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Senate Strikes Deal to Avert Self-Inflicted Debt Catastrophe; Trump Allies Defy January 6th Subpoenas, Setting Up Showdown; Police Say, Laundrie Was Under Surveillance Before Disappearance. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: For those dad instincts, all those taps and then finally hear that cry.



BERMAN: New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Friday, October 8th.

And cancel the calamity, postpone Armageddon, put off that complete economic implosion until it's more convenient. Overnight, the Senate managed to not throw the country into an economic tailspin for a bit. Talk about a low bar. They voted to pay the country's debts and raise the debt ceiling. It keeps the government in business for another two months or so and buys time for lawmakers to come up with a more permanent solution, if they can.

The vote happened after Mitch McConnell backed off his stance and managed to pull ten Republicans with him.

KEILAR: Well, that did not sit well with some other members of the GOP who saw this as McConnell caving. But because a good deed never goes unpunished, the minority leader took incoming from both fronts and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was certainly in no mood to give thanks.


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.


KEILAR: In case you missed it there, that is Senator Joe Manchin, head in hands, just wishing that mommy and daddy could stop fighting, especially when mommy and daddy will have to work through the debt ceiling all over again here in several weeks.


REPORTER: Why was it not appropriate?

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


KEILAR: CNN's Lauren Fox here with us now here on this. Look, a lot of rancor even though this went as it should, right? That's the key point, is the debt ceiling at least temporarily has been increased.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This was way harder than it needed to be. There were some tense hours right before this vote. And then as the vote was taking place on the floor, you had Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his whip, John Thune, literally standing by the desk at the Senate making sure that they were going to have the Republicans that they needed to actually vote for the short- term increase.

And we should note, this was just a procedural vote. Ultimately, they didn't vote to actually increase the debt ceiling. They wanted Democrats to do that. But Republicans had to help get them across the finish line. As they walked out of the Capitol last night, the mood coming down the stairs, as I was with Mitt Romney after that Schumer speech, you could tell he was mad. He had gone up and he admitted that he had gone up to Schumer after that speech and he said, look, there's a time for grace and there's a time to be combative, and this was supposed to be a time for grace.

And I think that a lot of Republicans felt like that. They worked very hard to get the votes to make sure that this crisis was averted. Now, they made that calculation very late, after months of saying they were not going to help at all. But they did provide Democrats with some votes. And then Schumer goes to the floor and gives that speech. And you saw there Manchin with his head in his hands, making it clear he was a little bit uncomfortable.

If you listened to Schumer's speech, as we should note, this speech sounds very similar to what he talks about at the top of the Senate every single day. But I think after this moment, maybe some people were hoping that he would be a little more graceful.

KEILAR: It's the timing. This isn't every day. And procedural vote or not, Republicans went out on a limb, right? And so Chuck Schumer, on one hand, is like, guys, why is this even a thing anyways? And he has a point. But now, he is dealing with head in hands Joe Manchin who he needs when it comes to wrangling his Democrats on these bigger spending bills that he wants to get passed.

FOX: Well, exactly. He needs Manchin to do this bigger social safety net. We should note that Manchin has not made it clear yet that he would come above $1.5 trillion and a lot of Democrats want this bill to be a lot bigger. So, that is still something he has to wrestle with.

Not to mention, behind closed doors, McConnell got an earful yesterday in a 90-minute conference meeting. He had a lot of Republicans who were attacking him and saying so publicly. You have Lindsey Graham telling me yesterday, we had a plan and he threw the plan overboard. That kind of rhetoric makes it clear that McConnell really did go out on a limb here. And Democrats have their own infighting to deal with as they approach the president's agenda.

And you can guess over the next two months while they have this break from dealing with the debt ceiling, they're going to have to deal with the differences in their caucus.


And I think McConnell knew that, and that is part of the reason why maybe he was willing to help them out knowing that now the focus and the spotlight is going to return to Democrats and their own issues in their own ranks.

KEILAR: Look, say Mitch McConnell, whatever you will, but he knows that if a plan is terrible, you do throw it out, right? He knows that. Lauren, thank you so much.

BERMAN: So, a group of four former Trump aides defied the deadline overnight, choosing to ignore subpoenas from the committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Trump has instructed them not to cooperate, indicating he will try to exert executive privilege.

Joining me now, former Republican Congressman from Florida Francis Rooney. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

These four guys didn't turn over documents. They were supposed to turn over documents. The committee subpoenaed them. They didn't turn over the documents. The former president is telling them not to cooperate. What should the consequence be?

FMR. REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): Well, I think all the actions pertaining to the insurrection that involved the storming of the Capitol need to be exposed and investigated thoroughly. This is the most destructive thing to American democracy probably since the civil war. And if you look at U.S. v. Nixon, 1974, the case is pretty clear that the Supreme Court said executive privilege is not unconditional, that it requires a balance of interest. And they said a criminal procedure outweighed the assertion of privilege. And we have got the criminality on T.V. You have film. You filmed it.

BERMAN: You know that there is this new trend of people defying congressional subpoenas, just not responding, just not showing up. Does there need to be a consequence for this? There could be a referral to the Justice Department for criminal contempt. Is this something you feel the Justice Department needs to enforce? ROONEY: In this case, I would. I mean, you can't let these guys escape discussing the background that led to that insurrection.

BERMAN: In this case, we're talking about escaping legal consequence, escaping a subpoena. There does also seem to be an effort to escape the overall reality of what happened on January 6th. The Senate Judiciary Committee put out an interim report on its investigation into what was going on in the Justice Department. And Dick Durbin cited nine times that the Democrats on that committee, nine times that the former president tried to more or less overthrow the election before January 6th and had an official in the Justice Department also trying to send out letters to stop the election from being certified and going through. That was the finding of this report.

But the Republicans on that committee, led by Chuck Grassley, took another view, which is basically nothing to see here. Listen to this.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (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.


BERMAN: How does that create any sort of problem? The entire Justice Department, save one guy, was threatening to resign if he went through with it. That's what it took to stop the president, Congressman.

ROONEY: Yes. I think Senator Grassley makes a technically correct point. But the fact of the matter is, we haven't had anybody try to bully the rest of the executive branch since Nixon. It's very destructive process that took place around the election, following the election, and then certainly culminated with January 6th.

BERMAN: Yes. And the bottom line was he tried. He was trying to get in the way of the election. He told us he was trying to get in the way of the election results and overthrow it. And it's on a continuum. The reason I think what Grassley says there is important, is it's on a continuum to diminish what we know happened that day. That's one part of the continuum.

And you go further down the line and you see Republicans now openly celebrating what happened on January 6th. I'm talking about Josh Mandel, who is a candidate for Senate in Ohio, and right now a leading candidate for Senate in Ohio. This is what he put out on social media. 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. This guy is literally saying this is a day to be celebrated and take your kids to. ROONEY: That is sheer lunacy. And it is incredible that in the United States, we have that kind of action and failure to even consider the facts that are on T.V. and the print media.


The last time things like that happened, some really bad consequences occurred in world history. We have to pay attention to what happened.

BERMAN: What do you mean?

ROONEY: Well, when you have people that ignore facts, you get authoritarian rulers who put out fake news. And like Romania, where Ceausescu who convinced the people that we didn't have enough food over here, like what happened in Venezuela. And it's dangerous that the president was talking about doing and what people like Josh are saying. I mean, I can't imagine that they would not say we may disagree with the policy but we sort of disagree with the storming of the Capitol.

BERMAN: Yes. I think your point is well taken there, that it is important what's happening now, his take on it now. Josh Mandel is dangerous for what might happen next.

Congressman, stand by for a second, because I want to take a moment to look into the more than 2,000 pages of court documents that have been reviewed by CNN. These documents reveal the Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, admitted under oath they did little to verify election fraud claims before amplifying them on the national stage.

And all of this is coming out because of the former executive for Dominion Voting Systems, Eric Coomer. He is suing Giuliani and Powell for defaming him when they repeatedly claimed that he tampered with votes. Giuliani even admitted that he spent less than an hour reviewing allegations that Coomer was part of a plot to rig the election before broadcasting the allegations.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: And, by the way, the Coomer character, who is close to Antifa, the man is a vicious, vicious man. He wrote horrible things about the president. He is completely biased. He is completely warped. And he specifically says that they're going to fix this election.

SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Eric Coomer, I believe his name is, is on the web being recorded in a conversation with Antifa, members saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden.


BERMAN: They said that without looking into it. This is what Giuliani said about Coomer this summer under oath, exactly what role he played. I had no idea. It's a big company, lots of people do different things. I had no idea, nor was I particularly interested at that point, interested in the truth. And Powell this summer under oath said, I don't have a lot of specific knowledge about what Mr. Coomer personally did, yet she went on T.V. and accused him of things.

The court documents also detail how conservative media played a role in spreading allegations, these false, unhinged allegations about Dominion.


POWELL: They designed and developed the Smartmatic and Dominion programs and machines that include a controller module that allows people to log in and manipulate the vote even as it's happening.

I can hardly wait to put forth all the evidence we have collected on Dominion, starting with the fact that it was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez.

GIULIANI: This Dominion Company is a radical left company. One of the people there is a big supporter of Antifa and has written horrible things about the president for the last three or four years

I know the phony elites don't want to hear it, but this was a stolen election.


BERMAN: Again, and they admitted under oath that they didn't look into it, or barely looked into it.

Several right-wing commentators renamed (ph) as defendants, including Michelle Malkin, who did an interview with conservatives activists making the wild allegations, key verification steps like contacting Coomer for comment about the claims never happened, according to the court records. They just didn't bother to check, just like Giuliani and Powell.

So, how important was conservative media for spreading propaganda? This is the former White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham.


KEILAR: What was the role of Fox News in the White House?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They, you know, by and large, didn't get tough with us. They just took what we were saying and disseminated it. And I think they are disseminating it to a lot of people who went to the Capitol for January 6th.


BERMAN: Francis Rooney is back with us.

Congressman, when you look at the depositions, when you hear Giuliani and Sidnely Powell under oath saying basically, we didn't look into this, we didn't spend an hour looking into the claims, yet all those instances where they went on T.V. and just spouted these lies, what does that tell you and what's the consequence? What should the consequence be of that?

ROONEY: Well, first of all, I hate to return to Nixon again, but it's not a crime to criticize the president. In fact, that is what is supposed to happen in our democracy. If you disagree, you should speak up.


That's what makes a vital democracy. And I don't think any evidence has been proved any of the allegations that they asserted. So, it would be, to me, incumbent of the media, conservative media as well as other media, to publish both sides. The American people hopefully will rededicate themselves to looking at the facts that are on the table, not this maniacal hysteria that seems to have taken over the Republican Party.

BERMAN: That's a law school graduate, Georgetown Law, I think. Do you think Giuliani and Powell are in trouble in terms of defamation?

ROONEY: I don't know. Defamation can be hard to prove. It's a complex thing. They are public figures, U.S. New York Times versus Sullivan, et cetera. But they certainly struck out. They're on their own with no facts. And, fortunately, all the facts have been exposed and don't show any manipulation, significant manipulation of the election at all. Maybe a couple of clerical errors now and then is all I read.

BERMAN: Yes. The facts are out there. The truth is out there. But they only matter if people choose to believe them.

ROONEY: Can I make another comment?


ROONEY: The Chavez thing -- I don't know if you recall what happened. You were reporting on it. But there was one election where Chavez had like three-quarters of the Venezuela precinct, had exactly the same vote.

Now, that was Chavez's way of saying to Jimmy Carter and the election observers, I will do what I want. I don't think it had a whole lot to do with the voting machines themselves. I think it had to do with him making a statement vis-a-vis the United States.

BERMAN: It had nothing to do with the U.S. election, to be sure, what just happened, and the results, which were part of the safest, clearest, cleanest election we have ever had. Francis Rooney, a pleasure to see you this morning. Thank you so much.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

KEILAR: It was nothing short of a coup attempt. A brand-new some 400- page report from the Senate confirms at least nine times ex-President Donald Trump tried to straight-up overturned the 2020 election. And we know this because those were the exact words that he used, overturn the election.

John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The symbol of the Republican Party shouldn't be the elephant anymore. Instead, it should be an ostrich, because the GOP has decided to stick its head in the sand as a matter of strategy, trying to ignore the attempted coup by the former president and current GOP frontrunner.

I guess we are giving up on the whole constitutional conservative thing, and forget about being the party of law and order. Because if a coup attempt isn't disqualifying for a future political office, what the hell is?

The release of a new 394-page Senate Judiciary Committee report details nine times that President Trump pressured the DOJ to overturn the election. And to be clear, that was the phrase Trump used, overturn the election, nine times. With added pressure from his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and lackeys like Jeffrey Clark within the DOJ, along with those behind the Stop the Steal rally that turned into an attack on our Capitol, this was as close to coup d'etat has America has ever seen. Nothing comes close to side of the civil war.

But to look at the Republican minority report response is to see not just alternative facts but that fear-fueled ostrich impulse in full effect. Their core argument in their own words is that the available evidence shows that President Trump did not use the Justice Department to overturn the election. That is the most pathetic kind of legalese, understatement in the extreme, to say trump did not succeed, not that he didn't repeatedly try, as if that should exonerate him. Even that doesn't come with the epic caveat about available evidence, which shows they don't want to be on the hook for whatever else might come to light.

Now, the GOP document written Senator Chuck Grassley's staff is an absurd exercise in ignoring the obvious. For example, get this, they eventually complained about media coverage, President Obama, and James Comey, but some of them never get around mentioning Trump's infamous request to the Georgia secretary of state find 11,780 votes or his repeated attempts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence or continued lies about the election, instead, they infantilize the ex-president, saying his, quote, firm belief that the American had been wronged by election fraud justifies his unconstitutional actions. That is a hell of an argument for reelection. Trump didn't quite succeed in destroying our democracy the first time, so, go ahead and give him a second chance.

But add the new revelations from the Senate Judiciary reports, to the confessions from former Trump staffers, and you see the stakes. While Trump super fans may have bought into the big lie, the people who actually worked with him day to day, like former Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, are coming forward to say that they participated in something unusually evil, her words, not mine, and warning that he as the GOP front-runner is scary, because if he's reelected, he will be about revenge. Former Communications Director Alyssa Farah said she would never vote for Trump again, a sentiment shared by boat loads of Trump officials, part of a long list of ex-White House staffers who warned about Trump's fundamental unfitness for office.


And yet even when Trump says that the real insurrection occurred on Election Day, not January 6th, the vast majority of elected Republicans hide their heads in the sand or play whataboutism games, afraid to confront the clear and present danger Donald Trump still represents to our democracy.

Silence is complicity. If you can't condemn someone for trying to overturn an American election, then you don't really care about our democracy. And that's the only issue that matters. Because as Winston Churchill once said about courage, it is the quality which guarantees all others.

And that's your Reality Check.

KEILAR: Such an important one. And, John, I know that you were talking about conspiracy theories on a second civil war in your digital series. Tell us about this.

AVLON: That's right. Brand-new issue dropped last night, a conversation with Sara Sidner. And she and I both spent a lot of time reporting and investigating on these self-style militia groups, these vigilante paramilitary organizations, that some of which showed up at the attack on the Capitol Hill, the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters.

But one of the things we do here is pull the aperture back and we look at the history of these self-styled militias from the KKK, to the Sovereign Citizens Movement, to what we are seeing today, and this percolating talk about a new second civil war that is so incredibly dangerous. It's a great conversation.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, we have to look at history to make sure we don't repeat it and know when it is. John Avlon, thank you.

AVLON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, new revelations in the Brian Laundrie manhunt. Police admitting he slipped away while under surveillance.

Plus, a tense sidewalk confrontation between a crowd protesting vaccine mandates and parents who are walking their kids to school.

BERMAN: And U.S. troops on a secret training mission to counter China.



KEILAR: New this morning, CNN has learned 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. A North Port police spokesman telling our own Randi Kaye that officers were limited in what they could legally do since there was no crime at the time and Gabby Petito's body had not yet been found.

This as the manhunt for Brian continues with his father assisting search crews for the first time there in Florida's Carlton Reserve.

And joining me now is someone who knows this area like the back of their hand and has been helping in the search for Brian Laundrie, Jamie Hooks. He is a wildlife tour guide and he takes groups through those parts in particular in this river that runs through the Carlton Reserve. Look, Jamie, thank you so much for really lending your expertise into this area.

I know you take day trips. You're not overnighting there. What is a person up against in this reserve?

JAMIE HOOKS, WILDLIFE TOUR GUIDE: Well, it's a real difficult area, especially this time of year due to the weather and the high water and all the mosquitoes and all that and then humidity and heat during the day. It's not conducive for somebody to want to go in there and camp right now. Not to mention the alligators and the water moccasins. It's a pretty dangerous area to even be in right now, let alone try to camp. And even if you were going to camp with full gear and not be under pressure of being hunted, it would be a difficult area to try and be in.

KEILAR: How long are the alligators there?

HOOKS: There's a lot of alligators there. That's probably one of the most unique places in the United States. The northern tip of that is the Myakka State Park, which has not allowed gator harvesting in that area for 60, 70 years at least. The population has really, really grown in that area. And the vast majority of them are huge alligators.

And this is the time of year, they are feeding before the cold weather sets in because they won't be eating. So, if you're in there walking around, you're pretty much prey yourself. You have to keep your head on a swivel and you have to look at every step you make just not to step on snakes. I mean, it's a beautiful area and the danger even adds to its beauty to me. But it's not a place that a lot of people go to right now that aren't aware of it. It's a dangerous area. But then, again, it is a beautiful spot.

KEILAR: Yes. No, it is beautiful. But it is dangerous, as you say. And I know that you at first were looking for someone, sort of a search effort for you personally, as you look, it's more of a recovery effort. You think that it's very unlikely he's alive?

HOOKS: Yes, ma'am. At this point right now, when I first started my search, which I did on my own, I have been working on my own, I haven't really been working with law enforcement, it's something I do on my own, I know the areas that I would be looking. The areas I'm looking at are places I would be hiding if I was up in there. I haven't seen the first sign of him in those areas right now. But at this point in time, he would have had to have had a lot of water, a lot of provisions just to stay this long. And I switched my search from looking for him if he was in there to actually just trying to recover some DNA.


It's quite possible that he has deceased and, you know.