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Soon: Biden Departs for Vatican City to Meet with Pope; Dems Scramble to Reach Budget Deal As Biden Arrives in Europe. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired October 29, 2021 - 05:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Happy Friday, right? Happy Friday, October 29th.

I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside John Berman and Chris Cuomo is standing by in Rome as well, where President Biden is about to meet with the pope, two of the most notable Catholic leaders in the world. One maybe more notable than the other, I will say. Set to discuss a range of issues including the pandemic, poverty, and the climate crisis.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, the climate crisis is now at the heart of the Biden economic agenda. It is actually where the biggest chunk of money in the $1.7 trillion plan is allocated.

There's no question the president and White House are focused on get thing passed after a whirlwind and probably somewhat unfulfilling 24 hours of negotiations on that. It still hangs in the balance. And that might be where at least a big part of the president's mind is even as his motorcade heads to Vatican City momentarily.

So let's go there. You can see him, Chris Cuomo, waiting right by St. Peter's Square -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Here we are. Good to see you, John. Good to see you, Brianna.

So, it's a very interesting dynamic here. On one level you just have obvious history in terms of President Biden being only the second Catholic United States president to meet with a sitting pope, right? Obviously, the first was President Kennedy, 1963. Controversy then, controversy now.

What was it then? More obvious. There was still stigma about a Catholic as president and meeting with the pope because the pope was going to control Kennedy. Of course, that was nonsense, and we've moved passed that, but we have new hurdles.

And both men who are meeting today find themselves in trouble with definition. President Biden wants to show the allies here, wants to show people back home that he is in control of his party. Similarly, el papa, Pope Francis, is dealing with concerns of

orthodoxy specifically in America. That brought these two men together. When it came to reproductive rights, you had the pontiff say things about Joe Biden that were not being echoed, still are not being echoed by clergy in America. That has to have formed a bond.

Yes, Biden is a devout Catholic, but the urgency of having this meeting right off the bat when entering Rome I think is also a nod to the accommodation that was made by Pope Francis.

So, what do we expect? Well, they call the office the Holy See, right? But you usually get to see very little. And hear even less. There is a lot of mystery around this.

We'll get some excerpts of the meeting. We'll start to hear some read- outs. It comes slowly, but here's what we can expect. We know that the main message of faith from this pope happens to be a very simple and almost agnostic doctrine of love mercy. And he sees that manifesting itself in ways that are being ignored around the world and also in America. He sees America from his time in South America as then Bergoglio, the leader of Argentina and the Catholics there, as having stewardship responsibilities. The climate, that America has to set the tone on that -- immigration, suffrage of humanity, John.

So the pope is going to probably put a lot of responsibility on President Biden and it will be interesting to hear how that is interpreted.

BERMAN: It will. Chris, I remember you being there when Bergoglio became pope. It's good to have you this -- there this morning. We'll be back with you shortly. There will be a lot of pageantry which we will see, even though the irony, a lot will happen behind closed doors.

So back with you in a moment.

KEILAR: President Biden traveling to Europe without securing a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill or on his social spending plan. Progressives are standing by their threat to not move forward with one without the other.

So where do things stand this morning?

CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is traveling with the president.

This is a tough one, Kaitlan. He's going to a climate summit. He's going to the G20. He's talking to the pope who cares so much about climate change and poverty, and he doesn't have the bird in his hand to tout as he does it

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, all he has is his framework which, of course, we've seen how that has gone over on Capitol Hill since the president made that pitch behind closed doors yesterday before he left to come on this trip.


And, yes, there are hundreds of billions of dollars allotted to fight climate change in the president's framework, but that has not been signed, sealed and delivered by any stretch of the imagination. As you were saying, the president was hoping that he could get these two ideological sides of his party to come together to give him a deal as he came to Rome for this trip, then going to that International Climate Conference, but that did not happen because what we're hearing from progressives, of course, is, A, they don't feel like they have the explicit backing of that framework from Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema.

You heard from Congresswoman Jayapal yesterday talking about when it comes to procedure here, when it comes to the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, what they are thinking when it comes to whether or not they are going to support that if they only have a framework on this other deal.

BERMAN: And so five months ago, when the president said that America was back, right, that was his message. What's his message going into the G20 summit?

COLLINS: it's a great question because it was such an easier message for the president to pull off at that G7 summit, even though it was four or five months ago. Effectively he could come in and not be former President Trump who, of course, often disrupted alliances, was often challenging conventional wisdom when it came to those long- standing alliances that the United States has had.

But things have changed a little bit. They have shifted and the message is not as clear going into the G20 for the president because, yes, of course he does have a lot of good will. It is the United States.

But the president today, look at his schedule, he is going to be having this meeting as Chris was talking about with the pope, a very symbolic and personal meeting for the president, though it is more formal than the meetings he's had with the pope in the past.

But then after that, he is going to sit down with the two Italian heads of state and then the French president. And this is going to be their first in-person meeting since that the diplomatic dust up over the submarine deal where the United States is building these nuclear submarines for Australia. The UK is part of that and effectively cutting France out of the agreement.

And that is cutting them out of their own multi-billion dollar deal with Australia that caused quite a rift between Washington and France. They each recalled -- France recalled their ambassador. It was something you had not seen in the history of that relationship. So that is going to be what the president is focusing on when it comes to this afternoon here in Rome, what that meeting is going to look like with the French president.

And so, overall, it is going to be a very different message from the president on this trip. It also comes as he is empty-handed from that divide in Washington among Democrats. And so, we'll see how the president kind of struggles with that challenge or how he tries to message that while he is here meeting with world leaders on the ground.

KEILAR: All right. Kaitlan with the president -- traveling with the president in Rome, thank you.

BERMAN: So more on the significance of this historic meeting between President Biden and Pope Francis, CNN religion commentator, Father Edward Beck.

Father, great to have you here in person.


BERMAN: It's a meeting of heads of state whenever a president meets with the pope. But this is more than that, and I think it's more than that because of the two men involved. What do you see going on here?

BECK: I think it's more, too, because you have to understand this is the fifth time that President Biden has met this pope, and President Biden as we know is Catholic, and this is the shepherd meeting a member of the flock.

So we know that he's also dealt with President Biden in a pastoral way. Last time when the pope was here in 2015, it was only four months after Beau Biden had died. The pope met with President Biden and his family. And President Biden said it was the most consoling meeting that if anybody had that kind of loss could have an encounter with a man like Pope Francis, it was so healing for he and his family.

So I think, yes, they will discuss all of the political stuff we're talking about and all the human rights things we're talking about. But I can't help but think there will be moments in the exchange that's going to be pastor to parishioner, because that's who the pope is, he's the shepherd.

KEILAR: And there will be some of that, no doubt. The context, obviously different. I mean, he is the president now.

BECK: Yes, it is different. And, of course, I think the fact that it is different, the issues loom very large. I mean, coronavirus is one of the issues I think that they will discuss. The pope has been rather critical that developing countries have not received the same access to the vaccine. And I think he may bring that up with President Biden, as he's pushing for more universal access.

I think poverty is always on the pope's mind, immigration. We saw those images of Haitians at the border. Pope Francis did as well. And he will talk to the president about immigration, immigration reform for our country is indeed a world issue.

And so, all of these -- and, of course, the environment. I mean, they're on their way to Glasgow for the climate summit. The pope has written an encyclical, "Laudato si," all about the environment. It is very near and dear to his heart. So, you can be sure he'll be pushing that agenda with President Biden

as well.


BERMAN: There is a lot of alignment between their two agendas. Is there anything off the table in these discussions?

BECK: John, a lot of people have been talking about the kerfuffle about communion, whether or not President Biden should be able to receive communion. We heard the pope say he's never not giving communion to anyone, and that he doesn't think that it should be used as a divisive wedge with anyone.

I don't think that's going to get discussed. I think President Biden is going to leave those issues to the local bishop where President Biden worships. With the cardinal of Washington, Wilton Gregory, has said, I will not deny President Biden communion. His local bishop in Delaware, Saint Joseph's of the Brandywine, he hasn't said anything yet. He's been kind of mum on the issue.

So, but I would think he's going to deal with him in a very pastoral internal way. Some of the issues we think may come up that we're interested in, I'm not sure the pope will go there because it's not that kind of meeting and they want to talk about what's common, what they can work at achieving together, not what divides them.

They both know where they stand on abortion. There's no secret about the pope being very opposed and President Biden for abortion rights. And so I don't think it would be very productive for him to get into that kind of conversation with President Biden during this meeting.

KEILAR: Walk us through how this visit is going to actually play out.

BECK: Well, they're going to arrive at the apostolic palace and they'll be met by the Swiss Guards. And then there is a delegation with the Swiss Guards and monsignors and higher ups with the church. They take the men upstairs to the second floor where the library, the private library of the pope is.

And the pope will greet President Biden and some of his delegation there. But then they'll have the private meeting, just the two of them. And most of that is off the record. We get usually a summary of what they said. We don't get transcripts.

The only other person in the room is an interpreter.

BERMAN: One interpreter.

BECK: Yes. Sworn to secrecy, so a lot that of doesn't leak out. But they try to give a summary after the meeting.

Then the other guests are brought in. President Biden's family is with him. Some from the delegation. They exchange gifts.

I haven't yet heard -- I don't know if you heard yet what gift the president is giving the pope or vice versa. I haven't heard yet either. It's always interesting, it will be something prayerful obviously from the pope, but what president Biden will give the pope will be interesting.

And there are some photos that are taken then, and then the delegation is led out and then the pope escorts President Biden to the door. So, you know, it's gone a few ways. When President Trump met with the pope, it lasted 30 minutes, and the pope had a pretty sour look on his face at the end of the meeting.

President Obama 50 minutes. A lot of smiles and a lot of, you know, slapping. So, we'll see the images and what is portrayed by the images will be telling.

BERMAN: Father Beck, great to see you in person. Thank you for being here with us.

BECK: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. We have some live pictures now. There it is, St. Peter's Square in Rome. We are standing by for President Biden to depart for his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. While back here in the United States, the president, he hopes, is on the verge of a significant legislative achievement, but not without some bruising here.

An actual vote has been delayed. Can the Democrats put this deal together?

KEILAR: Plus, the sheriff investigating the deadly shooting on the set of "Rust" the movie says they are focusing on two specific members of the crew.

And Facebook goes Meta and the Internet goes crazy. Also pretty funny. Will the attempted rebrand work?



KEILAR: In moments, President Biden will be meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican starting his European trip after rallying Democratic legislators behind a framework for a scaled-down version of his social agenda bill. But his agenda did face a big setback yesterday, another one, when Speaker Pelosi had to postpone yet again a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Joining us now to talk about this, CNN political commentator Jess McIntosh, who's former director of communications outreach of Hillary Clinton's campaign and co-host of "Signal Boost" on SiriusXM Progress, and Paul Begala, former adviser to President Clinton, among many, many roles.

Okay. I'm curious from both of you, where are we? How do you describe this moment where we are?

Paul, to you first.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, the president may be in St. Peter's Basilica, but his bill is in purgatory. Right now, but they'll get it. I'm confident they will.

Why do I say that? Well, to put it in perspective, FDR had 318 Democrats when he was president. LBJ had 295. Those guys could lose 100 and still pass their bill.

Clinton and Obama had a margin of 80. Nancy Pelosi has a margin of six. So she can lose three and that's it. But she's the most able leader I have seen. She will get this through. I guarantee it.

The phrase they're using on the Hill is land the plane. Well, she's Captain Sully Sullenberger. She's going to put this thing down. It may land in the Potomac, but she will put it down and Biden's plan will pass.


JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I couldn't possibly agree with Paul more.

I think in perspective, this is, what we're looking at, is the largest investment in child care and public education in 100 years, and the largest investment in climate mitigation in history.


Another day doesn't matter. Every plank that's being discussed right now is both wildly popular in a bipartisan way, and something that America really needs.

So, we're looking at a good framework that might get even stronger before we're done. I know that Democrats have a really hard time celebrating good things, but this is a good thing that might get better and it's going to be okay to celebrate it.

BERMAN: Well, it might matter to Terry McAuliffe who's got a big election on Tuesday. It certainly matters to President Biden's approval rating, which is not where he wants it to be. And I think the overall vibe surrounding this White House.

I mean, the question is, they may get -- they may get there, get to something, but did it have to be this messy? What did Debbie Dingell tell you yesterday? She's never seen the sausage-making so painful?

KEILAR: That's right. Obviously, you don't want sausage being made, she said, or legislation, but she said she's never seen it like this. And coming from someone like Debbie Dingell, that's big.

BEGALA: Well, it is. And it calls to mind Uncle George's law. My Uncle George said, you know why God gave us family? So we wouldn't have to fight with strangers. This is a family fight. It's always more painful. The point that Jess makes is really important, this is a colossal

package for the middle class and for climate. The biggest thing we've seen in the century being passed with the smallest margin we have seen in a century. It's really -- seriously, historians will look back at this, with a margin of two or three votes, Biden was lucky to preserve the status quo.

Oh, no, he completely reinforced the fading middle class. I think this is going to be historic, but it is painful. It is. Every single person in that house, every single Democrat, that is, and every single Democrat in the Senate, as Biden said to Anderson the other night, is effectively their own president.

KEILAR: Jess, there's always negotiating and there's always, I guess, fighting. But this is a little different. I mean, you have some members of Congress, they're talking about faith, the other person, are they negotiating in good faith. She described being couldn't fronted with the possibility of voting on the infrastructure bill first.


REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): Because I didn't hear that yesterday or earlier this week, last week, you know, that this would come and this would be a stand-alone bill, that had not been the conversation and so to bring that up today, I felt bamboozled. I didn't have time to talk to my community. If we say that, then there was actually really no commitment from the two Democratic senators, which -- and that's where everybody is placing their trust.

So, if -- had they say yes or no or are we still trying to figure that out? So, that's the question. So, if the answer is yes, then it wouldn't matter because we're going to get there.


KEILAR: Jess, she feels bamboozled. I mean, this isn't arguing over Christmas dinner because we also have our disagreements. I mean, there's a little -- you know, there's a rift here.

MCINTOSH: Well, I think there is a real risk in not getting anything done. The stakes are incredibly high right now. Higher than they usually are when we're watching these kinds of negotiations play out on the Hill. These people are hearing from constituents all the time every day who are unable to take care of their children, who are unable to go back to work, who have no idea how they're supposed to put the kinds of lives together they want for themselves and their families.

These are pretty desperate times in America. And that's why it is important that we do something big like this to help stand the American people back up. So, I understand where the emotions are coming from. I think progressives have shown incredible courage throughout this process and I'd like to point out the things that they're fighting for are not lefty pipe dreams. We're talking about broad bipartisan proposals like paid family leave and allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices.

So, I think we're learning -- the progressive base is learning we can do more when we elect leaders who are more beholden to their constituents than they are corporate interests. We'll see how that plays out electorally. But I think they're also learning how much they can accomplish.

There was a chance we would have lost the entire second package without their work. That means universal pre-K, child care, investment to rural broadband, expansion of Medicaid. This is an incredible package.

That's why I go back to we're going to have to get ready to celebrate even though we're not used to over the last four years doing a whole lot of that.

BERMAN: Especially during the pandemic.

Paul, listen, the president took a huge risk going to Capitol Hill yesterday before his trip to Europe without a deal in hand, trying to get over the finish line. He didn't get it over the finish line yet at least.

So, was this worth the risk for him politically?

BEGALA: Well, you're right, he took a risk and he failed. I'm still glad he took the risk. He is a creature of the Senate, but of that capitol building, he knows nothing is better than person to person interaction.


It is a disappointment, a big disappointment. I hated seeing my president getting on Air Force One to go overseas to meet with foreign leaders, especially on the economy at the G20, and then climate in Glasgow, and not have this package. I do think it's a huge disappointment.

But that is tactical, not strategic. You're right that who it is hurting right now is Terry McAuliffe, my buddy, my neighbor who is running for governor again in Virginia. It's a state Biden won by ten and now it's a toss-up.

Well, that's because all the sausage-making did three things at once. It's very hard to do -- depress the Democratic race, alienated the swing voters and energize the Republican base. Hard to do all three at one, John, but somehow we have figured out how to do it.

KEILAR: Indeed and may continue to. We will see. We will see.

Jess and Paul, great to see you guys this morning. Thanks.

BEGALA: Thanks.

MCINTOSH: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Biden set to kickoff his European tour with a meeting with the pope, and we are live from Rome ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, why Rupert Murdoch allowing lies and conspiracies to be broadcast across his media empire? May be doing more than just allowing it. And how dangerous could this type of misinformation be for the public.