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Wyoming Republicans Vote Cheney Out of Party; Bannon Vows Misdemeanor from Hell; Christie Doesn't Rule out Backing Trump; China's Xi Warns Biden; Biden Touts Bipartisanship; William Ogden is Interviewed about Defamation Case against Alex Jones. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The news broke in "The Casper Star Tribune." The vote was 31-29.

Joining me now, "New York Times" Washington correspondent and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman.

I mean we're talking about Liz Cheney.


BERMAN: If you step back, Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, but in her own right, you know, a conservative stalwart, basically being thrown out of the party because she won't stand by one person.

HABERMAN: Yes, and, look, when the argument by Kevin McCarthy was that you can't have a member of leadership who's criticizing leadership when Cheney was in leadership, that -- you know, a lot of people objected to it. But that-- there was more logic to that, that made some sense. This is basically, you're not a Republican if you don't favor Donald Trump. And that is something that we have not seen before. That is something different. And the more that you see this spread through the party, the harder it is going to be for anyone trying to challenge Trump, in any way, going forward.

BERMAN: That's not democracy, small "d."


BERMAN: I mean that's the politics of one person, one man. That's not something we see in the U.S.

HABERMAN: No, it's not something we see in the U.S. you don't generally see people -- this is not how the two-party system works. It's not about pledging fealty to one person.

And, look, it is interesting that the vote was as split as it was. I actually thought it was going to be worse than that.

BERMAN: Well, what about that? What about that? Because that's fair. And 31-29 isn't a landslide for Trump. HABERMAN: No.

BERMAN: That shows a near majority of Republicans in the state willing to say, this is stupid.

HABERMAN: Yes, I think there are a lot of people who actually are willing, certainly privately, I've talked to them, you've talked to them, who will say, this is a mistake. This is not the road we should go down. There have been fewer of them who are willing to put their names to it. And so the fact -- and I don't know if this was a secret ballot or how this was conducted, but the fact that there are people, at least in numbers, who are willing to oppose this, does mean it speaks to something we are seeing. There are people in the party who are uncomfortable with this drift toward supporting this one person over everything else.

BERMAN: I want to come back to that in just a second because I want to hit what's happening with Steve Bannon first, now arraigned on charges of contempt of Congress. He came out afterwards and said, this is basically the best thing that ever happened to me.

Let's listen.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

If the administrative state wants to take me on, bring it, because we're here to fight this, and we're going to go on offense. And you stand by.


BERMAN: OK, a, what's he doing here?

HABERMAN: So he's clearly having the time of his life, to some extent, turning this into a circus, right, and turning this into some effort to be a martyr. Normally, you don't see a defendant say things like that right after some kind of an arraignment. You see the lawyer talk, and it's more restrained.

His lawyer has been talking, but Bannon is using this to galvanize support for Bannon, as Bannon often does.

BERMAN: David Schoen, by the way, will be on the show later talking to Brianna. I understand you've got reporting on whose idea it was to get him -- and he was one of Trump's impeachment lawyers in February, second impeachment lawyers. Whose idea was it to get him connected to Bannon?

HABERMAN: So, I don't know physically whose idea it was. I do have reporting that Trump asked Schoen to get involved in this, and that Schoen said yes. You know, and I think it's a logical step for Schoen, who did Trump's impeachment. The second one would not have been involved if Trump had not wanted him to.

But Trump is, you know, giving him this nudge, asking him to take the case, tells you where Trump's head is in terms of Bannon.

Trump issued a statement. Trump, we should just note, over four years has been all over the map on Steve Bannon. And so, you know, more recently he has turned into a supporter of his, as Bannon has been more vocally supportive of Trump. And so I think that is what you're seeing. What it means for the privilege fight, I don't -- I don't think we can take a guess at that, but I do think people read into that.

BERMAN: All right, how much time we got, because I want to know if I can play the full -- OK.

Chris christie, I want to play a little sound of Chris Christie talking to Dana last night. Dana Bash did a special about Chris Christie, what he's thinking, will he run, would he take on Trump.

Play a little bit of sound from that.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: With all due respect, that sounds like a cop- out.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I know, I'm sure you think it's a cop-out. But, you know what? I also know that there's no reason to create tumult in a party that already has a lot of tumult in it.


BERMAN: All right, the question there was, would he take on Donald Trump if Trump ran for president. And he dodges the question.

What's most interesting to me about Chris Christie isn't about Christie himself. It's the idea that he's willing, to an extent, to directly criticize Donald Trump. And it makes me wonder now whether something has changed over the last few weeks where there are serious Republicans -- say what you want about Chris Christie, but he's a serious Republican -- who think there's an avenue now to take him on.

HABERMAN: Yes, or at least to -- not necessarily take him on directly for themselves in terms of running, but at least to confront what he has been saying and what he represents in terms of the party going forward.

I interviewed Chris Christie recently as well. He made some very similar points. But what he did say to me was that the victory in Virginia by Glenn Youngkin and the fact that New Jersey's gubernatorial race was as close as it was, those are two blue states, shows you -- not entirely the same, but they're still blue states -- shows you there is some window for people who want to talk about issues as opposed to just talk about Donald Trump and the things Donald Trump wants to talk about. And that was very much the vein in which he was speaking.


BERMAN: If it's just Chris Christie, that's one thing.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: But if it's Christie and then someone else, and then someone else, it's another.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: And as they perceive Joe Biden, whose approval rating is not good right now, perhaps to be weakened, it makes me wonder if they think they don't need Donald Trump. If that's a hassle they may not need or want to deal with going forward in 2024.

HABERMAN: I think we are a ways away from actual voters getting to that point, but I do think that there are a lot of people who are -- remain very tired and exhausted by the Trump years, among Republicans, not necessarily Trump's hardest core base. But, look, I think being off Twitter has actually been a blessing for Trump because it means his statements are not in everybody's face all the time, and they get to tell themselves it's not really that bad. You and I, who get his statements, know exactly what he's still saying, and it's just the same as it was when he was on Twitter. I think that the more people get a reminder of Trump and his conduct, and I think that you will see that when there's a report by the January 6th committee, which there will be, I think you will have reminders of why people got tired by the end.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, great to see you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks for coming in.

Steve Bannon's attorney, as we said, David Schoen, will join us live later in the broadcast.

The virtual summit between Presidents Biden and Xi leads to a warning from the Chinese leader. Why he's telling the U.S. not to play with fire.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And why Nancy Pelosi is warning House members they may not be leaving Washington over the Thanksgiving holiday.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's our responsibility, as leaders of China and the United States, to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended. Just simple, straightforward competition.

Our bilateral relationship evolves, seems to me to -- will have a profound impact not only on our countries, but, quite frankly, the rest of the world.


BERMAN: President Biden addressing China's President Xi during their virtual summit. A senior White House official says the two leaders had a healthy debate, but there were no breakthroughs. The Chinese president did have a warning for President Biden.

Joining me now, CNN's David Culver, live in Beijing, and CNN's Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House.

Jeremy, what's the word from the White House about this meeting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, as you said, John, a senior administration official, after this meeting, describing this as a healthy debate between these two leaders and really an opportunity for them to talk about those areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, most importantly, and also for President Biden, as you just heard there, to make very clear how he sees the U.S.-China relationship. One of competition but not one that will devolve into outright conflict.

And that was a key part here, President Biden talking about the need to establish guardrails in the U.S.-China relationship. Although, this meeting didn't produce those guardrails. It didn't produce any breakthroughs, nor, frankly, were any expected based on how senior officials were describing the plans for this meeting ahead of time.

But a range of issues, as you can see there on the screen, being discussed. Everything from the tensions over Taiwan, to human rights issues that President Biden made clear he was going to raise with President Xi, as well as also potential areas of cooperation on climate change, for example.

That Taiwan issue was, of course, especially important after President Biden, during a CNN town hall earlier this fall, said that the U.S. would come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked by China. The White House then had to walk that back. And President Biden making clear in this meeting that the U.S.' one China policy still applies, meaning U.S. only officially recognizes China, mainland China, not the republic in Taiwan.

BERMAN: You know, the one thing this meeting did produce was this meeting, which, David, is seen largely as a win for China. What is China saying about this?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Out of all of this, John, you've got dialogue, so that's something. It's interesting to look at the timing of all this because it was about three and a half hours all together and you're talking about very in-depth topics that they had to go into. And so you're averaging about 25, 30 minutes for each of the seven or eight topics that were cover. Now, obviously, it wasn't split equally, but it's heavy ground to cover. And the biggest issue for China, that red line, as Jeremy mentioned, that's Taiwan. And that is something that they just will not allow. Any suggestion that Taiwan will breakaway in its independence, even though it is a self-governing democracy, it doesn't go over well here in Beijing. Beijing has this idea they will be reunified, even though it was never actually controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Nevertheless, they have plans for that reunification. And that's what drew that strong line that you mentioned off the top there, John. It came from President Xi and Chinese foreign ministry is putting this out now and this is something that's getting a lot of headlines here in state media. And I'll read you part of it. It says, such moves regarding Taiwan are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire. Whoever plays with fire will get burned. And that is something that really, really stands out.

I will say one thing though, John, in more than two years, I have never seen so many positive headlines overall from state media here, which is not necessarily an exact barometer on the greater population, but it does reflect what the government here wants to echo. And they seem very positive about the relationship between U.S. and China. Perhaps some of that is the timing of us leading into the Beijing Olympics early next year when they're facing a lot of resentment for things like Covid, John.

BERMAN: That is interesting, especially because the rhetoric being reported there over the last few months has not always been positive. In some cases, more negative than it had been in some time. So if it's all positive today, interesting.

CULVER: Right.

BERMAN: Worth watching.

David Culver, Jeremy Diamond, thank you both very much.


The United States Space Command livid with Russia over a move that created 1,500 pieces of space debris.

Plus, the lawyer for the man accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery requesting a mistrial because of who was sitting in the back of the courtroom. Why the judge called the request reprehensible.


KEILAR: President Biden taking a hard-fought victory lap after signing the bipartisan infrastructure package at a ceremony on the White House lawn.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill I'm about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.


We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people.


KEILAR: Let's bring in White House correspondent John Harwood on this.

You know, his bigger plan, the Build Back Better plan, still outstanding, but this was a huge moment to pass this bipartisan infrastructure package.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was important on a couple of levels, Brianna. First of all, it's very important for the country, right? People want their bridges, their ports, their airports repaired. They want broadband internet. All of the benefits that come from this bill are extremely popular. That's why you got so many Republicans to vote for it in the Senate, a small number in the House, and why you had Republicans like Rob Portman and Don Young yesterday celebrating with the president. So that's one thing.

Secondly, as a political matter, he's been having a very rough couple of months. And the opportunity to be able to stand outside the White House with members of both parties, have a unifying moment, say, this is not what we're trying to do, this is what we have done, that's big. It's not going to solve his political problems, but it's a step and he's going to try to amplify that in New Hampshire today, in Michigan tomorrow, a series of promotional events. He's still got to get that other element, but the House leadership and the White House are both confident they're going to get that through the House this week and the Senate sometime before the end of the year.

So, if you get on a little bit of a roll, and you're able to stop the storyline of incompetent Democrats bickering with one another, and Democrats would then like to turn to going after the Republicans for the 2022 midterms.

KEILAR: They need to sell this product, right? They need -- they need to sell it. The president is going out to do that. There's always lag time, of course, with infrastructure projects and the like, but he needs to make it clear to people what is going to be delivered, even as they wait for it to be delivered.

HARWOOD: That's right. And he's going to try to make that case.

Now, it's a difficult environment for him to break through in a significant way. The -- even a successful sales job is not going to make his poll numbers go from where they were -- are now in the low 40s back up to the low 50s, where they were before, in part because the programs rollout over time, and in part because the dominant economic story at this moment is inflation. And he gets hit every day with, what are you doing to do about inflation? Gas prices, grocery prices, people are getting ready to do Christmas shopping, they understand that prices have gone up. Those are things that he's got to count on. As Jen Psaki said last night on our air, the number one thing we can do is to get control of Covid. That smooths out some of the bumpiness within the economy that is pushing up prices, and count on improved conditions getting into next year.

It is -- there's precedent for presidents, Reagan, Clinton, Obama, falling down to the areas where, in public approval, where Biden is now and recovering in time to win second terms. The challenge is, can he do it in time for 2022 to keep his party in control of the Congress? That's a huge challenge.

KEILAR: Yes, that's going to be tough.

John, thank you so much.

HARWOOD: You bet.

KEILAR: Right-wing radio show host Alex Jones, who pushed just horrible conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre, where you had dozens of people killed, including first graders, handed a sweeping legal loss.

BERMAN: And the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse about to be in the hands of the jury as Kenosha braces for a verdict.



KEILAR: The families of Sandy Hook victims winning a defamation case against Info Wars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. A state court in Connecticut found Jones liable by default for what the judge cited as willful non-compliance after he failed to provide documents requested by the plaintiffs in the case. This is just the latest legal defeat for Jones after he lost two defamation suits filed in Texas by other parents of Sandy Hook victims.

Joining us now is William Ogden. He is an attorney representing Sandy Hook families in the defamation case against Alex Jones and Into Wars in Texas.

You know, what do you think -- and I want to thank you so much for being with us this morning, William.


KEILAR: What do you think damages should be here?

OGDEN: So, I think the only way that our society allows damages like this to be calculated is to give it up to a jury of Mr. Jones' peers and, at least in our cases, in Travis County, Texas, which is in Austin, and allow a jury to determine how much damage they've actually -- he's actually done to these families.

KEILAR: And I wonder, you know, when you think specifically of, say, Noah Pozner's family, who was the youngest victim at Sandy Hook, his family has been harassed by people who believed Alex Jones. They've had to move ten times since their son's death. And as we've heard from his mom, she can't even go to Noah's grave to mourn him.

What kind of damages can even get close to making up for that?

OGDEN: I don't think there's an amount of damages that can make up for that -- for what my clients have lost out on and what they've had to go through. You not only have had them moving multiple times over the last seven years, six years, but you also have someone that was convicted and went to federal prison because of the death threats that they were receiving from that woman and that -- upon that woman's release, one of the terms was that she's not allowed to access any more of the programming that was involved in these lawsuits.

KEILAR: What has it been like for the families of the victim that you represent, and I'm sure other families as well, where they have not only been mourning the loss of their babies, but they've been dealing with this kind of thing that was unleashed by what Alex Jones did?