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The Situation Room
Biden Announcement Expected Tomorrow On Mandate For Federal Workers To Get Vaccinated Or Tested; Senate Test Vote On Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan After Negotiators Strike Long-Awaited Deal; Officer Who Defended U.S. Capitol On January 6 Say They Feel Abandoned By National Union; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Civil Rights Activists Growing Impatient With Biden Over Stalled Voting Rights Legislation. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 28, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage right now, well, it continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden issues an urgent plea to the unvaccinated to get their shots as he faces a new COVID emergency and prepares to order a vaccine mandate for federal workers.
Also tonight, after giving emotional testimony, officers attacked by Capitol rioters say they feel abandoned by the national police union. I'll talk with a key member of the January 6 committee, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, in his first one-on-one interview since the hearing.
And after weeks of frustration and wrangling, bipartisan Senate negotiators strike a new deal on infrastructure. We're standing by for a critical test vote expected this hour.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin with the president and the pandemic. Let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, as COVID-19 surges among the unvaccinated here in the United States, the Biden administration is getting more aggressive in its response.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes Wolf. It's a noticeable shift in tone here at the White House, not just when it comes to vaccine policy, an update that we are expecting from President Biden tomorrow, but also when it comes to the messaging. And you could hear him tonight pointing the blame for what is happening across the national landscape right now on the unvaccinated.
COLLINS (voice over): President Biden frustrated by the numbers tonight.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We still have a lot of people not vaccinated.
COLLINS: With the formidable delta variant fueling new outbreaks, over half the country remains unvaccinated and Biden is zeroing in on those who haven't gotten the shot.
BIDEN: The pandemic we have now is the pandemic of the unvaccinated. So please, please, please, please, if you're not vaccinated, protect yourself and the children out there.
COLLINS: The president was in Pennsylvania to build support for his domestic agenda. But the delta surge remained in the spotlight after he was introduced by someone whose mother died from COVID-19.
BIDEN: Carlo, I'm sorry about your mom, I really am, so many, so many people.
COLLINS: Tomorrow Biden is expected to announce that all federal employees must get vaccinated or submit to regular testing and other mitigation measures if they don't.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY (voice over): While no decision has been finalized, I will say that the attestation of vaccination for federal employees is one option under strong consideration.
COLLINS: Requiring federal employees to get vaccinated would be a massive shift in the White House's approach. And come after top health officials reverse course by issuing ne mask guidance for the fully vaccinated.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We put this guides up, because the science demonstrates that if you are vaccinated, you could potentially give disease to someone else.
COLLINS: The experts say, those who are unvaccinated are overwhelmingly spreading the virus, as they become more blunt about who is to blame about the current national dilemma.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated.
COLLINS: Hospitalizations have been increasing for the last month. It went up 35 percent over the last week. Almost daily, there are new reports of those who regret not getting vaccinated.
ALICIA BALL, UNVACCINATED HUSBAND BATTLING COVID: I never really realized how bad it would be, and how bad this delta variant would be.
COLLINS: But not everyone is heeding the new warnings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for us to stop being wimps in this country and teaching our children to be cowards. COLLINS: A Broward school board meeting on mask requirements for the upcoming year was disrupted this week by mask-burning protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here are the masks that have been enslaving our children.
COLLINS: In Arkansas, where a statewide ban on mask mandates goes into effect this week, Governor Asa Hutchinson was shouted down after he attempted to dispute false claims about the vaccine.
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Does this impact fertility? Well the answer is no and that's been the data. But they --
DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, ARKANSAS MEDICAL DIRECTORE FOR IMMUNIZATIONS: So at this point in time, there is no evidence --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Except there 20,000 women that you have shut down from telling their stories.
COLLINS (on camera): Remarkable moments, Wolf, playing out across the nation. And we also note that tonight, the CDC has quietly updated its testing guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. That's an addition to updating its mask guidance yesterday.
And now they say even if you are fully vaccinated, if you come into contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19, you should wait three to five days after exposure, and then get tested, wear a mask until you get a negative test, Wolf.
And that's notable, because before, the guidance was even if you're fully vaccinated and you come in contact with someone, you don't need to get tested unless you're symptomatic. So, another change here tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of changes unfolding right now. Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Let's bring in our experts, joining us now, our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Paul Offit. He's a Member of the FDA Vaccine's Advisory Board and Director of Vaccine Education Center of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Sanjay, the U.S. is now averaging more than 61,000 new COVID-19 cases every day. A month ago, we were seeing just 11,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. Can you put this into perspective for us? How bad is this getting?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I'll preface by saying this is supposed to be one of the better times of year, the summer, when the virus doesn't transmit as much. So you just said the numbers in terms of cases. They've gone up nearly fivefold but if you look at the map, Wolf, that means, you know, two-thirds of the country are now in areas where you have either a high or substantial viral transmission.
In addition to the cases going up, hospitalizations have increased 35 percent over the past week, sadly, deaths have increased 22 percent over the last week, so all of those numbers going in the wrong direction.
Vaccinations overall, thankfully, at least over the past few days have increased a bit, so there are more people who are getting vaccinated now than at this time last week. But we'll keep an eye on that number, Wolf, but overall, the cases of hospitalizations and deaths not going in the right direction.
BLITZER: Certainly not. Dr. Offit, President Biden expected to announce a vaccine mandate for federal workers tomorrow. Should more vaccine mandates follow?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Yes, I think we're there. I think we've done everything we could in terms of educating people about the importance of this vaccine. It's free, it's readily available. We've tried to decrease misinformation. We've had incentives and we've hit a wall.
I mean, there was a time we were giving 3 million doses a day. If we stay that course, we could be at roughly 80 percent population immunity, but we didn't. And as a consequence, we have on under vaccinated population. It's allowing this virus to spread and I think we've come to the point where we have to compel people to do the right thing. It's sad, we shouldn't have to do that, but I that's where we are.
BLITZER: The CDC, Sanjay, now says vaccinated people in areas with so- called high COVID-19 transmission should resume wearing mask especially, obviously, when they're indoors with strangers, lots of people. Do you think this new guidance may actually be causing more confusion though?
GUPTA: I think it is confusing a bit, Wolf. I mean, just talking to lots of people over the past couple days. I also spoke to Dr. Walensky. You know, the fundamental problem, as Dr. Offit just said, you know is unvaccinated people primarily spreading the virus to other unvaccinated people. That is the primary problem. You look at places where we have high viral transmission, almost assuredly you're going to find lower vaccination rates there.
The new science that Dr. Walensky talks about is the fact that someone who has been vaccinated and develops what are these so called breakthrough infections could have the virus in their nose and mouth and then spread it to somebody else. So if you're vaccinated, may be you thought, hey, look, I'm totally free and clear, I can spend time with someone who is unvaccinated, no problem.
I think that's where this may help a bit you know if you're going to spend time with vulnerable elderly loved ones. Someone who is at risk for example, you don't want to spread the virus to people, so vaccinated people should wear masks you know, in public indoor spaces. But how much of a difference that make on that map that you just showed? I don't know. Because what's driving red and orange on that map seems to be unvaccinated to vaccinated, primarily.
BLITZER: Yes. You're absolutely right. And, Sanjay, I know, you have a question for Dr. Offitt. Go ahead.
GUPTA: Well, Dr. Offit, I'm just curious, you know. Now, when you look at it, and hindsight is always 20/20, right, sir, but back on the May 13th, they changed the mask guidance for vaccinated individual saying they no longer need to wear them indoors, now it feels like a step backwards. What do you think about that May 13 decision to lift mask recommendations at that time for the vaccinated?
OFFIT: I think what was behind that decision was basically a gift. If you've been vaccinated, you can now take off that mask. And it trusted the fact, and I think it was too much trust, that, therefore, if you walk into a grocery store, everybody who was wearing a mask wasn't vaccinated, everybody who wasn't bring a mask was vaccinated. That obviously was wrong. There are a lot of people who are not vaccinated, who also choose not to wear a mask. And I think it was a little short- sighted.
And it's so it looks like a step back, but I think, you know, between the delta variant being as contagious as it is and having just a disappointing uptick at this vaccine, what they're doing now is the correct thing to do.
BLITZER: You know, Sanjay take a look at this graphic. The U.S. remains stock with just about 49.3 percent of the population fully vaccinated right now.
It's been around that number for several weeks now while countries around the world are surpassing us. We had a head start compared to much of the world. We had a lot of that vaccine available. What happened? You see Canada, the U.K., Spain, France, Germany now ahead of the U.S.
GUPTA: Well, you know, and I just got back from Tokyo and I had a chance to talk to lots of people from different countries about their vaccine programs. I will say it's tough to sort of paint it with one brush, to treat vaccine hesitancy or whatever as a monolithic issue, because there're different reasons for different people.
But, overall, I mean, I think what happened in this country compared to other countries is it just became so political. I mean, obviously, you can't vaccinate those 12 and under. There are people who may have legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated. There may be people who have sort of process reasons.
They can't get time off work and they're afraid that they cannot get the days in case they have any sort of -- they don't feel well after the vaccine. I've heard all these different sorts of things. But mostly I think what keeps us under 50 percent still is politics. BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Paul Offit, guys, thank you very, very much. The story seems to be getting worse.
Just ahead, a critical test vote on infrastructure after a new agreement that potentially could finally move one of the president's priorities forward. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the Senate floor. We'll have live coverage of this key infrastructure procedural vote that's coming up.
We'll also get special insight at the next phase of the January 6 Special Committee investigation. I'll speak with two key panel Members, Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Adam Kinzinger. They're both standing by live.
Stay with us. You're in the Situation Room.
BLITZER: You are looking at live pictures from the U.S. Senate floor. We are standing by for a critical test vote on a new bipartisan infrastructure deal, this is after Senate negotiators finally reached an agreement with the Biden administration on some major issues.
Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us right now. So, Ryan, what's in this Senate deal? Will it actually stick?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are pretty confident that it's going to make it through this first stage, this procedural vote. In fact, there was a key supporter that just came out announcing his support in the last few minutes, and that's the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. That's a signal than there will be more than the ten Republican votes necessary to get through this procedural phase.
And this is what is in this infrastructure bill that has been so hotly debated over the past couple months here on Capitol Hill. It allows for $110 billion in roads, bridges and major projects, $66 billion for passenger and freight rate, $65 billion in high speed internet, $55 billion in clean drinking water and $39 billion in public transit.
And this was something that both Republicans and Democrats hammered out through hours and hours of negotiations but it is only the first step in what is likely going to be a very long process. That's because in addition to this $1 trillion in spending that the Senate has proposed, it first has -- it also has to pass the House and it also has to come at the same time is that much broader $3.5 trillion budget plan that's going to be passed through reconciliation, which means only Democratic votes.
And right now, on the House side, progressive Democrats and even the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, have said that they're not passing this bipartisan bill until they have assurances that the reconciliation package is going to pass as well. And there isn't even 100 percent assurance yet that there are 50 Democratic votes here in the Senate for that reconciliation bill as well. So that can get a little confusing. There's a lot of numbers being thrown out. The long and short of this is this is just the beginning of a very long process. Democrats seem very committed to getting both of these bills passed, but, Wolf, there is a long way to go before of this ends up on President Biden's desk. Today, a big step toward that process.
BLITZER: Yes, you are absolutely right, Ryan, this is just really the beginning of this process. Let's see what happens. Ryan, thank you very, very much.
Let's discuss this and more. Congressman Adam Schiff is joining us. He's a key member of the select committee on January 6 insurrection. He is also the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.
I want to discuss all of this, but let's talk about this infrastructure proposal. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez had a truly scathing response to this bipartisan Senate deals. She says this, and I'm quoting her now, good luck tanking your own party's investment on child care, climate and infrastructure while you're presuming you'll survive a three vote House margin, especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a bipartisan accomplishment.
So, Congressman, how does this pass the House? What is the prospect, assuming it passes the Senate?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, I think you have pointed out correctly, this is really the first step. And, look, I think it's positive, you have got people coming together in the Senate to try to reach agreement on anything these days, and we dramatically need an investment infrastructure in this country and after four years of infrastructure week with no infrastructure, this is positive movement.
At the same time, I think it's absolutely correct that this package alone is not going to pass the House. It's going to have to pass in conjunction with a large reconciliation bill that includes human infrastructure, that invests in our people. I think the speaker has made that abundantly clear. So look, I think it's positive momentum, but nobody should be under any illusion that this package is going to pass as a standalone measure without more because there is so much more we need to do for the country.
BLITZER: On that $3.5 trillion so-called reconciliation budget deal, it's not even clear if there are 50 Democrats in the Senate though, Congressman, to approve it, so it's, by no means, even that's not a done deal.
SCHIFF: Yes, that's right. You know, first, there will be, I guess, a test vote in the Senate and we'll see how the votes line up at this earlier stage. But, you know, this is part of a long-term project and it's a -- it's going to be a real test of kind of a legislative skill and strategy to figure out how to get to the end zone with this.
We all wanted to do a major infrastructure package. The country desperately needs it. And we need to make this major investment in our people, so, hopefully, we will get there and this will be marked as the first step in that, but there is still a long road ahead of us.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right, let's turn to the January 6 investigation, Congressman. I want you to watch and listen to what Republican Member Member Liz Cheney says as far as the next steps are concerned. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We've got to make sure that we get to every piece of information that matters. And I think the speaker has been very clear that -- and the chairman that we're going to issue subpoenas quickly, that we're going to enforce those subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So how quickly, Congressman, will those subpoenas be issued, and who do you need to hear from?
SCHIFF: Well, I think you could see subpoenas go out very soon, and those subpoenas would most likely be for documents. It's most useful in an investigation to get a hold of the documents first. That way, you know a lot of the questions you want to ask the witnesses and it may direct you to the right witnesses.
But I think what we are going to do now is we're going to scope out the investigation, we're going to essentially draw up what the chronology is in terms of what information we go after first. We will look at scheduling another hearing, perhaps as early as next month, and as Liz Cheney said, we're going to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We're not going to be at all hesitant to issue subpoenas or to compel production with those subpoenas, whether that is for documents or testimony.
BLITZER: We have to learn exactly what happened, how it happened, why it happened in order to make sure it never, ever happens again. I know you have to go vote. We heard the bells go on. Congressman Schiff, we'll continue this conversation down the road. Thanks for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, he's getting ready, there he is, he's going to join us for his first one- on-one interview since the January 6 committee officially launched its investigation. We've got lots of questions about what happened yesterday, his emotional questioning of these police officers, where the panel goes from here.
Stand by, we'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:25:00]
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of the U.S. Senate floor, a key test vote on that bipartisan infrastructure deal is set to begin at any moment. We'll have coverage, of course.
Also tonight, police officers who battled rioters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 say they feel abandoned by their national union, the Fraternal Order of Police.
Our Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is joining us right now. Josh, the national union is failing to come forward and support these police officers who risked their lives on January 6?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're hearing from so many of these officers, including three of them that testified before the House Select Committee. And there's a question about whether politics are at play here, perhaps whether these unions are afraid to alienate some of their members who might be Trump supporters.
Nevertheless, what we're hearing from these officers is they want this organization to rise above politics. The main thing that they are seeking is a public denunciation of those who are trying to play down the severity of that January 6 insurrection.
CAMPBELL (voice over): Traumatized by the horrific experience of January 6th, those who are on the front line want support from the nation's largest police union, which represents over 300,000 officers nationwide.
OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: After January 6, neither myself nor any other officer that I spoke to that experienced that day ever had any outreach from the National Fraternal Order of Police, zero.
CAMPBELL: Officer Michael Fanone says he decided to contact the Fraternal Order of Police six months after the insurrection.
FANONE: I'll be honest with you, I wasn't particularly impressed with that conversation.
CAMPBELL: Fanone tells CNN he asked the police union to publicly denounce those who lied about the severity of the January 6 attack.
FANONE: Some that I found specifically offensive were the former president's remarks that it was a love fest between law enforcement and the insurrectionists.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): There was also a love fest between the police, the Capitol police and the people that walked down to the Capitol.
CAMPBELL: But while the nation's largest police union have shied away from publicly condemning Republicans who have downplayed the attack on officers at the Capitol, the organization has, in the past, been willing to condemn some progressives who have called for significant policing reform.
PATRICK YOES, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: I don't think anybody should be surprised that at cities that are allowed -- trying to defund police can try to eliminate they're police departments are the ones that are having a highest crime and struggling with coming back.
CAMPBELL: And attorney for two of the officers who testified this week, Officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell, echoed Fanone sentiments, blasting the FOP in a statement for not adequately supporting the officers involved in the insurrection, adding, there should be nothing to debate on these point.
You either stand with the officers or you stand with the terrorists.
The organization did issue a statement on January 6 praising officers and condemning the lawlessness. In a new statement Tuesday, the FOP again reiterated its support for the officers who fought back against the Capitol rioters, adding, we will be with them as they grieve and recover, however long that may take.
Other request, Fanone said, he made to the FOP president, included denouncing Republicans who voted against giving Capitol Police officers medals for their heroism on January 6, and those he believes mischaracterized the shooting of one of the insurrectionists.
FANONE: And finally, I ask him to publicly denounce any active duty or retired law enforcement officer that participated in an insurrection at the Capitol.
I have received no commitment as to any of those things, none whatsoever.
CAMPBELL: The officers have gotten support from newly appointed Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger who sat down with CNN on his first day on the job.
CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I know what the men and women of this agency went through. I know the challenges that they faced. I also know the courage that they displayed that day. And it was a horrific time. We're going to work hand in glove with the Department of Justice to make sure that these folks are held accountable.
CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, Wolf, the president for the Fraternal Order of Police was on CNN a short time ago speaking with our colleague, Jake Tapper. He said that as far as Officer Fanone, he has reached out to try to offer resources and try to facilitate communication with the local police union, but what we're hearing from Fanone and other officers is that is not enough. They are not looking for resources to help them cope, they have those.
What they want is this juggernaut of an organization to put its foot down and set straight about what these officers went through on January 6.
BLITZER: It will be important to, indeed. All right, thanks very much Josh for that report, Josh Campbell reporting.
Now, let's discuss this and more with Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans who served on the January 6 Select Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
I know you've gotten to know these police officers well. How hard is it to hear that they feel, they feel that their police union has, for all practical purposes, seemed to have abandoned them?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Yes, it's difficult. This is, you know -- actually, when I saw your reporting this morning on CNN about it, it was kind of news to me. I mean, I've gotten to know Officer Fanone quite well and I can tell you that these officers feel abandoned on a lot of different levels, as was evident in the hearing yesterday.
But to hear now that their police union seems to be shying away, look, police union was completely appropriate in condemning those that wanted to defund the police or whatever, but they need to be consistent. Defend your officers, resource are great.
I think they have the resources they need right now, it's being provided. But, more importantly, we need that more authority of the FOP to come in and say, look, you cannot attack officers and you also as leaders should not deny the fact they were attacked.
BLITZER: Yes, that would be really significant. The Republican Party, and you're a Republican, you are a conservative Republican, have been for a long, long time, the Republican Party has always projected itself as the law and order, pro-law enforcement policy. Can your GOP colleagues still make that claim while hanging these police officers, at least many of them, out to dry?
KINZINGER: Well, I can. For the party at large, you know, I guess that's a political question that people have to decide and the party has to decide. I will say this, if -- again, it's one thing to argue some of the nuances but then to not condemn members, Republican members of Congress particularly, that obfuscate or deny or distract or deflect from what actually happened and pretend like it was, to quote the former president, hugs and kisses, to quote up, members of Congress, nothing but a tourist visit, that's going to be a tougher case to make.
And I think every Republican needs to look kind of deep into their soul and say, okay, maybe you're scared of ticking some people off but this has long-term implications and not just political implications, human implications, and, frankly, implications for self-governance, which is why I'm so passionate about this.
BLITZER: Yes, as you should be, obviously. Your Select Committee, the January 6 Select Committee, heard very powerful testimony yesterday from these four police officers who fought to protect the Capitol, they risked their lives, they were badly injured in the process, and I know this affected you personally as well. I'm going to play this clip for our viewers who missed it. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: You guys may like individually feel a little broken.
You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with and you talk about the impact of that day, but you guys won. You guys held.
You know, democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: These personal accounts obviously from these police officers clearly had an impact on you, it had an impact on me, I think everyone who was watching and hearing what they had to say. But it was really obnoxious and disgusting. One personality on Fox actually mocked you, calling those tears of yours a performance. How do you respond to that?
KINZINGER: Well, you know, that personality on that television show, I don't think, has ever served in uniform a day in his life. I would argue that, you know, that is a very cold-hearted thing or it's just simply driven on expanding your cold-hearted personality for ratings.
I think, look, the reason that hit me so strongly, I was sitting there getting ready to ask my questions, and I realized it's important for people to see the humanity of these officers, but the brokenness individually, I've gotten to know Michael Fanone, as I mentioned, very well. It is important for them to hear and be remembered that they actually did win that day.
It took them a tragic human toll. I mean, hundreds of officers were injured, you know, some seriously injured, and they won. And that's a reminder, look, I'm a military guy. Military people and police officers kind of have the same, in essence, kind of shared brotherhood, if you will.
And I looked at these tough people who are willing to show their vulnerability to 350 million Americans, which is not something that, you know, police officers are usually excited to do, and they needed to be reminded of that.
It caught me off guard, but I think it's important just to show people that these are human beings, and I think yesterday did a good job of showing the humanity of it outside of the cold political calculations that everybody takes every day out here.
BLITZER: Yes. That Fox personality, by the way, never served a day in uniform in her -- in her -- life. KINZINGER: Interesting.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise on that. You're a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air National Guard. You served heroically in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know what war is. And for someone who has known you for a long time, for me to see you choke up like that, and Adam Schiff, by the way, he choked up as well during those hearings, those police officers were very emotional. It was such a powerful moment.
Let's talk about where we all go from here, your select committee moving to -- forward with subpoenas. We have a good sense of who spoke to the former president as the attack was unfolding on January 6, your colleagues, Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy, also Mark Meadows, Ivanka Trump, Senator Tommy Tuberville. Should they be expected to receive subpoenas from this Special Committee?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't want to get into the tactics and the details because, you know, we're in the fact-finding process of where do we need to go, where does this lead. One thing that we don't want us to do is to become just kind of another political spectacle. We want actual answers. We want to know what led to this, who was responsible, all these questions. And so that is the process we undertake now.
And, unfortunately or fortunately, it's not going to be a lot of it publicized or televised because this is where that kind of hard, nitty-gritty of investigation happens. But I will tell you, Wolf, if I have anything to do with it, and if what I see today comes to fruition, which I think it will, I think anybody with a role in all of this should expect, you know, some -- at least discussions to happen, because we are going to get to the bottom of this, and we're going to go where the facts lead.
BLITZER: One of the police officers, and they were all heroic, Harry Dunn, offered an analogy during his testimony, sworn testimony before your committee, that a hitman, he says, goes to jail for killing someone, but so does the person who hired the hitman. Is that now your mission, finding out who hired the so-called hitman?
KINZINGER: Yes. I think -- yes. Because the mission is to find out what led to what happened on January 6. Because the one thing we know is it wasn't a spontaneous -- you know, we talk about the security posture and that's important to get to the bottom of too, but an inadequate security posture is not like a vortex sucking protesters too far into the Capitol.
That is the issue we need to get to the bottom of, but that's not what caused January 6. So, yes, there is a lot of questions but I think we're going to get to the bottom of this.
By the way, Officer Dunn's testimony about having racial slurs yelled at him, saying that was the first time in a uniform, broke my heart.
But I'll tell you, we should be spending as a party way more time denouncing those people that may claim to be Republicans than we should denouncing, I don't know, Liz Cheney, me and others that want to get to the truth.
BLITZER: Well on that point, what kind of reaction have you, has your office received, over these past 24 hours?
KINZINGER: As you can imagine, highly charged emotional responses. I mean, some people calling appreciative, some people quite angry. And it's the same with colleagues, right? I still get along with people. I understand there is friendship and professional, but this is uncomfortable, yes, for me, it's uncomfortable for others.
Look, you can feel isolated in this process, and that's actually why I started country first, country1st.com, because I realized there are a lot of people that feel like Liz and I and others that are saying, we just want to get to the truth. And so, you know, look, we can't do this alone, we need help.
BLITZER: Without mentioning names, and I'm sure you don't want to mention names, but what have you heard from your Republican colleagues?
KINZINGER: You know, a lot of -- not a lot of people saying I don't understand why you're doing it. Even if they disagree with me taking this position on the committee, I think they understand that this isn't a political calculation, it's based on what I feel like is the right thing to do.
And I think there is a lot of people -- I haven't necessarily gotten this one-on-one from people that are really nervous. Because, look, when you're fighting in darkness and the truth is trying to emerge, I mean, that's a frightening thing for some people, particularly those who have actively tried to cover up truth.
BLITZER: You know, it was interesting yesterday, the minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, they both said they didn't watch the hearing. I wonder if you have a message for these two Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
KINZINGER: Look, the hearing. I mean, I'm sure they did. I'm sure they at least were getting rundowns on it. The bottom line, even if you disagree with the committee, even if you don't want to see what's happening, you had four officers that put their life on the line to defend this country that represent, by the way, they were just as themselves, they were representing thousands that did hand-to-hand combat. You at least owe them your attention.
And if they truly didn't watch it, I would be happy to send them a beta or VHS copy of it so they can sit in their office and do that.
BLITZER: Should the former president be subpoenaed to testify before the Select Committee?
KINZINGER: I think we need to do our work to see where the facts lead. I mean, obviously, that would be a big move. It's highly charged politically. I don't think we would rule anything off the table, but the key is to get to the facts, how do we get to the facts and how do we lead to politics.
Obviously, politics is involved because it's the nature of being out here, but as apolitical and as nonpartisan as we can be. And I think we did a good job yesterday of that, we can get to answers.
BLITZER: Have any of your Republican colleagues, I'm just curious, actually privately said to you, good work, I support you?
KINZINGER: Yes. Oh, yes, a number of them.
BLITZER: Is that just one or two. I is it a handful? Or give us a -- give me a ballpark number.
KINZINGER: You know, because over time, I don't know, there is a lot of people, you know, that come up and say it. And it's not any of them that go on T.V. and spout the big lie and then say it. It's the ones that stay and more quiet that I think appreciate the stand. But it's a lot.
And, look, Wolf, the thing to keep in mind, save one or two maybe out here, nobody -- and I think it's very important to repeat -- nobody actually believes the election was stolen from Donald Trump, but a lot of them are happy to go out and say it was.
BLITZER: Are you still comfortable being a member of the Republican Party? Have you given any thought at all maybe of switching parties as you're going to have to seek reelection next year?
KINZINGER: Yes. No. Look I am a Republican at heart, right? I was a Republican way before Donald Trump, since I was six years old, I believe in the values I'm fighting for and I believe a party with such a great, rich history deserves to have people, even if it's only a couple of us at the moment, in there to fight for the soul of it. So I'm going to fight hard for that.
BLITZER: Are you confident the hearing schedule will continue next month in August, during the recess, for example? There is huge interest, obviously, and totally understandably right now in what's going on.
KINZINGER: Yes. Look, they're going to continue. I think a very important thing that people need to understand though is hearings are kind of like seeing the tip of the iceberg. So it's obviously important. We want that information out there. But a lot of work is being done prior to that and up to that.
Hearings are almost secondary to the actual work of the committee, so be advised, be known, let it be heard loud and clear, we're moving. We're moving as fast as we can expeditiously and thoroughly. And so we expect to have more hearings, I'm sure, soon, but that doesn't necessarily indicate work or lack thereof.
BLITZER: Only two Republican members of this select committee.
[18:45:02] Are you satisfied with right now based on the cooperation you're getting that your views -- and Liz Cheney's views, for that matter -- are being heard and that the kind of questions you want asked will be asked and answered?
KINZINGER: Yes, so far. And, look, it's obviously very delicate, right? I mean, Republicans and Democrats are pretty far apart. Most of my Democratic colleagues, I don't agree on much with them, but we agree on the biggest thing right now, which is democracy is a threat.
Democracy needs defending. Self-governance requires accountability and truth. And I'll tell you, as of yesterday, too, with that hearing, I think we're on the march to maybe doing something rare in D.C. which is putting those stripes aside for answers.
BLITZER: Getting back to what that Police Officer Dunn said -- who sent the hit men to the Capitol on January 6?
KINZINGER: You know, if you're asking me who sent -- I probably maybe a few weeks ago would have given you an answer of what I think.
Right now, I think it's important for me to say let's see what the facts are. Let's get to the truth, because -- it may be one or many, we don't know, but that's what we want to get to the truth of. And I know -- I wish I knew that all today, but I will tell you, we're going to work as expeditiously and thoroughly as we can.
BLITZER: There was an opportunity for the Republicans to have an equal independent commission, a 9/11 type commission, to go forward and investigate five Democrats, five Republicans, both sides equal in terms of the procedure. But in the end, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell rejected that.
Was that a blunder?
KINZINGER: Oh, I think a huge blunder. I mean, that was my preference. It would be 5 and 5, fair subpoena power, equal subpoena power, kind of done without being a spectacle. Not members of Congress that don't have a political motive.
That would have been great. But I was shut down and I think it was shut down under the impression of let's just move on.
But, look, something like this, no matter how much you want to wish it away, you can't move on until we get answers. This is seven months ago. This isn't like 18 years ago. This is seven months ago.
It's way too early to move on until we know what happened.
BLITZER: What do you think -- how are your Republican colleagues going to be remembered, historically speaking, down the road for pushing forward what we call the big lie?
KINZINGER: Well, you know, look, I think many who have just kind of not been out there -- you know, we'll see. Those who have stood up on television and stood up on whatever social media platform for money, for retweets, for likes and put open lies out there, I think they will be judged by the country. I mean, because ultimately -- the truth is going to be known.
I mean, if somebody really thinks that this narrative of January 6 that some are trying to push is actually going to be like the one written in the history books, it's not. It's just a question of when, is it sooner or later? But it's coming.
So, I wouldn't want to be the one out there on TV pushing the big lie and think somebody would eventually be proud of what I was doing.
BLITZER: I don't know if you saw that exchange that Congressman Raskin of Maryland had with one of your Republican colleagues yesterday. It was a really nasty exchange, the Republican insisting these were tourists -- who stood by his earlier comment that these were simply tourists who went up to Capitol Hill.
KINZINGER: I didn't get a chance to see it all. I saw highlights but I didn't know the context or anything.
But don't defend this as tourists, right? It's okay to turn around and say I was wrong because all you have to do -- I mean, if there was somebody who believed this was just a bunch of tourists and it wasn't what it was, they are purposely avoiding the videos that are out there, or buying weird conspiracies like this doctored stuff and the FBI or China or whatever.
This happened. I lived it, so many people lived it. Representative Clyde, I think is his name, lived it.
So, let's just -- let's just confront the truth. What's the old saying, the truth will set you free. The sooner you confront the truth, the sooner you can move on.
BLITZER: One of the police officers, Hodges, he repeatedly referred to those individuals not as tourists who came up to Capitol Hill, but as terrorists, terrorists. I heard him say it, what, 17, 18, 19 times, referred to these individuals who attacked the police, tried to storm into the U.S. Capitol as terrorists. Do you agree?
KINZINGER: Look, I don't think he's wrong in his assessment, how he talks about it. I don't want to use that term mainly because I don't want to be further inflammatory.
What I want to get to the answers, hold those accountable, hold those who launched this accountable. But Officer Hodges who's a hero -- I don't think he was wrong in his assessment.
BLITZER: Yeah, no, he was very, very blunt. All four of them were really amazing.
Bottom line right now, Congressman, you're a courageous guy. You served in Iraq and Afghanistan. You risked your life over there.
[18:50:01] What's your message to the American people right now, some of whom are saying, you know what, as some of your Republican colleagues are insisting, it's all Nancy Pelosi's fault, the speaker, because she didn't do enough to call in the national guard.
KINZINGER: My message is simple. You know, we praise rightly, you know, those men and women of the military that put their lives on the line for the country. Every Memorial Day, we honor those that are fallen, and we need people willing to sacrifice everything to defend freedom.
Shouldn't we as members of Congress be willing to give up our career if it takes that for a similar cause, for the truth, for the defense of democracy?
And, you know, if you're out there watching and you don't believe it, I'd encourage you to watch the videos. If you don't want to watch the videos and see the facts, then I think you just need to come to the grips with the fact that you simply don't want to know the truth or you're just buying the narrative because it's part of the tribe.
Look, break away from the tribe. Be who you are. Be independent, have conservative values. But think for yourself.
That's what we use to desire and demand of our leaders and unfortunately now, we demand nothing but sole followership of one man's whims for a day.
BLITZER: Congressman Kinzinger, we're grateful to you for your service in the House of Representatives, your service in the United States military. Thanks so much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf. See you.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you.
Coming up, activists are growing I'm inpatient with President Biden as voting legislation seems to stall in Congress. Martin Luther King III, he's standing by. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Looking at live pictures from the U.S. Senate floor. A key test vote is now underway in a major new bipartisan infrastructure deal. We see the final is expected to get 60, which is what they need to move this process forward. More on that coming up.
In the meantime, as voting legislation rights stall in Congress, many progressives, civil rights groups are growing inpatient right now with President Biden.
Let's discuss this and more with the global human rights leader Martin Luther King III. He's joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Martin, thank you for joining us.
Are you getting impatient with the president of the United States as some of your fellow civil rights leaders have publicly expressed?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS LEDER: I wouldn't characterize it that way. I think we're always concerned and we should be. This is the most important issue in my judgment of our time. It's been in the right to vote, instead of reducing the right to vote, which we're seeing happening all over the country.
BLITZER: So, what would you like to see the president -- I know he's spending a lot of time on infrastructure, which is obviously very important, national security, very important. What should he be doing now to help you and all those who would like to see voting rights expanded?
KING: Well, I think he certainly made strong statements. I think there has to be some additional action. I don't know if it's trying to push some of his colleagues. I mean, the filibuster itself is still a concern of mine in terms of it being maintained. I'm not sure we can get voting rights without doing something.
I think the carve-out that Congressman Clyburn talks about would be a good step. We do that around budget issues, why can't we do it around the fundamental issue of our time, the right to vote?
BLITZER: Because some of your colleagues in the civil rights movement are clearly frustrated right now. Some of them are angry. One of them said good speech as far as President Biden's speech was concerned. So, what's the strategy, end the filibuster now. That's what they're saying.
Should the filibuster for this specific cause be over with?
KING: Well, I don't know that it should be over with. I would like to see it over. If I was in Congress, I certainly would be one supporting it being over. But I don't know there are votes to do that. But I do think there are votes to do something.
I mean, I think there are a number of creative ways that can be used. I just want to see them happen and see us get something done very soon. That's why we're having a march on August 28th, the anniversary on the march in Washington. In fact, we're having about ten marches across the country.
We're going to continue to be out in the streets to engage, to strategize, to organize and to bring about change in this country around the issue of voting.
BLITZER: It's clearly a critical -- critically important issue. Thanks so much for coming in. Thanks for coming to Washington today.
KING: Thank you.
BLITZER: Martin Luther King III, appreciate it very much.
Right now, I want to get a quick update from CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill.
What's going on now with this long-awaited infrastructure deal?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. The Senate now voting on this motion to suspend cloture, which is the procedural move to get to the next stage of this process, and it's going along the way that we expect.
It appears there's going to be enough Republican votes to push this over the threshold to move onto the next stage. Of course, you need 60 votes to move a bill past this stage. Some of the key members that we're waiting for in terms of their vote, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican saying he's going to support the legislation.
Another key vote on the Democratic side is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, of course, the chair of the influential Budget Committee. He is the author of the big $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which is moving along at the same time as this infrastructure package. He has said that he will vote to move this forward at this stage, not saying he's officially endorsing the package but at least allowing this process to move forward.
So they just looks like they have a little more than a minute left in the vote but at this stage, Wolf, it looks like it will have 60 votes necessary to pass. We should still point out there is a significant amount of Republicans, significant number of Republicans who are still voting no for this package.
So even though there will be the Republicans who believe that enough of them to move it to the next stage, there's still a lot of Republican opposition to this bill, but it will ultimately be bipartisan. That is what President Biden wanted. It's also what the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wanted, as well.
So, they're going to get a win here tonight, Wolf. The question is, as this moves along, will it stay on track and ultimately be passed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah. I suspect they will pass in the Senate. We'll then see what happens in the House of Representatives. There will be battle there as well.
Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much for that update. We'll continue to monitor the vote.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.