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Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) is Interviewed about Biden, Garland and Juneteenth; Texas Republican State Convention. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 08:30   ET



REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Knows that none of us are getting any younger, and we all tend to adjust our activities based upon what time it is at any given juncture and he'll do the same.

But this whole notion that I'm here now, I heard that with Bill Clinton at this point and he won re-election. I heard the same thing with Barack Obama, he couldn't possibly win, and he won again.

So, you make the tough decisions, you move the country forward, and then, I think, the voters will then have their say.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to ask you about your opinion of the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, right now. How would you assess how he is handling the decision about whether to prosecute former president Donald Trump?

CLYBURN: Well, I'm not going to zero in on the prosecution of Donald Trump. I do have some concerns about what seems to be some reticence coming from the department as to how to ratchet up these investigations.

You know, I just came out of a primary election here in South Carolina. I got elected - re-nominated last week. And I'm talking to voters. I've been in Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, all in the last 30 days. And I'm telling you, people are concerned that the department of Justice may have too many carryovers from the last administration and not moving in order to do what's needed to protect this democracy.

BERMAN: Are you concerned that they're not moving quickly enough?

CLYBURN: Yes, I am. There's no question about that. I've talked to my constituents, and I get a lot of my marching orders from them. They're concerned. So am I.

BERMAN: Is the country headed toward a recession? How do you think the economy is doing?

CLYBURN: Well, none of us are pleased with the economy. We know what a deep hole that we were in. As you know, I chair the coronavirus subcommittee and I know how Florida, our health care system was in trying to get the virus under control. I know how inept the previous administration was when it came to getting out in front of this virus. We got ourselves into a deep hole. And in order to get out of that hole, we had to ratchet up spending, we put money in the economy, we tried to keep businesses open, we tried to keep people with income in their pockets. And whenever you do that, you run the risk of inflating things.

And what you then have to do is try to find some balance in all of that. And we're searching for that balance. We'll get there. But it took some time because of the ineptness (INAUDIBLE) when it came to getting out in front of this virus.

BERMAN: Does the middle ground at this point or dealing with it include perhaps a gas tax holiday in your mind? Should it?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, I've advocated such. I think using the Strategic Reserves that the president has been using, I think that is one step. That may not be the only step to take. And maybe we need to move to a gas tax holiday. I certainly would support that if we did.

BERMAN: Today is Juneteenth -- or yesterday is Juneteenth, celebrating this for the first time as a national holiday. Today is the national holiday. Yesterday was the actual holiday.

I want to play something that Opal Lee, who is considered to be the grandmother of Juneteenth, said to our Don Lemon.



OPAL LEE, GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH: I'm still -- I'm still pinching myself to make sure it really happened.


LEE: I want you to know that it's mind-boggling to think that we actually have the holiday. I don't know how to explain it.


BERMAN: Mind-boggling, she says.

How important do you think it is?

CLYBURN: I think it's very important. And I am very glad you spoke with -- had her on this program. I watched her yesterday. She's 95 years old. And her mind is as sharp as I would hope mine would be when I reach that age. And I think it tells us something about the resilientness. Age really has a lot to do with the person rather than the calendar. And so she demonstrates that. And I think Joe Biden demonstrates that as well.


Well, let me say this, Juneteenth, to me, is one of the most important holidays that we could have because it allows us an opportunity, as I did at old Bethel (ph) United Methodist Church for their morning service on yesterday, I spoke to an integrated audience there, which was -- and I talked to them about communication. What Juneteenth came about because of the lack of communication. Juneteenth came about two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation came into effect. And I think we ought to use Juneteenth to demonstrate the importance of us learning how to live together, learning how to communicate, talk to each other.

A lack of communication kept those people in Texas enslaved for two and a half years beyond their date of freedom. That's what Juneteenth means to me. Communicate. Talk to one another. Do unto others as you'll have them do unto you. This is a good time for us to get reconnected with that parable.

BERMAN: And what's it like for you, as Opal Lee was saying, to see the entire country now observing this?

CLYBURN: It means a whole lot to me, but I think it will mean more to me when we cut out the festivities and turn to making this country's greatness accessible and affordable for all of its citizens. That's what Juneteenth should mean to all of us. And I would hope that we will work together and do as Detoekville (ph) said that we were cable of doing, not repairing whatever faults that we may find. There are a lot of faults that need to be repaired. That's what Juneteenth is all about to me.

BERMAN: Congressman James Clyburn, as I said, always a pleasure to have you on this morning. Thank you.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, from denying President Biden's election victory, to attacking fellow Republicans, how far did the right -- to the right did attendees go at the Texas Republican convention?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And two Florida deputies disciplined for sharing information about Bob Saget's death before his family was told.



BERMAN: This weekend, at the Texas Republican State Convention, Republicans passed a resolution that rejected the outcome of the 2020 election, referring to Joe Biden as a, quote, illegitimate president. They also labeled, and these are their words, homosexuality as an abnormal lifestyle choice.

Joining me now, CNN political commentator and host of PBS "Firing Line" Margaret Hoover and her close, personal friend, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.


BERMAN: What did you make of the convention, Margaret? HOOVER: John, the activist base of the Republican Party in Texas is a

mob mentality, and it has taken over the apparatus that is the GOP infrastructure. The activist base of the party is different than primary voters in Texas. Self-identified GOP primary voters. And you see this because Dan Crenshaw just survived a Republican primary contest by 35,000 votes. I mean it wasn't even close.

So, there's a difference between the GOP primary voters and the activist base of the party, which, make no mistake, has been - as completely succumbed to a mob mentality. They are nuts. Like, this isn't a five-alarm fire, this is like an asteroid is coming for earth if you're in the GOP in the Republican Party in Texas. It's a mess.

And you do have to take it really, really seriously. I mean this is -


HOOVER: Every single member of the GOP in Texas is a statewide elected is a member of the GOP -- is a member of the party. They -- where is the leadership from the saner, calmer voices, the John Cornyn's, the Dan Crenshaws, the Ted Cruzs. They are the only ones who can put out this fire.

BERMAN: Well, John Cornyn was booed.


HOOVER: Yes. But - but --

BERMAN: OK, John Cornyn was booed there because he is negotiating in a bipartisan way on gun safety. Dan Crenshaw was heckled as he came in. They called him -- I actually don't want to give it credence to what they called him. They called him names as he walked in there. So, that's the answer to your question.


HOOVER: But - but what -- they need to stand up against it, right? It's -- we understand that they don't like him, but where is the leadership, the calmer, saner voices that can cool the passions of the masses? That's what the founders needed in leadership. That's what the Texas GOP needs in its leadership right now, and it's nowhere.

AVLON: Well, look, this is a good time for conservatives to remember that they allegedly stand for standing up to a mob because that's what's happening right now, as Margaret's saying.


AVLON: I mean, look, the inmates are running the asylum. When a war - when a U.S. veteran is called a traitor by members of his own political party, when senators are booed and cat called for trying to find modest compromises on issues that have super majority American support, you see a real fundamental problem. This is what you reap what you sow when you have hyper partisan polarization. One political party, as Margaret says, that runs the state of Texas has just endorsed a whole series of nutburger outlier aspects that don't represent the voters of Texas.

This isn't a party that's getting stronger right now, it's a party that's getting weaker. And this is a real problem. Not that they're not going to do well in the midterms, but they have redistricted themselves to sort of perpetual power. But Donald Trump won the state by a narrower margin than any Republican since the 1990s. So, this is a real problem for not only the country, but also, long term, the Republican Party in Texas.

BERMAN: They also called for a resolution to have a referendum for Texas to secede from the United States of America.

AVLON: Yes. So, that's good.

BERMAN: You both have said that this is not -- does not represent the majority of primary voters in Texas, but does it represent the energy of the party?


HOOVER: No question. No question.


HOOVER: And that's - I mean the activist base of any political party is always, a, where the energy is and also where the outlier extremist ideas reside.


And they're all catching fire and we're pouring gasoline on it and it's up to the state party and it's up to the leadership, responsible Republican leadership in Texas, which exists, to quell it.

AVLON: Does it? Look, I mean - look --

HOOVER: I would call John Cornyn a responsible Republican leader in Texas/

AVLON: Sure.

HOOVER: I would call - look, the governor of the state has many positions that I disagree with, but he's the governor of the state. He's --

AVLON: But if he - well, but they're - they're -- they're running scared right now from an activist base that's right --

HOOVER: Correct. Where is the leadership?

AVLON: Right. And you have to talk about how Bill Buckley stood up to the John Birch Society. We see none of that right now.

HOOVER: That's what I'm --

AVLON: That's what - this is -- we know what they need to do. Who's going to have the courage to do it?


BERMAN: Well, what if they did? What if Dan Crenshaw stood up and --

HOOVER: They'll all do it together and they would all be booed. John, you're right, they would all be booed but - but would primary Republican voters and regular Republican voters who are responsible say, you know what, thank God we have some leadership in this party, because you know what's going to end up happening? If the -- when the inmates take over the asylum for good, that ends up repressing mainstream Republican voters who say, you know what, no, no, no, this is not my party.

AVLON: Right. This is a little bit of - this is - this is - this is a little wishful thinking from Margaret who wants to see this from her party, and I understand why. I think the - the problem is that this is not actually where the party is. The essence of politics should be reaching for converts not punishing -- hunting for heretics. But the Republican Party right now, in the wake of Donald Trump, is all about hunting for heretics, even to the point where it consumes your congressional delegation.

HOOVER: That's right. I think that's fair. I think that's fair.

BERMAN: I'm glad we worked this out in agreement together here.

AVLON: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE) it's good therapy.

BERMAN: I fell much better about this now.

I want to ask you about this poll. It was an ABC News/IPSOS poll about the January 6th committee hearing where I think 58 percent in this poll say, and I think we can put it up there, say, should Trump be charged with a crime? Fifty-eight percent says yes.


HOOVER: This is extraordinary because what we have seen in the polling up to this moment is people suggesting that, you know, Americans really aren't listening to this, especially if you listen to some conservative coverage of the hearings. Only 9 percent of Americans are really paying close attention to the day-to-day proceedings of the January 6th committee, select subcommittee. OK, fine, maybe that's true, but that doesn't mean the information isn't getting out and that people's minds are being changed.

AVLON: Yes. Yes, that's right. The January - the hearings are having an impact.


AVLON: But, more than that, if Donald Trump is the presumptive front- runner for the Republican Party, as everybody thinks because of the various powers of fear and greed and cowing that (INAUDIBLE) political party, do you think someone who 58 percent of the American people think should be prosecuted for committing a crime against democracy is the strongest candidate you can put forward for president? You don't think that 58 percent of Americans think that someone probably committed a crime is maybe not a good sign that they'd win a majority in a democracy? Yes.

BERMAN: I just trying to (INAUDIBLE) that with that movement (ph).

HOOVER: Can't argue with that. Can't argue with that. Yes.

BERMAN: But does this show, do you think, that the hearings are having an impact?


HOOVER: I think it does. I think it does. I mean I think this is the first evidence we've seen. This is the first polling we've seen that demonstrate that there actually has been a shift in - in the way people have begun to think about the results of January 6th.

BERMAN: Margaret Hoover, John Avlon, thank you both.

HOOVER: Thanks, John.

AVLON: Good to see you, man.

BERMAN: So, conflicting messages from the White House about a one-on- one meeting between President Biden and the Saudi crown prince.

KEILAR: And what caused production of baby formula at Abbott's Michigan plant to yet again be delayed?



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

Turbulent times at the nation's airports where thousands of flights have been canceled across the United States here over the holiday weekend. Delta says a variety of factors are at play, including severe weather, also staffing shortages. The cancellations come as the TSA says it's seeing its highest checkpoint volumes of the year.

BERMAN: The national gas price average has fallen below $5 a gallon. New data also shows that Americans are spending less on travel and dining out.

KEILAR: The January 6th committee tells CNN that tomorrow's hearing will focus on Donald Trump's involvement in the fake elector scheme. The hearing will be the fourth focused on the insurrection.

BERMAN: Two Florida sheriff's deputies are being disciplined after leaking news about the January 9th death of comedian Bob Saget before his family was notified. One deputy texted his brother, the other texted his neighbor. An internal investigation found both violated department rules on releasing information. KEILAR: The baby formula shortage is dragging on, this time because of

severe storms in Michigan that flooded and closed the Abbott plant in Sturgis, leading to more delays in production. Meanwhile, nearly 5 million bottles of imported formula are expected to arrive this week.

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

KEILAR: President Biden taking a spill while biking in Delaware this weekend. It's not the first presidential stumble in history. We'll have the list.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you (ph). Back up, sir (ph). Back up.





BERMAN: President Biden took a spill on his bike in Delaware this weekend. Yes, presidents are human, and they stumble just like the rest of us. Gerald Ford, remember, on the stairs of Air Force One. It earned him a running gag on "Saturday Night Live."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.


BERMAN: Yes, well, OK. You've got to see the fall.

In 2002, George W. Bush, he had a pretzel malfunction. He fainted briefly after choking on a pretzel while watching a football game.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: My mother always said, when you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow. Listen to your mother. I feel great.


KEILAR: Listen to your mother.

Well, Donald Trump once appeared -- he actually - sorry, he once appeared in public with bandages on his hand. One of them blood- soaked.


In fact, the White House said that he had scratched it while joking around with his teenage son.

And then you remember back in the Obama years, the president suffered a fat lip after taking an elbow during a basketball game, and he got a dozen stitches.

Just like us.

BERMAN: It happens.

KEILAR: Just like us.

BERMAN: It happens.

KEILAR: It sure does.

BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.