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State of the Union

Interview With Senior Presidential Adviser Cedric Richmond; Interview With Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 27, 2021 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Under construction. Senators finally reach a bipartisan infrastructure deal, but some Republicans feel burned after President Biden insisted on trillions more.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they don't come, I'm not signing. Real simple.

TAPPER: Now Biden says he will back the bill, no matter what. Is it still on track? I will speak exclusively to Republican Senator Mitt Romney next.

And on edge. A bipartisan policing reform deal hangs in the balance, as homicides spike in cities across the country.

BIDEN: The summer spike may be more pronounced than it usually would be.

TAPPER: What's causing the rise in deadly crime? And can it be stopped? White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond joins me to discuss next.

Plus: catastrophic failure. A major building collapse sends shockwaves throughout the country, as rescuers scour the rubble looking for survivors. How much longer will their search take? We will update you on the latest ahead.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is horrified and heartbroken over the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida.

This hour, rescue teams are still searching for survivors in the rubble of Champlain Towers South after a fire and strong rain hampered their efforts yesterday, more than 150 people still missing, as rescuers work around the clock and families wait in agony.

We're going to have the latest on rescue efforts and a shocking warning about that building from years ago later this hour, but, in the meantime, let's turn to Washington, where President Biden is attempting to reverse his pledge Thursday, when he said he would not sign a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill if it did not arrive on his desk alongside a much larger, much more partisan budget reconciliation package, which has more of his policy goals.

Here's what he said about the bipartisan deal on Thursday.


BIDEN: But if only one comes to me, I'm not -- if this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem.


TAPPER: That comment understandably angered Senate Republicans, who, along with moderate Democrats, had brokered the deal, which would allocate almost $600 billion in new spending to upgrade roads, bridges, and broadband, replace lead pipes and upgrade the nation's rail system.

By Saturday, however, Biden was saying he had not intended to threaten the veto of the infrastructure deal and would keep his word to support it -- quote -- "with vigor."

Joining us now to discuss, Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who helped negotiate this infrastructure compromise.

Senator, good to see, as always.

So, President Biden originally said, if your compromise plan is the only bill that comes to his desk -- quote -- "I'm not signing it."

But then, yesterday, he issued a lengthy statement saying he supports the deal, and it was certainly not his intent to issue the veto threat. Is that good enough for you? Do you buy his new explanation?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, I do take the president at his word.

And over the weeks and weeks in negotiations with Democrats and with the White House on an infrastructure bill, the president's other agenda was never linked to the infrastructure effort. We came to an agreement on the infrastructure effort in a way that I think is really impressive.

As you know, it is true infrastructure, bridges, roads, rail, electric utility support, and so forth, and without raising taxes. And so this is a bill which stands on its own.

I am totally confident the president will sign up if it comes to his desk. The real challenge is whether the Democrats can get their act together and get it on his desk. And I think the battle that's going on is not with Republicans. Republicans are going to support true infrastructure that doesn't raise taxes.

But Democrats want to do a lot of other things. And I think they're the ones that are having a hard time deciding how to proceed.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what President Biden said about his faith in you and in this agreement on Thursday.


BIDEN: Mitt Romney's never broken his word to me.

The people I was with today are people that I trust. I don't agree with them on a lot of things. But I trust them when they say, this is a deal, we will stick to the deal.


TAPPER: So you just heard the president say he trusts you.

Based on the whiplash over the last few days, do you trust the president?

ROMNEY: I do trust the president.

And he made very clear in the much larger statement that came out over the weekend, carefully crafted and thought through piece by piece, that, if the infrastructure bill reaches his desk, and it comes alone, he will sign it.

At the same time, I recognize that he and his Democrat colleagues want more than that. They want other legislation as well. And we Republicans are saying, absolutely no, we will not support a bill which is to be passed with a massive tax increase and at the same time trillions of dollars in new spending. That is not something we will support.


But fixing the infrastructure in our country, fixing our airports and our roads and bridges, transit system, rail, those are the kinds of things we will support. Don't raise the taxes, fix infrastructure, we can get the job done.

TAPPER: How many Republicans in the Senate do you have committed to vote for this bipartisan infrastructure deal?

ROMNEY: Well, I believe we will have enough to get it passed.

I don't know exactly where everybody is after the weekend. I certainly can understand why, not only myself, but a lot of my colleagues were very concerned about what the president was saying on Friday.

But I think the waters have been calmed by what he said on Saturday. And, look, I called the White House, and the White House called around to, I think, each of us who had been negotiating and said, OK, look, we're going to make clear exactly what the president means.

And I do take the president at his word. As he indicated, I don't agree with the president on a lot of policy fronts. I think he's making a big mistake by dramatically raising taxes -- that's his ambition, of course -- and by adding huge spending on social programs. I think that's a mistake for the country. But do I take him at his word and do I think he's a man of honor?


TAPPER: How close did President Biden come here to blowing up this deal, do you think?

ROMNEY: Well, had it not been clarified, and had he not made it clear that these are two different measures, that the infrastructure bill stands on its own, and that his other agenda items, those things stand on their own as well, had he not made that clear, why, I think it would have been very, very hard for Republicans to say, yes, we support this.

We're not going to sign up for a multitrillion-dollar spending spree. We're not going to sign up for dramatic increases in taxes on the American economy and on the employers that put Americans back to work. We simply think that's wrong.

There won't be a single Republican that votes for the kind of massive increase that the president's fighting for. And there was no discussion during our negotiations whatsoever of tying those things together. That would not have been something that would have possibly been able to proceed with Republican support.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the infrastructure deal.

If you listen to experts, they say that it's still not enough. The American Society of Civil Engineers says the United States has a backlog of nearly $800 billion in road in bridge repair needs. This plan has less than $600 billion in new spending total, including water, broadband and more.

Why not at least meet the demand that engineers and other experts are calling for?

ROMNEY: Well, I must admit that I do pay a lot of attention to the engineers, but, of course, they're paid based upon how much we spend in their arena.

And I can tell you that, as we looked at each of the elements that is supported in the infrastructure plan, the committees of record that oversee each of those areas, we took their legislation, which had been passed on a bipartisan basis, we put it into the bill that was done on a combined basis, and it ended up to, as you know, $579 billion, on top of the 300-plus-billion will spend as a baseload over the next five years.

So it's a five-year program. And there's a point at which you can't spend anymore, where there aren't more contractors and more steel and concrete and so forth to be able to actually spend at a higher level than that. And if more needs to be done as we go along, why, of course, there's always the occasion for the next Congress to be able to add spending if that's needed.

But this is a very robust program. And it deals, I would note, with a whole host of areas which relate to improving our physical infrastructure, and also recognizing that the climate is changing, and we face some threats to our systems that suggest, one, we need more resiliency to prevent wildfires and to prevent roads from, if you will, going underwater.

And, at the same time, we need to develop new technologies in hydrogen and electric, as well as nuclear, if we're going to deal with the coming reality.

TAPPER: When do you think this bill is going to be able to get to the president's desk? And do you think Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to allow it to come up for a vote?

ROMNEY: I don't think there's any question but that Republicans will support this legislation if it comes to the floor.

But it's not our choice. Whether or not this legislation comes to the floor is up to Chuck Schumer, and, to a degree, of course, Nancy Pelosi the House, and they will make that decision.

And if they allow this bill to come to the floor, it will surely be supported by the White House and by a number of Democrats, as well as by Republicans, it'll get passed, and the president will sign it.

But if they say, no, we're not going to let it come to the floor unless we get trillions of dollars of other stuff and a huge tax increase, why, they're going to face some real challenges.


So, the real -- the real, I think, challenge right now is among the Democrats. What are they going to do? Because I don't know that they're all in line for a big tax increase. I don't think the American people want to see that.

What the American people want to see is exactly what America needs. Fix the infrastructure. It's crumbling, in many cases, dangerous. Fix the infrastructure, move ahead, get that done, and take the other agenda, and work at it as you will, but let's get the infrastructure done. And let's do it in July.

TAPPER: Former President Trump held a rally last night in Ohio targeted at a congressman, a Republican congressman who voted to impeach him.

And he, of course, kept pushing last night again the big lie that the 2020 election was rigged. This all comes as Arizona Republicans are completing their ridiculous partisan audit. Other states are considering doing the same.

Even former Attorney General Bill Barr called it all in an interview in "The Atlantic" magazine -- and you will pardon my French -- "bullshit." That's a quote from the attorney general, former attorney general.

Do these repeated lies about the election, the whitewashing of what happened January 6, do you think it undermines American democracy? And, if so, do you think that more of your Republican colleagues need to speak out?

ROMNEY: Well, I do think it's important for each person to speak the truth and to make clear that the big lie is exactly that.

I can tell you that it is surely being used around the world to minimize the support for democracy. I mean, there's a battle going on in the world right now between the autocratic nations, like China and Russia, and nations that believe in democracy.

And if the autocratic nations can point to the United States, which is the birthplace really of this modern democracy, and can say, look, they can't even run an election there that's not fraudulent, how can you possibly run it in your country, that obviously is having an impact on the cause of democracy and freedom around the world.

But I also think, frankly, Jake, that, here in the U.S., there's a growing recognition that this is a bit like WWF, that it's entertaining, but it's not real. And I know people want to say, yes, they believe in the big lie in some cases, but I think people recognize that it's a lot of show and bombast, but it's going nowhere. The election is over. It was fair.

Look, the president was saying -- was crying foul on election night and actually before election night. And the question is, what were his sources of information? Where did he hear that the election had been fraudulently carried out?

Did he hear it from the Justice Department? No. Did he hear it from the intelligence community? No. So, where did he hear it from? The MyPillow guy? Rudy Giuliani?


ROMNEY: What were their sources of information?

I mean, it's pretty clear the election was fair. It wasn't the outcome that the president wanted, but let's move on.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi announced this week she is going to form a select committee to investigate the insurrection on January 6. You have been very clear about the fact that Joe Biden won the election, the big lie is a big lie, the insurrection was a disgrace.

Your personal preference, would you rather have people like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Congressman Peter Meijer on this committee, this select committee, than, for instance, Marjorie Taylor Greene?

And are you worried about the kinds of Republicans that Kevin McCarthy might appoint to this select committee?

ROMNEY: Well, I hope he appoints people that are seen as being credible and are willing to look at the evidence on a clear-eyed basis.

I think the American people are interested in getting to the bottom of some of the outstanding issues. Look, as you know, I voted in favor of a bipartisan commission. I think that would have had more credibility. Just having a commission which is established under the speaker of the House obviously leaves credibility in the lurch.

And yet there will be an effort to look back at what happened on January 6. I think there are questions that are appropriate to be evaluated.

From my standpoint, one question is, why did it take so long for security to come to the Capitol and to rescue the Capitol Police that were battling away and to make sure that the vice president was safe and his family was safe, as well as other elected officials? How -- why was the delay so long?

What -- why didn't the Pentagon, for instance, move more quickly? What happened in the White House? Why didn't action immediately occur to protect the vice president?

So, these are questions I think people want to know the answers to. A lot has already been evaluated. The work that has been done by a Senate committee, two committees, actually, that looked at this, I think was pretty comprehensive. But there are still questions that people want answered.

And, look, that was a terrible day in American history. And it's going to be used against us around the world. It already is by China and Russia. It has huge implications. It should never happen again. And any effort to understand why it happened is, in my opinion, appropriate.


TAPPER: I want to ask you.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, testified this past week on Capitol Hill, and he defended the teaching of all sorts of points of view, including what's called critical race theory, which is a framework that points to systemic racism and institutional white supremacy in American political and legal structures.

I want you to take a listen to this quick excerpt.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I want to understand white rage, and I'm white. And I want to understand it.

And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being -- quote -- "woke."


TAPPER: In response to General Milley's testimony, some prominent figures on the right have not just been criticizing his point of view, but really going after him, calling him a pig, stupid, saying he's not brave.

Former President Trump seemed to suggest last night that General Milley is a woke general last night. He said that.

Obviously, generals are not above criticism, but what's been your reaction to this vitriol against General Milley?

ROMNEY: You know, General Milley is a person of extraordinary accomplishment and personal character and a brilliant man.

I believe he was appointed during President Trump's term...

TAPPER: That's right.

ROMNEY: ... by the president. And so he's someone in whom the president, President Trump, had confidence.

And so I think we listen to what he has to say and weigh it appropriately.

Look, I think -- I think it's very important for us as a nation not to, if you will, pour gasoline on racism of any kind. I think it's helpful for us to recognize that we come together when we express respect and love for other Americans, regardless of our differences. I think efforts to divide us and to promote racism are dangerous and awful.

At the same time, I certainly don't want the federal government telling educators what they're allowed to teach in the classroom, any more than I wanted to see Common Core, with the federal government imposing a curriculum on local schools.

Look, parents should decide what kids are being taught. Teachers and parents and school boards and local communities, even states can be involved in that. But let's keep the federal government out of telling people what can be taught in our schools, because, by the way, that's the sort of direction you see out of places like China, where they censor the media, they censor what can be taught in schools.

Let's not open the door to that in this country.

TAPPER: Senator Romney, stay right there. There's a lot more I want to talk to you about, including China and Russia.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we're back with more with Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

Senator, let's turn to foreign policy. President Biden seems to be taking essentially a wait-and-see approach on Russia's malign behavior following his summit with Vladimir Putin last week in Geneva.

But you have been warning about Russian influence at least since you ran for president in 2012. Do you worry that President Biden is being naive about Putin?

ROMNEY: Well, I don't know that he's really laid his cards on the table at this stage with regards to Putin.

But I think he recognizes that Putin is a bad guy, that, as President Biden indicated, he has killed people. And he pointed out as well that his political opponents have all ended up in jail or killed, or attempts to assassinate them have been carried out.

I mean, he is an autocrat in the worst way, and represents a threat to the world. Recognize as well, of course, that Russia is in decline, a demographic decline, an economic decline. John McCain used to joke that they're a gas station parading as a country. And were it not for their energy resources, they would be in even more difficulty than they are.

But the real challenge is not just Russia poking a stick in our eye every chance they have, but the emergence of China, which is on track to become the most powerful economy in the world and the most powerful military in the world.

And that represents, I think, a greater challenge to us over the coming couple of decades. And I think the president is increasingly aware of that challenge, as is his secretary, Secretary Blinken, Secretary of State Blinken.

And I think they're looking to try and pull together our alliances to wake up to that reality and to take action to dissuade China from a path of confrontation and military aggressiveness.

TAPPER: The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, told me on the show last month that he believes it's more likely than not that the coronavirus emerged from that Chinese lab than the theory it developed naturally.

You're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What do you think? And what repercussions should the Chinese government face for its role in hiding critical information from the world about the virus?

ROMNEY: Yes, I think that China's effort to play a more and more assertive role in international bodies has to be pushed back or, in some cases, eliminated. They really shouldn't be part of WHO in any significant way.

And I think it's because they have not been open and transparent. And how they could simply be on -- and, in some respects, a dominating position on the WHO, given that fact, is, in my opinion, an outrage.

Look, I don't know where the COVID virus came from. Clearly, their lab had practices which were not up to international standards or appropriate scientific standards. That was something which was evaluated even before the COVID outbreak. So, whether it came from their lab or from their market, I don't know

which, but it clearly came from China. And it poses a threat to us right now and to nations around the world.

And, by the way, that's one of the outrages that come from China. But, also, genocide of over a million minorities in China, that ought to get our attention as well. The violation of their agreement to allow Hong Kong to operate under a separate political system, that also should come to our attention.


Look, China is doing a lot of very bad things. And the entire world needs to come to recognize what they're doing and to say, look, that is not going to stand. We will not allow you to play the kind of dominant role you want to have on the world stage, while you're carrying out these kind of atrocities.

TAPPER: Speaking of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that committee is poised to vote on whether or not to repeal that 2002 law that authorized the war in Iraq and has been used to authorize all sorts of military actions not in Iraq.

You and fellow Republicans requested a delay on the vote to repeal the AUMF. Why did you request that delay? And are you going to vote to repeal that law, or do you want to keep it on the books?

ROMNEY: Well, I'd like to hear from the administration what their strategy is with regards to the Middle East and what the threat is from -- not only from al Qaeda, but from ISIS, how they can assure that Iraq is going to remain independent and democratic, how they're going to plan for the future in Afghanistan.

I want to understand what they're planning in the entire region. And that's something which I think the American people have a right to understand as well, because, as you point out, this authorization, this AUMF, has been employed by President Obama and other presidents as well to legally justify our action in the Middle East, particularly going after ISIS.

And removing this authorization could well have impact on our capacity to, if you will, knock down any flare-ups that might occur in Iraq or in other places in the Middle East.

And so I want to understand that. I'd like to hear public hearings from the secretary of state and the secretary of defense, as well as perhaps classified hearings, to make sure that we understand exactly what the implications are and how the administration plans to proceed, because, I have to be honest, the action that was taken to withdraw all of our troops from Afghanistan is, in my opinion, a very risky decision, which jeopardizes the health and well-being of a lot of Afghans, particularly women and girls, and calls into question the extraordinary sacrifice of life that has been paid by American men and women in uniform.

TAPPER: The director of national intelligence just a few days ago released a new report on 144 sightings of what they call unidentified aerial phenomena.

Virtually all of them remain unexplained. Whatever these are, they appear to not only be technology that the United States does not have, but technology that we cannot even explain.

I know a lot of people joke about this, but you're a national security hawk. How concerned are you about these objects? And where do you think they come from?

ROMNEY: Well, I don't believe they're coming from foreign adversaries.

If they were, why, that would suggest that they have a technology which is in a whole different sphere than anything we understand. And, frankly, China and Russia just aren't there. And either are we, by the way. So I'm not worried about it from a national security standpoint.

If, for some reason, these came from another system, if you will, another alien society, which I, frankly, would find hard to believe, but I guess all things are possible, that would be fascinating, interesting. I know there are, they say, trillions of galaxies out there, so who knows what might have developed somewhere else?

But that would make me more fascinated, not fearful. And I guess I also think that we have a lot more significant challenges ahead of us right here and now than worrying about those things.

The emergence of China as the dominant player in the world, that gives me concern. The warming of our planet, that gives me concern. The amount of debt we're taking on as a nation, that gives me a concern. So I'd focus on those things and infrastructure before I'd give a lot of attention to unidentified flying objects.

TAPPER: So, I know you're concerned about your home state of Utah and other states in the West facing a potentially record-breaking heat wave this weekend and the worst drought in at least 20 years.

And you have been vocal saying the science is clear that the climate is changing, humans contribute to it. Do you think the climate crisis is part of the drought that is so devastating in the West? And does the U.S. need to do more to stop it?

ROMNEY: Well, the people that are more expert than I do believe that the kind of weather patterns we're seeing are the result of climate change. And I have no reason to disagree with that.

Clearly, we're seeing heat and drought, which is a real concern in the American West and in other parts of the world. And we need to undertake efforts globally to make sure that we're not contributing to more warming of the planet.

That's going to take a long, long time, however, to get the whole world to reduce our emissions. There are some places like China and Brazil and Indonesia and India which are going to continue to grow their emissions into the atmosphere. So that's a real concern.


But we have a more immediate need, which is, while we're waiting for that to occur over the decades, what are we going to do to protect from rising sea levels, from greater storms and from drought?

And I, for instance, have introduced a piece of legislation, along with Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, to say, look, let's put a commission together to really study how we can deal with these fires and to reduce the fuel load which exists in some of our forests of deadwood to make sure we're getting rid of some of the kind of fuel that would allow for these conflagrations to overwhelm us.

So, we have got some work to do. And I believe it's time for us to address the here and now, as well as the international effort we're going to have over some decades to try and reduce our CO2 emissions.

TAPPER: Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, always good to have you on. Thank you so much, sir.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: If the past few days are any guide, President Biden is going to have a difficult time getting the rest of his agenda through Congress.

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond is next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

They wanted bridges, but, right now, the White House has a tightrope, as President Biden tries to hold together the bipartisan deal on infrastructure without losing support from the either end -- other end of the political spectrum.

We're joined by senior adviser to President Biden Cedric Richmond now.

Mr. Richmond, thanks so much for joining us.

So, on Thursday, President Biden explicitly said he would not sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law unless it is paired with the Democrats' sweeping budget reconciliation package.

Now, on Saturday, he said it wasn't his intention to say that. He still wants to see the two bills passed, but he is no longer refusing to sign the infrastructure deal if it lands on his desk on its own.

Do I have that right?

CEDRIC RICHMOND, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, the president yesterday, his words speak for -- speak for themselves. But I think the real point, Jake, is that he was putting the focus

back on the historic nature of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. So, whether it's the lead pipes, the electric vehicle charging stations, electric buses, I think he wants to make sure that people understand how historic this is.

This type of investment, this size of investment has never been done in this country's history. So I will just close this part with this, Jake. People in this country want government to work. Where Democrats and Republicans agree, hurry up and do that. Where you fight, fight.

But what you can accomplish, please go do it. And so that's what this jobs bill and infrastructure bill does. We agree on that. So we're going to do it. We're going to pass it. We're going to fight on American Families Plan. We're going to win. We're going to help American families in the human infrastructure also.

And, ultimately, the president is going to sign two bills.

TAPPER: The former deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid tweeted -- quote -- "This isn't a clarification. If Biden is willing to sign the bipartisan deal without the budget reconciliation bill, that's a change in position" -- unquote.

So, can you just clarify, for once and for all, Biden will, if it happens that the bipartisan infrastructure bill lands on his desk on its own -- I understand that's not your preference, but, if that were to happen, he would sign it, yes or no?

RICHMOND: Well, look, I don't think it's a yes-or-no question.

This is what I think it is. People have underestimated President Biden since day one. We passed the Rescue Plan. We're going to pass the Jobs Plan, and we're going to pass the American Families Plan.

And so we keep meeting the challenges that we face. And we keep leading with strategy and making decisions based on the people. And we expect to have both bills in front of us to sign. And I expect that President Biden will sign the infrastructure bill, he will sign the Families Plan.

TAPPER: So, he's not going to -- he's not going to commit to signing the infrastructure bill if it lands on his desk on its own; it has to come with the other bill?

RICHMOND: No, I think that the important point here is to focus on the statement yesterday where the president's words speak for themselves.

I don't -- I speak for the president, but I don't put words in his mouth. And where he has a clear statement, I let that do the speaking.

But the important thing is to focus on how historic this infrastructure bill is.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi says she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure deal in the House until the Senate also passes the reconciliation package.

So, understand -- I understand that it's the president's preference that they come together, but does he have an opinion whether Pelosi and the House Democrats should hold a vote on the infrastructure deal as soon as it arrives in the House, with no strings attached?

RICHMOND: No, the president is focused on the historic nature of the deal and actually getting it passed, making sure it gets to his desk.

And the legislative process will be left up to Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer. I served in Congress for 10 years. The speaker is very capable. The speaker is great. And we expect to get two bills to our desk, so that -- to the president's desk -- I'm sorry -- so that he can sign both of them.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the budget reconciliation package.

Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote you need -- even if you only have Democratic votes, you need Manchin -- this morning, he suggested he could support a reconciliation package as high as $2 trillion. That, of course, is a long way away from the potential $6 trillion that the Budget Committee chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders, is talking about.

Is $2 trillion enough?


RICHMOND: We don't have a number.

What we have are needs and challenges that we have to meet. And so, just like we did with the American Rescue Plan, what we did is, we laid out all of the things we needed to get COVID-19 under control, get people vaccinated, get people back to work, boost the economy. And, at the end of the day, we added all of those things up, it added up to $1.9 trillion.

We passed a bill for $1.9 trillion. The economy's growing, unemployment is down. And that's how we approach legislation. We just don't pull the numbers out of the air. We actually try to meet the challenges.

So, I would suspect that are great leaders in both the Senate in the House and our great Democratic members in the House in the Senate will come together and meet the challenges that we have to meet to invest in our human infrastructure, our families, education, our care economy, all of those things.

And then we will get to a number that way.

TAPPER: We're seeing a spike in homicides in cities and states across the United States. And those numbers are only expected to go up as the summer goes on.

Some Republicans are already trying to connect this uptick to policing reform efforts. One of the lead Democratic negotiators on Capitol Hill on policing reform, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California, she says she's worried that the spike in crime could make it harder to reach a deal.

Do you agree?

RICHMOND: Well, we don't want people to conflate the two.

And we support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. But we also support investing in these cities, so that they can replenish their law enforcement and we can tackle gun violence, where the guns are coming from, who's using the guns. How do we do it in a comprehensive manner, so that we employ violent crime interrupters?

And so we want to do it in a very smart way. And we need the police to have a better relationship with the communities. We need constitutional policing, and we need our communities to trust our police.

And so I'm glad that they're still negotiating and working together, both Democrats and Republicans, on it.

But we have to do this in a manner that is comprehensive, which includes encouraging people to hire ex-offenders and encouraging cities to use some of their AARP money to invest in technology, summer jobs programs, recreational programs, all of those things, because we really believe, in order to do it, you have to prevent the crime from happening, and, when it happens, support the police, so that they can solve it, and move on from there.

TAPPER: I know that your portfolio, Mr. Richmond is largely domestic, but I do have to ask about this because it's an issue I care a great deal about and we have been covering a lot.

President Biden publicly promised that none of the more than 19,000 Afghans who have assisted the United States and at least begun the process of trying to get these special immigrant visas to flee Afghanistan, so they won't be slaughtered by the Taliban, none of them, he said, will be left behind when the military pulls out in the coming weeks and months.

But the Biden administration has been very light on details. Nothing has happened yet. These people, respectfully, sir, need more than words and promises. They need action from President Biden. When is he going to tell the Pentagon and the State Department, go, start evacuating them?

RICHMOND: Well, Jake, you know that this is a serious issue.

I think that the president was very clear that he's not leaving people behind. But if you're asking us to give you numbers, locations, and details and timing, we're not necessarily going to do that because of the sensitivity of the information.

We want to make sure that we protect the people who helped us and risked their lives to help us. And I think that a president who lives and honors his word and always says it when he gives his word as a Biden, he's going to stick to it. And he was very clear about that we would not leave them behind.

There's a process being set up. And I think that you -- there are -- there's a pipeline and there's action that's happening. But we're not going to go into numbers, timing, details, or locations, because we believe that that is not in the best interests of the people we're trying to help.

TAPPER: Cedric Richmond, senior adviser to President Biden, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it, sir.

RICHMOND: Thanks for having me, Jake.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this past week, Former Vice President Mike Pence continued to push back on the unhinged argument that Pence could have somehow awarded the presidential election to the man who lost quite decisively, his former boss Donald Trump.


MIKE PENCE, 48TH VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session, that I possess the authority to reject or return electoral votes. Truth is there's almost no idea more un- American that the notion that any one person could choose the American president.


TAPPER: And who is it who holds such an un-American idea? Well, Pence didn't say it, but, obviously, the chief proponent of this fiction is Donald Trump, himself. As you will recall on January 6th.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.


TAPPER: Pence, of course, had no such power to carry out such an un- American idea but you can forgive Trump for thinking Pence might actually try to do so. I mean, after all, it was not clear until that day, January 6th, that Pence was not on board with the attempt to swindle the American people out of their votes. And this is what Pence was saying just two days beforehand while campaigning in Georgia for the Senate runoff elections on January 4th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PENCE: Now I know we all -- we all got our doubts about the last election, and I want to assure you, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we'll have our day in Congress. We'll hear the objections. We'll hear the evidence.


TAPPER: And this is the problem with the "Big Lie".


Once you're in, you're in. Once you lie about the election or sign on to that deranged lawsuit, the lies about the election, or vote to disenfranchise millions of Americans from Arizona and Pennsylvania based on those lies, you're in.

As Trump proved again at a rally in Ohio last night, he's not going to fade away and take his lies with him. He's going to stand in front of his supporters and he's going to continue to lie. Lies that no less than Trump Attorney General Bill Barr in brand new interview in The Atlantic says were, quote, "all bullshit."

Washington, D.C., Police Officer Mike Fanone finally got to meet House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy this past Friday. Fanone injured protecting the Capitol on January 6th, wanted McCarthy to commit to not put any election liars or conspiracy theorists on this new select house committee that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is putting together to investigate the insurrection, given that McCarthy and most House and Senate Republicans voted against a bipartisan independent commission.

McCarthy, shown here in a pro-police "back the blue" cycling event recently, made no such commitment to Officer Fanone. Fanone also tried to convince McCarthy that he should denounce publicly the deranged conspiracies that House Republicans continue to spread about the insurrection.


MICHAEL FANONE, METROPOLITAN D.C. POLICE OFFICER: I asked him specifically for a commitment to denounce that publicly, and he said that he would address it at a personal level with some of those members.


TAPPER: Here is the problem with trying to appeal to House Republican Leader McCarthy to condemn the folks who spread the big lie: he's one of them.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: President Trump won this election, so everyone who is listening, do not be quiet.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: This week a different election liar, Rudy Giuliani, saw his law license at least temporarily suspended by a New York state appellate court because Giuliani, quote, "communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large," unquote, about the election.

Just one example, just one of many, Giuliani claimed that thousands of deceased voters voted in Michigan in 2020. A Republican-led state senate committee investigated this and in a report just out a few days ago looked at how many fraudulent votes by deceased Michiganders were found. The answer? None. Zero.

And the Republican-led committee went on to give this warning, quote: "The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own person gain," unquote.

Now I don't have any expectations that Trump or Giuliani will acknowledge their lies, any question about the degree to which either man is tethered to reality appear long answered. But the problem McCarthy and others are experiencing is that, as I said, once you commit to the big lie about the election, you have to also sign on to other lies, to not only whitewash the insurrection but to allow this climate of even more deranged lies. And therefore you end up disrespecting the cops who sought to protect you that day.

It does not stop. It is long past time for those who appear to be pushing the big lie for political gain, not because they believe it, Pence, McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, on and on, it's time for them to heed the words of conservative Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Tell your constituents the truth. Tell the American people the truth. Let's get to the bottom of the truth, and then we can move on. Until then, man, if you think history is going to cover up your lies, you're wrong.


TAPPER: Tell the truth. The lies continue to threaten the democracy that they all claim to revere. To continue to push these falsehoods so as to undermine future elections, that will continue to be, as Pence said, un-American.

A slow, painstaking search in Surfside, Florida, the latest on the efforts to find survivors, next.



TAPPER: Rescue crews are still sifting through the rubble of a Surfside, Florida condominium building that partially collapsed Thursday as the desperate search for survivors enters another exhausting day. More than 150 people remain unaccounted for as we continue to learn shocking details about a 2018 report on the building that found significant structural damage, cracks in the concrete below the pool deck where poor waterproofing meant water sat until it evaporated.

As they wait in agony, some families with missing loved ones are understandably growing impatient with the pace of recovery efforts, which officials said are likely to continue for days. One mother whose 26-year-old daughter is missing told rescue workers, I know you're doing everything you can, but imagine it's your child in there. Frankly, I cannot imagine and we're all holding you in our hearts today.

Stay with CNN all day for continuing coverage of the rescue efforts in Florida and more. The news continues next.