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DHS Warns of Potential Violence Tonight, Tomorrow Before Rally; Soon, FDA Debates, Decides Need for Americans to Get Boosters; Biden Warns Economy at Inflection Point as He Pushes Agenda. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 07:00   ET




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 Friday, September 17th.

The nation's Capitol on high alert this morning, bracing for the rally in support of the January 6th insurrectionists. A new memo from homeland security warns about the potential for violence as soon as today.

We're seeing the impact of that violence and the threat of violence this morning. Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, one of just ten House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump, announced he will not seek another term. He says one of his concerns has been the physical threats to him and his family. He calls the former president a cancer for the country and now he's bowing out.

This shows in many ways how at every turn since January 6th those who have stood up to Trump in the Republican Party have been marginalized, left behind, pushed down. This isn't just about Gonzalez. As Maggie Haberman noted this morning, this is how Trump wins.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: As of this morning, no sitting member of Congress is expected to attend tomorrow's rally on Capitol Hill, but that hardly means that many of them don't support the cause. Despite more than 600 people currently facing federal charges related to January 6th, here is Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): The overwhelming number of people caught up in this, quote, unprecedented investigation, they're actually non- violent, peaceful Americans. Their only crime was supporting Donald Trump.


KEILAR: North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn pushing the rioters' defense narrative further, labeling them political hostages. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): We have 536 people who are being held in solitary confinement who are having their rights stripped away from them, not being capable of being able to have someone come to represent them. It's political hostages.


KEILAR: Echoing him, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who, for months, has taken up the cause of making baseless allegations regarding the treatment of Capitol riot detainees, saying in an email statement this week to The New York Times, quote, there's a two-track justice system in America and the treatment of the J6, as she calls them, political prisoners compared with violent antifa/BLM proves it.

Just how pervasive is this sentiment among Republicans on Capitol Hill? Well, Politico this week quoted one sitting GOP lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Quote, the majority of the Republican base feels that January 6th was justified. And because those people didn't have arms, they shouldn't be incarcerated right now.

So what most of the aforementioned lawmakers have in common, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election in support of one man, of course, Donald J. Trump. The former president rounding out the GOP show of solidarity with January 6 rioters this week, not missing an opportunity to promote the big lie, saying this in a statement, quote, our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly related to the January 6th protest concerning the rigged presidential election.

BERMAN: So, more on this, let's bring in CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, I want to tie this all together, right, this rally that Capitol Hill is bracing for tomorrow, the threat of violence and the fact that Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, one of ten Republicans to vote for impeachment, announced he will not run for re-election, Donald Trump with the statement overnight in support of the insurrectionists. So, in many ways, the leader of the Republican Party and Republican leadership, Kevin McCarthy, raising the insurrectionists up and pushing the people who stood against them, like Anthony Gonzalez, down. This is I think an important thing to acknowledge.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: For sure, John. And I think let's underscore the president, the former president, used the word persecuted in the statement. That is not what's going on here. They're being prosecuted because they have been charged with federal crimes and there's video evidence to prove it. If we're sticking with the facts of what happened on that day, there were people who used perhaps -- they didn't bring their own arms to the Capitol, but they used what they found there to beat Capitol police officers, so many of whom were injured, several of whom died as a result of what happened on that day. Let's not forget that. It just continues to be remarkable to me that the former president centers the people who did that to police officers instead of those law enforcement officials who were protecting both Democrats and Republicans whose lives were at risk inside that building on that day.


But, this is the big picture of what's going on inside the Republican Party, and has been over the course of the last four years. What you have seen is that -- and, frankly, as I have spoken to many Republicans, you know, the theme was always how, behind the scenes, everyone was horrified by what the former president was doing when he was in office, but none of them were willing to say it in public because they were going to face these kinds of threats and problems that Anthony Gonzalez, the congressman who is now stepping down, is pointing to as he says, look, I just simply can't do this anymore.

And so instead what happened was instead of this sort of ground swell from all of the elected Republicans who had concerns but weren't willing to say it, you had one person at a time step out, basically stick their neck out, say I can't put up with this anymore, and one by one have them either decide to retire because they didn't want to run a race that was going to be counter to their own values. Look at Jeff Flake. You could argue Bob Corker also made a similar decision there. Liz Cheney is actually really the only one right now who is saying, you know what, forget it, bring it on. I'm going to fight this fight.

You know, there are some critics of Republicans who were willing to vote for impeachment or willing to say something and then say, you know what, I'm not going to say anything else because I'm concerned about my family. They say, hey, this is why you got into this. You have got to be willing to take this criticism. But I think we really have to look inside ourselves as Americans and say, what kind of country is it where if you speak out politically and oppose someone that your family has to then be met by law enforcement officers to physically protect them from harm? I mean, that's the opposite of what the First Amendment and the way our Constitution was supposed to work.

KEILAR: You know, clearly the former president is stirring the pot here. So let's talk about what the conditions in the pot are. You have DHS warning of violence today and tomorrow, not just tomorrow also today. Capitol Hill Police officers, several of them, have actually sued insurrectionists. Capitol Police are worried that protesters are going to show up armed. And the fences have gone up. I mean, they have briefed leadership in Congress. There are huge concerns here and yet the president is still saying what he's saying, knowing what happened on January 6th. It doesn't seem like he cares if he incites violence.

HUNT: It doesn't. And remember, on January 6th itself, there were so many people trying to get him to call them off at the time.


HUNT: And he didn't do anything for hours. Eventually, there was a tweet, there was a video, but it wasn't enough in the view of a lot of people on that very day. And let's not forget, he was the one who sent those people there. And that's why this statement that he put out I think is significant because he is essentially sending another signal.

And, the other piece of this that I think is important, Brianna, is that I would draw a distinction between two groups that were there at the insurrection because there were quite a few people who followed what Donald Trump said who had come to the mall to rally, to support the former president when he was making that speech, and a lot of them got swept up in something that was clearly more aggressively planned among some of these groups, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, right? The ones who showed up with guns in their cars, with zip ties, dressed in tactical gear, and the forces combined together.

And I'm not trying to let the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol off the hook, I'm just saying that those dangerous elements are the ones that really listen to every single signal that the former president sends, right? They're the ones that hear the message that he is telling them to stand ready, for example, with something that happened earlier, stand by. It's those groups that hear that. And it's those groups we still don't know, for example, who set the pipe bombs at the RNC and DNC on January 6th.

And if it's those groups that are the most motivated, the ones that listen most closely to Donald Trump and the ones who are most inclined to violence, I think that shows you why today and tomorrow could be potentially difficult. You don't have that big rally crowd that the president was ginning up that did include a wider variety of Trump supporters than just his most extreme ones but at the same time, I think it's those people again who are potentially likely to be activated.

Now, the only other thing I would say too is that it is also possible that this turns out, and knock on wood, it's how it goes, not very much and this is law enforcement saying, okay, we're not going to make the same mistakes again. They know that they absolutely can't do that, but, of course, the risk is there. So here we are.

BERMAN: I will tell you even without showing up, the threat of it has had an impact. Just look at Anthony Gonzalez who is not running for re-election because of not just the threat of physical violence but also the political threats in peril here. Look at this. If you look at it, the goals of the insurrectionists, at least some of the goals from January 6th, they prevailed. 78 percent of Republicans think that Joe Biden didn't win the election. 78 percent of Republicans think that Joe Biden didn't win. So, you have that on one side.


On the other side, you have John Katko, Republican from New York, who tried to set up this bipartisan commission, that goes down, right? You have Liz Cheney lose her leadership post, so she's pushed out. You have people like Fred Upton, who has got a primary opponent endorsed by the former president. Now you have Anthony Gonzalez leaving.

Maggie Haberman wrote overnight, Kasie, and I want to know what you think about it, this is how Trump wins.

HUNT: I think it makes a lot of sense. I think my question has always been throughout all of this, and I think you can look at what happened in the 2020 presidential race as some evidence of this, is what happens to those people who are now pushed out of the party. If you read that interview that Anthony Gonzalez did with Jonathan Martin, who you guys, of course, started the show off with, it's clear he still wants to be involved in politics. He may not be comfortable as a Joe Biden Democrat.

But I do think there's a wider swath of people as this violence continues that need somewhere to go. They need a home. And if you look at how the 2020 election played out where you had Joe Biden winning the presidency, yes, narrowly but all of our elections are pretty narrow at this point, but he did win the popular vote in a convincing way, and then you compare that to what happened in the House and the Senate, where Democrats, frankly, were disappointed by the showing that they had there, they lost seats in the House, they didn't do as well in the Senate as they thought, that tells you that there is some room in there for people who are used to voting Republican but who just simply could not handle where Donald Trump was.

And I think the question is what happens to that group. Can they figure out how to stick together? Can they figure out how to build something beyond -- third parties are so frankly their pipe dreams in American politics, typically, that doesn't seem like a realistic thing. But on the other hand, again, these people while, yes, they are one at a time being pushed out, the ones who have the courage to speak up to try to do these things are being pushed out of what is now the Republican Party. I do think they need some place to go.

Now, of course, what effect does that have? It leaves simply the most extreme people in the party, which I think is the idea that Maggie is getting at, by saying this is how Trump wins. Because he's pushing everyone who doesn't support him out and people are afraid to take him on. And he did this in the primary in 2016. You saw him sort of take out one candidate after the other on the debate stage until he was the only person left standing. And it's hard to see how if he does decide to get in there is not a repeat of that. And I think, of course, the question then is going to be is he simply going to lose again? Is the same set of trends going to play out or not?

And I think there's not a ton of lessons to draw from the California recall results, I think, from a national perspective, but one of them is you can successfully, as a national Democrat, if you're a candidate with some strength, if you paint somebody like Trump, it's not necessarily going to go well for you. And the margins in California, I think, tell us that in some of the numbers coming out of places, like Orange County, where there are Republicans.

So, I think there's a lot to continue to pay attention to here, a lot of questions that we don't know. Remember, sometimes we all cover the last war instead of trying to look ahead. It is hard to figure out sometimes where these trends are going to go. But I think there are a lot of questions about how this small but growing group of people who have been thrown out of the current Republican Party, where they go and what happens next.

BERMAN: Kasie Hunt, great to see you. Thank you. HUNT: Great to be with you, guys. Thank you.

BERMAN: So, just a short time from now, the FDA will debate and decide whether Americans need booster shots. Pushback now getting louder.

KEILAR: Plus, where is Gabby Petito? He was last seen on a cross- country trip with her fiance who returned without her. But now, he's refusing to talk to police. Hear what her family is pleading for.



KEILAR: Big meeting here in Washington later today. FDA vaccine advisers are going to be meeting and they'll be discussing whether booster shots are needed for fully vaccinated Americans. It's a simple question, but it's one that has sometimes seemed to put the FDA's independence at odds with a White House team that is eager to appear to be out ahead of an unpredictable pandemic.

Joining us now is Dr. Jesse Goodman, he is the former FDA chief scientist and he is the director of the Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship at Georgetown University. Dr. Goodman, thank you so much for joining us on this key day, as I think there is a lot of confusions about boosters. Just first off, do you think they're needed?

DR. JESSE GOODMAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, I have an open mind about this. And I'm looking forward to the discussion. What I would say is that it's not surprising that we're talking about boosters because, virtually, every vaccine we have needs and uses a shot several months after the initial shot or shots to sort of cement and strengthen immunity. So, the question is less will we need a booster than do we need it now, what's the evidence, which is conflicting, and does everyone need it.

So I think there's going to be a lot of discussion around those issues. And I just hope because people have put some pretty strong positions out there that everybody listens to the evidence because we see new studies emerging everyday and makes the best possible decision. And I would say it's a decision we're going to have to keep tracking whatever the decision is because we learn new things about this virus every day.

KEILAR: Does the science tell us that booster shots would make breakthrough cases rarer?

GOODMAN: Well, the science suggests that in that these very short- term studies do show that it gives a good response in terms of making antibodies both against the original virus but also ones that can help neutralize delta.


So, I think that we don't have direct data on protection of boosters. There is some suggestive data from Israel, but it makes sense that they would help. And as I said, we do this for other vaccines.

The question is right now, again, you know, how much data are there to support that? The vaccines, and Americans must realize this, are still very, very protective right now against hospitalization and severe disease. So, no one should interpret this as thinking, oh, I shouldn't get vaccinated, it doesn't work. You really need to get vaccinated. It really helps protect you against severe disease. What we want to do is make sure things stay that way.

KEILAR: Dr. Fauci endorsed boosters before these meetings that we're going to see with the FDA and next week with the CDC. Was that a wise move?

GOODMAN: Well, I think everyone has their feeling and is entitled to express it. He has tremendous expertise. There's a public discussion going on and he's participating in that. What I do think was backwards and not helpful was that the White House made an announcement with a certain date before really all the data had come in, before FDA had had a chance to review it and before there was this public discussion that we're now going to have.

So, I think that's where we are. But now we need to have the best public discussion. And I think any number of decisions could be reasonable here. And it's just going to be really important to explain the evidence and the decisions to the American people.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, there are a lot of views going into this discussion on boosters. So, hopefully, we'll start to see what the consensus is. Dr. Goodman, thanks for being with us.

GOODMAN: My pleasure. Have a nice day.

KEILAR: Up next, President Biden's plan to tax rich people and big companies. How will that help the U.S. economy? The White House will join us live.

BERMAN: Plus, the Pennsylvania school district effectively banning books about equality and civil rights.



BERMAN: President Biden says the nation is at an inflection point when it comes to the economy. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The choice is this. Are we going to continue with an economy where the overwhelming share of the benefits go to big corporations and the very wealthy, or are we going to take this moment right now to set this country on a new path, one that invests in this nation, creates real sustained economic growth, and that benefits everyone, including working people and middle class folks. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining me now is Brian Deese, Director of the White House Economic Council. Brian, thanks so much for being with us.

To get what the president wants, and presumably what you want, you need 50 votes in the Senate, 50 Democratic votes. The president met with Joe Manchin yesterday and the reporting from Axios is that, as of now, he doesn't have Joe Manchin's vote for the $3.5 trillion economic plan that includes the tax equity you say you're looking for. How far apart are they?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, you never -- nothing is ever done until it's done. But here is what I would say. We have an approach that I think unifies our party and also unifies the American people, which is to invest in the country, to make long overdue changes that will help working people, will help grow the economy, will help lower costs for middle class families and to do so by also restoring some fairness to the tax code, all things that we've got broad agreement on.

Now, we're in the process, the legislative process, of working out and hammering out those details. Of course, there are going to be differences. Individual members of Congress are going to be weighing in. We've been in this process for some time. That's where we are. We're confident that we can move this forward and we're confident that we can get this done.

BERMAN: You said it's unifying the Democratic Party. Do you have news? Is Manchin on board and we just haven't heard?

DEESE: Look, this is a process and it's a process that involves bringing everybody together, listening to people's concerns, finding areas of compromise. That's what we've been doing since April when the president laid out this vision for the country and for the Congress. We've been working on this for several months. And, of course, people have different opinions. People have differences of views. That's the process.

And the president has been engaged in this from the get-go, having these conversations. We're going to keep those conversations private. But the truth of the matter is there's a lot more that unifies us than divides us, and that's what, in the end of the day, we're going to use to try to bring people together and get this done.

BERMAN: Can I throw out a business school term on you? What's your BATNA here, your best alternative to a negotiated agreement? If you can't get Manchin on board exactly, what's the fallback?

DEESE: Well, look, we're focused on success and we think we can do this here. We worked on an infrastructure bill over the course of the summer. If I had a nickel for every time people told me we weren't going to get that done, I would be a lot richer today. We're working on this project now. We think we can get that done.

And for all the focus on the areas where we still have outstanding disagreement, let me also point to all of the progress we made over the course of the last week. We have got a revenue title out of the Ways and Means Committee. We have both of the tax writing committees in both houses of Congress working on bringing tax reforms that are much needed to this country. We are making progress. We've just got to stay at it.

BERMAN: If you had all those nickels and got richer, you might get your taxes raised if the White House gets its way.


Who is getting a tax hike?

DEESE: Well, it's pretty simple.