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January 6th Panel Votes on Bannon Contempt Charges; Biden Hosts 2 Meetings with Moderates, Progressives; North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile from the Sea; Violent Gang Demands $17M for Kidnapped Missionaries; FDA to Allow 'Mix and Match' Approach for COVID Boosters. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar on this NEW DAY. The January 6 investigation at a moment of confrontation. Congress cracking down on Trump allies defying subpoenas, and a legal face-off between Biden and Trump that could reach the Supreme Court.


And are actual meetings signs of actual progress? Democrats at odds over key aspects of the domestic agenda. They get in the same room. New reporting on how close they moved together.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking right now, the violent gang that kidnapped 16 American missionaries has made its demands. We're going to take you live to Haiti.

And a college football coach making $3 million a year fired for refusing to get the vaccine.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, October 19, and this morning a moment of confrontation, legal confrontation.

In a few hours, a House committee will decide whether to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt for defying its subpoena and refer the matter to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. This sets in motion a process which really hasn't been used in decades.

now, Bannon is hanging his defiance on a claim of executive privilege, but that's something the current White House vigorously opposes. CNN has obtained a letter from the White House deputy counsel that clearly states the Biden administration will not support any attempt by Bannon to refuse Cooperation with the House committee.

KEILAR: And this issue took on even more urgency last night. Former President Trump suing the January 6th Committee and the National Archives in a bid to keep documents under wraps. The committee calls it a stall tactic.

The White House is doubling down on its position, claiming that Trump abused the office of the presidency and attempted to subvert a peaceful transfer of power.

The National Archives will turn over documents early next month if the courts do not intervene.

BERMAN: So what happens now? I'm joined by CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, a former state and federal prosecutor.

Steve Bannon defying a subpoena. The House committee will vote whether to hold him in contempt. Walk us through.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. Big step today, but it's only the first step. This is really a three-step process.

Later today, the January 6th Select Committee will vote whether to hold Bannon in contempt. We expect that to be a unanimous yes.

Then the case will go over to the full House of Representatives. Of course, it's under Democratic control. Then if the full House needs to vote for contempt by a majority, that's all they need.

And then the real moment of truth. It goes over to the Justice Department. They are the ones who will decide whether to prosecute. The big decision here will be made by the attorney general, Merrick Garland. This will be a legacy-defining decision for Merrick Garland.

We've seen an interesting thing happening in recent days, however. Leading Democratic politicians, including Adam Schiff, the president himself, some of whom, by the way, claim that the prior DOJ was politicized, have been putting political pressure on Merrick Garland.

Adam Schiff has said, essentially, we were not able to get things done under the prior administration, because DOJ wasn't doing its job. Joe Biden was asked straight out by CNN's Kaitlan Collins, "Do you want to see Bannon charged for contempt?" and Biden said, "Yes, I do."

BERMAN: What's the law here exactly. What crime is Steve Bannon -- will he be charged with?

HONIG: Yes. So there is a federal crime for contempt of Congress: "Any person who, having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either house of Congress to give testimony or produce papers, who willingly makes default, commits a crime."

This is an interesting crime. It is technically a misdemeanor. That's the lower level. There's felonies and then misdemeanors. The maximum, the most penalty that there can be here is 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But what's interesting is there's a minimum of one month in prison. So if you get convicted of this, if Steve Bannon gets convicted of this, he goes away for one month, no matter what. And that's fairly unusual -- very unusual for a misdemeanor.

Now, there's going to be a process here if DOJ decides to charge. First of all, case needs to go to a grand jury, who can indict Steve Bannon. Because it's a misdemeanor, it doesn't technically have to go to a grand jury. But in all likelihood, DOJ will want to do that.

Then the defense will bring motions. And that's when we'll hear Steve Bannon say executive privilege, attorney-client privilege. I think there's no merit to those, but he will get a chance to make those arguments.

Then there will be a trial. There will be a jury. They will decide whether he's guilty or not guilty, like any other case. And then there's an appeal. So this is going to take a bit.

BERMAN: So the history here, it has been decades since this has been used.

HONIG: Yes. There is a bizarre history here.

The last time anyone was charged criminally with contempt of Congress was 1983. Well, I was 8 years old, a long time ago. Rita Lavelle, she was an EPA administrator. Thing is, Rita Lavelle went to trial, and she was found not guilty. She was acquitted. She said she was too sick, couldn't afford a plane ticket out. But the jury sympathized with her.

Since then, this has not been charged criminally. And we've seen just over the last decade four different people who the House voted for contempt, but DOJ voted not to -- or decided not to charge them.

Now, why is that? DOJ has a policy that says we generally should not be charging executive branch officials. All four of these folks were executive branch officials. Also, two of them were the attorney general. A little awkward for DOJ to prosecute its own boss.

BERMAN: Separate but seriously connected to this is the battle over executive privilege. Former President Donald Trump suing the National Archives to block the release of documents that the committee wants. What's the legal argument there?

HONIG: Yes, so Donald Trump has put in his lawsuit. We're headed potentially for a major showdown here.

Trump really makes three arguments in his motion. First of all, he says this subpoena for documents is just an attempt to intimidate and harass. It's overbroad. That's just sort of ad hominem. There's really no law behind that.


Second, Trump argues that the committee has no legitimate legislative purpose. In other words, he's saying they can only get these documents if they're going to pass new laws.

First of all, though, that's not necessarily the law. The committee has an investigative function. Second of all, this committee may well recommend new laws. I mean, by way of example, the 9/11 Commission absolutely did recommend new laws, some of which were enacted.

And then the last claim here, Donald Trump is saying executive privilege. Now, we know he's the former president. Former president actually does have some ability to try to claim executive privilege. But generally speaking, the law says if the current guy disagrees, then the current guy prevails.

We now know where the current guy stands, because in a letter that we've obtained, Joe Biden has said, essentially, I reject this claim of executive privilege. "The former president's actions represented a unique and existential threat to our democracy that can't be swept under the rug, as President Biden has determined. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not apply here."

BERMAN: And their statement, interesting from a political and legal standpoint. Also in the statement, the current White House said the former president abused his power.


BERMAN: Suggesting there was a crime possibly committed. And executive privilege, you don't get executive privilege for potential criminal activity.

HONIG: Exactly. Executive privilege is not designed as a shield. It is designed to protect certain, not all, certain confidential communications. Brings us right back to Merrick Garland. He's going to have a big decision to make.

BERMAN: All right. There's a lot going on, Elie. Thank you for explaining all of it for us. Every hour today could bring some new developments in this.

HONIG: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: And now to the other big news on Capitol Hill. On a critical day for the fate of the Biden agenda, there seems to be some movement, some progress in the standoff between liberals and progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party.

Senators Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders, complete opposites on how much to spend and for what, they're finally meeting, talking, they say. And the same goes for Manchin and the leader of the progressives in the House, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

This as Biden is set to hold two in-person meetings today with both factions as negotiations heat up over infrastructure and social spending bills.

Let's talk about this now with former Ohio state senator and co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, Nina Turner, with us. And CNN political commentator and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala.

OK. Nina, we see this moment playing out yesterday outside the Capitol. A bit of a photo-op for senators Manchin and Biden [SIC]. How encouraging is it to you that these two are talking?

NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: I am glad that they are talking, but talks with Senator Manchin has been happening for a very long time, including the president of the United States himself.

I am glad that Senator Sanders had the courage to smoke out Senator Manchin by writing that op-ed, forcing him to have this conversation.

So conversation is always good, but it just can't go on forever. Because Brianna, the longer they are in talks, the less likelihood we're going to have the strong package that is needed to elevate and to uplift the American people who need it the most.

And this cannot be pushed down the road, because we don't know what may happen in 2022. So we need to get this done right now.

KEILAR: These two had not been in talks. We've, of course, been seeing talks going on for some time, not between senators Sanders and Manchin. And I wonder for you, Paul, what does Manchin need to budge on here when we're talking specifically about policy provisions?

PAULA BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, again, he's got to figure out. I think what he needs the most is Bernie Sanders telling people in West Virginia that Joe Manchin is no socialist.

The op-ed that Nina talked about was run in the West Virginia paper. Manchin was said to be very angry. Maybe he was. I've got to tell you, as a political strategist, there's probably nothing that would help Manchin more than for Bernie to be attacking him in West Virginia.

Democrats lost every single county in West Virginia in the presidential election.

But it is noteworthy to me. He said I worked for President Clinton. We asked people to take tough votes them: gun control, the Brady Bill, assault weapons, gay rights. This is an easy vote.

And -- and my fellow moderates need to understand, you can sell this. The Biden Build Back Better agenda is very popular. Sixty-seven percent want universal pre-K. Eighty-eight percent want lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Eighty-one percent want vision and dental care for seniors. This is popular.

But why are we having such a hard time agreeing to something that is so overwhelmingly popular?

KEILAR: Well, in West Virginia, of course, Paul, there are issues with some of the energy and climate provisions in the bill, right? So what does Manchin need to budge on there? You know, what -- what can he really sell to West Virginians?

BEGALA: Nobody knows that better than Joe Manchin. He knows his state. There's not another Democrat who can win that state, in my opinion.

I hate seeing the climate stuff go. Hate it. Just like I hated seeing the public option go from Obamacare.


But I would say to the progressives, you've got to vote for a bill if it improves the status quo, right? If it's better. If it's progress, not perfection.

I don't ever like seeing people vote against a bill for what's not in it. I wanted a public option in Obamacare. We didn't get it. I'm glad we passed it anyway. Because what was in it was much better than what we had.

And I think -- I think, frankly, Manchin is more progressive than he gets credit for. I think Bernie is more pragmatic. I love that these two guys are talking.

KEILAR: All right. Senator Turner --

TURNER: Brianna.

KEILAR: Progressives --

TURNER: Brianna.

KEILAR: Sorry. Go on.

TURNER: The labels. I mean, I'm so sorry. Pragmatic, practical. People are literally losing their lives and their livelihoods while people play games.

We are already at the compromise position, and that is what we must understand here.

And look, the overwhelming majority of West Virginians agree with this. West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the United States of America, and you have a senator who is set for the rest of his natural life, and so are his children and his children's children, and he wants to negotiate away?

Senator Manchin, what do you want to negotiate away? Is it child care? Is it the implosion of Mother Earth? Is it health care? What is it? Brianna, he's not saying what it is.

So this is not about who's pragmatic and who's practical and who's progressive. This really is about, in this moment, whose side you are on.

And let the American people remember this: $6 trillion was the original number. We are down to $3.5 trillion. How low are we going to go to sacrifice the poor, the working poor, and the barely middle class in the United States of America?

Hell, the Senate just gave, I think, what, $10 billion more to the -- to the military budget than what was asked for, but then you want the American people to take crumbs. It's just unconscionable.


BEGALA: Oh, well, I have a different definition of crumbs. Three and a half trillion dollars or $2 trillion is not crumbs.

By the way, if you add it all together, the Biden American Rescue Package, which is already law, that was $1.9 trillion. This infrastructure bill that I think is going to pass, that's $1.2 trillion. So they've got 3 trillion right there.

Then if they compromise around, say, $2 trillion on the Build Back Better plan, that's a $5 trillion package. That's a lot of money.

I mean, $5 trillion is more than the size of the entire American economy when Ronald Reagan was president. It would be the biggest spending we've ever done in modern history. And I think it would go to the middle class. I think it'd be very good for this country. I think it'd be good for the Democrats politically.

But they have got to get something through. And something is better than nothing. If they get nothing, then nothing is what they will have in the election. We have got to deliver for people.

KEILAR: Senator.

TURNER: Well, in that, we do agree that we've got to deliver for the people. And this is over ten years.

First of all, this country has neglected both its human infrastructure and our physical infrastructure. So, again, to tell the American people to just accept, $3.5 trillion is the absolute compromise.

And I'm glad to see the president having meetings with both progressives and also corporatist (ph) Democrats. But this is it. The Democrats control everything. So let's get this done on behalf of the American people.

There's a mindset shift, a paradigm shift, that I reject what Paul -- Paul is saying here, that the American people just have to accept anything. Why can't we just have the $3.5 trillion? That is the question.

If the overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus in both chambers agree, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree, no matter how they identify politically, agree, and they say the Build Back Better is the way that we should go, then the question becomes, Brianna, what is the problem?

Well, I'm going to tell you that, what it is. The owner donors don't agree. That's what the problem is, and that is why it's taking so lock long. And that is why you have two senators out of the entire caucus, of Democrats, let me be clear, holding out on the American people when they come from states where people are suffering.

The last time I checked, there are poor people and working poor people and barely middle-class people in the entire country, and all we're asking for right now is that we stand up and do something for those people. That is not too much to ask, especially since we're giving extra money to the military budget.

KEILAR: Senator, you mentioned two. You mentioned two senators there. This conversation that you guys are having is essential to this process. Is Kyrsten Sinema having this conversation, Paul? Where is she? Because all of this is moot without her.

BEGALA That's a good point. Look, I think Joe Manchin has been pretty clear. I don't -- I don't agree with with he is, but he's been clear. In fact, he sent a letter, reportedly, to Senate Democratic leader, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July listing out his problems with all the clean energy and climate issues. So he's been pretty clear and pretty transparent.


That hasn't made Senator Turner or a lot of people happy, but at least he's been clear.

I think there's been less clarity out of Senator Sinema, and I think she also owes a duty to sit down with the more progressive members of the Democratic Party and cut a deal.

But ultimately, this is going to be about Joe Biden. The president of the United States, who served in the Senate for over 30 years, 36 years, he's going to have to sit these folks down and force them to compromise.

The thing that's driving me nut it is if the Democrats fail, it is certain that the Republicans will take the House and maybe the Senate. And this is not like your father's Republican Party. This is a party that has been infected with insurrectionism. This could -- I'm serious. If the Democrats don't get their act together, this could be the last act for American democracy.

KEILAR: Look, even if they succeed, Republicans may take over Congress. That is the reality here.

Paul, Senator, I want to thank you so much for having this spirited conversation this morning.

BEGALA: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Thank you.

President Biden will be discussing his ambitious legislative agenda with CNN's Anderson Cooper in a CNN town hall this Thursday night. You can tune in for that at 8 p.m. Eastern.

And breaking overnight, some big developments in two separate international stories. In Haiti, we have some new details about where the kidnapped Americans are being held and the ransom, a huge ransom, that a local gang is demanding for their release. We're live from Port-au-Prince.

BERMAN: Plus, North Korea firing a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile into the waters off Japan. How is President Biden responding?

And a major announcement expected this week about mixing and matching coronavirus booster shots. We have new details ahead.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, North Korea firing off at least one ballistic missile, prompting strong reaction from South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

CNN's Will Ripley joins us live. Will, the significance of this action?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just like all of the other launches that have been happening in recent months, this is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

And what makes this one particularly concerning, some analysts say, is that it appears this missile may have been launched from a submarine.

North Korea back in 2019 tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, but they did it from an underwater platform. They hadn't yet perfected the technology to actually, you know, do it from one of their submarines.

An aging submarine fleet, mind you. These are not like the United States' nuclear submarines, which basically guarantee U.S. naval supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region.

But it is potentially a new opportunity for North Korea to kind of sneak in and theoretically launch this kind of ballistic missile with very little warning.

And so, you know, just in the last month, they say they've tested a hypersonic missile that can travel more than five times the speed of sound. Only China and Russia have deployed that technology. The U.S. is still testing it.

They also say they've tested a long-range missile. And now North Korea claiming a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

This is all part of Kim Jong-un's pledge that he has made to build this invincible army. After diplomacy with the former president, Donald Trump, fell apart, he started ramping things up. And we are now seeing that play out here, John.

BERMAN: Clearly agitating, and publicly so. Will Ripley, as always, thank you for your reporting.

KEILAR: Also breaking overnight, "The Wall Street Journal" reports a Haitian gang who has kidnapped 17 missionaries -- this includes 16 Americans -- is demanding $1 million for each one of them for their release. So $17 million here.

We also have some new details about where the missionaries are being held.

CNN's Joe Johns is live for us in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with more. This is a steep ransom, Joe. JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true. And it's a huge escalation

from what this group, 400 Mawozo, has done in the past. They've done many kidnappings, and they've asked for a few thousand here, a few thousand there. Now, asking for $1 million.

But they've been allowed to escalate, because they've operated in a vacuum. First, they started out stealing livestock. Then they moved to stealing cars. Then they moved to kidnapping individuals. And now, they're kidnapping groups.

Before, it was usually locals, people from Haiti. This time, of course, we're talking about Americans. And it's created an international incident.

I think some of the other reporting we see from "The Wall Street Journal" also shows that not only are Haitian authorities involved in the negotiations, but also professional negotiators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including from the Miami field office, have been involved.

Of course, the bad news, and some of the worst news, is that there's just no end in sight at this stage. And these negotiations could go on for weeks or even months.

So we have also learned a little bit more about where these 17 individuals, 16 Americans, we believe, at least one Canadian, are being held. And they were taken off of the road Saturday midday from a suburb of Port-au-Prince known as Croix-des-Bouquet. They went there to see an orphanage and were brought off the road at that time.

We believe they're being held in a safe house somewhere near there.

Back to you.

KEILAR: All right. Joe, thank you so much for the new details.

It may not matter which COVID vaccine you get when it is time to get a booster shot. The FDA actually set to green light mix-and-match boosters.

BERMAN: Plus -- wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. Glory!


The Red Sox hit another grand slam. Another playoff victory. Another reminder where the Yankees are: at home watching on TV.


BERMAN: New details this morning about an expected announcement from the FDA about mixing and matching coronavirus booster shots. The agency is planning to allow Americans to get boosters that are different from their initial doses.

Joining me now is Dr. Ali Khan, dean at the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is also the former director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.

This would mean, Dr. Khan, that if you got the Pfizer vaccine, you could get a Moderna booster. Or perhaps more importantly, if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you could get either a Moderna or a Pfizer booster. Why is that significant?