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New Day

D.C on Alert for Right-Wing Rally Defending the Insurrectionists; United Airlines Mandates All Employees to be Vaccinated; Pennsylvania GOP to Subpoena Personal Info of Voters. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2021 - 07:00   ET



CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This one not going to be a problem for us, but this has a long run in some very warm water. We'll keep an eye on that for you.

New Day continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It's Thursday, September 16th.

The nation's Capitol on high alert this morning ahead of Saturday's justice for J6 protests, where demonstrators plan to demand what they call justice for those arrested in the deadly January 6th insurrection. Again, this is a rally in support of alleged insurrectionists.

Capitol Police have requested the National Guard be on standby. Protective fencing outside the Capitol began to be reinstalled overnight. We got just an inside look on what's going on the streets from our Shimon Prokupecz. Police are preparing with the possibility that protesters may arrive with weapons.

Now, it's unclear how large this rally will be but security officials say they want to avoid the mistakes on January 6th when officers were unprepared and overwhelmed by the siege that was really filled with President Trump supporters.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Even the transportation security administration is ramping up security. The agency says that it is monitoring and positioned to deploy in response to any issues that might prop up in the D.C. area.

We begin our coverage of this with CNN's Pete Muntean who is live for us at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with more. This is really a testament to just how widespread they're trying to make of the safety net, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. And the TSA says it's always on high alert. But you will see more law enforcement officers and canines than usual at airports leading up to this justice for J6 rally.

What is so interesting is that this is similar to the position the agency took leading up to the original January 6th attack on the Capitol. The agency actually ramped up security measures here at Reagan National Airport, also at Dulles and at BWI. In a statement, the TSA says it recognizes this is as a period of high awareness and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in the D.C. region to address security posture for the weekend.

Remember, January 6th shifted aviation security everywhere. That is when the federal government adopted zero tolerance policy for unruly passengers on board planes. That's when problem really started to bubble up. There have been 4,000 reports by flight crew since and the TSA administrator tells me in an exclusive interview this remains a concern for him and the entire agency.


DAVID PEKOSKE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: It's a big concern of mine. I know it's a big concern of every traveler out there. Nobody wants to be at 30,000-plus feet and have somebody create an in-flight disturbance.


MUNTEAN: Now, airlines say they are looking at this. American Airlines says it's monitoring the situation. Remember, it stopped alcohol service on D.C.-bound flights just after the January 6th rally and it moved flight crews from their hotel rooms in downtown D.C. to other locations, it said it is still monitoring this as this develops. Brianna, John?

KEILAR: All right. Pete Muntean live for us at Reagan Airport., thank you.

BERMAN: So, what are the factors driving this demonstration? I want to show you something, some poll numbers that really should sear your eyeballs. 78 percent of Republicans say that Joe Biden did not win the presidency. 78 percent say they did not -- he did not have enough votes to win the presidency. 54 percent believe there is solid evidence of that. There's not. So, 54 percent of Republicans believe there's evidence that doesn't exist and 78 percent believe something that's not true.

Joining us now, CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon and CNN Political Analyst and V.P. of Digital Content and Senior Correspondent for The Grio, Natasha Alford.

John, again, the reason I say that should sear your eyeballs, it's 78 percent of one of the two major political parties in America who simply believe something that's not true.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. There's a word for that, delusional. And here is the deal. It's Donald Trump's fault. Look at how Donald Trump has distorted the judgment, the character of one political party so quickly simply by repeating the big lie, amplified by hyper partisan media and social media. It has gotten in the water. The rot is real deep right now, where 54 percent of Republicans say they think there's evidence, when 60 court cases show there is, in fact, none.

The other thing I thought was really interesting other than the overwhelming conclusions of this CNN poll, which is that democracy is in deep trouble right now in America, is how actually the vast majority of unvaccinated, as well as white and non-college educated voters buy into this B.S.

KEILAR: What are the dangers, Natasha, of this?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Democracy is at stake. I mean, it's pretty terrifying when you think about the fact that evidence and facts don't carry weight anymore.


And when I think about how we got to this place, there was so much theater around investigating, quote/unquote, this big lie that the investigation affirmed the doubt regardless of what the actual results of the investigations were. And we know that every single investigation showed that there was not voter fraud. There was not election fraud.

And so the danger here is that folks continue to live in alternate and personal realities of their own and that plays out at the polls and it also justifies attacks on voting rights when we see these state-led efforts to change the results of the elections and that's dangerous for our country.

BERMAN: It is dangerous. Look, we don't know how big this rally will be on Saturday. Let's hope it's small and let's hope it's nonviolent. Hopefully, the idea that they're preparing now for it in ways that they didn't prepare on January 6th will keep it that way, but it really is. Those people are there because they believe something that's not true, a threat to democracy as both you say.

Look, I want to go back to that period again because there's something else that has come to light the last few days with this new book, Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley made phone calls to China and other places because he was worried about the president's mental state. The president's chief military adviser concerned about his mental state.

I'll read you one quote from him and then I'm going to show you he wasn't alone. Milley was certain that Trump had gone into serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election with Trump manic screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about the endless election conspiracies and apparently not exactly alone, John, because inside this book, Peril, there are other quotes. CIA Director Gina Haspel saying the president was like a six-year-old with a tantrum. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he's in a very dark place. Attorney General Bill Barr, they just think you're an f'ing A- hole. No I'm not sure what that speaks to.

AVLON: One day it will be written in stone on a monument somewhere, John.

BERMAN: Exactly.

AVLON: It's obviously serious and not funny because you're talking someone who has the nuclear codes, someone who is in the Oval Office trying to overturn an election who the people closest to him were questioning his mental stability and his -- how tethered he was to reality let alone the Constitution.

And that's kind of mission critical here. And the problem is there's a consensus view in the books and the memoirs and the articles and interviews that have happened among ex-White House staffers under Trump. The man was over his head, overwhelmed and unhinged more than not.

KEILAR: And, Natasha, he was being protected. I mean, even as you saw that there were concerns from Milley and others, they were trying to cover for what they saw as Milley saw a decline in the mental state of the president. This isn't something that was being spoken about publicly by these people who had these concerns. What do you think about that? Was that just a calculation for the best way to protect the country or is that something that the American public should have known?

ALFORD: Well, I think regardless of what Trump loyalists were trying to do to cover it up, the evidence was leaking through, right? Trump was throwing a tantrum. As a parent, we have plenty of examples of that. And it was obvious every single moment.

But I think that many of these folks who were covering for Trump, they kind of knew what they signed up for, right? This was year after year of bucking the norm and undermining the sort of social agreement that we have around how a president behaves and how you actually wield power.

And so, I'm not sure if they actually did anything that was really beneficial for the country in terms of standing by him then and even trying to cover up for him when he was having this sort of breakdown. But I just want to make another point and that Donald Trump always uses these moments to deflect and sort of attack Joe Biden and his mental fitness. And it really, again, is just an example of the ways in which he was trying to hold on to the power no matter what it took.

BERMAN: You want to do a deep tease right now?

AVLON: Wait around for a Reality Check in just around an hour, Natasha, for a direct comparison of that dynamic.

BERMAN: And I will also say, all of us have kids who have tantrums, none of our kids as far, as I know, have the nuclear codes, which is what makes this -- I know the tendency is to laugh at it but it's just so not funny when the director of the CIA says like a six-year-old with a tantrum, again, you know, your six-year-old throws forks and spaghetti.

[07:10:00] This was a guy with the nuclear codes. It's serious, serious stuff. John and Natasha --

ALFORD: And, unfortunately, that rage is celebrated. The rage and the mania is exactly why his followers love him.

AVLON: They think it's strong leadership. In fact, it's unhinged leadership. That's right.

BERMAN: Thank you both very much.

KEILAR: United Airlines employees in the U.S. have until September 27th to either get vaccinated or to apply for a religious exemption, perhaps medical exemption. While some airlines are requiring employees to be vaccinated, there are questions about whether passengers should be too.

Joining us now to talk about this is the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby. Thank you so much for being with us.

And, look, first things first here, can you just tell us how many of your staff, including folks who are on the airplanes and including folks who are at the counter talking to passengers are vaccinated a in the point?

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: So, we had a real increase because our deadline is now September 27th and our management ranks are about 95 percent vaccinated and where almost 90 percent of the whole company is fully vaccinated.

KEILAR: So, September 27th is the deadline to be fully vaccinated, which means you're waiting for it to kick in. You need to have gotten the shots already, right? And then if you have an exemption, what happens there? It's delayed this requirement?

KIRBY: Yes. So, for all of our customer-facing employees, so a pilot, a flight attendant, gate agent, even that a customer would interact with, for those exemptions we're going to work to find some other places for people to work. But, alternatively, they're going to go on temporary leave on September 28th until we get to a point where we think COVID is enough, that it's safe for them to be back in the workforce. It will be a small number of people but they won't be in front of customers after September 27th.

KEILAR: It's an interesting approach because you're saying hey, you may have an exemption, but that doesn't mean it's safe for you to be around customers. We're going to shelve you until we think that it is safe.

Dr. Fauci says that he's in favor of mandating. How do you respond to that? How do you think about these mandates? Are these inevitable that passengers will be mandated?

KIRBY: Well, I've also heard others in the administration just yesterday talking about mandates for travel or other areas like that. And I think they have a good point, which is the most efficient way to get everyone vaccinated in the country, which we need to do, is really through the employer mandates. That's why the Biden administration's rule on requiring employers over 100 people to get everyone to be vaccinated, I think, is probably the most efficient way as opposed to creating friction in airports and subways and friction across the board. And that's the most efficient way to do it. We'll follow whatever the government tells us to do, but that's probably the most efficient way to get a high percentage of this country vaccinated.

KEILAR: Passenger mandates, do you want -- are you going to say, we need to have a passenger mandate, or is that something you can't do as a company?

KIRBY: Well, we're not going to do it on our own. We would follow a government directive.

KEILAR: Would you support a government directive?

KIRBY: We'll certainly implement it if they do it.

KEILAR: Can I ask you, why do you -- why are you in a position where you can't say -- I mean, look, it just makes sense for people to be vaccinated but you and others are reticent to say, hey, we think passengers should be vaccinated. Why?

KIRBY: Well, I think, absolutely, it makes sense for people to be vaccinated. That's why United was one of the first big brands to require employee to be vaccinated but I just think that's a more efficient way to do it, just like the administration say yesterday. All the employers in the country, everyone has to get vaccinated to be employed in the country, then we're going to get everyone vaccinated, as opposed to creating a huge infrastructure where every time you go through a checkpoint at security or anywhere in the world that you're trying to prove you've been vaccinated. If everyone gets vaccinated through work, we'll get the whole country vaccinated. That just feels like a more efficient approach but that's certainly what the administration wants to do for now.

KEILAR: Look, there's millions and millions and millions of people who don't work for big companies who aren't going to fall under these employer mandates. If passengers, if you had to be vaccinated to travel on a United flight or any flight, do you think that air travel would rebound more?

KIRBY: I think we need to get the whole country and the world vaccinated for air travel to rebound. I don't think that air travel on its own will drive a huge increase in vaccination rates. I think this employer mandate is going to drive a really big increase in vaccination rates. And we'll see where we are. We'll have better data, we'll have better science for the whole country.

I'm not the expert to make the decision. But Dr. Fauci, the CDC and all the people in the administration are really getting all the data to look at this and see how the vaccination rates across the whole country are going, where we are in terms of cases, where we are in terms of severity and they'll be qualified to make that decision. You have 5 percent of your management employees still unvaccinated, 10 percent of your frontline employees still unvaccinated. You said that there's a small number of religious and medical exemptions. Is that what we're looking at 5 percent and 10 percent respectively?

KIRBY: No. The exemptions are smaller than that. A lot of the remaining 5 and 10 percent are still vaccinated. They just haven't uploaded their data.


They're waiting until they end uploading.

KEILAR: Have you had resignations with the mandate?

KIRBY: We had a handful. But --

KEILAR: So, really, just like single digits?

KIRBY: The ones I'm aware of are in single digit number of people. We're going to have more by the time it finishes, but it's going to be a very low number of people that ultimately choose to leave.

KEILAR: There is a bit of a racket running for people who were trying to get religious and medical exemptions, all right? I know you're going to be reviewing them to see if they pass muster. But this is where you get into the gray area. How do you handle those?

KIRBY: Yes. It's hard. Medical, we're really good at. We have a really good process because we have all -- especially at an airline --

KEILAR: You have a doctor to review it? Yes.

KIRBY: We have all kinds of processes in place and infrastructure around medical. Religious is new. And what we have really done, there's some that you can read and tell this is not real. So, we've denied some. But most of them we're accepting. But what we said to employees is if you're a gate agent, for example, you're not going to be able to come to work until COVID is over. And the accommodation is, you're going to keep your job, you're going to get to come back and keep your seniority. When this is all over, you come back.

KEILAR: But you pay them in the meantime, right?

KIRBY: No, it's unpaid.

KEILAR: You don't pay them. Okay, that's key. Okay. Let's talk what I like to call, I'm sure you don't call them this, jerks on planes. We have seen a lot of videos. That's just probably the tip of the iceberg. What do you say to passengers who are becoming unruly on planes, especially here in the era of COVID when it comes to masks?

KIRBY: Yes. Well, I heard some of the -- earlier today, you talked about it. We have seen a lot of reporting on that. The truth is, at United Airlines, we haven't had the kinds of issues that have happened on some other airlines. We haven't had zero, but our mask incidents are down 50 percent compared to where they were at the start of the year.

It's really a testament to our flight attendants. They have done an amazing job. We've given them the tools. We've asked them not to have to be policemen. We give a customer card that refuses to wear a mask and say you're just going to be banned from flying United Airlines if you don't put it on, but not put the flight attendant in a position to fight with them. And that's helped deescalate things. And our flight attendants have done a great job. They have been incredible professionals.

So, we really haven't had the same kinds of issues that have happened in some places. But, really, it's a testament to our flight attendants. We worked closely with the union to develop the procedures.

KEILAR: These passengers always respond well to that little card?

KIRBY: No. And we had to ban almost 1,000 customers since we've gone through the pandemic. But that's a lot better to just -- if you've got a problem, customer -- there's not many. It's a tiny, tiny percent. But if somebody is causing a problem, get the airplane back on the ground and then just don't have them fly until COVID is over.

KEILAR: Scott Kirby with United, thank you so much for being with us.

KIRBY: Thank you.

BERMAN: I have to say, interesting to hear the CEO of a major American company with such strong support for the vaccine requirements suggested by Joe Biden. He thinks that is the answer to get through this. I also have to say, the fact that he says at this point single digit resignations, really almost no one so far, he says, has resigned. He thinks that number will go up, but really shows how effective these vaccine requirements can be.

KEILAR: It's so simple though. Good business means less COVID. How do you get less COVID? You mask, you have vaccines, you require people to have vaccines. It's very simple especially for people who are arguing that this is what the economy needs to reopen.

KEILAR: All right. China now blasting a move by the United States and the United Kingdom to help Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines over the next 18 months. The deal is upsetting one of the U.S. top allies in Europe as well as sparking tensions between Australia and New Zealand.

Cyril Vanier is in Paris tracking the latest developments. Cyril, I don't want to lose sight of the important thing here. This is a major shift in U.S. policy in the Pacific and is really designed as a countermove to the rise of China in the region, giving Australia technology for these nuclear subs. This is a huge change.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And the problem from the French point of view is that France has just become the collateral damage of that change and the anger, the fury, I would even say, is being expressed at the highest levels of state. Listen to the French foreign minister on radio this morning.


JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: It is really to put it plainly a stab in the back. We have built a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed. And today, I'm angry with plenty of bitterness regarding this break. This is not done between allies.


VANIER: So, rewind this story five years ago. The French government had a deal with Australia to provide 12 conventional submarines, and that was going to tie the two countries together for half a century. It was called here in the French press the contract of the century, major move by France.

Now, this foreign policy priority has been set at the White House under the Biden presidency that the U.S. wants to aggressively contain China, including in the Indo-Pacific region, of course.


And it appears the White House has decided that to do that, a major opponent of that strategy was equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which are faster and can go undetected longer and, you know, French efforts in that field be damned.

So, effectively, the French deal is now dead because of this U.S.- foreign policy priority. The lesson for France here, John, it's not the first time they have to learn this the hard way, is that where Washington considers its strategic interests are concerned, France cannot expect any favors, not even a heads up, John, from its American ally.

BERMAN: Cyril Vanier, thank you very much for that.

Coming up, Republicans in one swing state stepping up their pursuit of the big lie, now targeting individual voter records.

KEILAR: Plus, CNN confronts a chiropractor who some parents accuse of helping get around school mask rules.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to ask you about the exemption forms that you're signing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made our statement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, why won't you talk to us about it?



KEILAR: Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania have voted to subpoena millions of voters' personal information and voting histories in an apparent attempt to re-litigate the 2020 presidential election. This has to do with two past election dates, the primary and the general. Democrats are slamming it as another step to undermine democracy. And CNN's Sara Murray is with us now on this story.

It's pretty stunning what they're trying to get all of this information.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is kind of amazing when you think there are seven Republicans on this committee and essentially what they voted to do is they voted to subpoena the Pennsylvania Department of State not just for everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election but for the roughly 9 million registered voters in the state of Pennsylvania. They want information including the names, the addresses, the driver's license numbers, the last four numbers of these people's social security number, as well as when they most recently voted.

This is a lot of personal identifying information that you are handing over to these Republicans. They say they want to use this to do a post-election audit, but they haven't chosen the vendor yet to do that. When the top Republican, Cris Dush, the senator who is leading this effort was asked, you know, can you tell us how much this would cost? He couldn't say. When he was asked to reassure the Democrats, are you going to choose a firm that's not connected to Sidney Powell, Trump's former lawyer? He couldn't assure them that he would do that. They said, can you at least assure us you're going to choose a firm that is not related to any of these previous presidential candidates, anyone who ran last November? He couldn't assure them of that either.

So, essentially, what they're trying to do is they're trying to get personal information for millions and millions of voters and they're just saying, trust us, we're going to keep this safe and secure.

KEILAR: The governor in this case is one of the many people who's up in arms about what's happening. But what are opponents of this actually doing?

MURRAY: Right. I mean, Democrats, as you would imagine in Pennsylvania, are livid about this. They think there's no reason to do another post-election audit. They think this is a huge security concern. So, we heard from the governor yesterday saying he's opposed to this. He's going to do everything he can to stop it. But, so far, it's not clear what action they're actually going to be able to take. We don't know if the Pennsylvania Department of State is going to comply with this subpoena. We don't know what they might try to challenge it. The governor might try to challenge it.

We do know Democrats in the Pennsylvania senate are planning to file a lawsuit later this week. So we'll see how that plays out.

KEILAR: It does seem like an intrusion when you're looking at all the data.

MURRAY: It's a lot of information.

KEILAR: Yes. Sara Murray, thanks for the report.

BERMAN: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania Brendan Boyle. Congressman, thank you for being with us. Your reaction to this move?

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Well, it's completely outrageous. It's obviously furthering the big lie that inspired the attack on the Capitol on January 6th that is further inspiring this apparent rally that will be here this weekend. Literally, I just went by the rather depressing site of fencing back up at the U.S. Capitol.

It's sad and pathetic that Republican leaders in Harrisburg have given in to advancing the big lie. And it is a further reminder that Donald Trump might be ex-president, but he is still, without a doubt, the leader of the Republican Party and so few Republicans here in Washington or in Pennsylvania are willing to stand up to him about the big lie.

BERMAN: You're drawing a direct connection between the violence that we saw on January 6th and this type of audit in quotation marks?

BOYLE: Oh, yes. No, there's no question about that. There is a straight line. Because the 800 to 1,000 or so people who came here on January 6th and perpetrated the first attack on the U.S. Capitol in more than two centuries were doing so because many of them were genuinely convinced that Donald Trump had been somehow cheated out of the election, even though Joe Biden, of course, got 7 million more votes and more than 300 electoral votes and won the commonwealth of Pennsylvania by tens of thousands of votes.

So there is no question that it's not just the physical actions of those who were here on January 6th but also complicit in that is all those who have inspired them.

BERMAN: There was a statement that was made by State Senator Cris Dush that I think gets to this point. He said there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist. Again, we're not responding to proven allegations, he said. We're investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they're factual. Well, who is making these allegations, right? They are. There is this cyclical insanity here. This is Russell's teapot, the British philosopher who said, if someone says if there's a teapot rotating around the sun or the Earth, it's not our job to investigate that ridiculous claim --