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Catastrophe Unfolding after Massive Oil Spill Off California; Supreme Court Faces Blockbuster Term as Approval Falls; Progressives Flex Muscle, Use Hardball Tactics in Standoff. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Christine Romans, thank you very much for that.

And New Day continues right now.

I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar on this New Day.

Facebook allowing the spread of hate, anger, and lies to make money. Hear the damning claims from a whistleblower.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: It is a, quote, environmental catastrophe, massive oil spill threatening beaches in California, and now a health warning for the public.

BERMAN: Plus, a blockbuster term begins today at the Supreme Court. The fate of Roe versus Wade hangs in a balance.

KEILAR: And Brady still lost (ph), and Berman doesn't really (INAUDIBLE). A wild night in Pats land.

BERMAN: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, October 4th.

This morning, Southern California dealing with a potential ecological disaster, a large swath of the coastline covered with oil after a pipeline breach sent 126,000 gallons of oil pouring into the Pacific, killing fish and other wildlife, contaminating fragile wetlands. Crews are racing to mop up the spill.

KEILAR: So, this massive spill shut down miles of beaches and they could be closed for weeks. It is unclear whether this spill has been stopped at this point in time. The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the cause.

CNN's Natasha Chen live for us in Huntington Beach, California, which is really -- this is look a surfing epicenter of California where this has been hit. This is a beautiful beach that so many people go to.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. They call themselves Surf City USA. There were still a lot of people out on the sand yesterday. That's because some of them were expecting to come to the third day of an air show yesterday where there were an expected 1 million people. That third day of the air show got canceled because, by Saturday night, the oil had started to come up to the shoreline. So, right now, the bottom line is that people need to stay out of the water, stay away from the shoreline.

Still, the folks we were meeting yesterday who came to the beach, they were getting tar balls stuck to the bottoms of their feet, really trying to scrape that off at the wash stations behind us. We met one couple who was here and really upset about this news about the oil spill.




B. OSTASHAY: It's a sad thing. I think accidents do happen but it's a little surprise that it still does.

C. OSTASHAY: It still does after all the way technology is they can't figure out how much is spilled or leaked. It's like, come on.

It's not just us and our tax dollars. It has damaged all of the wildlife that goes on within the sea. We're already having enough problems.


CHEN: And there have been reports with animals washing up with oil on them.

As far as the source of the leak, divers were investigating yesterday trying to figure out where the leak came from and why it happened. The CEO of Amplify Energy, the responsible party, said that the entire capacity of the pipeline is 126,000 gallons. So, at this point, there doesn't seem to be more fuel leaking out into the water, and that's because there probably isn't any more to come out of there. But they still haven't figured out why this happened or the exact source of the leak. Brianna?

KEILAR: I'm kind of heartbroken watching the pictures. I'm from Orange County, Natasha. I'm a bad surfer, very bad. But I learned to surf there on Huntington Beach, as so many people did. It is heartbreaking to watch what is happening there. Thank you so much for the update this morning. We'll keep checking in with you.

CHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: A former Facebook employee turned whistleblower says that the social media company is profiting off of people's anger. Here is Frances Haugen speaking to 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is that is it is optimizing for content that gets engagement or reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polArizing, it's easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.

SCOTT PELLEY,CBS HOST: Misinformation, angry content is enticing to people --

HAUGEN: Very enticing.

PELLEY: -- and keeps them on the platform?

HAUGEN: Yes. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, they'll make less money.


BERMAN: Joining us now to discuss this and more is the Professor Jelani Cobb, the director of the Center of Journalism and Civil and Human Rights at Columbia University.


He's also a Staff Writer at The New Yorker and a co-editor of a new book, The Matter of Black Lives, which is terrific and sucks you in almost like no book I read in a long, long time. We'll get to that in a second.

First, I want to talk about Facebook and this whistleblower interview and these revelations. In your mind, as somebody who studies this, what is the responsibility that Facebook has and how does this whistleblower shine a light on how that's being abrogated?

JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Listen, we are, as part of a (INAUDIBLE), an institution, we have a profession that is protected by the Constitution. That is an awesome responsibility. We are supposed to shore up democracy. Facebook has operated, despite what they say, in many instances, like a media company. They have that same responsibility. But we haven't seen that be the guiding ethic in the company's operation. Best indicator of this is the way that it has facilitated authoritarian regimes abroad. So it's not really a shock, particularly the comments about January 6th, it's not particularly shocking that it could be useful for means corrosive to democracy here.

BERMAN: One of the things that came out during this interview was that this whistleblower says that Facebook had some protections in place before the November election, after the November election, dropped the protections, which allowed all kinds of traffic before the insurrection. This is how Facebook -- Nick Clegg, a former British politician who now represents them, this is how he justified that. Listen.


NICK CLEGG, V.P. OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: I think the assertion is January 6th could be explained because of social media. I just think that's ludicrous. The responsibility for the violence of January the 6th and the insurrection on that day lies squarely with the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including then-President Trump.

I think it gives people false comforts to assume there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polArization in the United States.


BERMAN: Don't blame us, he says.

COBB: I mean, listen, that is not the history of media. We know this. We talked about this before. Media in this country has a long history where we recognized even at the turn of the century with the tabloid press that you could amplify particular dynamics on people's emotions by what you put on the front page, are the most basic analog system of media. Facebook is no exception to that. And so it would be astounding or very difficult to believe that Facebook had nothing to do with January 6th.

We don't have to say this is kind of a magic bullet. This is the only ingredient. Clearly, it's not. There were other elements that were part of this. But, certainly, Facebook and the means of which people communicated in order to coordinate this event has some responsibility.

BERMAN: Facebook is a place where all kinds of stuff that deals with racial issues. That is the subject of this book. New Yorker essays over the last 50, 60 years that that deal with race. What is the through line here would you say?

COBB: So, we were thinking last year when we watched that horrifying video of George Floyd's death and we decided to republish James Baldwin's just incandescent essay, letter from a region of my mind, that there would be more that could kin of shed light on this subject or be provocative in terms of helping people think through the miasma of race in American society. And so that's where this collection came from.

BERMAN: And that Baldwin essay, which is the first one in this book, is searing. It's searing. I almost can't believe I'm reading it now and it was written before the march on Washington, right?

COBB: That's right.

BERMAN: You brought up George Floyd. There is a George Floyd statue that is here in New York City that had paint thrown on it. It was defaced. So, what are we going to make of that?

COBB: Well, I mean, it's not shocking. There are people who are still shooting at the Emmett Till Memorial. And that happened in 1955. It's unfortunate but this as people saw the bookend between the way Emmett Till's death galvanized part of American society and what happened to George Floyd, we've also seen the same sorts of reactionary backlashes to those two people and people who recognized that their deaths represented some bigger dynamic in American society. So it's horrible. It's terrible. It should be denounced. But it is not surprising.

BERMAN: George Floyd was killed.

COBB: That's right.

BERMAN: And he had paint thrown on the statue.

COBB: That's right.

BERMAN: Professor Cobb, it's always an education to speak with you. Thank you so much. The book is The Matter of Black Lives. It is terrific, once you pick it up, you can't put it down.

COBB: Thank you.

BERMAN: Brianna?

KEILAR: Here in just a matter of hours, the Supreme Court will convene for the start of its new term. And in the coming months, the Justices are set to rule on some of the most divisive issues, including the Second Amendment, religious liberty and abortion.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining us now with a preview of what is going to be a very busy term. Jess?


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Brianna. This is the first time that justices will be back inside the courtroom hearing those arguments in person in just about 18 months. And the start today really tees up a potentially explosive term here with abortion and gun rights on the docket. And, already, we are seeing some justices on the defensive.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): The justices will be back on the bench Monday morning after more than a year of hearing arguments over the phone because of COVID. Justice Brett Kavanaugh though will not join his fellow justices in person after testing positive for COVID late last week.

The return to the courtroom will bring a political spotlight brighter than it's been in years. Justice public approval of the nation's highest court has plummeted. A new Gallup poll conducted right after the court allowed a restrictive Texas abortion law to go into effect last month shows an approval rating of 40 percent, the lowest in 20 years. Five of the nine justices have spoken publicly in the past few weeks about the controversial decision and some of the division.

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT: I've been on the court for 30 years. It's flawed. But, you know, I will defend it because knowing all the disagreements, it works.

SCHNEIDER: Clarence Thomas is the longest serving justice on the court that now has a 6-3 conservative majority. And he's long been outspoken on the two major issues confronting the court this term, abortion and guns. Justice Thomas has previously called Roe v. Wade the landmark case that established a constitutional right to an abortion before 22 to 24 weeks plainly wrong, and lamented that the Second Amendment has become a disfavored right.

The court will wade into the culture wars on both issues before 2021 concludes, with arguments on a New York gun law restricting people from carrying guns in public in November and arguments on a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade on December 1st.

Fractures have been in full view recently with stinging dissents from the liberal-leaning justices after five of the conservatives refused to block the Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks without hearing arguments, a move some critics label part of the shadow docket.

Last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was blunt about what she thinks lies ahead. There is going to be a lot of disappointment in the law, a huge amount. Look at me. Look at my dissents, she said in an event hosted by the American Bar Association, adding that while she couldn't change the Texas law, the public could by lobbying lawmakers.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who had been pushed by progressives to retire last summer, minced no words on the Texas decision in an interview with CNN last week.


SCHNEIDER: The conservative justices have been pushing back. The newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, appeared in an event with the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and declared, my goal is to convince you this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.

Justice Samuel Alito was even more forceful in a speech at the University of Notre Dame, at times blasting the media for portraying the now conservative-leaning court as a dangerous cabal, deciding important issues in a novel, secretive, improper way, in the middle of the night, Alito calling the criticism that the court was acting in a way that was sneaky or dangerous, very misleading.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And these competing comments come at a time when issues are only set to get more divisive. Of course, that Texas abortion law was actually decided on strictly procedural grounds. But on December 1st, the justices will hear arguments on the merits on that Mississippi abortion law that restricts most abortions after 15 weeks. And, Brianna, it is leaving many people to wonder will the court ultimately overrule Roe v. Wade. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, many are wondering. Jessica Schneider at the court, thank you.

Let's talk about this with former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

All right, this is going to be potentially a wild ride here this term ahead for the court. What are the three things you're watching?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Abortion, for starters. When Donald Trump ran for president, he said, I am going to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the procedural ruling at the end of August, all three of his nominees did vote in effect to overturn Roe v. Wade by allowing the Texas law to go into effect. When the Mississippi law is argued in December, Roe will be directly in front of the justices. And, certainly, the indications are that we are in for a major, major change on abortion rights. So that's one.

Number two is gun rights. In 2008, the Supreme Court said for the first time that there is a personal right to own a handgun in your home under the Second Amendment. They never said anything like that about the Second Amendment before. But they haven't really elaborated on what that means.


Do you have the right to a bigger gun, to a machine gun, to a concealed weapon, do felons have rights to own guns. There's a case out of New York that's going to start to explore that.

And the third is Stephen Breyer. Is Stephen Breyer really going to retire at the age of 83 while the Senate is still in Democratic hands? He seems to believe he's perhaps the only person who believes that the Supreme Court is an apolitical institution, so you shouldn't retire when your party is in power. We'll see if he sticks to that.

KEILAR: On gun control, where do you see the court leaning?

TOOBIN: In a very clear way, even more than on abortion. The conservatives on the court, including John Roberts, who has actually sided with the liberals on abortion in more recent years, there are six votes I think pretty clearly to tell state legislators, you cannot regulate guns as much as you thought you could. I think all signs point to a relaxation of the rules on guns directed by the Supreme Court.

KEILAR: And then I wonder what else people should watch for this term.

TOOBIN: Church and state issues is also -- another big conservative project has been allowing religious institutions to get money from state government. You know, it used to be that the metaphor was there is a wall of separation between church and state. But one thing conservatives have very effectively pushed for is ways that the government could continue subsidizing religious institutions, whether it's paying for school buses or textbooks or playgrounds. And now the issue is going to be can they play for scholarships that go to parochial schools as well as private schools. That's up to the Supreme Court this year.

There are six conservatives on the Supreme Court. And as Justice Brennan liked to say, the biggest rule at the Supreme Court is five. With five votes, you can do anything around here, and they've got six.

KEILAR: They have six. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you for that. Good to see you.

We have some breaking news. A hospital worker wearing body armor and carrying multiple weapons shoots and kills a nurse. We'll have that ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, progressives playing hardball as President Biden's agenda hangs in the balance.

And former President Trump amping up pressure on Texas officials to push the big lie about the election.



BERMAN: President Biden traveling to Michigan to rally support for his infrastructure bill tomorrow, a bill that stalled in the House after Nancy Pelosi was forced to cancel a vote amid conflicts within her own party.

Now, the move is being hailed a win for the congressional progressive caucus who hopes tough tactics will force moderates to vote for the larger spending bill, their top priority.

With us now, Jonathan Martin from The New York Times, who wrote a terrific article over the weekend about the empowered progressives.


BERMAN: How are they feeling this morning?

MARTIN: They're feeling great. This is probably the most significant muscle flexing they have exerted in years in Congress. And what's funny about this is that they did it under the auspices of rallying for Joe Biden, who was not their first candidate, second or their sixth candidate in the 2020 primary. But he adopted a lot of their agenda when did get the nomination. And I think so because of that, they are able to say, look, we are trying to pass the president's agenda here, which is a very compelling argument obviously in the party.

BERMAN: So, the progressives are feeling empowered and some of the moderates are angry --

MARTIN: Betrayed, yes.

BERMAN: I mean, Stephanie Murphy, who is moderate Democrat from Florida, said, by the way he is governing doesn't reflect the skills I know he must have from his years as a legislator. I'm not clear why he came up to the Hill.

MARTIN: Yes. And that's reflective of more folks in the Democratic caucus than just her, certainly the moderate flank. They thought, up until Biden opened his remarks, that he was coming up there on Friday to pitch the caucus on passing infrastructure that day, that night. That was the hope, the expectation. Okay, they are calling the closer here. We're finally going to get this done. When Biden didn't do that and Pelosi made clear, I'm not going to bring up the bill, that those two sort of blows I think were really devastating to the moderates.

BERMAN: So, those moderates in the House, then there are the two in the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And no one, I think, has had a spotlight on them like Kyrsten Sinema, who went back to Arizona and was followed into a bathroom by some progressives from ASU here with this video that they shot. What's the impact of something like this?

MARTIN: Well, I think two things. First, sort of big picture, this does capture the line crossed that we are seeing taking place in politics today of invading personal spaces of members of Congress, going to people's homes. We are seeing more and more I think in American politics today.

Secondly, in her case, it's not going to prove very effective, John. If you know anything about Senator Sinema, she is not somebody that typically bows to those kinds of tactics. In fact, if anything, this might push her to sort of dig deeper. So, I just don't see that as a very effective tactic.

That is the vinegar, if you will. The Biden White House is trying honey. And they have been working vociferously to sort of bring her along for some framework on that second larger bill.


And the whole point, if she and Senator Manchin will commit on something, they can then go back to the progressives in the House and say, look, we have this commitment. Let's now pass infrastructure.

BERMAN: Isn't the effect --

MARTIN: But will Sinema give that after they pulled the bill last week in the House? Because her whole thing was, I don't want to do the second larger bill until you pass the bill that I wrote over the summer in the Senate, which is infrastructure.

BERMAN: But we'll see, right? But for the first time, Biden, while he did side with progressives and saying, let's not have the infrastructure, he also set the stage for how a deal can be made. He also said, this is the path.

MARTIN: Right.

BERMAN: Right? And for the first time, you can see where each side is negotiating from, which you couldn't before Friday night. MARTIN: Yes. There were two key elements to his coming up to the Capitol on Friday. One was obviously the headline, which is he's not going to push for a vote that day on infrastructure. That's number one. The second, and I think the longer term equally important message was this is not going to be 3.5 trillion, this second larger bill. We're going to have to come down somewhere in the high ones, low 2 trillion.

BERMAN: And you're going to have to live with that?

MARTIN: And you're going to have to. And that's if they can get Manchin and Sinema to agree with that, which is still an open question.

BERMAN: Jonathan Martin, great to see you. Thanks very much.

MARTIN: Thank you, John, I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Brianna?

KEILAR: Former President Trump is ramping up pressure on Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to push through an elections bill that would make it easier for partisans, like candidates, and party officials to demand review of future elections. This is in Texas, a state that Trump won in 2020 by more than five percentage points.

Let's about this now talk with Matthew Dowd. He is the former campaign adviser for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, who announced last week he is running as a Democrat to be Texas' next lieutenant governor. Matthew, thanks for being with us.

MATTHEW DOWD (D), TEXAS LT. GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: So, you see this effort of Trump's to pressure Governor Abbott. We also are watching what are state -- pardon me, a state audit of the four biggest counties in Texas. You have Trump calling that week, saying it is slow walked, even though it's going ahead. Do you think these efforts by Trump to pressure Abbott will work?

DOWD: Well, we have seen they have already worked since he called for an audit of four counties, three of which Joe Biden won when there's been zero evidence, as you know, of widespread voter fraud. So he's -- Donald Trump already has shown that he could pull the chain and the governor of Texas jumps. And it's just such another example of how out of step the GOP leadership is here, is that they are aligning with Trump at a place, in a state which has the 50th ranking in ease of voting. And they're going to make it even harder to vote and even more undermine more people's trust in the election.

So, Donald Trump has an overweighted power over the GOP elected officials and they're doing things that aren't in the best interest of Texans

KEILAR: Look, Trump is not happy, as I said, with Abbott when it comes to the audit. Do you think that Abbott is going to capitulate? DOWD: He's capitulated every single step of the way over the last few years. Everything he's done when they passed voting restrictions in the legislature, he capitulated the big lie that started last year. He's capitulated attacks on the freedom of choice, of women's right to decide. They basically obliterated Roe versus Wade here.

He's done this in every single step of the way even though Donald Trump and what he stands for in Texas is not popular among the majority. The governor and the lieutenant governor, who I'm running against, only wants to seek to appeal to 5 percent of the state, and that 5 percent who aligns with that agenda. So, yes, he's capitulated over and over and he will keep capitulating as long as he holds office and as long as Donald Trump shouts from Mar-a-Lago.

KEILAR: Nearby in Arizona, unlike Texas, where Donald Trump won, Joe Biden won in Arizona. And the Trump-backed Republican candidate for governor there says that she would not have certified the election result for Joe Biden. Do you think that we're watching a constitutional crisis unfold?

DOWD: I think it's already happened. I mean, what happened in the aftermath, Brianna, of last year of the election, when every person that looked at it and said it was a legitimate election, that everything was done right, no voter fraud, and then what happens on January 6th, which as I've said, should be burned in our memories, there was an insurrection at the Capitol based on all of these lies.

And so this has become part of the Republican Party, who no longer stands. As I've said, the choice isn't really between Democrat and Republican. It's between who believes in democracy and who doesn't. And I think that's what has happened over the course of this, and it's ever since Donald Trump undermined the election.


All of these things that have happened, bad policy and things that have hurt people, have all come out of the spread of that lie, including, as I say --