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GOP Blocks Bill to Fund Government and Prevent First U.S. Default; CNN Reports, Georgia GOP Livid over Trump's Praise of Stacey Abrams over Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA); Lawmakers Set to Grill Pentagon Leaders on War Exit. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2021 - 07:00   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If he's planning to move around at night because he thinks he has some cover, they are active at night, bobcats, alligators, Florida panthers.

He also said that Brian Laundrie would need to build something and get to higher ground, like a sleeping platform for safety. But, remember, every time he moves, he would have to break that down so he doesn't leave any evidence and then rebuild it at his next stop.

So, he also said that he would have to find edible plants and try and trap some animals for food. If he is in the northern mountains and he's left in Florida, he said, it would be much cooler for him, much easier to survive, a lot of squirrels on the move, he said, easier trappings there, as well.

And I should note, Brianna, that the Petito family is planning to hold a press conference today at 1:00 P.M. Unclear what they're going to say, but we'll be listening to that as well, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, certainly will. Randi, thank you so much.

New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 28th. And I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman on this New Day.

It is a critical week in Washington. It's about to get very real. There are intense negotiations that are going on on Capitol Hill with outcomes that will impact every American. Last night, the Senate falling well short of the required 60 votes needed to prevent a government shutdown and raise the debt limit. The U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills in a matter of weeks.

The Treasury Department already taking extraordinary measures to keep the U.S. solvent, the secretary saying that if it is not, it will trigger an economic catastrophe.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: And there was a major development overnight in the intraparty struggle between the Democratic Party on the issue of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and President Biden's domestic agenda plans. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, pretty much broke with progressives in the party and says she is going to forge ahead with a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill at this point without tying it directly to the larger social spending bill. This is a break from her previous position this is a break from what Chuck Schumer has talked about before and a break from what President Biden has promised before.

So, let's talk about this, what it means and where it is going. Joining me is former Democratic Senator Al Franken. He's now Host of the Al Franken podcast, and you're on a comedy tour right now, as well.

FMR. SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): Yes, thank you for mentioning that.

BERMAN: I don't think that you view what's going on in Congress right now as particularly funny with these negotiations having to do with the infrastructure --

FRANKEN: It is slightly hair-raising, but I'm optimistic. I think Nancy, what she did was strategic. And I'm not going to question her strategic bona fides. I believe that we're going to get to the bigger package that we need to pass for reconciliation in the Senate. There's so many good things in it that it has to happen. There are so many popular things that have to happen, child tax credit, which will be the biggest middle class tax cut and working class tax cut in history and low income.

There is just, you know, infrastructure, clean energy, just day care, which Americans want, Medicare negotiating with pharmaceuticals, which overwhelmingly Americans want. We pay three times as much for pharmaceuticals as they do in Europe for this stuff we produce.

We're going to get this done. It's not going to be pretty, but I'm optimistic we're going to get it done because we kind of have to.

BERMAN: You talk about what's in it, and that's ultimately what matters to the American people.


BERMAN: But they only get that if it passes. And there is this battle within the Democratic Party, and there have been progressives and there have also been moderates and they look at it both ways. And both of them have said, we're willing to accept nothing if we don't get what we want.

So, what's your message to the progressive caucus in the House? You're a Senate guy, not a House guy, but I'm sure you know some of them. What would be your message to them who said, you know what, we're not going to passing the infrastructure bill unless you give us what we want on the other part?

FRANKEN: These are negotiations. And negotiations happen like this. And people -- I won't say they're posturing, but they're staking out positions for strategic reasons. As I said, this will happen because it'll have to happen.

Now, whether it is going to be the full 3.5, whether it's going to be -- and, by the way, it's not going to cost the treasury $3.5 trillion because a lot of this is tax increases for billionaires and very wealthy people.

BERMAN: Well, Kyrsten Sinema, apparently, according to The New York Times, doesn't want the tax increases.

FRANKEN: I know. I know. And she's one of 50 and we need every one of them.

BERMAN: Yes, but that's enough to sink it.

FRANKEN: Of course, it is. But is she going to sink in? I don't think so.


BERMAN: Is Joe Manchin going to sink it?

FRANKEN: I don't think so.

BERMAN: Are you sure about that?

FRANKEN: I'm pretty damn sure. I mean, they are going to come up with something and I don't know where the compromises are going to be, but the package, it has to pass. It really does. That's why it will pass. And they will forge something, and it'll be very good because all the elements of this package are incredibly popular with the American people.

BERMAN: They don't seem to like each other very much right now. I want to play some sound for you from --

FRANKEN: Who is they?

BERMAN: Democrats, some of the Democrats right now, including one from your home state, Representative Ilhan Omar, who was talking about Joe Manchin. Let's listen.



REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): It is saddening to see them use Republican talking points. We obviously didn't envision having Republicans as part of our party. And I hope that they will understand that Democrats need to be united behind the president's agenda. And we need to have urgent conversations of how to get this agenda done.


BERMAN: Your thoughts on that?

FRANKEN: We need Joe Manchin as a Democrat because that's the only reason we have the majority. That's the reason we control the floor. That's the reason Chuck Schumer is the majority leader. He won in West Virginia, which went for Trump by 38 points. So with all due respect to the representative, we need Joe Manchin as much as we need Bernie Sanders. We need all 50.

BERMAN: You worked with Joe Manchin when you guys were senators together.


BERMAN: What gets him to move? Do you have a sense of how you get Joe Manchin on board? What kind of a guy is he?

FRANKEN: He is a politician. He is a good politician. He won in West Virginia and he knows how to do that. And without him, we would not have the majority. He is going to be looking out for West Virginia interests, but I know he is going to -- look, there's so much in this that we have to get done. We have to get -- you know, a child tax credit will reduce childhood poverty by 50 percent in this country. That's huge. Medicare negotiating with pharmaceuticals, that's huge. All these are wildly popular.

Joe knows. He is chairman of the energy committee. He knows we have to move to clean energy. I know he's from West Virginia. I know that it's a coal state, but he knows this. I've talked to Joe about this.

And I've also talked to Joe about the filibuster. One of the big things that is going on right now to me is on voting rights. And Joe and Amy Klobuchar and some others put together this Freedom to Vote Act, which is absolutely essential, because we have sort of an existential crisis in our democracy right now. And you see Republicans in states like Georgia and Texas and Arizona passing laws that will give state legislatures the right to overturn elections. You can't allow that to happen.

So is this something that we're going to do a carve-out on and pass with 50, 51 with the vice president, on reconciliation, or is it something -- Norm Ornstein and I have proposed a reform of the filibuster that Manchin is open to and has said publicly that he is open to, which is that instead of 60 to sustain a filibuster, you need 41 to -- or 50 -- 60 then, you need 41 to sustain a filibuster and they have to stay on the floor and they have to debate. And I think that may be where we're going.

BERMAN: Well, we'll see on that. The debt limit right now.


BERMAN: Basically, the United States will default on its obligations, things we've already done. The United States --

FRANKEN: We can't do that, by the way.

BERMAN: You don't think we can do that?

FRANKEN: We can't do that. It'll cause an international crisis. Democrats are going to do it themselves because McConnell has put them in this ridiculous position. And they're going to do it for political -- they're going to say, oh, Democrats created all this spending, and that's why we had -- no, no. This is trillions of dollars that Republicans and Democrats did together.

BERMAN: But Democrats are going to have to do it themselves?

FRANKEN: Yes, that's what McConnell is doing. McConnell is --

BERMAN: Isn't he winning that? If McConnell gets Democrats to do it themselves, isn't he getting what he wants then?

FRANKEN: I think he -- that's his play. I think he thinks so. Then they're going to have to say Democrats raised the debt limit because they're doing all this spending. I'm not sure that the American people are quite that naive. I think the American people are going to look at who is responsible?


Who averted an international economic crisis? And they're going to -- so we'll see how sophisticated the American people are.

BERMAN: Do you, as someone who was a Democrat in the Senate, ever feel like Mitch McConnell was playing the game better than you as a party?

FRANKEN: Yes. I think that -- it depends what you mean by better. I think he has pretty much ruined the Senate.

Let me explain. During the Obama years, they filibustered more executive nominees than had been -- or the same amount that had been filibustered during the entire previous history of the country. It used to be rare that you had a filibuster. It was really rare. Now, you just -- once someone objects, you have a filibuster. This is not what the -- this is why when I talked to Joe Manchin about what Norm Ornstein and I want to do, why he is open to it because filibusters should be rare. And filibusters should be about debating an important topic that is important to the American people and important enough to a party to filibuster. It is not just one person objecting, and now we have a filibuster.

BERMAN: Justice Stephen Breyer is sitting on the Supreme Court right now. And he sees what you see. I mean, he can see what all of us see. He sees Mitch McConnell sitting in the U.S. Senate. What would you tell Stephen Breyer about what he should do? The thinking is among some Democrats is that he should retire now while Democrats still control the Senate so they can get a more liberal justice in now, in case Democrats lose the Senate. What would you tell Breyer?

FRANKEN: I'd tell him, retire now or retire during this session or at the end of this session and be replaced. Because this is, of course, what happened when we lost Ginsberg. And he's going to pull a Merrick Garland again, McConnell, and he said he would. I mean, it's not like -- you know, and that's shameless. Because the principle upon which he didn't take up Merrick Garland was that it was an election year. Well, then, of course, Coney Barrett was seated nine days before the election. So he's a shameless -- you know, he is just shameless. And so if I were Breyer, I'm not him, it is his decision, but I definitely think he should retire.

BERMAN: Again, dealing with Mitch McConnell, other than changing the filibuster rules, which, again, you've talked about and I know you're very much for, how can Democrats get what they want or work around Mitch McConnell if he is going to do this all the time?

FRANKEN: Well, we need to be as ruthless as him.

BERMAN: Which means?

FRANKEN: Which means that we have to, one, Joe Manchin won't get -- won't end the filibuster but he will modify it. So, to me, I know my colleagues. If you say 41 Republican senators have to remain on the floor, and there's nine others who aren't, by definition, but that means that at all points, 41 have to be there and debate. They're not going to last very long.

So, I actually think that what Norm and I have, it works. And what it does is it makes filibusters rare, is what they used to be, and we can get this stuff done. We can get voting rights done. We can get how the stuff we need to be done. We restore the Senate back to what it was.

BERMAN: You're on a comedy tour, which is basically your first.

FRANKEN: And this is all the material I'm doing on tour.

BERMAN: The name of it was funny. I can't find the name of it.

FRANKEN: It's The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour.

BERMAN: It's a good name.

FRANKEN: I think so. That's why we named it that.

BERMAN: And you talk about --

FRANKEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: My endorsement, which is worth nothing. Funniest current senators?

FRANKEN: Well, Amy Klobuchar is funny. Pat Robertson, unfortunately, has left. I'm trying to think of -- oh, Lindsey Graham is funny, except I don't know what happened to him over the last several years. But Lindsey has a good sense of humor.

BERMAN: And you would enjoy spending time with them?


BERMAN: What about Ted Cruz? Ted Cruz makes up a big part of your --

FRANKEN: Well, he makes up a chunk. Well, what I'd say is that I probably liked Ted Cruz more than most of my colleagues liked Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz.

BERMAN: Former Senator Al Franken, we appreciate you being with us right now.


Thank you for joining us.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Best of luck.

FRANKEN: You bet.

BERMAN: Brianna?

KEILAR: Just into CNN, some Georgia Republicans are livid at former President Trump after he took shots at Republican Governor Brian Kemp and said this at a weekend rally in the state.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Stacey Abrams, who still has not conceded, and that's okay. Stacey, would you like to take his place? It's okay with me.

Having her I think might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth, might very well be better.


KEILAR: Well, the Georgia Republican Party is concerned about the impact of Trump's attacks on Kemp in next year's midterm elections.

Let's talk about that now with CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt, as well as CNN Reporter Michael Warren, who has some excellent new reporting.

You've been talking to a lot of Republicans in Georgia or with connections to Georgia. And what is so clear is that they are kind of freaking out, but they're doing it very quietly.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: That's right. Nobody was surprised that this is how Donald Trump feels about Brian Kemp. He has been saying that publicly for months. What shocked them, and that's the word they used, shocked them, was the way he went out and basically endorsed Stacey Abrams.

Now, you know, in Republican eyes, Brian Kemp isn't perfect but they really do like him in Georgia among Republicans. Stacey Abrams is like enemy number one for the GOP. So this really surprised and shocked a lot of people that he would go out say that. And it gave them flashbacks to January 5th. Remember the day before January 6th, those two special election run-offs, where after months and weeks of Donald Trump saying, you know, the voting is rigged, Republicans lost those seats. That's what they're worried about in these midterms. They have a chance to hold on to a governor seat in a 50/50 state, to win back a seat held currently by a Democrat. And the midterms are going to be good for Republicans, they think. Biden is in trouble in a lot of places, especially Georgia, and they see Donald Trump coming in and screwing it up. They're pulling their hair out.

KEILAR: Yes. Trump has shown that he is not too bad at depressing the Republican vote in Georgia, right? He isn't helpful. But is it really opportunity for Democrats here, do you think?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I think there's plenty of opportunity for Democrats, and I think they're right to be worried about it. Clearly, the former president has shown yet again that he cares only about himself. He doesn't care about the Republican Party. I mean, Mitch McConnell privately blames the former president for what happened in Georgia.

And that became clear in the wake of January 6th. You saw the former president lash back out at politicians here in Washington, particularly at Mitch McConnell. You saw McConnell go pretty silent about it after that because he, frankly, doesn't want to be in the bull's eye.

But reality here is, yes, there are some challenges now for Democrats that didn't exist in the last cycle because of the president's approval rating and the challenges with the agenda, but there is all sorts of, you know, I think, evidence from the past time around that if you tell people that they shouldn't trust their vote will be counted, then they may not actually show up to vote. And that's going to be a problem for Republicans.

KEILAR: Yes. And, look, Trump, when it comes to these Republicans who didn't get on board with the big lie, he's proven time and again that he doesn't mind being a grenade, right, and that the collateral damage could be the party writ large. That doesn't seem to bother him really.

WARREN: No. Look, he has got power here too. I mean, let's not deny that Donald Trump is the most popular Republican in Georgia and pretty much any state around the country. He is popular with the Republican base. So, that's another consideration that these Republicans, like Brian Kemp, have to make. They can't afford to annoy Trump Republicans and look like they're sort of sabotaging Trump. So, they're in this kind of Catch-22 problem and they don't know how to get out.

HUNT: And one thing I will say too, Brianna, one thing to watch that could give us some clues about this, it's going to be the Virginia governor's race, which is coming up in a few weeks. And some of the same things that are at play in Virginia, I think, will be applicable lessons for Georgia. That's a big suburban vote in Northern Virginia that was very uncomfortable with Donald Trump but had previously been willing to support Republican governors in the past, or at least to a greater degree than they were in the Trump-style Republican Party. You've got a candidate here in Virginia who has not necessarily attacked or openly, you know, gone against Trump, the way Brian Kemp did in the election, but who -- Donald Trump was in Virginia basically saying, well, you better be with my crowd or I'm going to go after you.

So, some of these dynamics are there. Remember, part of why Georgia -- in fact, probably the entire reason Georgia has turned blue is because of the suburbs around Atlanta, in addition to increased Democratic turnout in rural areas driven by Stacey Abrams, and the city of Atlanta, as well. But there are some of the suburban dynamics at play in Georgia where there were a lot of what we used to call country club Republicans who were turned off by Trump. So, I think it's going to be a key test that we may be able to take lessons from going forward.

KEILAR: And we're actually going to be talking to Susan Page later in the show.


She did the last debate. So, we're going to see how those dynamics might affect the bigger picture. Kasie, Michael, thank you so much to both of you.

HUNT: Great to see you.

KEILAR: Top military leaders are set to face tough questions from Congress about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some of the toughest will be directed at Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, who will also fact questions about Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Plus, Afghan women facing new restrictions under Taliban rule. CNN's Clarissa Ward on the streets of Kabul, next.


KEILAR: In just a few hours, the top military brass will be in the Senate hot seat testifying at a hearing on the end of military operations in Afghanistan. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley will be in the crosshairs, not just for the chaotic end to America's longest war, but because he tried to prevent former President Trump from misusing nuclear weapons.


Certainly, he tried to assure his Chinese counterpart that that would not happen, according to a new book by Robert Costa and Bob Woodward, Peril.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is with us now. Walk us through this, the questions, the burning questions.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The burning question. So, many of the questions will be about these revelations that have been made in recent books about kind of the end of Trump's presidency, the final days of the administration, and what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley, did to prevent a possible nuclear strike by President Trump in an effort to distract from his election loss and to prevent a kid of military coup because he went as far as to believe, talking to his counterparts, talking to his associates in the government, that Trump was prepared to do something really desperate here to hold on to his presidency.

And so one of the major questions I think that they will be focusing on has been a big one in the last couple weeks, which is, did you have a conversation with your Chinese counterpart in the waning days of the administration, warning him that, you know, if there was going to be any kind of strike by the U.S., that he would tell him in advance. That has really outraged a lot of Republicans, but it's also made Democrats very interested. And what made you so concerned about president Trump's behavior that you felt like you had to warn the Chinese?

KEILAR: And then so that is, did you alert the Chinese ahead of a possible U.S. strike. There is also, did you compare Trump's behavior to a Reichstag moment? Did you to try to prevent this?

BERTRAND: So, another revelation in a book called, I Alone Can Fix It, which was released earlier this year, that Mark Milley thought that this could be a Reichstag moment, that Trump would use the alleged fraud that he was discussing and that he was essentially lying about to kind of usurp power and maintain his presidency. And that was something that Mark Milley was so concerned about, that he was actually asking his associates, according to this book, whether he should be prepared or try to stave off a coup.

So, obviously another major question that Democrats will have here because President Trump is still openly talking about this election fraud, still talking about the possibility that he will run for re- election.

KEILAR: So, did you basically order your subordinates to alert you, really about launching a nuclear weapon on Trump's orders? That's one of the questions. Also, why did you discuss using Russian military bases to conduct counterterrorism operations? What is that about?

BERTRAND: Yes. So, this was reported yesterday and confirmed by CNN, that Mark Milley talked to his Russian counterpart last week and asked him about the possibility that the U.S. could use Russian military bases in Central Asia to carry out counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. Now, obviously, this is provoking kind of bipartisan concern on the Hill because the Russians -- or the U.S. officials don't necessarily believe, and lawmakers don't necessarily believe, that the U.S. should trust the Russians enough to use their bases in Central Asia to carry out these missions after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Now, we are told by sources that what the National Security Council wanted was for Mark Milley to kind of clarify comments that President Putin had made in June about allowing the U.S. to use these military bases. But still, kind of lawmakers are weary of a potential reset here with the Russians, especially since they really haven't changed their behavior much.

KEILAR: And this drone strike that killed ten civilians in Afghanistan, that's a big question of this hearing.

BERTRAND: Yes. So, a lot of these questions during this hearing will focus on the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. That is going to be the overarching theme of the hearing. The top three military officials here will be testifying for the first time since the U.S. withdrew all troops from Afghanistan.

And one of the biggest questions for Mark Milley will be, why did you say that this was a righteous strike in the hours after this drone strike after being alerted by the CIA, as CNN has reported, that there were civilians in the area, that civilians were likely to die? And, of course, now that we know that this was actually a mistaken drone strike, that it targeted an aid worker and not an ISIS fighter.

KEILAR: Yes, seven kids killed in that, right, seven minors. Natasha, thank you so much. Look, there's a lot of ground to cover in this hearing today. We're going to be watching it. We know you will too.

BERMAN: So, this morning, CNN is back on the streets of Afghanistan. CNN's Clarissa Ward, who gave us such amazing coverage as the Afghan government was falling, she's back in Kabul. The technical situation has been iffy. We thought we had her.

All right, her signal went down. We're going to get Clarissa back up. We'll have her live from the streets of Kabul right after this.