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Top General Secretly Called China Over Fears Of Trump; WHO Says First Substantial Case Decline In More Than Two Months; McCarthy To Trump Before Biden's Inauguration: You're Not The Same. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 07:30   ET



GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY (via Cisco by Webex): So we don't know who Gen. Milley talked to when the author says he talked to a bunch of generals. Maybe that's further elaborated on in the book.

But when you're talking about launch procedures there are two types. There are two major types, and this is unclassified.

There's the launch procedure which says hey, there are inbound missiles from an enemy country. We have to respond right now. In that case, the president, the secretary of Defense, with chairman's advice, really talks about in a very short and limited period of time what they have to do.

There is the other type of potential exercise -- and this is practiced quite a bit -- where there is the potential for an enemy nation or a country about to launch a strike when you are talking about either a peremptory strike or the potential for countering a strike. That's the time when the chairman, as the primary military adviser, gets involved in discussing the kind of military actions and the legality of the act.

Now certainly, there has to be a requirement for a legal action of launching a device that could kill hundreds of thousands of people before you actually launch it. And I think that's what Gen. Milley -- in fact, I'm sure that's what Gen. Milley was saying. Let's get our procedures down. Let's make sure you're not taking any stray --


HERTLING: -- electrons from the White House. And let's make sure we've got our act together if something does happen.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, we have more to learn from this book, for sure, and I really appreciate you giving us your insight, Gen. Hertling. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I like you trying to get the nuclear codes --

HERTLING: A pleasure.

KEILAR: I was trying.

BERMAN: -- from Gen. Hertling, by the way.

KEILAR: He didn't give them up. Kudos to him.

BERMAN: You're like -- you're going to end up in trouble. It's like Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in "War Games." You're going to end up in custody.

KEILAR: I wish he's said, though, I could -- I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you. That would have been --

BERMAN: That wouldn't go well. We have an hour and a half left in the show.

KEILAR: That would have been -- it could happen.

All right. Still ahead, the moment that Trump told Pence do this or, quote, "I don't want to be your friend anymore," which I sometimes say to Berman but that's another story.

BERMAN: And next, who is not included in the NBA's new COVID vaccine plan.



BERMAN: Some good news to report on the coronavirus front this morning -- at least better news, right? The World Health Organization is reporting that there were nearly four million new cases across the world in the past week, which sounds like a lot and it is a lot, but it's the first substantial decline in weekly cases in more than two months.

Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, put these numbers in perspective for us.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you point out, it's the first time now in at least eight weeks that we've started to see some declines. We don't know if it's a trend yet. Everyone hopes that it is.

During that same time when you had about four million cases around the world, in the United States alone, we had close to 950,000. So we're still representing about 25 percent of the new cases in the world. But case numbers going down there as well.

Death rates also going down in the Americas overall -- nine percent down. Down in Southeast Asia, 20 percent. A little bit up in Africa, and flat in Europe.

So these are -- these are all the sorts of signs that the World Health Organization is sort of paying attention to, to try and get an idea of where we are. We've got to follow these lines a bit longer but it is encouraging, and as you point out, the first time we've had encouraging news.

There's also been this renewed effort -- an interest in really committing to the world's vaccination. We're probably going to hear from President Biden next week urging world leaders to commit to vaccinating 70 percent of the world by next year.

Now, you could see where we are now. Right now, in the -- in the world, it's about 30 percent -- 30.7 percent, I believe, of the world is vaccinated.

So we've got some work to do to get to that point but I think when you put it all together you realize that it is possible. Manufacturing has gone up. You see the vaccination rates overall in the world now, for the first time -- really, over the past few months -- rising above the United States, which means we probably need to be doing more vaccinating in the United States as well. But the world is slowly catching up.

KEILAR: All right, let's talk about the NBA. I think a lot of people are paying attention to this decision that players will not need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The thing is, staff and referees are required to. So why is there this double standard?

GUPTA: Well, cutting to the chase, I think this was a negotiation. I think scientific policy recommendations were that everyone get vaccinated, obviously, and most people are. Even if the mandates aren't in place, most people are. But I think this is a negotiation between the players unions and the leagues over this.

What is interesting is that it's exactly as you say. There's not mandates for the players. There is mandates for the surrounding personnel.

In two cities -- New York, where you are, and in San Francisco -- because of local ordinances, players who are playing home games will need to be vaccinated. Players who are visiting -- visiting players do not need to be vaccinated. So, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State -- those players will need to be vaccinated to play home games, but even visiting players will not.

So it's going to be a bit confusing. There's all these recommendations and certain mandates in place. There's going to have to be twice-a- week testing. There's going to be face masks when players are sitting on the bench. As I mentioned, in certain venues which may increase outside of just San Francisco and New York, there may be -- there may be mandatory vaccines for fans that are attending the games as well.


But that's sort of where we are right now -- sort of still figuring it out, I think.

BERMAN: Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for that. Nice to see you.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BERMAN: So, Senate purgatory. That is what a number of President Biden's key nominees are trapped in at this moment. And the senators trapping there -- trapping them there -- well, John Avlon with a reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: While California voters provided the answer to The Clash's iconic question should I stay or should I go, on behalf of Gov. Gavin Newsom, many Biden administration appointees are still left singing the Jimmy Cliff song, "Sitting in Limbo." That's because even with a Democratic president, House, and Senate, a massive number of Biden's appointees are being blocked by a handful of Republican senators.

Just yesterday, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a charter member of the Sedition Caucus, upped the ante with a temper tantrum, demanding the resignation of Biden's Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, and saying that he would stall any new civilian appointments in those departments.

But look, it's fine if you don't like the way America withdrew from Afghanistan -- many people don't -- but don't threaten to leave national security understaffed if you don't get what you want, especially when that same Sen. Hawley was tweeting back in April that President Biden should withdraw troops in Afghanistan by May first, as the Trump administration planned, and it's time for this forever war to end.

But look, hypocrisy is not going to bother the guy who railed against Trump's impeachment for inciting an insurrection, but who has already called on President Biden to resign for essentially implementing Trump's Afghanistan strategy.

Hyperpartisanship is a hell of a drug. It causes people to hobble the cause they swear they care about. Because if you really cared about national security you wouldn't be part of holding appointees hostage.

And get this. As of September 10th, only 26 percent of President Biden's nominees for Senate-confirmed national security posts were filled. That's according to an analysis by the Partnership for Public Service.

By comparison, before the terror attacks of 2001, 57 percent of President Bush's national security nominees had been confirmed. And that was considered a scandal at the time. It was a key criticism of the 9/11 Commission, finding that because a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice, we should minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations by accelerating the process for national security appointments. So much for applying the lessons of history.

Now, Hawley's tantrum builds on partisan obstruction from his fellow Sedition Caucus member, Sen. Ted Cruz, who put a hold on dozens of Biden nominees for the State Department this summer -- not because of their qualifications, but because he wanted Biden to impose sanctions on a Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline. Yes, it's absurd to hear Republicans say the Biden administration is giving Putin a gift after four years of Trump's refusal to ever criticize Russia on anything, but that's the kind of cynical memory hole politics we've come to expect. It's part of a pattern.

Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who also voted against certifying Biden's win, was so concerned about illegal border crossings that he threatened to put a hold on three Department of Homeland Security nominees this spring -- people who could have been helping to solve the problems sooner they'd gotten faster Senate approval.

The system just wasn't made for these hyperpartisan times and it's made worse by the fact that there are an unyielding (ph) 1,200-plus Senate-confirmed positions that need to be filled by an incoming administration. That's an increase of 59 percent since 1960, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

Now, they're tracking 801 of those positions and to date, the Biden administration has seen 130 of these confirmed by the Senate, while 218 are sitting in limbo waiting for confirmation. And another 223 haven't even received a nomination from the administration.

We've got too many challenges to face as a nation to have our federal government fighting with one hand tied behind its back. If senators have a problem with a specific nominee's qualifications, that's fine -- but the abuse of Senate holds to block whole slates of nominees is an obstruction obsession. And it's no surprise to find the prime culprits are members of the Sedition Caucus because this is just another attempt to stop the Biden administration from fully taking office.

And that's your reality check.

KEILAR: Yes -- and, Avlon, you look at some of these appointments that are being held up -- I mean, one is a top Pentagon official who works on Homeland Security.

And so, you have people like Josh Hawley who are criticizing the Biden administration. They're saying things like oh, Afghanistan is going to become a threat. But then, how do you take them seriously when they're not willing to put in place people that would actually mitigate a threat that they're saying they're sounding an alarm about?

AVLON: You don't because it's cynical, self-defeating, circular logic.

KEILAR: John Avlon --

BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much.

AVLON: Take care, guys.


BERMAN: Up next, what Donald Trump heard from Kevin McCarthy just before Joe Biden became president. KEILAR: And the lawyer now accused of trying to orchestrate his own murder.


BERMAN: So, in the new book "Peril" about the tumultuous final days of Donald Trump's presidency, we learn that in the aftermath of the January sixth attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Trump had another conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. And this time, it was the night before Biden's inauguration.

According to the book, McCarthy told Trump, "I don't know what's happened to you in the last two months. You're not the same as you were for the last four years. You've done good things and you want that to be your legacy. Call Joe Biden."


Let's discuss with CNN political commentators Amanda Carpenter and Mary Katharine Ham.

"I don't know what's happened to you the past two months," he says. It's like a breakup then. I mean, what's your takeaway there?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE BULWARK: Yes, I mean, I guess I just need to vent a little bit about this book. How many times have we seen this where bad things happen and then long after the fact, people with special, important information go to reporters and set up maybe the public or perhaps the impeachment committee with that information?

I mean, I don't think this Kevin McCarthy conversation necessarily raises to that bar. But certainly, what Gen. Milley had to say and was saying behind closed doors was relevant information that should have been disclosed to the impeachment committee. They would -- he is talking explicitly about concerns about the president's state of mind in those crucial final days.

And I'm not going to sit here and say that necessarily, his testimony would have moved Republican senators, but maybe it would have moved one or two. And that has important meaning because the impeachment proceedings could have barred President Trump from pursuing future office. It would have disqualified him and we wouldn't be in this continuing nightmare worried about Donald Trump's second term, which is a possibility because Joe Biden only won by 44,000 votes in three states.

KEILAR: You know, I --

CARPENTER: The Electoral College, not the popular vote, of course.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about -- both of you -- about another part in the book. You know the part.

He says -- Trump says, "If these people say you had the power, wouldn't you want to?" He's saying this to Pence and he's referring supporters outside the White House, right, who are making noise in support of Donald Trump.

Pence said, "I wouldn't want any one person to have that authority." Trump, "But wouldn't it be almost cool to have that power?" Pence said, "No, I've done everything I could and then some to find a way around this. It's simply not possible."

Trump, "No, no, no. You don't understand, Mike. You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this."

What do you think?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: I've been there in middle school. I've heard that thought.

No, I do want to agree with Amanda about the timing of when these bombshell books are published --


HAM: -- and we learn all this new stuff. This is a pattern in this town where you find out things after the fact that could have been useful earlier.

But moving it forward, I think this conversation is a perfect illustration. If you want to extricate yourself from the future of Trump as a party, leaders like Pence and McCarthy have to stop doing this humiliating dance with him, which I don't understand why people put up with. And he does -- he actually has a personality and does respect people standing up to him occasionally. So I would just do that more often.

CARPENTER: I mean, the problem isn't --

HAM: And by the way --

CARPENTER: -- that Donald Trump doesn't want to be his friend; McCarthy wants to be Donald Trump's friend --

HAM: Exactly.

CARPENTER: -- after all this.

HAM: And the other thing is, too, there -- Pence actually is cognizant that there are limits on power. Trump was not, right? He didn't -- he wasn't interested in what those were. He wasn't interested in how the Constitution divided that up.

Pence is, but he's trying to find workarounds. And then apparently, according to the book, talks to Dan Quayle, who is like not -- there's no workaround. Let's stop finding workarounds, which is the correct action here.

But, like, he doesn't want to be your friend. He never wanted to be your friend.

BERMAN: I mean, it's an out, right? Mike Pence could have said -- I'm sure Karen Pence --

HAM: They're like, cool.

BERMAN: -- would have said, like, Mike, why don't you say OK?

HAM: Stand up to peer pressure.


CARPENTER: Mike Pence did not need to consult Dan Quayle. It was obvious to anyone that Mike Pence did not have the power to overturn an election.

But this nonsense went on because people like Kevin McCarthy and all the rest said why don't we just let this play out? What is the harm in doing so? And the harm is that even Mike Pence entertained the possibility.

BERMAN: Look, if we can fast-forward past the book here -- and I think this is relevant to what you're bringing up right now.

Chris Christie gave a speech at the Reagan Library the other day where I think he was trying to separate himself from Trumpism. And the reason I say I think is because he never could manage to mention Donald Trump's name.

HAM: Right.

BERMAN: He couldn't say it out loud.

Now, I know, Amanda Carpenter, you take issue with some of this. I know it because you wrote about it and I'm going to do a dramatic reading from your own piece --

KEILAR: Go ahead.

BERMAN: -- right?

Christie's bogus blunt talk -- you're talking about an event Christie spoke at last week and he listed all the things Republicans need to do to move forward -- the party forward in a more positive direction. But you say there's a -- oh, that's the question. Where's the quote?

KEILAR: This is it, right here. If there --

CARPENTER: Oh, thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: Yes, got it.

BERMAN: "If there was anything positive to take from Christie's Reagan Library speech -- silver linings can be found in cesspools if you squint just the right way while the sun glints off feces -- it's the fact that someone who was so close to Trump is making the calculation -- at least for now, at least in the abstract -- that there's political advantage in appearing to distance the Republican Party from Trump and Trumpism." CARPENTER: I hope you didn't have breakfast.


KEILAR: That did catch me, I will tell you. I was like oh, did not see that coming.

CARPENTER: I mean, but it -- you know, I'm trying -- look, maybe I was giving him a chance. Like, he was so close to Trump. But obviously, he is a calculated political player and he's saying OK, I have some distance.

But I just -- I watched the speech and he had this long list of things that Republicans need to do, namely confronting this conspiratorial thinking that has infected the party -- but he couldn't name Trump.


And meanwhile, that same weekend, Donald Trump is pushing the rigged election conspiracy claims.

And so, Christie, if you want to sit in the ABC News studio and tell that on a panel, fine. But go take that message to Newsmax. Go try it out at Fox because I just -- I don't believe it.

And then when he's confronted about those claims that he made and his talking about the need for passionate engagement, he essentially throws up the hand and says I don't have to answer to you. Well, you have to answer to Republican voters like me who don't believe you.

BERMAN: Mary Katharine.

HAM: Yes. So, two things. I think he should acknowledge his part in this, and that is what -- that's how you sort of claw back being a credible messenger. But also, you do need different messengers for different kind of voters. And, Chris Christie might be that messenger with a segment of Republican voters who believes this, that finds him credible because he was close to Trump, right?

And so, explaining that and giving him a chance to do that is part of allowing people to stop doing the humiliating dance and attempting to be besties with Donald Trump. And so, if I see a little bit of that, I'm going to note exactly where you were during 2016, but I'm also going to let you talk to some folks who I'm hoping you might change their minds.

CARPENTER: Well, just noted, Chris Christie was there all the way through 2020. So I think a fair deal for every media appearance -- every media appearance --

HAM: Well, I just wanted to pre-date -- I just --

CARPENTER: -- Chris Christie made promoting Donald Trump, I want him to go and sit at the television camera and say he should be disqualified from future office.

HAM: I just --

CARPENTER: That would be fair.

HAM: -- like to pre-date my opposition so that people know where I was in 2020 (ph).

BERMAN: What about saying the name? I mean, Chris Christie is going to go -- you think he should say the name out loud?

HAM: Yes. I mean --


HAM: -- especially when people say -- especially when people say that Liz Cheney is the one that -- Liz Cheney can't give up this thing. Well, Trump can't give up this thing. So point that out. Say his name.

He's sending -- he's sending press releases. It's part of the story.

CARPENTER: Yes, I agree.

KEILAR: Amanda, Mary Katharine, thank you so much to both of you for a spirited discussion.

BERMAN: Nice to see you both.

KEILAR: Yes, it's lovely to have you in the studio.

BERMAN: It's a lot like "THE VIEW," isn't it?

KEILAR: We have some more on our breaking news. The results of the California recall election are in. We're going to break it down.

BERMAN: Plus, new details about the alleged white supremacist arrested near the Democratic National Committee, including what he told police.


KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, September 15th. I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman, and this is a very special edition of NEW DAY.

This morning, Gavin Newsom still the governor of California after crushing a Republican-led recall attempt. Newsom's tough coronavirus policies validated by the state's Democratic voters who said no to the recall by a nearly two-to-one margin.

The governor thanking his supporters and sounding a warning about attempts to undermine democracy.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: I think about just in the last few days and the former president --