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Democrats in Congress Continue Negotiations over Passing Infrastructure Bill and Senate Reconciliation Bill; U.S. Could Default on Debt Obligations if Debt Ceiling Not Raised by Congress; Testimony by Generals to Congress Indicates Military Recommended to President Biden Small Force Remain in Afghanistan. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2021 - 08:00   ET


ANITA HILL, AUTHOR, "BELIEVING, OUR THIRTY-YEAR JOURNEY TO END GENDER VIOLENCE": And can I also say that it really does deal about the last 30 years and the thousands of people in the stories that I have heard from survivors and victims, and how we as a country and especially our leaders can come together, acknowledge that this is a crisis problem in our society, and commit to doing something about it.

KEILAR: Yes, I know that your testimony unleashed the stories of so many people, and you tell so many of those in your book. The book is "Believing." And NEW DAY continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. On this NEW DAY, the week from hell getting more hellacious by the hour. Will Congress be able to come together before time and money run out? Plus, mixed messages from top military leaders over what they told President Biden about their views about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

KEILAR: And a medical mystery solved about former President Trump's unexpected trip to the hospital in 2019.

And was it too good to be true? Big questions about a popular new media startup that now has the attention of the FBI.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, September 29th. Time is running out on this week from hell on Capitol Hill. At 12:01 a.m. Friday, the government will run out of money, triggering a partial government shutdown. And that's not the only financial crisis on the horizon. In less than three weeks the country will default on its loans for first time ever unless Congress acts to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans voted to allow that default to happen.

KEILAR: President Biden has canceled his planned trip to Chicago today to focus on these economic crises. Also at risk, his hard-fought bipartisan infrastructure bill which is set for a vote tomorrow in the House. The outcome very uncertain here.

The president met Tuesday with moderate senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and he's trying to bridge the gap with progressive lawmakers over his $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, really a social safety net bill. All sides are sounding the alarm here about what may or may not happen if the deal can't be reached.

So a lot going on to talk with Jared Bernstein about. He is from the White House Council on Economic Advisers. Jared, first things first, Kyrsten Sinema, who may be key to all of this, was at the White House for three meetings yesterday, including with the president. Do you know what she wants?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: The readout from those meetings according to our Press Secretary Jen Psaki yesterday is that these were very positive conversations, moving forward towards reaching these goals for the American middle class. The idea of making transformational, generational investments in childcare, in elder care, in roads and bridges, in clean energy, in saving prescription drug costs for the American middle class, these are the set of policies that all the senators who have engaged from the Democratic side with the president have said are their priorities. And as they work through this path, the readouts we're getting are quite positive in terms of momentum.

KEILAR: But she's not on board. Do you know what she wants in this bill and the price tag that she wants?

BERNSTEIN: So I think that we're in the midst of real time negotiations. Rather than get into price tags, what I understand is under discussion is precisely the kinds of transformational investments I was just talking to you about.

I actually think one of the least informative perspective is to talk about this trillion or that trillion, and much more important is to talk to growing the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. That's a very different approach from lavishing tax cuts on the wealthiest households and corporations and crossing your fingers and hoping that it trickles down, which it never does.

Instead, this president is proposing to make deep historical investments in an infrastructure that has been ignored to the point where children turn on their faucets and drink poisoned water because it has lead in it. How can that be occurring to one child in America in the 21st century? It is unthinkable. We have an opportunity to make those investments, and I can tell you that all the Democrats who pass through these offices are rowing in the same direction. Yes, there are negotiations to be made, and this president continues to leap over every legislative hurdle that has been put in front of him thus far. So I don't think of this as the week from h-e double hockey sticks, as you were calling it a minute ago. I think of it as the week toward essential investments and progress on behalf of the middle class.


KEILAR: Look, we're not putting a shine on it, because it is chaos. I do want to ask you tomorrow in the House, there is supposed to be a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, not to be confused with the larger bill that we have been talking about here, which is more of a social safety net bill that Democrats are going alone on. That vote may not succeed. That is liberals are dug in here. Do you concede that we may see this actually fail tomorrow? BERNSTEIN: I simply don't have a kind of nose counts, and I don't

think anyone does, that could answer that question. What I have heard from readouts again from colleagues who are following this closely is that this is a bill that not only has bipartisan support but has strong Democratic support. And in fact, as we know, passed the Senate with an historically large number of votes from both sides of the aisle.

And the reason for that is very clear. And I've been on this -- I've been in this swamp here for more decades than I'd like to admit right now, and I can tell you that Democrats and Republicans both have long wanted to invest in the country's infrastructure, in mass transit, in healthy water systems, in roads and bridges. When you hit a pothole, that pothole is not a Democrat or a Republican. That is your axle gets broken and you're sitting in that shop. You're not thinking budget process. You're thinking get to work and fix this problem. And there is I think very significant momentum. I have quite deep confidence in the success of that package.

KEILAR: Are you preparing for a possible default?

BERNSTEIN: Default is not an option. Let me just be unequivocally clear about that. It is unacceptable. Democrats in the last two days have offered two votes that accomplish three things. They keep the government from shutting down, they avoid default, which is an economic cataclysm, a complete unforced error that shouldn't even be discussed, and they get aid to the victims of hurricane Ida. Republicans allegedly support all of those, and yet not only would they not stand aside and let Democrats take that vote, they blocked that vote.

What I think many listeners may not understand is that Republicans do not have to filibuster or block this vote. They don't have to even get out of the cart and help push. What they have to do is get out of the cart and let the Democrats move forward on these positions. They're not even letting the Democrats vote on this, and I think that's unconscionable. But default is not an option. It's simply not.

KEILAR: So just to be clear, you're not making any -- I know the Treasury is taking extraordinary measures right now until mid-October. But the administration is not making any preparations for the possibility of a default?

BERNSTEIN: Oh, look, the Treasury has been engaged, they call it extraordinary measures in order to get to the 18th, which is what Secretary Yellen told us was the X date yesterday. I don't even think of them as extraordinary anymore. They're depressingly ordinary because we have been here before.

Default is not an option. And the idea that Republicans are playing political games with the economy's future, not just the American economy, the global economy, because we're talking about a trillions of dollar treasury market, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. The idea that you're playing political games with that when there is still a pandemic upon that land, it is unconscionable, and default is simply not an option. And Leader Schumer is doing everything he can to get around this self-imposed -- Republican- imposed obstacle, I should say.

KEILAR: Several years ago, when the government got very close to this precipice, it cost American taxpayers dearly. How much do you think this game of chicken will cost American taxpayers?

BERNSTEIN: For every week the government is shut down, research suggests you lose a tenth of a percent of GDP. That's something like $20 billion.

KEILAR: No, I'm talking about the default.

BERNSTEIN: The default, which shouldn't even be considered, is a recessionary event that would not only jam up interest rates, because the cost of borrowing once you start to fool around with the faith and credit of the American government would, of course, go way up, but forecasts that I've seen which imagine the unimaginable call it a recessionary scenario.

And here we are. Brianna, let me make this very clear, here we are in the midst of a robust recovery. OK, we are adding 750,000 jobs on average over the past three months. Over 4 million jobs since this president got here. People are getting back to work. They're getting shots in arms, checks in pockets. They're putting this -- doing everything we can to vaccinate the public and put this virus in the rearview mirror so we can proceed apace, do the job that Americans sent us here to do, invest in infrastructure, in childcare, in elder care. And instead, we have one party who is trying to play political games here with the faith and credit of the U.S. government. It is antithetical to what 81 million Americans sent this president here to do, and we're simply going to keep our heads down and keep doing what the president is trying to do here.


KEILAR: Jared, we really appreciate you joining us this morning. Jared Bernstein from the White House.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And Berman, he says, he says it is not a week from h-e double hockey sticks, but as you point out, limbo is the first ring of hell, and that is definitely where we are.

BERMAN: It is, it is. And I don't want us to head into lust, which you get to eventually --

KEILAR: No, or gluttony. Although it's Washington. We have got a lot of that around here.

BERMAN: He said it's not the week from hell. He said it's the week of overall galactic munificence and beneficial social safety net, which is hard to fit on a bumper sticker. It may be all those things, but you've got to get the votes. And I, as we sit here today, it may happen, they may have a secret plan to make it happen, but I don't see what that plan is. It's uncertain how they get to that week of galactic munificence and beneficial social safety nets. I just don't know how they get there.

And it is not Jared Bernstein who is going to make that deal. It's going to be Democrats amongst themselves on Capitol Hill, and President Biden. And I just -- I'm curious how they're going to get there.

KEILAR: It is murky at best. Munificence?

BERMAN: I don't know.

KEILAR: Munificence.

BERMAN: That may be the wrong word, but it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker anyway.

KEILAR: It's a great SAT word.

BERMAN: "Hell" is easier to say.


BERMAN: So testimony from President Biden's top military leaders calls into question some claims made by President Biden in interviews. In August Biden said that none of his military leadership recommended keeping a small force in the country after withdraw, and then in the same sentence he also said it was split. But his military advisers saying that's not the case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to keep about 2,500 troops.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't tell you they wanted troops to stay?

BIDEN: No, not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe, all troops. They didn't argue against that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Milley, I assume you agree with that in terms of the recommendation of 2,500?



BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN's senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga, and Reena Ninan, host of "The Recount Daily Podcast" and founder of Good Trouble Productions. Bianna, look, the White House claims if you listen to the full totality of what Joe Biden, the president, told George Stephanopoulos, the generals didn't contradict him here. But the bottom line is President Biden left the impression that the military wasn't telling him that it wanted to leave U.S. troops there, a small force, and clearly it did.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SECURITY GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Listen, it was an own goal on President Biden's part. We all heard him say that he wasn't told to his recollection. So either he doesn't recall, which raises a whole other issue, or he was told and he misspoke. And it put the generals in an awkward position yesterday as they were under oath. And it didn't take a tell all book or even their testimony yesterday to reveal what we had known throughout the media over the course of the last few months, that they in fact, many of them had been asking and suggesting that at least 2,500 troops remain. So this was an unnecessary position to put these men in. And we know that this is an issue and a recommendation that they had made to the president directly.

BERMAN: And the point is, is this the president's decision to make? For better or for worse?

GOLODRYGA: Right, which is all he had to say.

BERMAN: Or for better. It's the president's decision to make, and we know how Joe Biden feels about this and has always felt about it.

REENA NINAN, HOST, "THE RECOUNT DAILY PODCAST": You're absolutely right. We know where the president stood on this issue. But also to hear them say, for us to go back in at this point, go back on September 1st would have taken thousands more, and the number of countless Americans that would have been killed in this, was it worth it at this point when, as you mentioned, John, the president knew he was getting out. It was over. He was done.

BERMAN: I think you raise a really good point here, we don't have that sound to play right now. But that was a bookend to the other issue, which is these generals made clear they did not think that troops should be there after September 1st. Once the withdraw started, they said there would be no way to keep them. They would be in harm's way. The Taliban would turn on them, ISIS would turn on them. There would be a near guarantee, they said, for more U.S. casualties, which they weren't willing to take.

NINAN: They weren't willing to take. And I felt there was moments of great transparency from these generals without throwing the president completely under the bus. They made it very clear that it is not their job to walk away and resign if they don't agree with the president. Their job was to inform.

They also gave him a little wiggle room in the sense of saying, look, here's what we were thinking, this was our personal opinion, but I'm not going to share and disclose. But there were enough connect the dot moments that we know what was happening there.

But what I thought was really remarkable was to hear General Milley also say we had the technology, we had the capability. We didn't understand the culture. And I feel these wars we continue to fight and go into, we go into these countries, and we don't understand the culture, the tribalism, the corruption, the things that happen that can completely erode what you're trying to build there. BERMAN: There were all the fireworks, Bianna, about General Milley's

call to his Chinese counterpart when the reporting came out from Woodward and Costa's book "Peril".

GOLODRYGA: Which he didn't read.

BERMAN: Which he didn't read, by the way, although he admitted -- which I've never seen before, someone says to me, they say, sure I'm a source for all these books, right?


BERMAN: Right. I'll answer your calls, I'm a source. I didn't read them. But anyway, so Milley talked about his call with a Chinese counterpart when he told them, the United States isn't about to invade. Listen.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, U.S. JOINT CHIEF CHAIRMAN: I am certain that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. And it is my directed responsibility, and it was my direct responsibility by the Secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese. My task at that time was to deescalate.


BERMAN: It kind of feels like case closed on what really was a nontroversy as it were, the General Milley probably did exactly what he was supposed to do.

GOLODRYGA: He was following the chain of command. And what stood out to me was he came prepared to address this issue, knowing he may not have read the books, but he's clearly read newspapers over the past few weeks, as this issue has come to light. And yes, it created the sphere of chaos and controversy that he was sort of perhaps rouge talking to his counterpart in China, when what we now know is that he did his job. He did what Esper said and asked him to do.

But it speaks to the larger issue that that there was chaos surrounding whatever intelligence that the Chinese feared that the U.S. would in fact launch and attack. So, what did he do? He tried to defuse the situation. He did what his protocol suggested with that and that is reach out to his counterpart generally in China.

BERMAN: Bianna Golodryga and Reena Ninan, thanks so much for being here, a little reunion, it's nice to see you both, I appreciate it.



BERMAN: So blatant misinformation, in an unfortunate Broadway musical, what we're learning from the damning new tell-all book from President Trump's one time press secretary, and how Melania Trump tried to get back at her husband over the stormy Daniels allegations. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: You really hate the musical cat?


KEILAR: Also, we have health care workers putting their jobs on the line by resisting New York's new vaccine mandate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't even accept that the vaccines work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not convinced that they work yet.






KEILAR: Stephanie Grisham spent years at the side of the Trump serving as then President Donald Trump's press secretary and his chief of staff for First Lady Melania Trump, before quitting her job in protest after the January 6 insurrection.

She's now written a tell-all memoir of her time at the center of the Trump storm where she details Trump's mechanic temper, his demands to aides that they simply deny the numerous allegations made against him in his administration despite any evidence to the contrary, and how Melania Trump reacted to the numerous allegations of her husband's infidelity.

Let's bring in Kaitlan Collins, CNN Chief White House Correspondent and CNN White House Correspondent Kate Bennett as well.

Kate, you did obtain an early copy of the book ahead of its release next week. So, you know all the tea, right, about what we're talking about here.

OK, first off, let's talk -- I want to talk a little bit about some of the intrigue when it came to Donald Trump and Melania Trump over allegations of him having affairs including, you know, Stormy Daniels. Grisham writes, in this book after the Stormy Daniels story broke and all the allegations that followed from other women, I felt that Mrs. Trump was basically unleashed. She had always been independent from her husband, but now as a wronged and publicly humiliated first lady, she seemed liberated to do whatever she wanted, or didn't want to do. What did, tell us more about this?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think honestly, this was always Melania Trump's MO. And she made a very specific case to not have the East Wing, communicate with the West Wing or not have to sort of go off their lead, it became more intensified as Grisham writes after the allegations of the affairs.

And I think it's interesting, you know, people have this idea that she was somehow trapped in the White House, or she was crying in her gilded bedroom. Oh, my God, my husband cheated on me. And I think what Grisham says here is what people have said to me, as I've reported, she is not necessarily sad that her husband cheated. She knows allegedly cheated. She knows who she married, but certainly, she was humiliated, and she was angry. And what she didn't do is what typical political spouses do, which is a sit down on a news talk show program or walk hand in hand.

In fact, she did the opposite. She demanded separate motorcades. She wouldn't walk across the lawn with him. And she requested that handsome military aides be selected to walk with her for State of the Union to be photographed with her. So, she was very like Melania Trump very calculated in her visual messaging, saying I'm not OK with this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, knowing how important optics is to the former president.

BENNETT: Yeah, exactly.

KEILAR: So past, this is like the height of passive, aggressive, you know, marriage tactics. I will say.

OK, let's talk a little bit about, you know, President Trump obviously knows the importance of how things appear. And that was the case with Vladimir Putin. Stephanie Grisham details in the book, how the president, then President Trump was saying the Putin, you know, sort of chummy out of the view of cameras. But, you know, I'm going to have to be tough on you in front of the cameras.

COLLINS: Yeah, essentially saying, give us a few moments. And I'm going to look tough when the reporters are in the room, and then when they leave, we can get down to business and start talking. And I think that is -- that comes as the aides, you know, including the ones writing this book, or one, two, we're often defending the president stance toward Russia, saying that he was tougher on Russia than any other president would in reality, you see how he was trying to keep that in mind and also how sensitive he was to the criticism of his relationship with Putin and how he navigated that, trying to even bring it into those meetings when he was meeting with him one on one, saying that when we actually are alone in the room, and we're talking which of course, was such a concern for his national security aides, and his defense secretary, his defense secretary and other top aides as well as how he actually conducted himself with these world leaders in private.

KEILAR: Caitlin Collins, one of Trumps favorite targets in time as you covered the Trump administration. You're actually in the book, where Grisham details an incident where Trump ordered you forcibly removed from a press briefing because he didn't like your line of questioning, after yelling at Grisham to get you out. She writes, "for someone who is supposedly a press genius, how could Trump not see how disastrous it would look to pull White House reporter out in the middle of a briefing and then escort her out of the building. If that would help anyone, it would have been Kaitlan, who would be hailed as a First Amendment hero. Trump didn't like my answer. He wanted her gone and was about to head to the press briefing room himself. He became irate and it's hard to describe his wrath. It was terrifying for me for one, you are weak, he yelled. You are a loser. You are useless."


Did you, you know, first off, your reaction to that. Did you know if any of this, did you know any of this was happening behind the scenes?

COLLINS: No, we knew none of this at the time. We had no indications. There were instances, of course, where I would get calls, you know, two minutes before the briefing started saying the president is deeply unhappy with something you said on television a few moments ago, or a report that you had earlier today. So essentially, be prepared because he's walking into this room unhappy with you. And that was an instance where she says the president wasn't even in the room. But he obviously always watched these briefings from back in the West Wing and was clearly unhappy with what we were asking.

And I think it's deeply revealing, of course, the President's stance towards the press, which we are pretty well aware of and how he does not like aggressive questioning, but also look at his response to the press secretary. She wasn't even saying, with of course, freedom of the press, we need to let Kaitlan ask her questions. She was saying look at the optics of what it would look like if I physically went in there and removed her and was saying that it's a poor response. And the President responds with insults, which of course is not surprising.

KEILAR: Yeah. Kaitlan and Kate, thank you so much for being with us this morning to talk about all of this juicy stuff. We appreciate it.

New York City requiring public school employees to get the coronavirus vaccine by Friday, or to take an unpaid leave. Union say the city is not prepared for the 1000s of employees that it will lose because of the mandate. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is going to join us next to discuss that.