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New Day

Republicans Criticize President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during Congressional Hearing; Republicans across U.S. Questioning Results of Elections They Lose or May Lose in the Future; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Attends Met Gala Wearing Designer Gown with "Tax the Rich" Written on It. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 08:00   ET



KYLE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: GOP's Congressman Adam Kingzinger saying both the Biden and the Trump administration should share responsibility for what happened.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R-IL): I think it's important to remind people the Trump administration failed in the set-up, and I think the Biden administration absolutely failed in the execution of this.

ATWOOD: Democrats also questioning how the withdrawal could have been better executed, but saying it was necessary to leave Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there things the administration could have done differently? Absolutely yes, as always.


ATWOOD (on camera): Bungled, disgraceful epic mistakes, those are some of the words that we heard yesterday from these Republicans when they were talking to the secretary of state. This was a very partisan line of inquiry from those Republicans.

One thing that was missing notably yesterday was detail-oriented lines of question, right, that went into what the Biden administration did and what they didn't do, because a lot of these Republicans were just digging their heels in questioning the Biden administration's decision to withdraw in the first place, not exactly how that was executed.

Now, the secretary of state has another hearing today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so we'll see if they get into some more details during that hearing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It will be good to get more information, actual information there. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that. Nice to see you.

NEW DAY continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 14th. I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this beautiful NEW DAY. Today voters in California will decide Governor Gavin Newsom's fate in an election, and former President Trump is seizing on the opportunity to further his assault on American democracy with the big lie.

For him it's deja vu all over again. Already Trump and Larry Elder, the leading candidate to replace Newsom if he's recalled, are laying the groundwork to baselessly dismiss a Newsom victory as a product of Democratic cheating. Elder's campaign website now features a link to this site that urges residents to sign a petition and, quote, demand a special session of the California legislature to investigate the incorrect, the twisted results of the recall election that hasn't happened yet. There are no results yet. And Trump treading familiar baseless ground, releasing a statement, pushing claims about a rigged election that, again, hasn't even happened.

BERMAN: You often talk about your outrage muscle being tired here. Whether or not it's familiar from the former president, you can't brush it off. In a new CNN poll, 59 percent of Republicans say that support for the lies about the last election are important to being a Republican, 59 percent. You can't brush this off because this Saturday here in Washington there is a rally planned in support of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. The source tells CNN law enforcement it is preparing for protesters to be armed. New security fencing is being set up. Capitol police arrest a man with a bayonet and machete in his truck parked near the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The truck had a swastika, the truck did, a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on it.

You can't brush this off because, in a way, Trump seems to literally be standing up for domestic terrorists after George W. Bush delivered that speech suggesting the people who attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and people who attacked the Capitol are, quote, "children of the same foul spirit." Trump put out a statement that basically said, who, me? Again, Trump didn't deny it. Bush didn't mention Trump by name. Trump didn't deny it. Trump just said that Bush should not be lecturing about anything.

And then as if for emphasis, Trump is endorsing a QAnon supportive candidate for secretary of state in Arizona.

Joining us now on all this for the Reality Check, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Today's recall vote in California is about much more than Republicans trying to replace Gavin Newsom as governor. It's a preview of themes that look likely to define the 22 midterms and beyond. Democrats are calling out Republicans as extreme, divisive, anti-science seizing on GOP frontrunner Larry Elder's call to remove mask and vaccine mandates while comparing the rightwing radio host to Donald Trump. Republicans are embracing Trump to fire up the base while railing against what they see as liberal elitism and societal decline.

But the most dangerous trend they've doubled down on is this assault on democracy itself. And I'm not just talking about the recall's end run around general elections in a state where Republicans represent less than a quarter of registered voters. Now they are using the big lie as prevent defense even before the votes are counted. Republicans are taking a page from the Trump playbook, claiming that the election results will be rigged. Larry Elder has made the claim in several recent interviews, saying that, quote, I believe there might very well be shenanigans, as it were, in the 2020 election. Trump, of course, lost no time in amplifying this California edition of the big lie despite concerns that it could depress Republican turnout.


Of course, Trump isn't thinking about what's best for his party or his country. He only thinks about himself. And all this, though, is causing people to question the results of an election before the votes are even cast. It projects the big lie forward in ways that may be of psychological comfort to Republicans who lose races, but in the process, of course, it fires a shot through the heart of Americans' faith in democracy.

Unfortunately, this isn't isolated. Already we are seeing Republican Senate candidates in next year's midterms embrace the same burn the whole house down strategy. In Nevada the Trump-endorsed Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, former state A.G. says he's preparing legal challenges to an election that is 14 months away. Trump attempts to overturn Biden's election last fall, filing an injunction to stop the counting of ballots, baselessly claiming to have evidence that dead people voted.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans have launched their own forensic audit based on this shambolic hyper-partisan effort in Arizona, now backed by the Trump endorsed Senate candidate Sean Parnell. And across the country from Ohio to Missouri to North Carolina to Arizona, we are seeing that backing the big lie is the new litmus test for Republican Senate candidates.

This may be unhelpful in a general election, but the chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee, Florida's Rick Scott, was one of the eight senators to vote to overturn the election of Joe Biden. So he's not exactly in a position to protest. This isn't an academic concern. Just take a look at Georgia where Representative Jody Hice is running to unseat the Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on the premise that he would put party over country and overturn the next election.

This sickness is spreading overseas as well, like in Brazil where conservative populist president Bolsonaro is threatening to contest the next election in very Trumpian terms.

Democracy is being degraded. Make no mistake, this is Donald Trump's doing, because before him no American president would have considered denying the reality of an election result. This is basic. This is foundational to democracy, folks. And it comes at the same time that foreign authoritarian nations like Russia and China are claiming liberal democracy's days are over. There is no credible way to claim that you love the American way of life and back this bs, but that's what the Republicans seem intent on doing. As "Washington Post's" Greg Sargent writes, "It isn't just that

Republicans will be expected to pledge fealty to the lost cause of the 2020 election. It's also that untold numbers of GOP candidates will see it as essential to the practice of Trumpist politics that they vow to actively subvert legitimate election losses by any means necessary."

So watch today's California recall election closely. It could represent an opening shot in the effort to cast doubt on any future elections that Republicans don't happen to win.

And that's your Reality Check.

KEILAR: And such an important one, John. I think we see what happens when people don't believe in the legitimacy or the outcome of an election. They start to believe they are justified in trying or actually overturning it. John Avlon with our reality check today, thank you.

The annual Met Gala was held in New York, and on fashion's biggest night Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took the opportunity to make a statement. She was sporting a white gown that read on the back, "tax the rich." And this outfit has drawn mixed reactions from the public for promoting the message at an event that cost more than $30,000 per ticket.

Joining me now is the woman who designed the gown, Aurora James. She is the founder and creative director of Brother Vellies. Aurora, thank you so much. And we got to see you there as well on the red carpet standing by your creation there. I wonder, first things first, can you just tell us the backstory of how you came to design this?

AURORA JAMES, STYLED REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ FOR MET GALA: Yes, of course. So, when it came to dressing the congresswoman for this event, I wanted to make something really special for her, and ultimately --

KEILAR: Can I backpedal? How -- do you know her? How did it come to be that you got picked to do this?

JAMES: Well, I think we've both been familiar with each other's work for a little while. I started my business here in New York with $3,500 at the flea market. And when she was still bartending, she was following my work, and she was so excited when I won something called the CFDA vote fashion fund. Just being a working class girl and immigrant here in New York launching a fashion brand, it's pretty unheard of to make it in the upper echelons of luxury fashion. And she really followed my career, and we decided to collaborate on this look.

KEILAR: OK, so, then, you're collaborating on the look, and tell us how you conceive of this design.


JAMES: Well, the Met Gala obviously is one of the most exclusive events in the world, and we wanted to come and deliver a message. And I think when we talk about inclusion and gaining access to closed rooms for people of color, when you finally get a seat at the table, you have to decide what the message is that you want to deliver. And I think for the congresswoman, I think for myself, economic equality and economic justice was sort of top of mind. And "tax the rich" was really what we settled on.

KEILAR: So there's a lot of rich people at this event. It's incredibly expensive to attend. It is incredibly exclusive, and there are folks, especially on the right, who are criticizing the congresswoman, saying she's making this message, but this is some hoity-toity event that costs upwards of $30,000 a ticket. What has your message been to the backlash?

JAMES: I think ultimately, a lot of these conversations that we have about economic justice usually happen in spaces with working class people. And I think the congresswoman is not going to ever sacrifice her morals for comfort. And she wanted to make sure that this message was brought into that room and into a group of people who ultimately have to be willing to be more liberal with their economic values as well. And I think that's what we've done.

And to be honest with you, she wouldn't have attended and just worn a pretty gown without delivering any kind of message to people. And fashion is often thought of as this really frivolous thing. But ultimately in my brand and for a lot of other designers, we use it as a really powerful tool for communication, especially women of color. I have been a sustainable designer since I started in 2013. I also used my company to launch one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in America right now, the 15 percent pledge. And it's really about taking the access that you have and sharing a message. And I think that that's what she's done. And ultimately, the more we can put out these ideas into popular culture, politics will also follow that.

KEILAR: Can I ask you real quick, how much did the dress cost, and are you getting this dress back?

JAMES: Yes. So, the dress I made, and we created the whole thing right here in New York. I haven't calculated all of our costs yet, but we used a lot of salvaged materials, which is really amazing and important to me just because sustainability is at the forefront of everything that I do. And I loaned it to her for the night. I think it's a super special piece. And we created a really powerful message there.

KEILAR: You have caught a lot of eyeballs and a lot of attention certainly in putting this dress out there. Aurora James, thank you so much for being with us.

JAMES: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: You can't really wear a dress like that again, I don't think.

KEILAR: No, I think people would know. You don't want to repeat. It's like wearing a wedding dress in a way. Not going to wear it again.

BERMAN: It's hard to wear it again. For more on this I want to bring in CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp. S.E., I want to stipulate that the Met Gala is my personal hell. The idea of dressing up with hoity-toity people, as Brianna says, after 9:00 p.m., I can't think of anything worse. The question about this dress is, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is it somehow hypocritical for her going to this clearly elitist thing, even delivering that message?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that it's hypocritical per se. And I've defended AOC on her $300 haircuts. And I'm really trying to see this not as a partisan. I do think the message is confused, though. It looks a little like she wanted to have her cake and eat it, too. She wanted to go to the very elite, I think very cool event that in many ways celebrates art, but also celebrates excess. And she wanted to wear an expensive custom designer gown, which she did. She wanted to have her hair and makeup done by celebrity stylists, which she did. She wanted to get ready at the Carlisle Hotel, a very nice ritzy, glitzy hotel in New York, and she did. And she wanted to rub elbows with celebrities, which she did, all the while hoping to draw attention to a message that -- are we talking about economic inequality today or are we talking about the stunt?

And so I'm not sure how successful it was. I do like that she's promoting a sustainable designer, a designer who cares about putting black products on shelves. I love Brother Vellies accessories and shoes. They are very expensive, though. They're $700 shoes and $1,600 bags.


They're gorgeous. I hope Aurora James has a huge boost in sales from this.

I'm just not sure we've tackled economic inequality with this stunt.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I think that's a very interesting question. What are we talking about?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, thank you to S.E. for putting this --

KEILAR: I've been trying to figure out how to think about this. On one hand, like you said, it is an expensive brand. On the other hand, if you look at the website, she is a black creator in a largely white space promoting black models, you know, I mean, she's doing a lot --

CUPP: Yeah.

KEILAR: -- to advance, you know, what she does in a place where people of color so often shut out or under represented.

CUPP: And I love her stuff. Just as a consumer. I love her stuff. So, again, I hope she does well. I'm assuming the intention was right, but I'm not sure the execution got the message across.

KEILAR: Yeah, it is maybe confusing here. I also want to ask you about something that we're learning from an upcoming book by Stephanie Grisham, former top aide to the White House. Fair to say this is a juicy, juicy book.

One of the details we learned of is Melania Trump was asleep on election night. That she had to be woken up for then president Trump's concession speech.

BERMAN: It wasn't a concession speech.

KEILAR: Non-concession speech. That's weird, S.E., weird.

CUPP: I don't know. I imagine I would have wanted to sleep through a lot of that administration and my marriage to Donald Trump. I'm sure she, you know, had a headache a lot of nights. I'm not all that surprised, honestly. She was not very engaged and I don't know how to read that. I'm not going to put her on the couch.

KEILAR: Come on, S.E.

CUPP: Was she confident he was going to win or she knew he wasn't? I don't know. But Melania is such an interesting mystery wrapped in a riddle in an enigma, right? She's just very hard to unfold. But the sleeping through part, I get, I completely get.

KEILAR: There's disengaged and then there's asleep. They're two different --

CUPP: I would have retreat today my bedroom, too, and said, wake me when it's over. I'm sure it was a lot for her, you know, just all of the ups and downs and the craziness. I'm sure it was a lot.

I can completely relate to her not wanting to be in the office with him, stand by his side, ready to go on camera. I would have wanted to go to my room, too, and said, call me when it's over. Wake me when it's over.

KEILAR: Wake me up when November ends.

BERMAN: I know --

CUPP: Exactly.

KEILAR: I can put a twist on it, yes.

BERMAN: S.E., there's a lot that of discussion that was like, you know, over my head a little bit, but not really. But thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: Were you asleep?

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

CUPP: Did you have a headache?

BERMAN: Coming up, a White House committee says new evidence shows one of Trump's top advisers failed to heed crucial warnings at the start of the pandemic. Congressman Jim Clyburn joins us on what the House probe uncovered.

KEILAR: Plus, after 18 dark months, Broadway is back. See the biggest shows raising the curtains and welcoming back audiences.



BERMAN: So, just in to CNN, a House subcommittee investigating the federal response to the pandemic says there is new evidence that former Trump officials failed to heed crucial warnings.

Joining me now is Democratic majority whip and chair of the House Select Committee on the coronavirus crisis, Congressman Jim Clyburn.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

Your select committee, what new information has come to light?

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me.

Well, you may recall when we all got started on trying to combat this virus, certain requests went out for personal protection equipment, PPEs, as we commonly call them. And we seem to feel from the information that we have received that Mr. Navarro, Peter Navarro who was a special assistant to the president, tend to be steering the procurement toward certain companies. And it seemed to be done without any kind of competition and we would like to get to the bottom of that.

So, we have sent him a letter, hopefully he will respond. And we also have discovered that there seemed to be some public business being transacted over private emails, which in and of itself may not be illegal because you can cure such things by doing certain things, but did he do those things? We don't know, and so we are asking that they answer some questions, and hopefully, we will make a determination as to whether or not they were legal.

BERMAN: To find out two things. One is living through the last ten years, government business on private email can be problematic if the right procedures aren't followed through. And the other thing is, you know, I never would want to speak for Peter Navarro. We've had our fair share of rows on this show over some outrageous stances and things that he's said.

But in response to this charge about some of the procurement when this issue sort of bubbled to the surface in March, his basic response was, I'm cutting through red tape. I was cutting through as much red tape as I possibly could to get the help as quickly as I could. If that ultimately is his response to these questions, what would you say?


CLYBURN: I would say, let us see the tape. We'll determine whether or not it was red or some other color. And that's why we're asking these questions. We aren't making any conclusions here. We're just saying it is

possible that what you say may not be true. Just give us the information and let us decide what color the tape is.

BERMAN: Has he been cooperative at all with you?

CLYBURN: Well, we don't know. We just sent the letter today. In the past, he has been less than cooperative in other matters. Maybe now that he is no longer in the government, he will feel free to be more cooperative. At least we hope so. That remains to be seen.

BERMAN: Let me ask you about the current budget discussions now. This is the effort to pass the president and Democrats' $3.5 trillion over ten years spending plan. Joe Manchin has said he doesn't want to spend that much. He's looking at $1.5 trillion.

There are Democrats who say the $3.5 trillion is actually a floor in spending. They want more than that. You've suggested $3.5 trillion is a ceiling. Which is it?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, we got to that number that I don't like using, simply because if you go through the proposals, this is a resolution, what we would call section by section, account by account. Each committee has been asked to do their budget and not expand more than a certain number above the so-called debt and deficit.

And so, once these committees work through it, president (ph) of the agriculture committee has gotten $195 billion. They may mock up, and it's only $194 billion. It may be $196 billion. These are the things we don't know until we work on what it is we're trying to do.

And that's why I have been saying to people, we ought not be talking about these numbers. Let's talk about what needs to be done, and let's put forth our proposals to address those needs, and then let's look at what the number may or may not be, and then we can make some informed decision.

Right now, we are just talking about a number, and nobody is talking about what we're trying to do.

There are 12 states where low-income people have less health care, federal assisted health care coverage than millionaires do. That should not be. We need to do something about this coverage gap in these 12 states, and that's what we ought to be focused on.

And I really believe that an unusual number of those people are in West Virginia.

BERMAN: You're talking about Joe Manchin. He, of course, is the Senator from West Virginia.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you for being with us today. Appreciate it.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

Up next, why some scientists are for pouring cold water on the need for booster shots.

KEILAR: And John King joins us live on how Republicans are laying the groundwork for the big lie in tonight's California recall election.