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White House Frustrated With VP Harris; McConnell Wanted To Disinvite Trump From Inauguration; Florida Battles Mandates; Options To Battle Inflation. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 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 about which Kamala Harris is covered. And I think we saw that in this article. I have to push back heavily on this article and throw a little cold water on it. I've spent a lot of time recently with the vice president's office, and no one's frantic.

But even more importantly, she just got back from a flawless overseas trip to France dealing with a very prickly issue where we had some freezing of our -- of our diplomatic relations with France and she, by all means, performed extremely well and by all grades performed extremely well. And yet this article, the only thing they mentioned about that French trip was the right wing trope that somehow she was utilizing a French accent and saying thee instead of the.

And so when you have these articles come out, it puts a lot of us in a defense posture because we see that a lot of people are treating Kamala Harris the same way they treated Hillary Clinton, which is attempting to end her political career in a death by a million cuts.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is there -- and I should note, just so people know, that there were, I guess, about three dozen people talked to for this article inside and outside. Not everyone named. I know that there are anonymous sources there, but that's the way -- that's the way reporting works, and you know that, Bakari.

SELLERS: I know that.

BERMAN: But I guess my question to you --

SELLERS: But I just want people to know that my criticism --

BERMAN: I know --

SELLERS: Or my criticism, though, I at least put my name on it.


SELLERS: And I think that that -- that drives a lot of people crazy as well, although I know that doesn't mean anything about the journalism.

BERMAN: And you did -- you were quoted by name in "The Washington Post" piece, Bakari.

But is there frustration? Do you sense any frustration inside the vice president's orbit at a minimum about the assignment she's been given, whether it be the northern triangle, whether it be voting rights? Are there other things you'd rather be doing?

SELLERS: Well, I mean, yes, I think that we want to see her out more. And that's also the angle of the article, the CNN piece stated that, you know, it was this theory of her being hand in hand with the vice president. The fact is, she's come into this being a great team player because there was a thought that she would not be a team player and she's been nothing but a great team player.

But, yes, we want to see her on the trail. We want to see her selling the agenda. We want to hear her on black radio every week. We want to see her out and about, because as I stated yesterday, it has to be stated again, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg are the two best communicators this party has. They are the future of the Democratic Party. And we need to see her in particular out on the campaign trail and out on the trail selling the agenda to the American people, not caught up in becoming a creature of the Washington bubble.

BERMAN: So, Evan, it's interesting because Bakari just brought up the future. And that might be another piece of this that really needs to be focused on, because President Biden needs to figure out his own future, right, and that plays in here.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as you know, the oldest dynamic in Washington is tension between a president and a vice president. And part of that always comes down to, well, who's going to be running in the next presidential race. And I think Kamala Harris, the vice president, has been very wise and sort of mindful about not allowing that dynamic to become the story.

You know, Bakari's absolutely right, that she's been sort of kept under wraps here close to town, close to Washington, and we're now entering a period in the buildup to the '22 midterm elections where you can get her out on the road, get her doing things that can establish both more of her own individual voice and also show that she can speak for parts of the party that are not getting heard every day. So she has a huge role to play.

And over the horizon, obviously, is the question of '24, but nobody in her office is going to start talking about that now. That would be in a form of political malpractice. The focus now is, how can she help contribute to Democratic wins in '22.

BERMAN: Yes, but it does matter from the White House side, from the Biden team side. What he wants to do, I do think, has some impact on how that relationship works, yes?

OSNOS: Yes, it does. I mean his decision about what to do in 2024 will hinge partly on his perception of who stands strong on the Democratic Party side. Is there somebody in a position to run for president who can win, who can beat whoever the Republican challenger is. Is that Kamala Harris? Is it Pete Buttigieg? Is it Joe Biden?

I can tell you one thing, which is that in 2020, part of the reason Joe Biden ran for president was because he looked at the field and decided, I'm in the best position to win this. We don't know. This is -- I know it sounds like the political clock is ticking, and it is, but it is still early days. This is -- the Biden/Obama relationship started in some rocky moments, too, and there -- it became one of the strongest vice president/president relationships we've seen. So, I think, stay tuned on that score.

BERMAN: Evan Osnos, Bakari Sellers, appreciate you both joining me this morning. Thank you.

SELLERS: Thank you.

OSNOS: My pleasure.

BERMAN: So a new book reveals that Mitch McConnell planned to disinvite Donald Trump from the Biden inauguration.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have the opportunity to reset their relationship perhaps in a virtual summit today as tensions rise between the world's two largest economies.



BERMAN: Brand new revelations on the final days of the Trump presidency. According to Jonathan Karl's new book "Betrayal," coming out tomorrow, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to disinvite Trump from Joe Biden's inauguration because he, quote, felt he could not give Trump another opportunity to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION."

It's a really interesting data point that Jonathan from ABC News puts out there. We knew how angry Mitch McConnell was at Donald Trump in the days between January 6th and January 20th. But the idea that he didn't want him to show up on January 20th no matter what is interesting.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very interesting. And if you juxtapose his reporting on Mitch McConnell with Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader who said, no, we're not going to ban him, we want him to come, that -- you know, fast forward a year is still pretty much the position and posture that the two Republican leaders have. And it doesn't necessarily reflect their own personal feelings, although I think in fairness to Mitch McConnell, he was truly angry and disgusted by what happened.


But it reflects the political realities of what their tasks are.

In the House of Representatives, all Mitch -- Kevin McCarthy needs to do is keep Donald Trump in the fold, that's what he believes, in order to become speaker, or at least for Republicans to get the majority because of the difference in the makeup of the House versus the Senate, where you have Mitch McConnell, who wants to be majority leader again, but you have very purple states in which if Donald Trump is successful in getting a Trump-like nominee in a lot of these races, Mitch McConnell will be relegated once again, he believes, to minority leader.

KEILAR: I want to talk about your new episode of "Being" where you have Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, and Donald Trump ally, who is admitting here that former President Trump was pretty much responsible for January 6th.

Let's watch.


BASH: Was President Trump responsible for the insurrection on the Capitol?

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think the speech he gave that day caused what happened. I think everything that he was saying from election night forward incited people to that level of anger.

BASH: I mean, that makes it worse. That's worse than one speech.

CHRISTIE: Well, that's my point. My point is that I think people minimize what happened on the 6th by pointing to the speech that he gave on the ellipse on the 6th.

BASH: It sounds to me like you're saying he was responsible for it.

CHRISTIE: What I'm saying is that there -- you can never be wholly responsible for the conduct of other people. And each one of those individual people are responsible for what they did, what they didn't (ph) do.

BASH: Would they have done that if they had not heard from their candidate, the president, that it was a bunch of -- that it was rigged?

CHRISTIE: Well, I don't think they would have gone there if they thought the election had been fair.


KEILAR: Fascinating. I mean a fascinating answer, Dana. What do you make of the timing of the answer to that question from Chris Christie? What is it?

BASH: Well, you know he has a new book coming out and, like a lot of people --

KEILAR: Well --

BASH: But this is in keeping with what we have heard more and more from him, which is something that separates him from other Republicans. We were talking about Kevin McCarthy a moment ago. This very much separates him because he's very clear on what he sees in the January 6th insurrection and, more importantly, you heard there in the clip, how we got to the point and he puts the blame squarely on the former president because of the fact that from election day, or the day after election on, he fed his supporters with a bunch of lies and now we know much more about how he tried to overturn free and fair election results.

So, we're going to hear a lot more about that. But also about the fact that even after saying what you just heard, he isn't ready to go there on completely closing the door to supporting the former president if that is where we are in 2024, meaning, if Donald Trump ends up getting the nomination.

I did, of course, ask him about whether he's going to run, and you're going to have to wait to watch tonight.

KEILAR: All right, I'm not going to spoil that. It's fascinating, Berman. I love this series that Dana does. It really does take you behind the scenes here.

And, look, where is Chris Christie on all of this? It's, I think, showing how you have to thread the needle if you're a Republican, trying to distance yourself from Trump and not, obviously, distance yourself from Trump and we'll watch him do some acrobatics, I guess.

BERMAN: Yes. Look, my question is, is Chris Christie a herald of what might come from other Republicans? To me that is such an interesting question.

BASH: He wants to be. He wants to be. He wants to -- he's explicit in saying he wants to give other Republicans cover to say what he's saying, which is that the election in 2020 was free and fair. Joe Biden was freely elected. Let's move on.

KEILAR: Yes, that's why this is essential viewing. You're trying to understand the state of politics, I think, for Republicans here. And you can see this tonight "Being Chris Christie." It's going to air at 10:00 Eastern on CNN.

Dana, always wonderful to have you here in the morning with us. Thank you.

And here is what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Soon, Rittenhouse closing arguments.

3:00 p.m. ET, Infrastructure bill signing. 7:45 p.m. ET, Biden meets with China's Xi.


BERMAN: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis targeting the federal vaccine mandates. We have new developments expected today.

KEILAR: And just a short time from now, closing arguments in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.


Stay tuned for special live coverage.


KEILAR: Time now for "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

Steve Bannon is expected to turn himself in to authorities and make his first court appearance this afternoon after being indicted for ignoring the subpoena from the congressional committee that is investigating the January 6th insurrection.

BERMAN: Closing arguments set to begin this morning in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The prosecutors will try to portray him as a vigilante who killed at least two people last year during protests in Kenosha, where 500 National Guard troops are now on standby. The defense team will say he acted only in self-defense.


KEILAR: And American journalist Danny Fenster freed from prison in Myanmar, on his way to the U.S. now, just days after being sentenced to 11 years hard labor. His release was negotiated by former diplomat and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson during a trip to Myanmar.

BERMAN: President Biden and Chinese President Xi meet in a virtual summit this evening. The stakes are high with both parties agreeing or trying to say they want to lower the temperature on issues that include trade, security and human rights.

KEILAR: And British counterterrorism police declaring a deadly taxi cab explosion that occurred outside a women's hospital in Liverpool a terrorist incident. Authorities believe that the explosive device was built by the passenger. Remarkably, the driver was able to escape and is being hailed a hero for locking the suspect inside.

BERMAN: Those are "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these story all day long on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Go to

KEILAR: This morning, Florida lawmakers return to the state capitol to work on bills to block vaccine mandates. This is part of a special session called by Governor Ron DeSantis. His state could become the first to pass a law punishing businesses and hospitals that comply with President Biden's effort to get the workforce vaccinated.

CNN's Steve Contorno is joining us now with more.

This is a fascinating tug-of-war to watch and it really has major implications for the health of the state.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Florida's one of, you know, the biggest states in the country and has one of the largest senior populations. And, obviously, this summer, had one of the worst coronavirus surges of anywhere in the country. So we're just seeing the continued battle between Governor DeSantis and President Joe Biden over the future of the pandemic and how it's going to be handled and governed.

KEILAR: And so what is at stake here in terms of this question that is being asked? What is -- what is the policy and what is DeSantis' opposition to it?

CONTORNO: So, Governor DeSantis has been vocal against vaccine mandates for the last few months, ever since President Biden put that out there. However, he called -- he wanted lawmakers to come back into special session to put in some pretty harsh, new laws that are going to not only ban mandates but potentially penalize companies that decide to go through and side with the Biden administration.

Lawmakers have reeled him back a little bit. Republicans control the House and Senate there. They are very close with the business industry that operate in Florida. You have a lot of large employers, like Disney, Walmart, who have already implemented some vaccine mandates for their employees.

So instead of banning vaccine mandates outright, you just can't force anyone to get a vaccine. They could have ways to get exemptions, you know, and you can get tested, you can prove that you have already gone through the virus and have natural immunity, you can have a religious exemption. So there are certain ways that you could potentially not run afoul of the Florida law but also maintain compliance with OSHA.

KEILAR: Yes, Covid's bad for business, right? And vaccines are good to get rid of Covid. So you're seeing this play out. It shouldn't play out the way it is politically.

But, thank you so much, Steve. Thanks for the report.

CONTORNO: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Just hours from now on the White House South Lawn, President Biden will sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law.

BERMAN: And Adele makes everything better. See how she helped a fan pull off an epic surprise, in concert.



KEILAR: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

Adele helped a fan pull off an epic marriage proposal at her televised concert special.

Let's watch.



Oh, my.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Babe, look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.

Will you marry me?







ADELE: Hello, Ashley.


KEILAR: So Adele then serenaded the couple, Quinten and Ashley, with her song "Make You Feel My Love."

I mean clearly the bride-to-be was very overwhelmed there, Berman.

BERMAN: It's beautiful. It's beautiful. Although I will say, I'm not sure Adele is synonymous with long-term commitment, but we'll leave that.

What can the White House do to fight inflation? CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.


BERMAN: Not dissing her. It's just all her songs are about splits.

ROMANS: OK. I got it. I got it. All right, well, let's talk about inflation.

With the presidential approval numbers falling and prices for just about everything else rising, the White House is now on inflation watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Inflation is high right now and it is affecting consumers in their pocketbook and also in their outlook for the economy. But those concerns underscore why it's so important that we move forward on the Build Back Better legislation, this legislation that the House is going to consider this week. This, more than anything, will go at the cost that Americans face.


ROMANS: The idea there, investments in working families would lower their housing, childcare and health care bills insulating Americans from inflation.

The Fed, of course, John, is the official inflation fighter, but the White House does have a few other tools, too. They could cut tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by the Trump administration, they could cut more steel and aluminum tariffs, they could tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve , although that would only leading to a temporary relief for rising gas prices. They could also ease regulations to fix the trucker shortage and port backlogs.

White House Economic Adviser Jared Bernstein this weekend reported some progress on untangling the snags moving goods from ports. But at the core of rising prices, the core of inflation is the pandemic.



JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The pandemic has been calling the shots for the economy and for inflation.