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New Day

Ex-Trump National Security Adviser Calls for One Religion in U.S.; VP Struggles with Relationship with Biden. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And then tell us about this clip that's circulating on social media that claims that Vice President Harris, contrary to the CDC's facts, said virtually every individual hospitalized with COVID-19, hospitalized with the vaccine -- that everyone hospitalized with COVID-19, pardon me, is vaccinated, which obviously is not true and she did not say.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: She did not say that. In fact, this clip was edited pretty crudely, in fact, to make it seem like the vice president said the opposite of what she actually said in this July speech. I think we have that clip if you want to listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the vaccine will protect you from it. and here's how I know. Virtually every person who is in the hospital sick with COVID-19 right now is unvaccinated.


DALE: So again, plain lies, crude editing, but again going viral.

KEILAR: We're out of time, but I will say you hear anything about giraffes at the Dallas Zoo that died because of the COVID-19 vaccine, not true, also.

DALE: Did not happen.

KEILAR: Totally not true. Always helpful, Daniel Dale, thank you so much.

DALE: Thank you.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It's Monday, November 15th, and we are awaiting a major development in the January 6th investigation. Steve Bannon expected to surrender.

KEILAR: We actually have some live pictures here of Bannon's home in Washington, D.C. The former chief strategist for President Trump expected to turn himself in this morning to face a two-count indictment for contempt of Congress. Bannon defied a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, and he faces up to a year behind bars on each count. He's scheduled to make his first court appearance this afternoon.

BERMAN: Joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, a former state and federal prosecutor. Tell us about these charges that Steve Bannon faces.

ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John, so the United States Department of Justice has now charged Steve Bannon with criminal contempt of Congress. There are two counts in this indictment, one relates to Bannon's refusal to testify, the other to his refusal to produce documents. As alleged in the indictment, Bannon did not appear before the second committee, did not produce documents and communications, did not provide a log of withheld records, did not request an extension of time, and did not certify that he had conducted a diligent search for responsive records. That is stonewalling.

Now, it's an interesting law that's been charged under here. It's a misdemeanor. So the maximum penalty here is one year in prison and $1,000 fine, which really unusual, is most misdemeanors people don't go to prison. Here if he's convicted, he has to go to prison for at least one month and pay $100.

Important thing to note, this is about punishment. If he is convicted, it will not force him to testify. It's about punishment and deterring others.

BERMAN: So if he wants to eat the one month in jail, he could.

HONIG: Absolutely, he could do that, and he will never get in front of Congress.

BERMAN: What's the process here?

HONIG: Yes, so the judge here, Judge Carl Nichols, important to know appointed to the federal bench in 2019 by Donald Trump. As a government lawyer in his prior career, he gave a broad view of executive privilege. However, in his limited time on the bench, he has ruled against Donald Trump's interests, including on the tax returns cases.

Now, today we will see Steve Bannon arraigned. Will go into court. He will be fingerprinted back behind the scenes, he will have his mug shot taken. Not his first time, by the way. You may remember, he was indicted federally in 2020, then pardoned by Donald Trump. The judge, not this judge, a magistrate judge will advise Steve Bannon of the charges against him, advise him of his rights, and ask him for a plea. He will most certainly plead not guilty.

Then the judge will consider bail. Now, in some cases, judges will lock a defendant up pending trial. Steve Bannon is going to get bail. He's not going to be locked up. It's a misdemeanor. It's not a violent crime. Then Bannon will start making motions. We're down the line a little bit here. He'll ask this judge to throw out the charges, he'll allege there are problems legally.

Then most cases at this point, the vast majority of federal cases, plead guilty. Steve Bannon doesn't strike me as the pleading guilty type. Ultimately, if Bannon wants it, he will have a trial. Now, there's an interesting question here about who will decide guilty or not guilty. If Bannon wants a jury, he gets a jury. But he might say no, judge, I would like you to be the tryer here, I would like you to decide guilty or not guilty. In that case, it's up to the Justice Department, if they say we're OK with you, judge, the judge will preside over this trial. If DOJ says no, we want a jury, then the judge will decide whether the judge himself presides or a jury presides. I know it's confusing. I don't make the laws, I just explain them.

After trial, if he's convicted, he will of course be sentenced to at least one month in prison, and then he will have the right, Steve Bannon, if convicted, to appeal.

BERMAN: What's his defense? Because there's no dispute over the fact he didn't show up and he's not the cooperating.

HONIG: He's going to turn to executive privilege. He's going to say, yes, I did not testify, but I had legal justification.


A couple problems with that, however. One, the indictment points out the president, the former president, Donald Trump, he's never formally invoked the privilege. He never said, hey, committee, I invoke executive privilege, as does Steve Bannon. Bannon says, well, the president told me over here. Also, of course, Donald Trump is a former president. He's trying to invoke the privilege outside the executive branch. And even if all those things are true, then the court still has to do this balancing test. Is this the kind of policy discussion that's protected or is this something else? Is this about wrongdoing?

BERMAN: What is what happens with Steve Bannon matter to the other witnesses here? I know people think this will open the floodgates in terms of contempt for other witnesses who don't want to testify, but maybe not.

HONIG: Not necessarily. So again, Merrick Garland is going to have to decide separately if and when any of these people are referred over by Congress for contempt. Adam Schiff said over the weekend that the committee will be acting soon to refer Mark Meadows. But Merrick Garland is going to have to think about these. They're not necessarily in the same position as Steve Bannon, most importantly because Meadows, for example, worked for the executive branch. So what the Bannon indictment does is tell all these folks you might get indicted, you might get convicted, you might get sent to prison, but it does not assure that, John.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, I wish you wrote the laws.


BERMAN: It would be fun.

HONIG: We'd have fun with it. I'd make them much simpler.

BERMAN: Appreciate it. Thank you so much for explaining.

HONIG: Thank you.

KEILAR: Here's what the chairman of the January 6th committee said about former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows being a no-show at last Friday's deposition.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R-IL): We have been moving very quickly to make these decisions, and I'm confident we'll move quickly with respect to Mr. Meadows. But when ultimately witnesses decide, as Meadows has, that they're not even going to bother showing up, that they have that much contempt for the law, then it pretty much forces our hand, and we'll move quickly.


KEILAR: Joining us now, former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. Congresswoman, thank you for being with us this morning. And we're seeing in this new tweet from the January 6th committee, they're raising questions about Mark Meadows's communications, whether he used a private cell phone, and it appears essentially asking if he destroyed texts or other communications. Is that how you read it?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, (R) FORMER VIRGINIA CONGRESSWOMAN: Certainly, it sounds like that's what they're looking at, and it's interesting that if you go back to 2014, I believe it is, when Mark Meadows was in Congress himself and he was on one of the major investigative committees, he was complaining about not being able to get emails from the Obama administration.

So this is somebody who apparently doesn't want to practice what he was preaching back then, and I think probably if he went back and looked at some of his rants at that time, he was very upset about documents and emails not being turned over. So I think the committee is going to treat him very seriously, and they can just use his own words and actions from the past.

And I can tell you even though he is a White House official, when I was chief counsel in Congress of an investigative committee, we held White House Counsel at that time in contempt, and they then turned over the documents. We also held in contempt the attorney general. She, Janet Reno at the time, turned over the documents. So it really is unprecedented what he's doing to not cooperate at all. John Dean during Nixon did come forward and talk about things. So the way this Trump team is just refusing to cooperate at all invites these contempt citations, and I think they should be indicted, and hopefully convicted. KEILAR: We've also learned that there was another coup memo, maybe a

couple more coup memos, actually, but another one that was very clear about instructions that Pence would take to overturn the election. This from Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis. And this was something that Meadows sent to Pence via a top aide. What does that tell you about the orchestration of that day?

COMSTOCK: Well, again, I've called Mark Meadows the worst chief of staff ever, and the fact that he would forward a memo like the one written by Jenna Ellis, not a constitutional lawyer considered by any experts, that he would forward that to the vice president's office as well as, remember, Mark Meadows according to previous testimony was forwarding Italy-gate conspiracies to the Justice Department.

When I was at the Justice Department, the chief of staff was not sending over anything like that, nor was the White House Counsel's Office. And that's what's really interesting here. The White House Counsel's Office, getting their documents is going to be important because they're the dog that you haven't heard bark yet, and I would imagine since in the White House Counsel's Office, those lawyers were telling the president he couldn't do these things, that these things were off the wall. We certainly have heard Bill Barr already on the record saying that these things were nonsense and that he told President Trump himself that he had, I think it was clowns for lawyers was the effect of the representation that Barr made to Trump, and told him how ridiculous these things were.


COMSTOCK: And then he himself left, and I think that whole story probably still has more information there. And these were serious conservative people, respected by conservative organizations. So I think as we hear more of that and as we get -- because even if Mark Meadows did for some reason, I don't know at all, but even if he did destroy emails, emails were sent to other people, so they're going to show up on another end. All of this information coming forward that was sent to Pence's office, I would imagine Pence people did not destroy those documents, so hopefully they will be subpoenaed to come in and tell those same stories also. And I don't think they're going to spend tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up the big lie, nor should they.

KEILAR: It's still a whole oath goose chase, obviously, as well. Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, thank you for being with us.

COMSTOCK: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, a religious leader reacts to a former Trump adviser calling for only one religion in the U.S.

BERMAN: We also have new reporting on tension inside the White House between the offices of the vice president and the president.

And closing arguments about to begin in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former national security adviser, at least for a brief spell, made it clear over the weekend that he believes Christianity should become the sole religion in the United States.


LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET), U.S. ARMY: So we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion, one nation under God and one religion under God. Right? All of us together working together.


KEILAR: Let's talk about this now with Edward Ahmed Mitchell. He is the Deputy Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, which is a Muslim advocacy group. Sir, thanks for being with us this morning. What is your reaction to what you heard Flynn say?

EDWARD AHMED MITCHELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Look, honestly, I was not surprised. Michael Flynn has been saying crazy things for years, including about the Muslim community.

When he left the military under the Obama administration, he joined an anti-Muslim hate group that advocated the restricting the rights of Muslim-Americans, so not surprised at all to see what he said over the weekend.

Michael Flynn is not a serious person, but he is a dangerous person, because so many people take him seriously, including the former and potentially future President of the United States. It wasn't long ago that Michael Flynn was in the Oval Office giving advice to the President about how to overturn the election. So whenever something like this is said, we have to take it seriously, and people of good faith of all faiths have to speak up against it and say it's un- American.

KEILAR: Yes, listening to this, one might say, why is he doing this? And when you look at the motive for it, it seems that it may be because in QAnon circles where he has courted, a lot of folks, adherents of QAnon, they kind of turned on him and suggested that he was a Satanist, and here he is trying to prove no. Does that matter at all in what he says?

MITCHELL: Well, no, it doesn't matter at all. Look, Michael Flynn is a former General. He is a former National Security Adviser and he is a person who has the ear of the former President. That is what makes them dangerous. I don't care what his explanation for this is. He has got to understand and respect the Constitution of the United States.

The First Amendment guarantees religious liberty, religious freedom for all Americans, including Muslims and Jews and Christians and others. He has no right and no one has any right to impose one religion on the entire country. So this shows you the danger of conspiracy theories. It never stops, it gets worse and worse, and these people turn on each other.

And so we again have to speak up against this because you can't just dismiss this stuff. I thought that Donald Trump was not serious that he would never become and be able to implement a Muslim ban, but you saw what happened. I think we've learned our lesson when someone says something crazy, we take them seriously and we have to speak out against it very quickly.

KEILAR: All right, Edward, thank you for being with us this morning. We do appreciate it.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes on Steve Bannon this morning as he is expected to turn himself into authorities at any moment. He has been indicted for contempt of Congress, a consequence for defying a subpoena from the January 6th Select Committee -- a consequence. Imagine that.

John Avlon with the reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A few years back, I passed through a town called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, but of course I love the name even after I found out it was inspired by a 50s radio show, because telling the truth is a bedrock virtue and there should be consequences when people willfully lie.

But we're living in a time when the truth is under attack. Sometimes it's a full frontal assault of disinformation. Other times, it's treating the truth as a matter of opinion, confusing facts with feelings.

The most sickening twist is that there can be more consequences for telling the truth than a lie, especially in politics. After all, remember, Liz Cheney got knocked out of Republican leadership for righteously condemning Trump's attempted coup, replaced by Elise Stefanik who compliantly backed the big lie. That's careerism and a personality cult masquerading as a political party.

But consequences can change the calculus and that's why Steve Bannon's indictment could be a turning point. At issue is the attempt to stonewall the January 6th Commission with Trump desperately trying to block the release of 700 pages of White House documents around the attack.

Now, a second memo on how to overturn the election of Trump lawyer surfacing, it's clear that there's plenty to hide. Trump's strategy, though, has always been to deny and delay, so he has ordered his flunkies to ignore congressional subpoenas.

But "Presidents are not kings," as Judge Tanya Chutkan, wrote, and executive privilege exists for the benefit of the Republic, not any individual. Accountability is essential because without consequences, we will continue to define deviancy down, leading to even more division and dysfunction on our democracy guaranteed.


AVLON: Consider this, today's Republican Party doesn't seem to care if you try to overturn an election or threaten to kill a colleague, but here's what they do consider a firing offense, working with Democrats.

Because there was no evident Republican outrage when Republican Congressman Paul Gosar released that bizarre Anime video where he appeared to kill Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and attacked President Biden. But when 13 Republicans had the temerity to vote for a bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that would benefit their constituents, they were called traitors and communists.

Now Gosar is in a safe seat, so it is unlikely he'll face electoral consequences. But those 13 Republicans will face right-wing primary challenges or be targeted for redistricting.

If defending democracy doesn't seem like a big deal to you, look at the life or death consequences of lying about COVID because newly released e-mails and testimony from Trump's C.D.C. officials show that they were pressured to downplay the pandemic in its earliest days out of White House fears that the truth would make Trump look bad.

The Trump White House tried to interfere in the release of accurate COVID data refusing C.D.C. request to hold briefings about mask guidance and pediatric COVID cases leading officials to feel muzzled, Dr. Deborah Birx testified that Trump aide Scott Atlas pushed for and got less testing of asymptomatic people, which she believes was the primary reason for the early community spread.

It adds more detail when Birx told CNN back in March --


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.


AVLON: All of the rest, America has now passed 750,000 lives lost to COVID. That's the consequence of not confronting the truth sooner.

But all this has a downstream effect on our culture with the continued politicization of this deadliest pandemic in our history.

I don't know what Vince Lombardi would have done about Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers lying to his teammates about being vaccinated, but I'd guess there would have been some consequences. But when Rodgers did get caught, he blamed the woke mob quoting Martin Luther King and got fined a whopping $14,650.00. That's a lot of money to most Americans, but not for a guy who makes over $30 million a year. And it looks worse in context. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, CeeDee

Lamb got fined more money by the NFL for having his jersey untucked twice. That's a sign of some serious misplaced priorities. But it's also a reflection of our society right now. We too often fixate on small things, culture war infractions, and ignore the big stuff like lying and putting your fellow citizens at risk, and that includes COVID and January 6th.

We want more truth, we are going to need to insist on more consequences.

That's your reality check.

BERMAN: Yes, those untucked shirts. Man, I'm telling you, man, if that doesn't hurt people, I don't know what does.

AVLON: Civilization falling apart.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

So exasperation and dysfunction. New CNN reporting on the struggles behind the scenes for Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff.

KEILAR: Plus a potential terror attack thwarted in the U.K. after a man brought a bomb into a taxi cab.



BERMAN: New CNN reporting describes tension and frustration inside the White House between the offices of the President and the Vice President Kamala Harris. Reading now from the reporting, quote: "Worn out by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and lack of focus, key West Wing aids have largely thrown up their hands at Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff, deciding there simply isn't time to deal with them right now, especially in a moment when President Joe Biden faces quickly multiplying legislative and political concerns. She is perceived to be in such a weak position that top Democrats in and outside of Washington had begun to speculate privately asking each other why the White House has allowed her to become so hobbled in the public consciousness, at least as they see it."

Joining me now, CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers and CNN contributor and Biden biographer, Evan Osnos.

Evan, you know, it's interesting, and also may be responsible for some of the struggles or perceived struggles that Joe Biden has had the job that Kamala Harris has.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think any of us knows that it is hard to have a job that your boss had before you, because after all, they have very distinct ways of doing things. They think there's a way that you should spend your time issues you should devote yourself to.

In Joe Biden's case, after all, he focused on two things. It was foreign affairs, and dealing with Capitol Hill, two things that President Obama at the time didn't want to focus on, needed to dedicate his energies elsewhere.

In this administration, that is not where Joe Biden needs Kamala Harris. And as a result, there's a bit of a question around well, what does he want her to be doing? And the issue that she's been most closely associated with, which couldn't be more important question of voting rights, shoring up democracy, something he considers hugely important, has been the hardest issue for this administration, not through fault of her own, but simply because it is the central nerve running through American politics.

But that's a hard hand she has been dealt with from the outset.

BERMAN: You know, Bakari, it's interesting, the CNN article was not the only article that dealt with issues for the Vice President inside the White House. And in that article, someone who endorsed Kamala Harris, in her presidential bid is quoted as saying, "I have a problem with her portfolio mainly because of the way the President engages on those issues. You know, it's hard to pass voting rights for the President being mute on the filibuster."

And that aide, you can see, by the handsome face there associated with that quote, or that person quoted, it was you, Bakari. So you have an issue with some of the things that Kamala Harris has been given to deal with inside the White House.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is no question. I mean, for the past six months, I've been on the same -- beating the same drum that when you talk about voting rights, as Evan just did, it's very difficult to pass voting rights or to have any success with that issue in your portfolio when the President refuses to lean in or advocate for some narrowing of the filibuster.

I mean, that's just simply a fact. You're in a no win situation.

But I have a larger issue with the tone and tenor by which Kamala Harris is covered, and I think we saw that in this article.