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Senate Strikes Deal to Avert Self-Inflicted Debt Catastrophe; Trump Allies Defy January 6th Subpoenas; Laundrie Was Under Surveillance Before Disappearing. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this NEW DAY.


Economic disaster averted, for now, at least. Bipartisan senators striking a deal and raising the debt ceiling. So what has Senator Joe Manchin shaking his head?

The Republican Party rewriting history as former President Trump tries to run out the clock on the insurrection investigation. Will the Trump administration ever be held accountable?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New developments in the manhunt for Brian Laundrie. It turns out he was being surveilled by police before he disappeared. So how did he get away?

Plus, is this finally the turning point in the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.? New signs of progress in the pandemic battle.

Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Friday, October 8.

And if there is one picture to sum up the state of Congress, it is this one. Democrat Joe Manchin head in hands, listening incredulously, or maybe despairingly, to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

It's a scene out of Washington's latest flirtation with economic calamity that let's just call "Mr. McConnell, or how I learned to stop worrying and embrace the debt ceiling."

Some of Senate Minority Leader McConnell's own Republicans accusing him of caving to Congress as he delivered the necessary GOP votes to raise the country's borrowing limit. So, did he cave?

Well, insomuch as he decided to avert total economic disaster, the downgrading of America's credit rating, and the global ripple effects that would have left us all in a recession, maybe worse; at least until December anyway, then yes, he caved. He did what needed to be done. He got 11 Republicans to join Democrats.

So was he met with thanks from his Democratic counterpart? Not even close. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone by going through a drawn-out, convoluted and risky reconciliation process. That was simply unacceptable to my caucus.

And yesterday, Senate Republicans finally realized that their obstruction was not going to work.


BERMAN: So, in case you missed it, that is Joe Manchin behind Leader Schumer shaking his head. He agreed with a number of Republicans who thought Chuck Schumer's speech was mean.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was it not appropriate?

SEN. JOE MANCHINI (D-WV): I just think that basically what we have to do is find a pathway forward to make sure that we de-weaponize. We have to de-weaponize. You can't be playing politics. None of us can, on both sides.


BERMAN: So, on the one hand, no complete economic calamity for a few days or months, hopefully. On the other hand, some hurt feelings.

Bottom line, they got it done. Temporarily. This either shows that getting stuff done is possible, temporarily, or that even doing the easy things can't be done without rancor, performative or otherwise.

KEILAR: Let's get the very latest on this from CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona.

You know, I mean, Chuck Schumer does have an approach here, which is basically, Hey, Republicans, why was this even a thing anyway? But this is -- you know, why did we even see this?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: This was the absolute bare minimum, we should point out. Republicans didn't even vote for the debt ceiling hike. They just allowed Democrats to proceed to this vote.

And it's only a short-term deal. So we're still going to deal with this in December. Mitch McConnell's initial reasoning for refusing to cooperate with Democrats, is because he wanted to showcase divisions in the Democratic ranks.

But what we saw yesterday was dissension in the GOP ranks. I mean, the anger amongst Republicans yesterday was palpable.

Ted Cruz said it was a serious mistake and that Republicans blinked. Lindsey Graham said this is a complete capitulation. And then, of course, former President Donald Trump launched a new round of attacks on McConnell over all of this.

And so I don't think it bodes well for the next few months when you have Chuck Schumer trying to rang wrangle his ranks together, McConnell who can't control his own conference. So we are headed towards a very messy December deadline right here.

KEILAR: It seems like McConnell wasn't going to highlight divisions at the expense of something that would be so bad for the country. And no way would it have been good for Republicans.

ZANONA: No. I think there was a recognition among Republicans and McConnell especially. At the end of the day, no one wanted the government to default on its debts.

And the other concern that was really driving McConnell here was concerns about the filibuster. There were some serious conversations inside the Democratic caucus about changing the Senate rules to get around the filibuster in order to address the debt ceiling.

And so Mitch McConnell told lawmakers that he really wanted to relieve some of that pressure on Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Let's not tempt fate and test the result. And that was the reason why he reversed course, at least temporarily this week.

KEILAR: Because maybe they would use it for something else, like perhaps a giant spending bill.

ZANONA: Or voting rights.

KEILAR: Or voting rights. Really anything.

So you have moderates and progressives in the Democratic Caucus who are still trying to figure out what to do on these major spending bills. And Senator Manchin, this idea of Senator Manchin and Senator Sanders getting together in a room is something that the president addressed in pretty colorful fashion.

ZANONA: That's right. He said, quote, "It would be homicide." This is some great reporting from our colleague, Manu Raju. It was obviously meant to be a joke. People laughed. But like most good jokes, there was some truth to it.

I mean, Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders have been openly sniping at each other. They are still very far apart on a lot of these key policy details. And the thinking among Democrats right now is they could be the key to unlocking all of this, or the key to it all falling apart.

Bernie Sanders represents the progressive wing. He has a lot of sway. He was able to get them to come along on that initial $3.5 trillion price tag, even though progressives wanted the 6 trillion. So if he can come to an agreement with Joe Manchin, who of course, is a critical swing vote in the Senate, in the 50-50 Senate, they think they could come together on this. But so far everyone seems to be talking past each other and not with each other. KEILAR: I don't know. I'd like to see them in a room together.

ZANONA: It would be interesting.

KEILAR: I really would. All right. Melanie, thank you so much.

ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: They call that a party.

A midnight deadline has passed with four Trump administration alums defying subpoenas from the January 6th Committee investigating the insurrection.

The former president, Trump, has instructed them not to cooperate. He's told them, don't help. He's indicated he will try to assert executive privilege to prevent investigators from gathering evidence on the insurrection.

So let's bring in CNN's Whitney Wild and Jessica Dean. Whitney, give us the latest on what's not happening.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a holding pattern at the moment. And so there's this question about what is the committee going to do as they try to move forward and figure out how they're going to try to hold these people accountable and prove that the subpoena is actually -- has teeth.

But as you point out, the former president has indicated that he's going to try to expert executive privilege. And the reason we say try is because there's a question about how elastic executive privilege is as it extends past a presidency.

So the current thinking is that it's really current President Joe Biden who has the authority to say, yes, this is executive privilege or, no, it's not.

However, the president has -- former president is indicating he's going to at least try. And we know that he had tried this in the past. He had indicated that he may try to exert privilege over the Department of Justice officials who were testifying in a list of other committees. Although, in the end, he didn't intervene.

So that's the -- that is the reigning theory right now. We've been trying to nail down his legal strategy. And at that -- at this point, that seems to be the legal strategy.

Here's the exact quote from the statement we got yesterday: "Executive privilege will be defended not just on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the office of the president of the United States and the future of our nation."

At this point, we have no indication that anybody is actually going to comply with the subpoena. However, I think it's important to point out that the October 7th deadline was a document deadline. This will become a much bigger deal once people start blowing off depositions. And then there's this big question about what papers are actually

available to pass along to the committee. So all of these questions remain to be seen.

KEILAR: So many questions. So much information to get together here.

And Jessica, you have Republicans responding to this damning Senate report that outlines Trump's effort to overturn the election by trying to rewrite history. Tell us what they're saying.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So I talked to a number of Senate Republicans who sit on the Judiciary Committee yesterday, just checking in with them to see if they had read this report.

And just as a refresher to all of you out there, this was an eight- month sweeping report released by Democrats on that committee that outlined a number -- it's very long, hundreds of pages long -- but some top lines that Trump had tried -- had asked the DOJ to overturn the election some nine times.

That his chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, had gone to a DOJ lawyer and asked him to investigate fraud claims. Things like this that it outlines, very detailed, in the hundreds of pages of this report.

So when I asked Senate Republicans about this report, had they read it, none of them had read it that I spoke to. To be fair, everyone was focused very much on the debt ceiling on the Hill yesterday. But none of them had read it.

Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley both told me they intended to. But no one wanted to comment on it, because they hadn't read it. Which obviously, Brianna, you know. You've been up there on the Hill. That's -- that's also what we get told a lot if they don't want to talk about it.

KEILAR: Can't talk about it if you haven't read it.

DEAN: That's right.

But I -- we also talked to Senator Thom Tillis, who did participate in one of the hearings. And it's worth noting the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee put out their own report on this, which was the exact -- found the exact opposite, pretty much.

But I'll let you hear Chuck Grassley. Take a listen. He's the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Take a listen.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-IA): Trump had everybody in the White House to discuss it and unanimously, except for one, they said you shouldn't do what the one lawyer said he thought the president ought to do. The president rejected it. The president did the right thing. How does that create any sort of

problem? In fact, if he had made another decision, you would have had a problem.



DEAN: So, you know, you listen to that, and you hear that we're just getting totally different takeaways from this report.

And again, worth noting the Republicans putting out their own report. And we talked to Senator Tillis about why maybe they were so different in their -- in their takeaways. He said, you know, when he was sitting in on one of those hearings, that people were just talking over each other. And he thinks that's reflected in the two very different reports.

KEILAR: Yes, indeed. Jessica, Whitney, thank you so much to both of you for your reporting.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for the "New York Times," Maggie Haberman; and CNN legal analyst and former special counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in President Trump's first impeachment trial, Norm Eisen.

Friends, thank you for being with us. First, a legal matter, Norm. Donald Trump isn't president anymore. So how is -- Norm, can you hear me? Norm can't hear me. I'm going to ask Norm in a second about the matters of executive privilege and also the criminal referral for contempt.

Maggie, first, let me ask you how this is working inside Trump world. Because the former president issued this demand that his four former employees, although Steve Bannon wasn't working in the White House, not cooperate. How is this being coordinated?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So Trump's lawyer wrote a letter that was sent to these witnesses, saying that, you know, to the extent permitted by law, don't cooperate with the subpoena in terms of documents and in terms of testimony and invoke any immunities that you might have. It's a very, very broad statement.

The letter argues that the commission itself is making an overly broad inquiry. It's the kind of letter that you would see and that we did see, frankly, when Trump was actually in the White House. He is now trying to invoke executive privilege, which really is up to the sitting president. So we don't know, and I realize you will address that in a second. But we don't know how that's going to work.

In terms of Trump's world, they want to treat this inquiry as illegitimate. And they have been saying that from the very beginning. And so doing this is a way of doing it.

But we are heading into yet another, in the Trump era, unprecedented moment of potentially blowing off subpoenas and treating them as if they're not real. And we'll see what Democrats do in response.

BERMAN: I want to cover both of those now with Counselor Norm Eisen, who through the miracle of television, can hear me now. As Maggie noted and observed, Donald Trump isn't president anymore. So how does executive privilege apply to him.

And also, Steve Bannon, I should note, wasn't even a government employee at the time in question.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John, thanks for having me back.

Good morning, Maggie.

There is some hangover executive privilege effect, John, for an ex- president. The courts have recognized that the current president should, for example, consult the ex-president.

But the ultimate decision, the courts have said, the big case is Nixon versus the General Services Administration, that these privileges belong to the country. The country only has one president at a time. That's Donald Trump [SIC]. That was Donald Trump. Now it's Joe Biden. Joe Biden makes these decisions.

So this is a borderline, frivolous instruction to these men. And I think the critical thing is don't let Donald Trump run out the clock. The courts, if this ends up in court. The courts need to move quickly, John.

BERMAN: Well, what about contempt? What about a referral to the Justice Department, as Chairman Bennie Thompson of the January 6th Committee said he will do. If he refers to the Justice Department for a criminal contempt charge, what should Merrick Garland do?

EISEN: There are three avenues. One is that Trump or these four recipients of the subpoenas who failed to produce documents yesterday, one is that they could go to court. That's unlikely, because they'll be speeding things up if they do that. That's not their objective. They want to run out the clock.

The Congress could make a criminal referral to DOJ. Or Congress itself could go to court to enforce. One of the differences between civil and criminal, DOJ goes to court to prosecute if it's criminal. If civil, Congress goes to court. There's pluses and minuses to both. Congress is undoubtedly wrestling with that.

But the imperative is, John, they can't deliberate too long. They need to move quickly so that -- as Trump has successfully done in the past, he can't run the clock out. We need to get this information.

BERMAN: I'm sorry to jump in there, Norm.

Maggie, I want to read two statements, because I think they're connected here in a certain way. And one of them was from the Republicans on that Senate Judiciary Committee. We just heard Jessica and Whitney talking about that. Chuck Grassley basically say nothing to see here on the discussions

inside the White House where the former president and others in the Justice Department, Clark, were trying to get everyone on board to overthrow the election results, basically.


The Republicans on the Senate judiciary put out a statement that said, "President Trump listened to his advisers, including high-level DOJ officials and White House counsel and followed their recommendations."

You heard Chuck Grassley said he did the right thing. How does that create a problem?

Now I want to read you something from Josh Mandel, who is a Senate candidate, a Republican candidate for Senate in the state of Ohio, put on Instagram yesterday.

He said, "Great breakfast this morning with another Ohioan who took his daughter to the January 6th rally. It's so important for our kids to see democracy up close and exercise their God-given rights."

It seems to me you have a Senate judiciary minority, you know, committee head there, saying nothing to see here about what happened behind the scenes before January 6th. And then you even have now Republicans literally celebrating it, telling people it's something you should take your kids to. What's the impact of this?

HABERMAN: The Mandel Instagram post is something that I had -- the kind of thing I hadn't seen before, frankly. Because I hadn't seen anyone suggesting, you know, even a candidate suggesting that going to the rally -- and, yes, there was a rally before people moved up to the Capitol, which then became a riot. And so suggesting that this was, you know, sort of -- this was a free speech exercise. That's true. It was until suddenly it wasn't, and then it was people breaking the law.

In terms of Grassley statement, that's not what happened. It wasn't that Trump, you know, heeded the counsel of his advisers. Trump actually tried to find other advisers repeatedly to do what he wanted to do, because his existing advisers were telling him he couldn't do what he wanted to do.

Now, is it true that he didn't then literally try to go ahead and install certain people, which could have triggered all kinds of responses, which I think Trump was aware of? Yes, it's true he didn't do that. But that statement is -- is just simply not an accurate representation of what took place.

BERMAN: Yes. George Conway said, basically, it's as if a mob boss -- this is Conway saying -- was looking for people to carry out a hit, a murder, but all the hit men told him they wouldn't do the job. So the way you report that is, Oh, the president took their advice, so there's no problem here.

Norm, but what do you make of this? Either on the one hand, as Chuck Grassley is now arguing, Nothing to see; no problem here. Or as Josh Mandel even says, this is something to be celebrated. What does that tell us about where we've come 10 months later and how the country might process this going forward and the risks ahead?

EISEN: John, it tells us that we're in a terribly dangerous moment. What we saw the Senate minority do on the Judiciary Committee yesterday is turn reality upside-down.

The majority report determined that Trump went to DOJ to try to get them to participate in his attack on the election nine times. His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, went repeatedly.

So to say that there was no interference there is -- is just an alternate reality. And the danger of it, John -- and the Mandel statement illustrates this -- this detachment from reality, this embrace of Trump's big lie, and these assaults on our democracy, are creeping further and further into the Republican Party.

And it just is that MAGA faction within the Republican Party is breaking with what we have always understood as the bipartisan American commitment to democracy.

Fortunately, there are solutions. People are fighting it all across the country in various ways. And I think we're going to see another fight over these subpoenas. That's part of the reason it's so important that the House committee enforce their legitimate demand for information. We can't just roll over for this alternative reality.

BERMAN: Yes. I guess what I'm suggesting is there is a continuum between what Grassley and the Republicans of the Judiciary are saying and Josh Mandel are saying. You can see where this is headed. And to some extent it is already. Norm Eisen, Maggie Haberman, thank you both very much.

Brian Laundrie apparently under surveillance by police before he went missing. So if that's the case, how did he disappear? The latest on the manhunt, coming up.

KEILAR: Plus, President Biden's poll numbers, they're underwater and sinking. We're going to break down where he's losing the most support here.

And could young children be vaccinated in time for the holidays? New details about when Pfizer's vaccine could be approved.



BERMAN: Developing this morning, CNN has learned that Brian Laundrie was under surveillance before he disappeared. And even though police had eyes on him, authorities never got a chance to speak with him.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins me now. Jean, they were watching him, but it couldn't have been that close if he got away.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The way they explained this is that Gabby had been reported missing. So that was done.

But other than that, there was no crime. There he was. They said they saw him. They looked at him. They monitored him. They surveilled him. They didn't speak to him. But they couldn't do any more, because there was no month criminal activity that they knew of.

And at that point, remember, he disappeared then into the Carlton Reserve, presumably, on the 13th of September.

Now, it's interesting. They do say that on the 11th, when Gabby was reported missing, they went to the house and that they didn't see Brian, they didn't speak to Brian at all.

But another revelation that the North Port Police Department confirmed with CNN yesterday is that they do not have the original iPhones of Gabby and Brian Laundrie. That once they executed that search warrant in the white van, they thought they were going to be in there. They weren't there. They don't have them. They can't find them.

They can still use some technology to see what was on the phone to a degree. But they don't have the physical phones.

And yesterday, another momentous day in the sense that Brian Laundrie's father actually went out with law enforcement to the Carlton Reserve. This is the 25,000-acre nature reserve, that the parents say this is where he has to be. He isn't anywhere else. He is in this reserve.

Well, law enforcement wanted to know exactly the trails that Brian liked to hike, where he used to go, what he favored. And so the father went out in the red pickup, went to the property. Police let him in. And he did this for a couple of hours, alerting him. And the word from the family attorney is that there was nothing that was found or discovered, but it was a very positive day for all -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Interesting development, to say the least. Jean Casarez, thank you very much.

So, with coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations all down, is this finally the beginning of the end of the pandemic?

KEILAR: Plus, anti-vaccine mandate protesters clashing with parents outside a Beverly Hills elementary school. We're going to talk to a reporter who was there.