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New Day

U.S on Verge of Economic Catastrophe as Congress Fights; Today, Biden Delivers First U.N. Speech as Standing Takes Hits; Fiance's Family Cancels News Conference at FBI's Request. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 07:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Things won't get better until people start drawing on more sources of information as they decide what they're going to accept and get out of these silos of misinformation.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Do you think this division is unsustainable, Natasha?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, it is unsustainable. But, Brianna, I do feel that it is something that's always been with us, right? I think of the civil war comparison, we had states that wanted to secede over slavery. It was essential to their economy. It was essential to their way of life. And we still have states that are talking about seceding. Political leaders, activists and surveys have been done of folks in some of these states who say they'd rather be divided by red and blue, right?

So, that talk has never really gone away. But I think when you see things like January 6th and these increasing domestic terrorist threats, right, you see that. Until we confront the truth of our past, then, yes, these crises will reemerge in new ways. And we just cannot afford to be divided in the way that we are when we're looking at things like climate change, where a hurricane does not care if you are Republican or a Democrat. It is coming to destroy your community and to impact the lives of those among us who are, you know, the least privileged and the most marginalized. So, this is a time for not only reflection but urgent action.

KEILAR: So, Michael, then what is the thing that could unite the country or at least, you know, soften the edges of the division?

SMERCONISH: You've heard me say this to both you and to John previously. Too much power, it rests now with the fringes. We've allowed people to command the use of too many microphones, when I believe there really is common agreement somewhere in the middle. Those who are left of center, right of center, but not on the far extremes, can, I think, agree on a basic prescription for the country if we stop surrendering to the loudest voices.

KEILAR: Look, it is essential to discuss where we are and what it means, and it is a great conversation to have jumping off of these comments by Ken Burns. Michael, Natasha, thanks to both of you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

KEILAR: And 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 is Tuesday, September 21st.

An auspicious day, the anniversary of the birth of Brianna Keilar, happy birthday to you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

BERMAN: But also an ignominious day, not because of you, as far as we know. It has to do with the United States moving ever so closer to default. The House is expected to vote today on a plan by Democrats that ties government funding to raising the debt ceiling. This is essentially a test to see if Republicans are willing to vote on the record to shut down the government rather than address the debt limit.

The debt limit here is really what could shape the economic foundations of the world. Republicans are saying they will not lift a finger to address the debt issue, which means, by next month, you could see the U.S. in default and in all out economic turmoil.

Congress has until the end of the month to pass a bill to keep the government up and running. And shortly after that, the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

KEILAR: So, this is how Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen puts it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. She says that lawmakers are risking widespread economic catastrophe if they don't raise the debt limit. Wall Street just suffered its worst day in months, and the damage could be worse, of course, if the vote fails, which is why we're watching it so carefully.

CNN's Christine Romans is joining us with a closer look at what's at stake. So much is at stake.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brianna, it's always a terrible time to play chicken with the debt limit, in a pandemic, especially dangerous. And a reminder, this is paying the bill for what Congress has already spent. America always pays its bills. In fact, the entire global financial system relies on the fact that the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt, something that would damage America's sterling credit and undermine the public health emergency we're in right now.

The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has been moving money around. She's keeping the bills paid but she is running out of wiggle room. This is not wonky Washington politics. It is real world. Without raising the debt ceiling, social security checks could stop for nearly 50 million seniors. Troops can't be paid. Critical monthly child tax credit payments could stop. And there is a real risk of a new crisis. Yellen warns defaulting on America's obligations could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Inaction, would make America a more expensive place to live, Yellen says, with borrowing costs spiking for millions of consumers.

Look, this is not about restraining future spending, as some Republicans would have you believe. This is paying the bills piled up already under both Republican and Democratic administrations.


This is money Congress has already spent and needs to borrow to pay for. Congress has raised its own credit card limit some, what, 80 times since 1960. So, this, you guys, has become a predictable, routine and self-inflicted crisis, and always dangerous, John.

KEILAR: Yes. And this is, you know -- look, you have a credit card. You at least pay the minimum balance. You don't do that, you know what happens to the rate on car loan, on your mortgage. There are real-life consequences, and this is an entire country. Christine, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

KEILAR: All right. So, let's bring in Kasie Hunt, CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst, to talk about what we're seeing happening in Congress. This is a move by Democrats that is essentially daring Republicans to vote no, to really send, you know -- this would be Congress creating sort of an economic crisis. But, really, this is about Democrats getting Republicans on the record.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's an extremely high-stakes game of chicken. It's about blame and trying to create a political situation where Republicans take blame for this, if, in fact, we get to this point. I just want to underscore that Democrats did help Republicans raise the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of Congress. It's been Republicans who really have used this as a leverage point, because a lot of Americans, as Christine so very clearly explained, hear this and think, oh, we're spending more money. We don't necessarily want that. When, as you succinctly pointed out, that is simply not necessarily the case.

So, Nancy Pelosi was asked yesterday on Capitol Hill, what is plan B? Republicans, Mitch McConnell, he's out there saying, no, we're not going to vote for this. They're just saying, well, I hope that they actually will do it, and it bears no evidence that that is the case. So, I think there are also a lot of questions about, okay, where are Democrats going next?

KEILAR: Yes. Part of this is, look, Mitch McConnell is saying, look, you want a big spending bill, I'm going to attack it to something people can connect to, right? And also you want to spend your time doing other stuff, like these dual infrastructure bills, I'm going to eat up some time with this stuff.

HUNT: Right. And I'm going to try to make it harder for you to actually execute on this big plan that I am opposed to. There are also some other smaller consequences for putting the debt limit in the reconciliation bill. I mean, one of them is Janet Yellen, the Fed chief, doesn't want to do it that way, just because of some legal questions. You don't want to let any additional questions into the full faith and credit of the United States of America. You want to do it through a proper process.

Democrats might also have to put a number on it in the context of this reconciliation package. And it also makes it harder, if you're Mitch McConnell, trying to win back the Senate. Obviously, Republicans think they're on track to win back the House. That's a vote Democrats have taken to raise the debt ceiling and spend all this money, that gives Republicans an economic argument they can think they can use in the midterms.

KEILAR: And then, you know, I want to ask you about some reporting that we're seeing from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book Peril, because they obtained a memo that was written by a Trump lawyer, John Eastman. And it outlines six steps for Mike Pence to overturn the election. Berman?

BERMAN: Yes. Let me point you to step number two, which is throw out the Electoral College votes of seven states, by alleging they have competing electorates, which, by the way, they didn't. Number four, in the face of howls from Democrats, if it doesn't work, if throwing out those seven states didn't work, just hand it over to the House of Representatives. And number six, do it without asking permission from Congress.

And, Kasie, when you think about this is this was written down. This was a blueprint written down by John Eastman, who was working as an adviser to President Trump. And Trump was trying to get Pence to buy into this. How significant do you see this?

HUNT: I mean, it shows you that it's not just what the former president was saying in public and is still saying in public, it's a question of how many different ways in which were they trying to invalidate the results of the 2020 election that very clearly show that Joe Biden won.

It's -- I'm fascinated by the behind the scenes details here, because there is also the reporting from the book that Pence, he reached out to other people on his own. He reached out to the Senate parliamentarian. He had other conversations with Mike Lee, the senator from Utah. I mean, he's known as an extremely conservative member of Congress. He had been a supporter in many ways of former President Donald Trump. But Lee looked at this and said, no. I mean, this is not acceptable under the Constitution of the United States of America. And, ultimately, that's what Pence decided.

And I think back to my time covering this in the moment, because I was on Capitol Hill covering this, I was there January 6th, there was a letter that came out from mike pence the day before all of this went down on the Hill.

[07:10:00] And it felt like this big sigh of relief. And, clearly, we are learning more about how that letter came to be and just how significant it was. It felt significant in the moment, but I don't think any of us really realized just how much pressure Pence had been under in these kind of direct ways, and what it took for him to put that out in advance, and what that meant for the protection of our democracy.

And, of course, this is what caused the former president to turn on him. He was inside the Capitol. His people were calling President Donald Trump and saying, call off these people. We're in danger here. And former President Trump did absolutely nothing for hours.

So, you know, I think that this is a very critical piece and Mike Pence played a very critical role in this incredibly high-stakes test for our democracy. And I think that that probably also underscores it, and I think this is why the Woodward/Costa book is titled Peril, in part, is because we are not out of this yet. We are still in the middle of a situation that is potentially very tenuous. There's a lot at stake. The former president is still trying to do these things. And there is a good chunk of the country that's currently listening to him. So that's a really troubling place to be.

BERMAN: Kasie Hunt, thank you so much.

HUNT: Always good to see you, John.

BERMAN: So, in just a few hours, President Biden makes his presidential debut at the United Nations General Assembly. The president plans to advocate for a global response to the major issues facing the world. But I think more than that, the significance is this moment that we are in right now, where the United States has struggled with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States, extreme tension with key allies, like France. That's the setting that the president is approaching as he walks on the stage at the United Nations today. That's the pressure he's under.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live there with more. Jeff, what do we expect?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, good morning. Those are the challenges facing President Biden as he addresses world leaders here at the United Nations. But as you said, you can add Afghanistan, the global economy, confronting China to the list, and many more.

Now, since taking office, President Biden has talked repeatedly about how America is back and how he intends to repair those frayed alliances. But today, it's his leadership that's under scrutiny from this global audience.


ZELENY (voice over): President Biden delivering his debut address today before the United Nations General Assembly, facing a skeptical global audience suddenly brimming with criticism of the United States. Three months after basking in glowing accolades on his first presidential trip aboard --

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: America is back.

America is back.

ZELENY: -- that familiar pledge is ringing hollow with some allies. Even as several American partners are taking undecidedly mixed early view of Biden's foreign policy doctrine.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We've all had lots of pledges, lots positive noises. Let's see where we get to. We're not counting on chickens.

ZELENY: at U.N. Headquarters Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raising questions about the depth of the U.S. commitment to climate change, from climate to Afghanistan to the worldwide fight against COVID-19 and a rising China. The challenges are mounting for Biden as the biggest test of his young presidency.

Arriving in New York for an opening meeting Monday night with the U.N. secretary general, Biden was upbeat.

BIDEN: We believe in the United Nations and its value.

ZELENY: The honeymoon phase of Biden's presidency may be over, but the White House believes his speech to the U.N. offers a chance to reassert his leadership for a global response to myriad challenges and to show his interests in working to strengthen alliances.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is going to lay out the case for why the next decade will determine our future, not just for the United States but for the global community.

ZELENY: On the pandemic, Biden is set to give even more vaccines to other countries, even as questions about his administration's push for a third dose for all Americans remains controversial. On Afghanistan, the controversy over the chaotic withdrawal of forces still lingers, as does the errant drone strike that killed ten civilians. Urgent questions also remain about the global refugee crisis and the formation of a Taliban government.

BIDEN: I was not going to extend this forever war.

ZELENY: Today, Biden will hail the decision to end the war in Afghanistan, a top administration official tells CNN, opening a chapter of intensive diplomacy around the major challenges of our time.

The president also dealing with a diplomatic dust-up with France over a new strategic alliance with Australia and Great Britain, where France was left behind after Australia canceled a multi-billion dollar submarine contract to partner with the U.S.

This week, marks the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly but the first in-person meeting since COVID. Leaders were asked to participate virtually, but at least 100 heads of state and government are expected to travel to New York.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We need to take all measures to ensure that it does not become a super-spreader event.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil will be addressing world leaders first, and he will also be going against the honor system here for getting vaccines. He has talked about how he is not vaccinated, but he will be delivering the first address.

Now, of course, leaders are required to wear masks here today, but this will be a dramatically different General Assembly for the United Nations. It'll be abbreviated for President Biden. For his part, he will be back in Washington by dinnertime. He will be meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Top on their agenda is, of course, the cooling tensions now that President Biden said yesterday that foreign travelers can visit the U.S. starting in November. That had been a key concern for Prime Minister Johnson.

BERMAN: Yes. That's something a lot of Europeans really wanted badly. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much for that. I know you'll be watching very closely.

KEILAR: And as President Biden gets ready to address the U.N., it is clear a major focus of his foreign policy is China and its increasing challenge to American dominance. Before he was elected, Republicans said that Biden would be a puppet for China. They called him Beijing Biden. Well, it didn't work out that way, as John Avlon explains in our Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: As President Joe Biden gets ready to address the U.N. General Assembly today, it is clear that his foreign policy focus is the global competition between democracy and autocracy, specifically directed at the rise of China.

And despite expectations, Biden has been hawkish when it comes to Beijing, corralling allies to sanction Chinese officials over alleged Uyghur genocide, pushing Congress to counter China's tech and manufacturing, barring U.S. investment in companies connected to the Chinese military. They've been getting in hot water for selling Australia nuclear submarine technology to counteract China in the South Pacific.

And if this all seems surprising, maybe because not that long ago, Trump and the Republicans were falling over each other, trying to convince voters that Biden would be a sellout to Beijing.


DONALD TRUMP JR. SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Beijing Biden is so weak on China that the intelligence community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist Party favors Biden. TUCKER CARLONS, FOX NEWS HOST: As a threat from China grew larger and more threatening, Biden seemed to grow more accommodating to the Chinese government.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: China has been buying a lot of things, and they're doing that to keep me happy but they're dreaming about Joe Biden. They dream about it because if that happens, they'll own the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden said Chinese communists aren't even our competitor, aren't bad folks. President Trump is clear-eyed about the Chinese threat, and he is making China pay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe if they can get to Joe Biden's heart through his son, Hunter Biden, they hope to raise $1.5 billion. One person who didn't want to talk about it, Joe Biden.


AVLON: Now, this really was a core part of their closing argument. And, of course, it was all designed to deflect and project from some vulnerabilities, like the campaign help from Russia, some eyebrow- raising business deals and mysterious bank accounts from China, just wanting praise for China's leaders at the start of the pandemic.

With that, for all Trump's clumsy attempts to curry favor with authoritarians, like China's Xi and Kim in North Korea, his administration did shift domestic debate around China from past bipartisan stance that it could be liberalizing if it welcomed into our international organizations, like the WTO.

But that didn't work as planned. China got richer but didn't liberalize. Instead, the country has become more of an authoritarian surveillance state under Xi. Biden has been part of that effort in the past. He met with Chinese leaders for decades. But as vice president, he actually spoke out against their human right violations, unfair trade practices, I.P. theft. During the Democratic primary debates, Biden called Xi a thug and surrounded himself with foreign policy advisers who held no illusion about China.

There remains a lot for Joe Biden to do to make America more competitive with China, like the House and Senate bills need to be reconciled, it would become law, should renegotiate the U.S. entry into the transpacific partnership, as promised, as a way to contain China's trade influence. And the threat to Taiwan seems to grow greater with the collapse of democracy in Hong Kong becomes complete.

But the fact remains that all that Trump is fear mongering about Biden being soft on China has prove to be bogus, just another lie in a long list that will no doubt continue to be repeated. But, so far, as The Economist notes, it has not stuck because Biden and his aides have been consistently tough on China, tougher in some ways than Mr. Trump, who was not troubled by authoritarians.

And that's your Reality Check.

KEILAR: All right. John Avlon, thank you so much.

Coming up, the FBI is stepping up its investigator into the disappearance of Gabby Petito. What we could learn today as the search continues for her missing fiance.

BERMAN: And what the White House is calling horrific video of border agents corralling migrants at the border. We have the homeland security secretary joining us live to address this, coming up.



BERMAN: New this morning, the attorney for Brian Laundrie's family has canceled a news conference today, they say at the FBI's requests. Agents swarmed their Florida home Monday searching for evidence in the disappearance and likely death of Gabby Petito. The medical examiner is expected to confirm today that the body found in Wyoming is that of 22-year-old Gabby Petito.

Now, Brian Laundrie, her fiance, has also been missing a week after returning home from their cross-country trip. Just to bring people up to speed, he returned home alone without her. She was missing. There was a search. Human remains found. Now, he too has gone missing.


Joining me now, the anchor of Inside Edition, Deborah Norville. It's so great to see you. Thank you for joining us.

This canceled news conference, the family of Brian Laundrie, the attorney was going to have a news conference, the FBI said to cancel it. What does that tell you?

DEBORAH NORVILLE, ANCHOR INSIDE EDITION: Well, I think what it says is the less said, the better from the perspective of the Laundrie family. Of course, there are a lot of people, the armchair sleuths who have been looking at this, as well as investigators, saying the Laundrie family perhaps had spoken up sooner, we'd know where Brian Laundrie is, which is one of the questions that looms today.

We might also know a little more about the interactions between he and Gabby. Because what we've learned is the FBI's search that was executed on the Laundrie family home yesterday was based on, quote, troubling text messages received by Gabby's mother prior to her disappearance. And it was those messages which were cited in the search warrant as the probable cause. Authorities needed to go in there.

They spent several hours in the Laundrie home. They took out several boxes of material. No one knows what it is, of course. So, there is the question of what was in the Laundrie home, and had they had access to that or access to any information, would there have been the possibility of knowing earlier that Gabby's remains were there if indeed it's identified as Gabby, as it is suspected it will be? It is unclear whether anything that would have happened after September 1st would have changed the outcome of this story, which is, it appears, that a 22-year-old woman died in Grand Teton National Park.

BERMAN: It's interesting you bring up disturbing text messages here because there is a 911 call that has come to light.


BERMAN: It reframes this a little bit. I want people to listen to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was slapping her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.


BERMAN: All right. So, how does this reframe, Deborah, what we knew or had been told about the situation between the two of them, you know, in Utah?

NORVILLE: It poses a very large question for the Moab Police Department in Utah, because the details of that 911 call do not appear to have been communicated to the responding officers who pulled the couple over on the freeway.

In addition, local media has been in contact with the national park ranger from the Arches National Park, who was having a conversation with Gabby. They were on the side of the road, we now know, for about an hour-and-a-half, interacting with the police who pulled them over and a national park ranger who joined the discussion.

The ranger is a woman. If she says that she told Gabby this relationship seems toxic, she suggested that Gabby might want to reconsider her relationship when she gets back home to Florida. She said there was nothing about that moment that led her to believe that there was any imminent danger for either one of the two.

But it is very interesting, if you heard the police body cam footage, the officer clearly believes that if there was an aggressor in this situation, it was Gabby. And he specifically said, I'm not going to cite you. But if you look at it in the totality, it is a controlling situation. He is very cool, calm and collected. She's incredibly apologetic, obviously very teary and repeatedly says, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. These are not unfamiliar signs of a domestic -- of a controlling relationship in a domestic situation.

And it also brings up the question, how well trained were the local police in recognizing the nuance of a troubled domestic relationship? That, we don't know.

BERMAN: And the 911 call specifically says he was slapping her. The officers on the scene felt that if anyone was the aggressor, at least at the time, that it would appear to be her. So, it's a radically different appearance there. Deborah Norville, thank you so much for your incite from Inside Edition. We really appreciate you being with us.

NORVILLE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, demand far outpacing supply of critical, life-saving resources in hospitals in Idaho. Why a doctor there says he's scared about what will happen next.

KEILAR: The U.S. Supreme court set to take up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade later this year, as one doctor goes public with his defiance of Texas' new abortion law.