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Democrats Expected To Drop Paid Leave In Desperate Bid For Agenda Deal; 1/6 Committee To Subpoena Lawyer Who Pushed Pence To Overturn Election; Assistant Director Admits Failure To Fully Check Baldwin's Gun; Sheriff: Trying To Determine How Live Round Ended Up In Baldwin Gun; China Stresses Opposition To U.S.-Taiwan Military Ties. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 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 now continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is not next door, he's live from Rome.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden is on his way here to Rome for a high stakes global talks at a watershed moment for his domestic agenda, his presidency and his party. He unveiled the framework for his scaled-back spending bill shortly before his departure and he personally warned fellow Democrats of the consequences if they don't get on board.
Tonight, Speaker Pelosi is pleading with her caucus to not embarrass the president the United States as she pushes for a vote on another big piece of the puzzle, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But progressives are still balking. This hour, I'll talk with a major player in all this, the top House Progressive Representative Pramila Jayapal.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Vatican, one of the first stop to the president's trip, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have spectacular views of the Vatican and Rome as we await President Biden's arrival. He should be here very soon. He will turn his attention to global affairs as his domestic agenda clearly hangs in the balance back home.
Tonight, Democrats are urgently huddling up on Capitol Hill. They're reviewing the text of the new spending bill framework and they're trying to figure out how to move forward.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. He's here in Rome covering this summit. You know, Phil, the president clearly wanted to show up here with a win on his agenda. It hasn't happened yet.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It hasn't happen yet, Wolf. The president starting his day going up to Capitol Hill making an urgent pitch to House Democrats that the stakes were enormous. The time was now. He wanted votes on at least one piece of his package, the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. He's going to land here in just a couple of hours without those votes and without a clear path forward.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think we have a historic -- I know we have a historic economic framework.
MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, President Biden rolling the dice on his entire presidency.
BIDEN: No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that's what compromise is.
MATTINGLY: With no sign yet, it's a bet that will pay off.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): There are too many members for the BIF to pass, too many no votes for the BIF to pass today.
MATTINGLY: In a coordinated push to jumpstart his two part multi- trillion dollar agenda, Biden traveling to Capitol Hill this morning to lay out the key elements of a $1.75 trillion economic and climate package, not hedging on his view of the stakes of the moment as he prepared to travel to Europe for two summits with world leaders.
Biden, according to sources in the room, telling Democrats it's not quote, hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presence will be determined by what happens in the next week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling Democrats she planned to hold a vote on Biden's Senate passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package today.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Let's do it in a timely fashion. Let's not just keep having postponements and leaving any doubt as to when this will happen.
MATTINGLY: An unequivocal challenge to progressives who have refused to support that bill until the economic and climate package is not just an outline but a full proposal.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Our members are still in the same position they were. They need to see legislation and they need to see it passed.
MATTINGLY: Biden publicly and privately urging Democrats to focus on what's in the proposal not what's been left out or the mechanics.
BIDEN: Any single element of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America. Taken together, they're truly consequential. MATTINGLY: It includes hundreds of billions of dollars for child care and universal pre-K, healthcare and affordable housing. And just days before he arrives at the U.N. climate change conference --
BIDEN: This framework also makes the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis ever, ever happened.
MATTINGLY: But it's a proposal that also drops some of the most coveted pieces of Biden's agenda, from paid family and medical leave to Medicare expansion for vision and dental coverage, to free community college and a proposal to lower prescription drug prices.
BIDEN: I know it's hard. I know how deeply people feel about the things that they fight for.
MATTINGLY: All in an effort to secure the support of centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, two senators who after days on end of negotiations still haven't explicitly endorsed the framework.
With Biden boarding Air Force One for Rome without a clear path forward, with Pelosi unrelenting in his singular focus, the time for action is now.
PELOSI: For those who said I want to see text, the text is there, for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to, for subtract from whatever it is and we'll see what consensus emerges from that.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, at this point, the consensus just simply hasn't emerged. Just a short while ago, the congressional progressive caucus putting out a lengthy statement saying in part members of our caucus will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the build back better act. We will work immediately to finalize and passed both pieces of legislation through the House together. It's that last word that matters most. No question negotiations and legislative drafting accelerated today, deal, votes most certainly not going to happen.
BLITZER: The president and speaker wanted that vote today, apparently not going to happen, right?
MATTINGLY: Not right now.
BLITZER: Yes. We will see what happens. Phil, stay with us.
I want to bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's here with us at the Vatican as well. Also joining us, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and our Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod.
You know, Jim, the president really wanted this deal. He may still get it at some point, but it's disappointing that he left Washington without it in hand.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question, the president himself acknowledged to lawmakers that his credibility to some degree was on the line here, to be able to come to the G-20 with something to deliver. And that's not just about his standing at home, his ability to deliver his domestic agenda that there's a key piece of this, right, half a trillion dollars in climate initiatives.
Climate is the number one agenda issue here at G20, but certainly at the top of the agenda in Scotland next week for the U.N. climate summit, those measures essential for the U.S. to meet its commitments going forward. But there's a larger picture issue here, which is how much should the world take the U.S. at its word, right, on many of these commitments. Remember, Obama got the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accord, Trump took us out. Biden got us back in. The question is, what does the next president do? The Iran nuclear deal, Obama got the country in. Trump took him out. Biden tried to get the country back in. This is a lasting problem. That's something that, by the way, Biden will not solve in this summit, but it's lasting challenge for the U.S. going forward.
BLITZER: Yes, enormous challenges unfolding right now.
You know, Dana, progressives in the House, they're officially on board with the spending plan even though Democrats had to make major cuts, like paid family leave, for example. It's a major step forward presumably, but they're still demanding a firm commitment from the Senate. How do Democrats finally bring this home?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not going to happen this week and that is news that is just coming in, according to our Capitol Hill team, Manu Raju and Annie Grayer. And I just confirmed with a source in the House of Representatives they are going to take a vote to extend the highway funding -- highway transportation funding, which was going to run out on Halloween, which is part of the reason why the House speaker was trying to rush the hard infrastructure bill to get that done. And that means that there will be no more votes this week.
What that really means is that the push that the president gave, but much more importantly, the House speaker made in front of the president to the entire House caucus this morning, was not successful. She's gotten them closer but she didn't get them where she wanted them. And it kind of ended up where we started the day here in Washington, which is the president of the United States making a really remarkable appeal that Phil was talking about to his fellow Democrats saying, my presidency is on the line, please get this done. The House speaker taking it a step further saying I want to do this today. I will do this today. And it's not happening because the progressives are on board with the substance. That was a big move today, but not on board with the process because of the trust deficit within the party still and across with in the Senate.
BLITZER: And, David, I want to pick up on the trust factor. Some House Democrats, the progressives, simply don't trust Senators Manchin and Sinema. How much of an obstacle is that lack of trust among Democrats and is there anything the president can do about it?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think he's trying. He's been trying to broker this for six weeks and he tried to force the issue today. I don't have any doubt that this is a major obstacle. They need -- they're in principle on board with this framework, the president elected, despite all the sacrifices that were involved in that compromise, but they want to hear Manchin and Sinema say they're on board too. They don't want to vote for -- they don't want to lose their leverage then find out that Manchin and Sinema aren't on board.
And so until they come on board, until they bless this deal, until they say, yes, we're in, I think it's going to be very hard to move forward and win the votes of those 50 progressive legislators.
And just on your point with, Jim, Wolf, let me say this morning when the speaker spoke to the delegation, to her caucus, she said, we want to make sure that when the president lands in Europe that people know this is a functioning government. Well, that's not going to happen. And so that is a loss. I think they'll get there, but this is a loss.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. It's an embarrassment at least right now. You can get them to agree in the next few days, they can certainly recover. You know, Jim, the president says, no one gets everything they wanted including me. He's trying to frame this as a compromise rather than a failure.
SCIUTTO: No question. Listen, we talk a lot about the lack of trust and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. I mean, this is a friendly fire issue within the Democratic Party. They cannot get, at least to this point, the compromise necessary to get this over the finish line based in part on a lack of trust within the party, right? You have progressive in the House saying they don't trust the word, right, of Sinema or Manchin as to what they're going to actually agree to.
More broadly to David's point, that's a soft power issue for the U.S. and Biden has articulated that as well, to say, part of the battle right now is between functioning western democracies and authoritarianism of China or Russia. And part of that battle involves the U.S. showing that it can solve a big problems.
BLITZER: Yes. We're just getting word from Washington, Phil, that the House now has officially delayed until next week the vote on this bipartisan infrastructure bill. The speaker, the president, they wanted that vote today, $1.2 trillion in traditional infrastructure, roads, bridges, airports, and now it's been delayed until next week. The president next week, Monday and Tuesday, he's going to be in Scotland. They'll be coming back to Washington on Wednesday. This is a big disappointment for the president.
MATTINGLY: Look, there's no question about. The idea of making the calculation strategically to send the president to Capitol Hill, make very clear what the stakes are and make very clear what he wanted and then not getting any of that, it makes clear that the president and I think in this case too, the speaker don't necessarily have the leverage or the juice that maybe they thought they did.
And it almost feels to some degree like a repeat of last month where they decided we're going to make a run at this and we think we can muscle the progressives into where we want them to be and, once again, the progressives showed a remarkable willingness to use their leverage and to make clear, until we get what we want, we are not moving forward.
To David's point, there's a belief inside the White House right now that they are absolutely going to get there, but they are missing every deadline they set. And it doesn't seem to be like that's going to end anytime soon as they draft this.
BLITZER: And, Dana, you covered Capitol Hill for a long time. You covered Speaker Pelosi for a long time. She never brings up a vote that she know she's going to lose. That's why she didn't bring it up today because she knew she was going to lose. The progressive weren't there with her.
BASH: That's right. And that's why when I -- when we began talking, that was a remarkable news that I had heard when we talked about the fact that there were no more votes this week, which meant that this wasn't going to happen.
But also, to David Axelrod's point, the idea that the House speaker and the president raised the stakes this morning, they raised the stakes. Our colleague, Gloria Borger, called it a high wire act this morning, and it is so true. They put, they framed this. I mean, it was the reality that they were facing, but they really framed this as you have to do this for your president. You have to do this for the country to look like it can actually govern for the party, but also internationally, and it didn't work. And that says a lot about the state of the party and the state of the sort of the dysfunction within the leadership.
BLITZER: Yes, clear embarrassment for the president as he's about to land here in Rome. Guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, I'll speak with one of the most influential players in these negotiations on the Biden agenda. About the state of play, the Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, there you see her, Representative Pramila Jayapal, she's in Statutory Hall standing by. We've got lots to discuss. We're covering the president's trip. He's about to land here in Rome. A dramatic moment for the president of the United States. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're back with our live coverage. We're reporting live from the Vatican tonight. We're awaiting President Biden's arrival in Rome for truly critical talks with world leaders. We're also following breaking news on the Biden domestic agenda. The House has just delayed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, bowing to progressive opposition hours after the president unveiled a new spending bill framework.
We're joined now by the Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, Representative Pramila Jayapal. Representative, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to get your reaction to the breaking news. The House, as you know, just delayed the infrastructure vote. Tell us for how long the president and the speaker really wanted this vote today but it didn't happen.
JAYAPAL: Wolf, it's great to see you. And I will just say the president was fantastic in front of the caucus today. What he said is that he wants votes on both bills and that this next week is going to be very consequential.
He did not actually ask for a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. I know that is something the speaker wanted. I have signaled for days that we simply did not have the votes for the bipartisan bill without the other bill, the build back better act, which has 85 percent of the president's agenda that we really care deeply about.
We care about the bipartisan bill as well. But our members have been saying for months that these two bills need to be -- need to go together and that we need to have the legislative text.
Now, what is really fantastic news and is a testament to the president's fantastic speech before the caucus today is that we got an overwhelming endorsement of the Biden framework that was proposed today for the build back better act. That is really significant, because as you know and as you've been reporting, there are many things in there that we did not get.
I will just mention a couple of things and I know people are still working on seeing what can be done. But even without these things, the progressive caucus endorsed the framework that was put forward. And I think that is a really significant achievement for the president to go and say he was able to get everybody on board for this framework. He believes it can pass in the Senate. It will pass in the House.
We just need to know look at the text, which also significant achievement came out today. We are looking at that text. We will go through it. We will make sure that, again, that we are all together and then we will vote those two bills together and the president will be able to have the victory that he deserves for being a negotiator in chief, bringing all parts of the party together, but most importantly, we will actually deliver for the American people the transformative changes that he and all of us ran on that will transform people's lives.
BLITZER: How much longer is this going to take, do you think? JAYAPAL: I think it's going to be quick. You know, I think the text is already there and this is what we were always saying. Don't rush this. And we tried to say that to people. Don't rush this. Don't put another arbitrary timeline on here. Give us the text and let us get through it. Let us make sure that everybody is on board and we will pass both the bills together. So we have the text and I really think it's going to be quick here for us to pass both these bills through the House.
BLITZER: I just want you briefly to explain, Congresswoman, why not simply go ahead and approve the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package right now, get that out of the way and then focus in on the second piece of legislation? Why do they have to be done together?
JAYAPAL: Well, as you know, Wolf, this has been a difficult negotiation. It wasn't until the progressive caucus said we need both of these bills. We will vote for the infrastructure bill, but we need to build back better bill to go forward that we actually finally started having negotiations with the two senators that hadn't been on board with the original $3.5 trillion package.
Now, we have been incredibly productive allies at the table, progressives, and we have been in these conversations with both of those senators. I spent time with Senator Manchin. I had another conversation, very productive conversation today with Senator Sinema. We will get there. But we have consistently said that we need to have both of these because it wasn't until we really, you know, did what we did, that all of these priorities of the president, the president's agenda, are on the table because of progressives standing up and saying, we're not going to leave anyone behind.
So let us get through. I said it's really not about trust. You all are talking about trust. It's not about trust. It's about verifying. Let us get through. We're beyond trust. We're to verify. Let us get through these two pieces and at the end of the day, just think about what the president, first of all, can talk about right now. He can talk about this framework and the fact that progressives have endorsed it. He believes he can get 50 votes in the Senate for it. He can talk about that and we want it to send them off with that endorsement. But we do need to have both these bills and we're working on getting the agreement very quickly so that we can pass both of them through the House.
BLITZER: And very quickly before I let you go, Congresswoman, are you disappointed -- I'm sure the president and White House team, very disappointed, the speaker is disappointed -- that the president of United States is coming here to Rome without a deal?
JAYAPAL: Well, look. I think all of us are disappointed in some different ways. We support the president and his leadership and he can go to Rome with a significant investment in climate for the build back better act. Frankly, our endorsement of the build back better act today is something that he can really take with him that is the actual work that will be done on climate.
I mean, look, the infrastructure bill is great, but in truth, to go there to the G20, where the only country that is 40th on the list of rich countries on childcare is the United States. The only country that can lead on climate emissions with a significant investment in climate is through the build back better act, not through the infrastructure bill, not that there's not some good things in there.
But let just be clear about what we're talking about, and in my mind, this is phenomenal progress that we've made in just three weeks, just three weeks, because the progressive caucus was bold, because allies across the Democratic caucus, 96 percent of us agreed, but we understood, that in a democracy, it can get a little messy sometimes and you do need every single vote in these slim margins.
BLITZER: Especially in the Senate, where there're 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Representative Pramila Jayapal, as usual, thanks very much for joining us on this very, very busy day. I appreciate it very much.
Coming up, U.S. alliances about to be put to the test as President Biden heads to Europe, he's about to arrive here in Rome tonight. We're live here in Vatican City, where he'll be meeting with Pope Francis tomorrow.
BLITZER: We're live here tonight in Vatican City where President Biden will meet with Pope Francis tomorrow, just ahead of the high- stakes talks with the G20 leaders and a major climate summit.
Let's get some more. Joining us now, CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson and CNN Vatican Correspondent Delia Gallagher. Guys, thank you very much for joining us.
Nic, the president has really got a lot on his plate on this agenda with these two major summits here in Rome, then Scotland on climate. Give us a little sense of what's going on.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, he's going to also be meeting while he's here one-on-one with Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to try to sort of talk down the diplomatic rift that they opened up when the United States and the U.K. decided to sell nuclear submarines to Australia and replace fronts. So there's that.
But the big issues here, I suppose, really, a going to be the COVID agenda, trying to make sure the poorer nations of the world, the developing part of the world, gets access to COVID vaccines. And that's a sensitive issue right now because there are many people out there who are saying, look, you rich nations, G20, you're talking about giving boosters to your own nations, third shots, when there are countries out there that don't have the vaccine yet, aren't getting enough of it. And unless you help them level up, the economy of the world, which is what these leaders are really here meeting about, is going to suffer for that. So that will be a big issue.
Obviously climate is there, parity and equality for women in the workplace, helping small and medium businesses is going to be on the agenda. And the president, of course, is going to be talking about the issue of supply chains.
So, there are very big issues out there on the table for all of them, but there's also going to be some hugely interesting and fascinating one-on-ones. Let's watch what happens between French President Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson, because right now, they've got a spot over the fishing, that the French have arrested and taken into port a British fishing vessel.
BLITZER: Yes, I mean, there's a lot going on right now. And Delia, what do you expect to see when President Biden meets tomorrow right behind us at the Vatican -- we're here at the Vatican right now -- when he meets with Pope Francis?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we'll we see them, actually. We'll see the convoy, the president's convoy drive up right here behind us. He goes into the courtyard of the Vatican. He's greeted by the head of the Papal household and taken up into those imposing marble hallway, very long, goes back to the Papal library where the pope will be waiting and greet him, a few words there, and then it's closed doors. Generally last these meetings between 20 to 50 minutes and then the pope will meet the first lady, members of the entourage and there's an exchange of gifts.
In terms of substance, you know, this is a meeting which is happening on the eve of the G20, a COP26. Those are both major international meetings that Pope Francis has spent a large part of his pontificate advocating for the issues, which they will be discussing there. So, you can bet climate and the poor and vaccines are top of the agenda for this meeting.
And there's also personal element, Wolf, which is important. We always look for that in these meetings, the rapport between the two. We know they have already met before. President Biden has spoken admiringly of the pope. But that's another element that we tend to look for when we see the two meeting.
BLITZER: Yes. We're going to be busy here tomorrow. You're going to be busy. We're all going to be busy here covering. These are historic meetings that are about to unfold. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Let's continue the discussion right now with the former national security official, Fiona Hill, who's joining us. She's also the author of a brand new, very timely book, entitled, There is Nothing for You Here, Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century. Fiona, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, what do you read into the decision by Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, to skip these summits? They're not going to be here physically. Is that a positive moment for President Biden to take advantage of or is it a missed opportunity? FIONA HILL, SENIOR FELLOW, THE BROOKING INSTITUTE: Well, it could be a bit of both there. One of the reasons that President Putin isn't in Rome is that he's got a COVID crisis on his hands back in Moscow.
Just in the last couple of weeks, the case load in Russia has increased far beyond what it has been throughout the entire pandemic. Russia only has 30 percent of its population that's vaccinated at this stage. They've obviously been spreading around a lot of anti-vax propaganda and now a lot of that has come home to roost because People in Russia themselves don't trust the government, they don't trust the vaccines and we're seeing the effects.
I mean, you've got the highest mortality rate as well as the highest infectivity rate.
That actually could be an opportunity for President Biden and for others to then speak out and say, look, we need more work here. We should be working together to pushback disinformation in our own societies. Look at the effect of this is having, as well as reach out to the rest of the world as the rich countries to try to push forward on global vaccination.
This is an opportunity for leadership there, especially you know given the fact that President Xi is also absent because in China itself it is also still grappling with the effects of COVID. So, this could be an opportunity to step forward and say, look, this is what we need to do now.
BLITZER: As you know, some of the allies were clearly caught off guard, Fiona, by President Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan and his snub of the French over the submarine deal. How does the president mend those relationships while juggling immediate concerns from adversaries?
HILL: Look, I think part of this is communications and also showing that we have the bandwidth to basically engage with all of our allies. Part of the problem for the United States and for any new president coming in is that we get rid of all the continuity in terms of personnel and it's almost like we start with a blank slate, even though we have seasoned political figures around Biden who have joined him in his cabinet and also in his administration.
But we have to then move very quickly to take opportunity of these face-to-face meetings and to put these relationships on to a different footing. So I think as everybody's been saying here, that meeting between Biden and Macron is going to be critical to show that they can get over this what is a very big bump in the road and be able to establish communications again and build on, you know, close relationships with their teams.
BLITZER: Yes. The stakes clearly, clearly are enormous. Fiona Hill, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation with you down the road. There's more breaking news we're following here in The Situation Room, a surprise move by the House January 6th committee. It's just granted postponements to two key Trump allies.
We're live here in Vatican City as we await President Biden's arrival for a truly high stakes trip.
BLITZER: We're live here in Vatican City tonight as President Biden is en route to meet the pope tomorrow, attend the G20 summit in Rome and then on to Scotland for a climate summit.
Also breaking, key allies of former President Trump have just been granted postponements by the House select committee investigating the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is working the story for us. So, Ryan, what are you picking up on Capitol Hill, where you are?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. These are two key witnesses that the committee considers very important to their investigation. Dan Scavino, the former deputy White House chief of staff has been granted a short postponement in answering his subpoena, as has Jeffrey Clark, the former DOJ official who is scheduled to be here on Capitol Hill tomorrow for a deposition, he was forced to change lawyers and as a result, the committee has granted him a postponement. This as the committee is running into roadblocks trying to get some sort of cooperation from the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
NOBLES (voice over): Tonight, the January 6th select committee is losing patience, warning one of former President Trump's closest advisers that it is time to start cooperating with their investigation.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was first subpoenaed by the committee more than a month ago. He was given a short postponement because his attorneys had been engaging with the committee. However, CNN has learned the negotiations have yet to produce results and now the committee is considering next steps.
Our patience isn't unlimited and engagement needs to become cooperation very soon, a House select committee source told CNN, calling Meadows a key witness in the investigation.
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): If we get to a point where we feel that they are trying to obstruct, we will take the necessary actions and move forward.
NOBLES: And several select committee members have made it clear. Criminal contempt proceedings, an option they've already used to try to compel Trump ally Steve Bannon to testify, is an option for Meadows as well.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The committee has resolved that we will here from everybody who we've subpoenaed to come in. And if you don't come in, then you're going to be facing the kinds of sanctions that Steve Bannon is facing right now.
NOBLES: Meanwhile, the testimony of another important witness is up in the air.
JEFFREY CLARK, FMR. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good morning. I'm Jeff Clark. I'm the Head of the Civil Division.
NOBLES: Jeffrey Clark, a Trump-era DOJ official who was pedaling falsehoods about the election within the Justice Department, was scheduled to appear for a deposition tomorrow, but CNN has learned that Clark and his attorney are no longer working together and the committee has now postponed his interview as a result of his change in counsel. The committee considers Clark and his role in the events leading up to January 6th of high importance.
RASKIN: Clark had a lot to do with this plan for January 6th and he also was apparently making a play to become the attorney general, which caused a huge number of lawyers to say they would resign immediately so we would get something like the Saturday night massacre.
NOBLES: And while the committee continues to move ahead with its investigation, they are still waiting to see how the Department of Justice will handle their criminal contempt referral of Steve Bannon. The DOJ has yet to say how they'll move forward despite committee members asking for swift action.
NOBLES (on camera): And on Friday, there are also depositions scheduled with Amy and Kylie Kremer, and also Ali Alexander. They were all organizers of the rallies that took place on January 6th.
At this point, the committee says to expect those depositions to take place -- Wolf.
All right, Ryan. Thank you very much. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, appreciate it very much.
Coming up, we're getting a new glimpse of Alec Baldwin as authorities are narrowing their focus in the investigation of the fatal shooting on the set of his movie.
THE SITUATION ROOM live from the Vatican continues in just a moment.
[18:50:07] BLITZER: And we're back with our live coverage of President Biden's trip here to Rome. Just ahead of his landing here. He's about to land in just a little while.
But right now, we have new developments in the investigation of the fatal shooting on the set of an Alec Baldwin movie.
CNN's Stephanie Elam has the late-breaking details.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of "Rust" zeroing in on key individuals.
SHERIFF ADAN MENDOZA, SANTA FE COUNTY: There's three people that handled the firearm prior to the death of Ms. Hutchins, so those people will be interviewed and are the focus of the investigation. So, nobody has been cleared as of yet.
ELAM: Actor Alec Baldwin who fired the gun that killed the film's director of photography Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza recently seen in these TMZ photos with his family keeping a low profile in Vermont.
Assistant director Dave Halls who told authorities he handed Baldwin the gun during the rehearsal and armorer Hannah Gutierrez who was in charge of weapons on the set according to investigators. All key to determining how a live round got on set.
MENDOZA: That is going to be the million dollar question is how a live round ended up in the revolver that Mr. Baldwin fired.
ELAM: An affidavit for a search warrant for the prop truck where the guns were stored on set revealed that assistant director Halls acknowledged he failed to fully check the firearm when Gutierrez handed it to him saying halls could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them but didn't.
MENDOZA: We're going to continue the investigation. We like to do some follow-up interviews with Mr. Halls and get some clarification and exactly what he meant by that statement.
ELAM: The warrant also shows Gutierrez told investigators no live ammo is ever kept on set.
MENDOZA: That was a live round that struck and killed Ms. Hutchins, so that is not an accurate statement as far as I'm concerned.
ELAM: According to two crew members on the set of a previous film production with Nicolas Cage, Gutierrez mishandled weapons and one crew member said she discharged a weapon on set.
CNN has reached out to Halls and Gutierrez for comment but has not gotten a response.
MENDOZA: I think there was some complacency on this set.
ELAM: The actions of Halls and Gutierrez are key to investigators determining how and why live rounds were present and whether anyone will ultimately face criminal charges.
MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, SANTA FE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Can we get to that bar of somehow proving that reckless standard, that willful disregard? And it is just simply far too early to say.
ELAM: The sheriff also noted that there were some 90 to 100 people on the entire set at the time of the shooting. They have plenty of more interviews to do at this point -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stephanie, thanks very much. Stephanie Elam in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for us, thank you.
Up next, we're following new developments at China's reacts to CNN's exclusive interview with Taiwan's president, as tensions with the U.S. clearly mount. We're going live to the Taiwanese capital when we come back.
BLITZER: We're live tonight here in Vatican City where President Biden will meet with Pope Francis tomorrow just ahead of the G20 summit, which comes amid growing tension between the United States and China.
Now, tonight, China is responding to CNN's exclusive interview with Taiwan's president who confirmed a small number of U.S. troops are on the island helping to train Taiwanese troops. She spoke with CNN's Will Ripley, who's joining us now live from Taipei.
Will, are tensions between the U.S. and China even higher tonight after your exclusive interview?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I believe they are, Wolf. The Chinese foreign minister industry put out a harshly worded statement to our reporting, saying that the United States should avoid what they call muscle-flexing across the Taiwan Strait because they say the issue of Taiwan independence is a dead end.
Of course, China still claims Taiwan, an island with its own government and its own military for more than 70 years as the end of China's civil war. And yet China and the Chinese President Xi Jinping has long said they will reunify eventually with Taiwan by force if necessary.
We have learned exclusively that U.S. soldiers, U.S. troops, we don't know if they're soldiers or marines, we don't know where they're from. But we know that U.S. military members are on the ground here in Taipei training the Taiwanese military. That was confirmed by President Tsai Ing-wen, the first Taiwanese leader in more than 40 years to say this (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That support includes sending some U.S. service members to help train Taiwanese troops?
TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN: Well, yes. We have a wide range of Cooperation with the U.S. aiming at increasing our defense capability.
RIPLEY: How many U.S. service members are deployed in Taiwan right now?
TSAI: Not as many as people thought.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Wolf, we have looked at the Department of Defense records. It seems as if the official number is around 32. You're talking about small numbers of U.S. forces helping to train the Taiwanese to defend themselves against the mainland, which has 15 times higher defense budget and a 2 million-strong Army with missiles pointed right now at this island, that could arrive in minutes, Wolf.
If there were to be some sort of escalation, President Tsai telling me, though, it's not to time for Taiwan to back down against Beijing, but the time for Taiwan to unite and be resilient and strong.
BLITZER: CNN's Will Ripley in Taiwan for us, thank you very much, Will. Excellent reporting.
Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back here tomorrow for our special coverage from Rome.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.