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House January 6th Committee to Possibly Subpoena Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Reporting Indicates President Trump Wanted to Take Measure that would Allow Him to Fire Numerous Civil Servants While in Office; Food Banks across U.S. Depleted as Inflation Continues. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2022 - 08:00   ET



ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Their opposition to it, or their desire to see even greater restrictions or penalties associated with abortion care. They will be able to address lawmakers directly by signing up. There isn't likely to be a vote on this bill by the Senate before Friday. It will then go to the House next week. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Alexandra Field for us live for us in Indianapolis, thank you.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Monday, July 25th, and I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman this morning.

The January 6th Committee bracing for a busy August as it enters a crucial fact-finding phase, pursuing new leads, gathering new evidence, and revisiting previous reluctant witnesses to prepare for more hearings in September. One of its key focuses is actually the Secret Service. According to new CNN reporting, investigators have identified potential missing text messages on the phones of 10 agents, messages from on and around January 6th. Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney calls the developments regarding the agency deeply troubling.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R-WY): I have just tremendous respect and admiration and real affection for members of the Secret Service, particularly those who were with my family on 9/11 and in the aftermath of 9/11. But I also know that what we saw in terms of what's happened over the course, what we've become aware of over the course of the last several weeks is deeply troubling. We will get to the bottom of it.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Cheney also tells CNN the panel is still interested in speaking with Steve Bannon, who was just convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying the committee's subpoena. We're going to be joined by Bannon's attorney in just a few minutes for his first interview since that guilty verdict. Cheney also says the committee could subpoena Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over her attempts, or her conversations about overturning the results of the 2020 election.

KEILAR: So let's bring in national political reporter of "Axios" Jonathan Swan. Jonathan, thank you, it's great to see you this morning. What do you think about this move, contemplating subpoenaing Ginni Thomas?

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "AXIOS": I think it's very significant. The comments that Liz Cheney made on Jake Tapper's show yesterday were the most pointed comments I've heard her make about Ginni Thomas. And there's some context to this. This is not something that Liz Cheney was especially eager to do early on when the news first broke about Ginni Thomas texting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, urging him to work harder to overturn the election. There was, I'm told from a source on the committee, quite some discussion, debate and differences of opinion within the committee about how aggressively to pursue Ginni Thomas, how important she was to all of this. So, I found those comments to be very notable, and we'll see what happens next.

BERMAN: Do you have any reporting, Jonathan, on what's changed? Because I think you're right. Liz Cheney at first was on the reluctant side of issuing a subpoena for Ginni Thomas.

SWAN: I don't know, and I don't want to speculate.

BERMAN: Another aspect, and we heard Liz Cheney talk about this, was the Secret Service. And this is interesting, and I think we should stipulate, we don't know what they don't know, and I'm not sure they know what they don't know when it comes to the Secret Service, except that there are text messages that they can't get their hands on from around that day. And they also know that some of the figures connected to it are beginning to lawyer up. So what does this all tell you, Jonathan?

SWAN: Well, so you're exactly right. We don't know what we don't know with these texts. We don't know the content of them, and we don't know the motivation for wiping them. Obviously, there was this problem with retaining these records, so it is very problematic, to say the least.

But what's very interesting is what you said after that, which is we're now seeing these three key former Secret Service agents -- well, so Bobby Engel, who was the head of Trump's detail, Tony Ornato, who became a senior White House official, and now the SUV driver, so the guy who was driving the SUV for Trump from the rally back to the White House, he's now retained a high-profile, very well regarded Republican attorney, Zach Terwilliger. And we don't know exactly what that means. What we can surmise from that is that they're not satisfied, these agents, with the representation that they're getting from the U.S. Secret Service in-house counsel.

[08:05:00] Agency counsel typically represents the agents in this situation. So

sometimes in these cases, people retain outside private counsel when they feel their interests are divergent from the agency's interests. But at a very minimum, I think we can surmise that they're not satisfied with the representation that they're getting from the agency, and I think it's a notable development.

PAUL: As president Trump prepares, by his own admission, to launch a bid for election here in the coming months, a big question is what would a second Trump term look like? And you have some fantastic reporting that aims to look at that in very exact detail. And part of it centers around, a lot of it centers around an executive order he put in place. Can you tell us about this? He put this in place. It was rescinded by the Biden administration. It kind of flew under the radar, but this is a crucial element of what it might look like if he is elected again.

SWAN: Yes, so this is a two-part series we launched at "Axios" on Friday and Saturday. And I've been working on this for more than three months, basically piecing together all these different aspects of what is effectively an administration in waiting for Trump for 2025. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes that have been publicly reported.

And at the heart of all of this is a legal instrument. It's an executive order called schedule -- they call Schedule F. And if your viewers haven't heard of Schedule F or hadn't heard of it before these stories, that's for good reason, because it was developed in strict secrecy for most of the Trump administration, at least for the last two years of it. And it was only finally issued, Trump only signed it into law 13 days before the presidential election in 2020.

And when you put out some anodyne sounding order called Schedule F amid the craziest election in American history, you can be forgiven for not paying attention to it. But it's actually profound what it does. It allows cabinet agencies to reclassify tens of thousands of career civil servants who have currently under law and have for decades very strong employment protections, because the idea is that these career civil servants, nonpartisan, continue from one administration to the next regardless of the party of the president in power.

Trump wants to fire tens of thousands -- potentially, at least thousands of these people that he calls pejoratively the deep state. And what this order allows him to do is to reclassify them as new employment category called Schedule F. They immediately lose almost all of their employment protections and can be easily fired and replaced. So, that's happening there.

As you can imagine, there will be legal challenges to this. But, I'll tell you, Trump's advisers like their chances in a court system now dominated by conservatives at the highest level. And because of that, there are some Democrats who have been following this issue very carefully and who are quite alarmed about it and have been trying to take steps to preemptively prevent a future president from doing this. So Gerald Connolly, Gerry Connolly, Representative from Virginia who

heads the committee, the subcommittee who oversees the federal civil service, he's attached an amendment to the annual defense bill to try and prevent this from happening. Republicans want to block it in the Senate.

But I will say, even if they succeed, Democrats, in somehow getting something into law to prevent Schedule F, Trump really wants to attack the intelligence community and the national security apparatus and basically purge these agencies, the CIA, the FBI, et cetera. They don't have the same civil service protections as a lot of the other agencies do. So even if they don't get civil -- a Schedule F, a president with the will to do what Trump wants to do and has told his advisers he wants to do could still do quite a significant purge without it.

BERMAN: And a lot of this, and you write about this extensively, is about loyalty. It's a terrific series that you and your team have put together. You can see the work that went into it. So much about loyalty. And you list some possible names who would be key players in the next Trump administration. And Jonathan, we're going to have you back on sometime to talk about who these people might be, because it's a roster that I think will raise a lot of eyebrows. Terrific work, Jonathan.

KEILAR: Jonathan, thank you for being with us this morning.

So now to the economy. It's a domino effect as prices for essentials like groceries, rent, and medication skyrocket. Millions of Americans have turned to food banks for relief. But now those life-saving resources are facing critical shortages. CNN's Gabe Cohen joins us live now from Washington. They need this help and it's being threatened.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, that's right. With this rising inflation, families are making really tough decisions when they can't afford to pay their bills and to put food on the table.


So more and more people are seeking out food assistance, just like at the start of the pandemic, but this time it's without the same level of government assistance and donations pouring in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.


COHEN: Jean Vaccarino has turned to food banks after months of choosing between groceries and her heart medicine.

JEAN VACCARINO, USES FOOD BANK: I will probably be homeless by next year because the rent has tripled.

COHEN: She says she's been living on disability for the past few years, making it harder to make ends meet.

VACCARINO: I can't buy clothes, I can't buy for my grandchildren. I can't buy anything. You know, it's -- it's day to day, and you just have to pray for the best.

COHEN: With rising inflation, the average American is spending nearly $500 more per month, including $78 more on food, toughest for those living paycheck to paycheck. In a June poll, 60 percent of lower income households said grocery prices were a major problem. So, millions are turning to food banks for help. Some pantries say they're serving 50 percent more people than a year ago. Long lines in Phoenix mirror the worst days of the pandemic. In San Antonio, one-third of these people are here for the first time.

ERIC COOPER, SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK: These are families that are working, but they're just not making enough to put food on the table at the end of the day.

JESSICA YINGLING, USES FOOD BANK: Sometimes it's stressful and a struggle.

COHEN: Jessica Yingling works at a nursing home, but she and her son still need this Maryland pantry.

YINGLING: Everything is more expensive and you're making the same amount that you were making before.

COHEN: Bill (ph) Murphy (ph) is picking up meals for veterans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will mean survival, bottom line.

COHEN: Demand is skyrocketing as the government scales back COVID assistance programs and donations from the USDA and grocery stores plummet, stretching food banks to the brink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't have surplus, well, then it cuts our supply.

COHEN: In Ohio, warehouses are drained. They say it's the worst shortage in years, and pantries are rationing food to stay afloat. Few banks can afford to buy supply to fill the gap, and even that is getting far pricier.

VINCE HALL, FEEDING AMERICA: America is transitioning from a pandemic crisis to a hunger crisis. The worst-case scenario is that food banks will have to continue to wind down and even shut down food distributions that are vital lifelines for communities across the country.

COHEN: And if sky high inflation lingers, more families will need help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just get to the point where you just have to go get it.

COHEN: Janet (ph) Murray (ph) is raising her grandson, and for the first time, this free food is critical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess more of us are going to be coming to the food banks. It's sad, it really is, but what are you going to do?


COHEN: Now, Feeding America thinks there are some steps that can be taken to make this better. They're asking Congress to increase funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program and for the USDA to send more supply to food banks. They called this a dangerous and unsustainable trajectory. And Brianna, food banks in some places are on the brink of shutting down.

KEILAR: Yes. The red light is flashing. Gabe Cohen, thank you.

BERMAN: Moment of truth this week for the U.S. economy. Consumer confidence numbers out tomorrow followed by the Federal Reserve decision on interest rates on Wednesday. On Thursday we'll get the first reading on second quarter economic growth. That's GDP. And rounding out the week, the latest personal consumption expenditure index, which tends to be the Fed's preferred measure of inflation. That's a lot.

Joining me now is the chair of the White House Economic Council Brian Deese. Brian, thank you so much for being with us. You have your hands full this week. If you would, finish this sentence for me. The state of the U.S. economy is what?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, thanks for having me on. I think the state of the economy is demonstrating resilience in the face of very significant global economic challenges. As the report just showed underscores, we need to take action to make things more affordable for typical families. Good news on gas prices is because, in part, of the actions this administration has taken, we've seen gas prices come down significantly, about 70 cents over the last month-and-a-half, but we need to do more.

Congress is going to be considering legislation, for example, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. That's a huge cost for many people, our seniors, people who have chronic diseases. We need to take action on that as well. And Congress is going to consider today voting on legislation that would build more semiconductors, more computer chips here in America, hugely important for bringing down prices for things like automobiles and across our entire economy.

So, we have seen extraordinary resilience in this economy due largely to the resiliency of our businesses and our consumers, but we need to take more action right now to make things more affordable.


And we can do that while actually helping to bring down inflation as well.

BERMAN: When the GDP numbers come out this week, if they do show a second straight quarter of negative numbers, what will that signify?

DEESE: Well, let's step back and look at what happened, those numbers will reflect the period from April to June. So backward looking what happened in the spring and early summer. During that three-month period, the economy created 1.2 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs a month.

Never in the history of our country, have we had a recession where the economy was creating jobs, period, let alone creating 400,000 jobs.

So those numbers are inherently backward looking, and they capture different elements of economic activity, including very volatile things like inventories that during this crisis, where we've seen supply chains turned upside down, are demonstrating non-typical factors.

But I think the bottom line is, if you look at the labor market, if you look at what consumers are spending, what businesses and households are investing, you continue to see this resilience, but that is no reason for complacency, we need to act, we need to act on things like prescription drugs, and things like semiconductors right now.

BERMAN: It sounds like you're anticipating what will be comments from some saying two quarters of negative growth in a row. That's a recession.

DEESE: Right. And certainly, in terms of the technical definition, it's not a recession, the technical definition considers a much broader spectrum of data points.

But in practical terms, what matters to the American people is whether they have a little economic breathing room, they have more job opportunities, their wages are going up. That has been Joe Biden's focus since coming into office.

He has had a view of the economy that we need to look to build from the bottom up and middle out, and what that means is that typical working class people in this country have had trouble affording things for years.

He is focused on building a strong durable economic recovery here. We have real global challenges here in the short term. We've got to navigate our way through them, but we have to do so without giving up all our economic gains, that's going to be our focus, and I think that we need to train that focus on that rather than on sort of technical debates about backward looking data.

BERMAN: So the consumer confidence numbers are going to come out as well, and consumer confidence has been fairly dismal. Those numbers have just been flat out bad for a couple of months here yet, you are making the case the economy is actually pretty resilient and showing some strength in certain areas.

So are people's feelings wrong? Are they getting it wrong about what's really happening? DEESE: No, absolutely not, but these are very uncertain times and

when you go and pull up at the gas station, or go into the grocery store and see these high prices, they don't only create hardship, but they create uncertainty for what things are going to be like in the future.

That is why we have trained our focus on saying what can we do practically, to try to lower prices, make things more affordable for families while addressing inflation and maintaining the growth that we have in the economy.

That has --

BERMAN: One of the things -- I'm so sorry to interrupt. I thought you were done with that thought. All I was going to say is one thing the President has talked about is a decision that keeps on coming, we are told, about student debt relief.

Now, there are those who will argue that tuition debt relief is inflationary. You're going to give -- you're just going to put money into the economy. Do you feel, Brian, that it is inherently inflationary?

DEESE: Well, the President hasn't made a decision on that issue, so I'm not going to get ahead of him. I think that if you look at the question of the economic impact of student debt, you have to look at both the impact of restarting payments.

So because of the pandemic, we have had a pause on payments now for more than two years, as well as any relief you would provide on the debt side. I think that if you actually look carefully at the economic impact of that, the overall macroeconomic impact would be de minimis in any scenario.

But I think like many of these issues, the question is, there are people out there who are struggling in the economy today, and President Biden's focus across the board, is how can we focus on working people, middle class Americans, and give them a trajectory to have an economy that actually will deliver not only today, not only this month, but for years to come.

We've made historic progress on that front. We really have come a long way since the depths of the pandemic, but we have more to do and that decision will be made in that overall process.

BERMAN: You talked about gas prices and some of the measures you've taken there. Just looking back at the piece that we ran before you came on, talking about these food banks that are seeing levels that they haven't seen in a long time. Anything specific you can do to help people with food?

DEESE: Absolutely. So the USDA, our Department of Agriculture has already taken steps to increase the benefit for people who are on food assistance, the SNAP program.

[08:20:01] DEESE: We've extended summer feeding through the summer months, which

is critically important to make sure that kids who rely on school meals can continue to get quality food over the summer, and our USDA is working with farmers and growers right now to put money into their efforts to try to expand production so that we can grow more, important for prices and supply here in the United States, but also the world.

Remember the context here. Putin's invasion of Ukraine has taken a lot of the store of commodities that go into food off the market -- wheat, other grains because Ukraine and Russia are both big global suppliers. So, we're doing what we can to grow more here in the United States, which will help our economy, people here in our country, but also the world.

BERMAN: Brian Deese, we appreciate you joining us this morning. As I said, you've got a big week ahead every day, it is going to bring a new number for you at the White House. Appreciate it.

DEESE: Thanks.

BERMAN: So more than 60 million Americans enduring these really high temperatures. It was just hot this weekend, also deadly in some cases. Where the heat is headed next and when to expect some relief.

Plus, the latest on President Biden's condition as he battles COVID.

KEILAR: And this just in, a report that Elon Musk had an affair with the wife of his friend and Google co-founder, Sergey Brin. How Musk just responded to those accusations.



KEILAR: Time now for "Five Things to Know" for your NEW DAY.

More than 60 million Americans are under heat alerts across the country this morning, but relief in sight as that 90-plus heat index comes down a bit for some as severe storms are expected to roll over the Northeast later today.

BERMAN: President Biden getting significantly better over the weekend after his COVID diagnosis on Thursday. That is according to the White House. His doctor says the President mostly has a sore throat now. He will continue to isolate per CDC recommendations.

KEILAR: And the State Department says two Americans have died in the Donbas region of Ukraine, one of them identified by his mother as Luke Lucyszyn. The State Department has not provided any details about the circumstances of their deaths.

BERMAN: Wildfire near Yosemite National Park is getting bigger. The Oak Fire has now burned more than 15,000 acres and forced thousands of people from their homes. So far, fire officials say they have not been able to contain any of it. KEILAR: Elon Musk denying having an affair with the wife of Google's

co-founder, Sergey Brin. "The Wall Street Journal" says Musk had a brief relationship with Nicole Shanahan last year while she and Brin were separated, but still living together. Musk called the report total BS in a tweet and he said he and Brin are still friends.

BERMAN: These are "Five Things to Know" for your NEW DAY.

More on these stories all day on CNN and and don't forget to download the "Five Things Podcast" every morning.

Go to

A woman in Florida stabbed by one of these, it was a 100-pound sail fish. How it happened and the latest on her condition.

KEILAR: And former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon found guilty of contempt of Congress. His attorney joining NEW DAY for his first interview since that verdict.