Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

U.S. Awaits Russia's Response to Prisoner Swap Offer; Biden, Xi Jinping to Speak Today as Tensions Escalate Over Taiwan; Joe Manchin Agrees to Deal on Climate, Tax and Energy Bill; Interview with Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) about Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 06:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Prisoner swap for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. President Biden preparing to speak to Chinese leader Xi Jinping today amid rising tensions over Taiwan.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: How will the surprising deal involving moderate Democrat Joe Manchin impact the economy and the Biden presidency? And live during this show, what will the GDP report tell us about a potential recession?

BERMAN: Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson now cooperating with the Justice Department's January 6th investigation. Who else is talking? And is Mike Pompeo the next to sit before the January 6th Committee? We have new reporting this morning.

Let's go first, though, to the State Department for new developments on the proposed prisoner swap of a convicted Russian arms dealer for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

CNN's Kylie Atwood broke this story and is at the State Department this morning. What movement have you seen -- Kylie.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Biden administration has put this offer on the table for Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker as part of a proposal to try and get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two Americans wrongfully detained in Russia, back to the United States.

Now, Viktor Bout is someone that the Kremlin has indicated they have a high priority on. It's significant that the Biden administration has put him on the table, and our reporting is that during these conversations, this was weeks long, months long leading up to this offer that was put on the table in June, it was Department of Justice officials who were opposed to putting Bout on the table, particularly because of just these drastic, incredible crimes that he has committed, but ultimately it was President Biden who supported that and overrode the objections of the Justice Department.

Now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has talked about just yesterday a substantial offer being put on the table for the Russians to get Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner back to the United States, but he did not detail that offer. However, he did say that he is expecting to have a phone call with the Russian foreign minister in the coming days, and that Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan will be part of that phone call.

Now, that is hugely significant because this is the first phone call between the top U.S. diplomate and the Russian foreign minister since the Russian invasion into Ukraine began. So it shows just how significant the Biden administration is viewing this issue with the secretary of state saying he hopes to advance these efforts to get these two Americans home.

BERMAN: So, Kylie, as you said, you broke the details of this story. Antony Blinken not confirming all of them but talking publicly in a way that State Department officials very rarely do about these types of negotiations. Why go public?

ATWOOD: Yes, it is a great question because traditionally it's really hard to get any reporting about these negotiations when it comes to Americans wrongfully detained abroad and that's because they think that there is value in holding those details closely, not talking about the offers that have been put on the table, any of those offers, but our understanding, according to a senior administration official, is that the Russians have not constructively engaged with this offer that was put on the table back in June.

And so it appears here that the secretary of state is putting the onus on Russia, publicly saying that there is an offer on the table and engaging with the Russian foreign minister to try and create some public pressure on this. And the other factor, of course, to consider is that Brittney Griner is a WNBA star here in the United States. There is a lot of pressure on this administration to get all wrongfully detained Americans home, but particularly in the case of Brittney Griner here, and the Biden administration wants to show that they are really doing everything they can here -- John.

BERMAN: Kylie Atwood, you were first on this story. We know you're still working it. Please keep us posted throughout the morning.

KEILAR: So who is Viktor Bout? Nicknamed the merchant of death, convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence at a medium security prison in Illinois. And here's how the DEA described him in 2010.


THOMAS HARRIGAN, THEN-CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: When arrested he oversaw operations capable of delivering enough weapons to launch rebellions, fuel revolutions and slaughter untold thousands of people. He was an accessory to violence on a scale that is beyond comprehension.


KEILAR: Bout is also a former Soviet military officer who has been accused of assembling a fleet of cargo planes to funnel military grade weapons to conflict zones, fueling bloody conflicts from Liberia to Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Bout's trial honed in on his role in supplying weapons to FARC, the guerrilla group that waged an insurgency in Colombia until 2016.


PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY IN MANHATTAN WHEN BOUT WAS SENTENCED: He was one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. He was convicted in a U.S. federal court in New York for conspiracy to kill Americans.


KEILAR: Bout is also thought to have been the inspiration for the arms dealer character played by Nicholas Cage in the 2005 movie "Lord of War."

BERMAN: So there have been prisoner exchanges before.


Trevor Reed earlier this year who had been held captive in Russia, Reed will speak to us shortly on NEW DAY. In 2014 Bowe Bergdahl was traded for five Guantanamo detainees. The U.S. soldier was held captive for nearly five years by militants during the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In 2010 the U.S. and Russia completed a spy swap at an airport in Vienna. Russia released four men imprisoned for alleged contacts with Western intelligence agencies. They were traded for 10 Russian agents, including Anna Chapman.

In 1986 leading Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky released to the West in exchange for a mole in the CIA. And of course Francis Gary Powers, the U.S. pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Powers finally returned to the U.S. in 1962 in an exchange. Steven Spielberg's 2015 film "Bridge of Spies" based on that event.

KEILAR: So let's bring in Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and former CIA chief of Russia operations.

Steve, how are you feeling about the potential foreign exchange here?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think cautiously optimistic is the best way to put it. The one thing that does concern me is that the Russians seem to be spending a little bit of time as to whether or not they're going to make up their minds one way or the other. And I think that's one of the reasons that we saw the secretary of state come out and actually make this public. It puts a little bit more pressure, I think, on the Russians.

BERMAN: You of course know the Russians, I think, Steve, better than most. Give us a sense of what they are thinking. Put yourself in their minds this morning.

HALL: It was interesting during your lead up there, John, you were talking about all the different exchanges that have happened in the past historically, and a lot of those have been espionage or spy related. Somebody catches a spy on one side and spies on the other side are released. But the Russians have evolved a little bit, evolved is probably the wrong word there, evolved in the way the North Koreans have.

They're simply taking hostages. The Americans, these two Americans that we're specifically talking about today, Griner and Whelan, these are not spies. These are not, you know, people who are, you know, former CIA or current CIA people who are being exchanged in an espionage. These are people who have been taken prisoner by the Russian government which has no rule of law, they'll create any type of evidence, any type of story they want to put Americans in jail who can then turn around, the Russians can them turn around and say, OK, this is now what we need from you, the United States, in this case most likely Viktor Bout who they've been after for a long time.

KEILAR: In these exchanges, I mean, in the case of Trevor Reed we didn't know until he was well out of Russian air space and that's the norm for not just for Russia but for any exchange. So how are you reading that sort of unique part of this?

HALL: Again, each of these is unique. I mean, there is a different set of circumstances for every single time. In this particular case the backdrop, the obvious backdrop of course is the Ukrainian war and the stressors that are in place between Russia and the rest of the West and specifically the United States. So that is no doubt playing a role in terms of how the Russians, how the Kremlin is calculating how to handle this.

The fact that they're being a little standoffish, our understanding is I think from our reporting that this was put on the table in June originally and there has been, I guess, no firm response yet from the Russians. So I think that's one of the reasons, again, why this is going public, why the secretary decided to make this public, to put a little bit more pressure on the Russians to say, look, the whole world is watching, don't screw this one up, too.

BERMAN: What about the counter argument that this somehow incentivizes taking Americans hostage around the world?

HALL: Absolutely legitimate thing that I think all Americans and certainly I think this administration is concerned about because that's precisely what it does. It does incentivize countries like North Korea, countries like Tehran, all these rogue nations by saying, look, we need something out of the United States, let's grab one of these Americans because we as Americans do have a tendency to want to travel to places where most often we shouldn't.

Russia being a perfect example of where one ought not to go as an American these days, but they know that we travel, they'll grab somebody for no reason. They'll create all the evidence, all the story that they need to put them behind bars and then the bargaining begins for the hostages.

KEILAR: Because they are, Steve Hall, as you say, evolving. Steve, we always appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

HALL: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Happening today President Biden and the Chinese President Xi Jinping set to hold a high stakes call amid rising tensions over Taiwan and a proposed visit there by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CNN's Arlette Saenz at the White House. Arlette, what does the White House expect from this call today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden is expected to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this morning, though the exact timing for that call has yet to be laid out by the White House, but really officials have said this is about maintaining an open dialogue with one of America's greatest competitors while also acknowledging those major points of tensions that exist. And that includes Taiwan, economic competition and also Russia's war in Ukraine.

Now, while this trip has -- while this call has been in the works for quite some time, it's taking place against that, the backdrop of that proposed possible trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.


National Security officials have been trying to speak to Pelosi in recent weeks to convince her of the risks of a possible visit. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that he had spoken with Pelosi and White House officials have said that they're constantly evaluating a security situation regarding such a trip.

Now, this possible trip from Pelosi has drawn some criticism directly from the Chinese government which has vowed a forceful response if she were to move forward with that trip, but they have yet to specify what any type of response would look like, but there are concerns of any increased military posture in the region and whether that might set off a miscalculation. So this call between President Biden and President Xi Jinping is expected to cover a host of issues, but it really comes at an incredibly precarious time, especially when this possible trip by the House speaker to Taiwan is front and center, something that the Chinese have expressed frustration with, especially when it comes to the issue of the One China policy here in the United States.

President Biden in the past has indicated that the U.S. would support Taiwan in defending themselves if there was any type of action. So this is all types of things that could come up on this call between the president and President Xi Jinping a bit later today. Of course, they are also both balancing so many domestic concerns as well.

BERMAN: Arlette Saenz at the White House, of course we'll compare the readouts from both the White House and China to figure out what actually takes place on that call.

So it is not often that senators are struck silent in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol, but this morning genuine shock over the deal between Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, a major bill that they say will fight inflation, lower drug prices, cut the deficit and spend more battling climate change than any bill in history.

So before this, before this deal, one Democratic congresswoman said Manchin is, quote, "not a real Democrat." So what does she say about that this morning?

KEILAR: And new CNN reporting that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could sit down with the January 6th Committee as soon as this week. We will have more on what the panel is expected to ask him.



BERMAN: So this morning it really came out of nowhere, the announcement of a deal, a huge deal, between Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin on a major, major piece of legislation. Remember, everyone thought talks between them had fallen apart and most assumed forever, but no. Now they have a bill that they say would pay down the national debt, cut health care costs, fight climate change and battle inflation.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill this morning. And Sunlen, I was just reading one analysis that said this completely rearranges the legislative and political outlook in Washington.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Absolutely, John. This is certainly a major breakthrough for Democrats on some key pieces of Biden's agenda that frankly did seem dead even just a few weeks ago. Now, Manchin and Schumer announcing the big contours of his deal that would provide major investments, $369 billion worth of investments in energy and health care.

Now it sets the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. It empowers Medicare, notably for the first time, to negotiate drug prices, it extends those expiring Affordable Care Act subsidies for the next three years and will be paid for, Democrats say, by closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and large corporations, imposing a 15 percent corporate minimum tax.

Now notably there are many things left on the cutting room floor that many Democrats wanted in this deal, including paid family leave and universal pre-K. Now, without Republican support which they can count that they will not have, they're trying to pass this through, through budget reconciliation so they will need all 50 Democrats to sign off on this deal, which is why Manchin's buy-in here is so critical.

Now, in just a few hours Senator Schumer will be holding a caucus meeting up here on Capitol Hill really trying to get a temperature of what his caucus feels, how this is going to be pushed forward and the goal of course, John, is to push it forward as soon as possible even as early as next week up here in the Senate.

BERMAN: Yes, a lot of first and biggest here. The first time Medicare can negotiate drug prices, the biggest expenditure to fight climate change in history. A lot going on.

Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

KEILAR: Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She is the senior whip of the Democratic Caucus and she's the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She also serves on the House Budget Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us this morning. What do you think about this deal?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Good morning, Brianna. I think that this is a very, very major step forward if we can get it done and I believe we can, I believe that there's a real deal here. You know, look, it's difficult because it's been a year of negotiations, one step forward, four steps back, but I think we are now very, very close.

And every single one of the things that's in this bill is actually a major accomplishment, will help Americans bring costs down, will ensure that we're protecting the planet for our next generation, and we will make sure that people's health care is covered instead of being cut off in the next, you know, 30 days essentially when those subsidies expire from the American Rescue Plan.

So this is a massive step forward and I'm excited to see the next pieces of it, including the full text and the process going forward.

KEILAR: Two weeks ago the narrative was so different, right? It was that Manchin had pulled one over on Schumer and any sort of deal was dead, and you have been hypercritical of Joe Manchin.


You actually called him not a real Democrat at one point. Does this change your assessment?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, on Capitol Hill things change all the time and I found that to be successful. What you have to do is you have to roll with whatever comes your way. If we can get this done it will be a massive step forward for the American people and, you know, and I think that's what we have to focus on. We have an opportunity now to make historic investments in climate, in health care, in prescription drug pricing.

I mean, nothing we have ever done before has allowed Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs. So while there is a lot that was left on the cutting room floor, the reality is this would be a massive accomplishment and it would help the American people.

KEILAR: If you get this done, does that make Joe Manchin a real Democrat in your eyes?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, I worked with Joe Manchin many times over the last year. I still think that had we done this back in December, had we done the entirety of the president's agenda we would be in better shape, but am I happy that Joe Manchin is at the table right now? Absolutely. Welcome in, Joe Manchin. Delighted to work with you to get this done.

Let's get something done for the American people. People have been hurting for way too long and I think that's the step that we are at now is let's move this forward, we have a lot of work we have to do, we need to show Democrats across this country that the Democratic Party can actually get stuff done when we have 50 Democrats in the Senate. And I think that's where we are right now.

So I'm all about forward-looking, Brianna, and hello, Joe Manchin. Happy to have you.

KEILAR: So on a separate topic here, a man accused of hate crimes and accused of threatening to kill you after showing up at your house very late at night and yelling obscenities outside has been charged with felony stalking, which sounds incredibly scary for you and your family. You also were one of 27 Democrats who voted against expanded security for family members of Supreme Court justices.

In light of this incident that you and your family have experienced, what is your view on how families of officials need to be protected in this hyper charged political climate?

JAYAPAL: Well, I've never believed that any protesters, any violence, should happen against elected officials and whether that's a Republican or a Democrat, somebody who agrees with me or not, and I think the home is a sacred place. The reason for my vote on the Supreme Court bill was because I wanted that bill to also cover the staff of the Supreme Court and federal judges, and frankly I think we need a lot more funds in Congress to be able to protect some of us.

You know, the threat assessment that's been done at my home will require a lot of changes in my house and currently there isn't sufficient funds to support that. So my beef with that bill, if you will, was that it really needs to go further. We need to ensure that every elected official and the staff that work with us -- I can tell you that this has been really scary for my staff as well because this man has sent letter -- a letter, at least that we know of, to the office and he has been stalking me for several months.

So I'm very grateful to the prosecutor for moving the charges forward. It's a very high bail amount, half a million dollars. I don't think in any way, shape or form that this kind of violence can be condoned or fueled against any elected official and unfortunately Donald Trump and his big lie and the violence that he incited and encouraged is part of what these people are quoting when they come and threaten us at our doors with guns. That is just unacceptable.

So we've unleashed something, thanks to Donald Trump, we're going to have to try and reel it back, and one of the ways to do that is to take away the tools of, you know, people being able to have guns. This man luckily because we filed an extreme risk protection order, we've been able to remove his gun as well as the gun that he had access to in his home.

But, Brianna, he says he wanted to go out and buy an assault rifle and come back to my house again and again and again. That simply is not the way that -- we simply can't allow that. And so I'm grateful that the charges are moving forward.

KEILAR: The DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats and also other Democratic groups, has been spending pretty big money trying to bolster election deniers in GOP primaries. So challengers to the right of more mainstream Republican incumbents, and that includes people like Congressman Meijer who voted to impeach Donald Trump.


Here is what Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who is obviously a part of the January 6th Committee said about that.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Don't come to me after having spent money supporting an election denier in a primary and then come to me and say, where are all the good Republicans? You are worried about the democracy.


KEILAR: Where do you fall on this issue?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know, I haven't spent a lot of time on it but I was asked about it yesterday, and what I will say is, I haven't looked at the race. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of boosting election deniers. I think that we have to be about people over politics and I think at the end of the day that is very important to not sort of encourage people who are denying the election. At the same time I think that there is a record separate from impeachment that people have on Roe v. Wade, on other things, and I think that that record of the candidates in the race, the Republican candidates in the race, there is a real difference between those candidates and our Democratic candidate in that race, Hillary Scholten.

I think we should continue to focus on those differences and make sure that we're lifting up all of the things that Hillary is going to bring as a Democrat to this -- to that district and to Congress at this critically important time when people's rights are at stake. So I'm -- you know, it's not my strategy. Listen, I was somebody who thought that Donald Trump was going to win when everybody else in 2016 was saying there is no way he can win.

I think we have to be very careful about assuming that we can control what voters do at the end of the day. I just don't -- I don't know that that's the strategy I would take. I don't want to second-guess the D Trip, I haven't looked into those race, but that's my reaction.

KEILAR: Congresswoman, thanks so much for your time this morning.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Brianna.

BERMAN: All right, this is a story, Brianna, I know you've been following so closely. Sharp words this morning from Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, after Republicans failed to support legislation that would help millions of veterans who suffered toxic exposure to burn pits during their military service. Listen.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Make no mistake about this. The American people are sick and tired of the games that go on in this body. They're sick and tired of us working for Democrats or working for Republicans and not working for the American people, but this is bigger than that. We have an all-volunteer military in this country, if you don't think young people are watching what we're doing today that are thinking about signing up for the military you're sadly mistaken.

And if we don't take care of our veterans when they come home they're going to say why should I ever sign on the dotted line? Because the promises that I made and the promises that the country made, only half that deal is being respected, my half.

This is a sad day in the United States Senate. This is the biggest issue facing our veterans today. Make no mistake about it. If it wasn't every veteran service organization wouldn't be out there talking to us and have been talking to me for the last 15 years.


KEILAR: This bill isn't dead, but, I mean, just to put this into context, you had families who were ready to come to Washington to celebrate the passage of this bill weeks and weeks ago and they're still waiting. It is up in the air, and he's right, this is what matters to so many veterans. And he's right, this is what matters about recruitment at a time when they're really having a hard time, especially the Army, trying to get those recruitment numbers.

BERMAN: It's not clear what happened here because there were a number of Republicans who actually voted in support of this basic measure a few weeks ago and this time voted no. It's bizarre and for Senator Tester infuriating.

KEILAR: Yes. I will just say this is a covenant that a country has with the men and women who serve, taking care of them for whatever damage they suffer because of their service, and right now that is at risk. So we will see where it goes.

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson now cooperating with the Justice Department in its criminal probe into January 6th. So who else are they talking to?

BERMAN: The Department of Justice obtained a search warrant to go through the cellphone of right-wing lawyer John Eastman. What they are expecting to find.