news in it besides just this.

BENNETT: And she's triggered a response. There was a response today from the first lady who I think in typical junk fashion went after Stephanie Grisham personally talked about her personal relationships.

HUNT: Unbelievable.


BENNETT: And, you know, these are again moments that we have to remember that Trump's hit below the belt and, you know, for someone to go after someone for a bad breakup or something happening in their personal life. This is her sort of throwing everything at the wall.

And I should mention my sources told me that Melania Trump was completely blindsided by this book, had no idea that it was in the works, had no idea that it was coming. Learned of it when we broke the news last week that it was going to be coming out.

HUNT: Yes.

BERMAN: That will be something Kate Bennett, Kasie Hunt, thanks to both of you.

BENNETT: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: So don't believe everything you hear about a divided America, certainly not an equally divided America. A CNN reality check is next.

KEILAR: Plus using dogs to detect COVID the trial program underway right now.



KEILAR: The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited Republican leaders to join her for a briefing this morning with the Capitol Police.


A source telling CNN the concerns center around Saturday's rally in Washington and also the security preparations that are being made ahead of it. CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us on Capitol Hill with the latest. What are we expecting here?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, today's briefing and speaker Nancy Pelosi his office is just one of several security briefings that have taken place in recent days as the Capitol gears up for that September 18 rally, which is being organized in support of the jail January 6 rioters.

Last week, top lawmakers on house Administration Committee received a briefing and rank and file capital police officers have also started to receive briefings in recent days, with one of them telling me that that briefing was thorough and transparent, a huge contrast from the run up to January 6, where intelligence sharing failures were at least partly to blame for the lack of preparedness.

So the department has taken steps since then to improve their internal communications about potential threats and how they're planning. And here's what we know about those security preparations thus far.

Capitol Police are preparing for potential violence and unrest, crowd size could be in the one hundreds. They are also going to be bringing back the temporary fencing around the Capitol. There is of course the option to call in the National Guard, though it's unclear if that is going to be necessary at this point. And finally, it is going to be all hands on deck. So as one source describe it to me, they are hoping for the best preparing for the worst. Brianna.

KEILER: It's interesting, Mel, because the speaker took on a lot of criticism from Republicans for oversight, or as they put it lack of law enforcement, they kind of tried to pin January 6. I don't know how well that worked. But now she's inviting them to this briefing.

ZANONA: Right, exactly. So they will be in her office today, getting this briefing from the new Capitol Police Chief. So everyone on Capitol Hill is taking this very seriously. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Melanie, live from Capitol Hill. Thank you.

ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So there is a tendency in the media to frame everything as a debate, and it can give the impression that it's an equal debate that somehow there are just as many people on each side.

The fact of the matter, though, is on some of these issues where you hear some of the loudest shouting, it's not equal at all. John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Like we hear a lot about how Americans are deeply and hopelessly and evenly divided on major issues. And it paints a picture of a country that cannot find common ground, which can lead to civic despair about America's future.

But here's the thing. It's just not true that Americans are divided 50-50 on most major issues. Instead, there are sensible American super majorities on critical issues. Take a look at vaccinations, for example. Currently, almost 74 percent of Americans over age 18 have you received at least one shot according to CDC.

Now, on the flip side, just a fifth of Americans 18 percent can be described as vaccine resistant. Of course, the unvaccinated can cause real problems for the rest of us by prolonging the pandemic, but they are a decided minority.

Let's take a look at mask mandates. Some Republican governors are pat (ph) banning them to play to the base, but it's not a popular position.

Get this, a recent poll found that about 60 percent of adults feel that both students and teachers should be required to wear face masks while in school. Now about the only thing more illogical than being anti-mask and anti-vaxx and a pandemic is believing the big lie that Trump continues to push.

Now in June, a Monmouth University poll found that roughly a third of Americans still believe the election of President Biden was due to fraud. That's baseless nonsense, but it does show how disinformation can damage our democracy. Nonetheless, it is a decidedly minority position.

And while new CNN poll shows that the Republican Party is almost evenly divided, whether Trump should be their next nominee, you got to remember he's the only president in the history of the Gallup poll never to be above 50 percent approval. He left office at 34 percent, lowest of his lows. And not only that, just 27 percent of Americans said they strongly approve of the job he did as he was leaving office, while 52 percent almost double that, strongly disapproved. So that 27 percent that's Trump's ride or die base. It is a small but vocal minority.

Now let's shift over to governing the real event. In Washington, this may be a make or break month for infrastructure reform. And while the devil is always in the details, the fact is it's very popular.

Fact in August, Fox News poll found that 62 percent of Americans support the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill that awaits passage in the House. Now climate change mitigation is a big part of the proposed $3.5 trillion budget. So it is worth noting that 64 percent of Americans agree that reducing the effects of climate change should be a top national priority.

Now you can even dig into culture war issues that have dominated debates in the past and see movement towards majority consensus. Take same sex marriage.

According the most recent Gallup poll, a record 70 percent of Americans now believe in equal rights in the issue up from 27 percent back in 1996, or marijuana legalization. Gallup shows it's reached a new high with 68 percent support last November.