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State of the Union

Interview With Senior Presidential Adviser Anita Dunn; Interview With Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO); Interview With Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL); Interview With Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 08, 2021 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Battle on all fronts, as the country wages war against a dangerous variant threatening another catastrophic surge.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A largely preventable tragedy that will get worse before it gets better.

BASH: Congress works overtime to finally pass an infrastructure bill. Will they be able to get it done? I will speak with a key Republican negotiator, Senator Bill Cassidy, next.

And attempted coup? New details emerge of President Trump's push to overturn the election, as an investigation by a top Senate committee digs deeper into a plot to push Trump's election lies. What have they learned? The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, joins me in moments to discuss.

Plus: sit-in success. Millions of Americans in danger of losing their homes can now breathe a sigh of relief because one Democratic member of Congress drove the most powerful person in Washington to take action.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): Sometimes, presence makes all the difference. And that's what this was here.

BASH: I will speak to the leader of the protest, Congresswoman Cori Bush, ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is in rewind.

For the first time since February, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new COVID cases per day. Hospitalizations and deaths are also once again on the rise, almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.

President Biden this week flashed new levels of frustration, rebuking Republican governors for standing in the way of vaccine and mask requirements.


BIDEN: If some governors aren't willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do right thing to be able to do it.

I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way.


BASH: All this as the Senate inches closer to passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The bill cleared a key procedural hurdle yesterday, but its dash across the finish line was stalled by -- no surprise -- a partisan stalemate. Senators are confident, though, that the deal will pass. When? Well, that remains a little bit murky.

Joining us now is one of the Republican senators behind the deal, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Thank you so much for joining me, Senator.

I want to talk about infrastructure in a moment, but I want to start by discussing the pandemic, which is really ravaging the country, and especially your state of Louisiana. It's in dire crisis, a record number of hospitalizations. ICUs are running out of beds.

You are also a physician. So, when you see this, what goes through your mind?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Well, we can stop it.

We have it within our power to stop it. Each person that is vaccinated now protects not only herself or himself, but those around them, because no longer is she as likely to pass the -- pass the infection to others.

If we don't want this, we have it within our control. All we need to do is to get vaccinated.

BASH: Your state's governor, John Bel Edwards, issued a new mask mandate, put it into effect this week. Was that the right move?

CASSIDY: Well, I'm now going to speak as a doctor.

If you have a large percentage of your population which is not vaccinated, and your infection rate is going up, you have got one or two choices. If you're inside, either you're vaccinated or you have to wear a mask. Otherwise, you're at too great a risk to further spread infection, to further pack those emergency rooms, to further prevent people who have terrible accidents from getting cared for because the hospital is full of COVID. And there is a choice. On the other hand, if we don't want mask

mandates, get vaccinated, the infection rate goes down, and you don't have a mandate.

BASH: So, it sounds like you're saying that's a yes, given where things are.

CASSIDY: As a doctor, I will tell you, you have got two choices to stop that infection.


CASSIDY: Either get vaccinated or wear a mask.

BASH: Some governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas, they're blocking local officials from imposing restrictions like mask mandates. The virus is surging to record highs in those states, including yours.

So, as you said, you are a doctor. You are an elected official. Shouldn't local officials be allowed to make decisions like mask mandates if they believe that's best for their local community?

CASSIDY: I'm a conservative. I think you govern best when you govern closest to the people being governed.

And if a local community is having a -- their ICU is full, and the people at the local schools see that they have got to make sure they stay open, because, otherwise, children miss out for another year of school, and they put in policy, then the local officials should be listened to. That is a conservative principle.

BASH: So you disagree with Governor DeSantis?

CASSIDY: I do disagree with Governor DeSantis.

The local officials should have control here. I don't want top down from Washington, D.C. I don't want to top down from a governor's office, sometimes, yes, OK, national defense and such like that.


But when it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full, and my vaccination rate is low, and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community.

BASH: Is he playing politics with this?

CASSIDY: I don't know if he's playing politics. I try not to guess other people's motives.

I will say, politicians should not kind of carte blanche accept what the public health doctor says, but they shouldn't by -- they shouldn't just gratuitously ignore it either. There has to be a balance here. And whenever politicians mess with public health, usually, it doesn't work out well for public health, and, ultimately, it doesn't work out for the politician, because public health suffers. And the American people want public health.

BASH: So, let's turn to infrastructure, the -- which is something that you helped to craft.

The Senate is moving pretty slowly, but getting there slowly. So, first of all, when do you think it's going to pass? And how many Republicans will vote yes?

CASSIDY: So, we have had about 17 or 18 who have indicated that they're going to vote yes. And, probably, it's going to pass -- we will have a vote tonight 7:30, and then another vote, if you just look at the clock playing out, sometime on Tuesday.

So, it could go quicker, but it's going. And that's the good thing. It's going.

BASH: You were in regular communications with President Biden as you got this deal done. What were those conversations like? And do you think this could have happened without that kind of dialogue?

CASSIDY: No, the White House engaged, and that's a good thing, because, obviously, the negotiations were between the Democratic White House, the Democratic senators and the Republican senators, with a healthy mix of my colleagues from the House the Problem Solvers Caucus, Josh Gottheimer and Brian Fitzpatrick, and the folks they work with.

But, obviously, at some point, they signaled they wanted it to happen. And, by the way, because they wanted it to happen, there's going to be over a trillion dollars spent on roads and bridges and flood protection and waterways and flood mitigation, coastal restoration -- I could go down the list -- and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. So I'm glad they engaged.

BASH: And what about your personal interactions with President Biden?


So, at some point, the president called me and he said: "Listen, everything I have seen so far does not have a section resiliency or a section on energy. And I know that you have been working with Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick to come up with such a thing. Can you engage?"

At that point, we merged a couple of independent efforts. And so now we have $16 billion to $17 billion going to the Army Corps of Engineers for coastal restoration, and 3.5 or 2.5 for FEMA for flood mitigation.

BASH: Because it was the kind of negotiation that historically was done to get things done...


BASH: ... which we haven't seen in a long time in Washington.

CASSIDY: Well, we have seen it. We have seen it.

For example, we -- keep in mind, Republicans, when we controlled the Senate, we passed four or five relief packages for COVID relief at the end of the term...

BASH: That's true.

CASSIDY: ... wide bipartisan.

BASH: That's true.

I want to ask you, though, specifically about this, because some of your fellow Senate Republicans say they're going to oppose this. And they're pointing to a Congressional Budget Office estimate that it's $250 billion -- that it adds to the deficit that much.

Here's what some of your GOP colleagues have said. Chuck Grassley said it was disappointing. John Cornyn called it a real problem. Mike Braun called it the swamp's debt bomb.

What do you know that they don't?

CASSIDY: We absolutely said, this is how it was going to be.

A half of what we proposed is going to be scored by CBO as paid for. We were up front about that. And a half, because of their rules, they won't.

Now, the half that we won't are things that a reasonable person would say, hmm, yes, it's a pay-for. For example, $53 billion Congress has already appropriated for federal unemployment supplemental payments are not being used for that.

So, we are repurposing that, just as we told folks we were going to repurpose, repurposing for the sake of paying for this. CBO doesn't give us credit, but that is $53 billion that we're repurposing that a reasonable person would say, yes, that pays for it.

BASH: Do you think, just more broadly, it's a bit rich that, under President Trump, the national debt climbed almost $8 trillion, and now some of your colleagues are worried about the debt again?

CASSIDY: Well, on the other hand, first -- the first part of your thing, let's face it, a lot of that spending was in response to COVID, OK?

So, we understood, when COVID broke, we had to put out Payroll Protection Plan.

BASH: That's true, but a lot of it happened before COVID.

CASSIDY: But, secondly, I will point out that President Trump proposed a $1.5 trillion package, which most Republicans were all for, and only 5 percent of it was paid for. We have $550 billion of new spending, of which we can reasonably say

is paid for, but certainly one-half by CBO score. And now folks are saying, oh, can't vote for that.


CASSIDY: OK, well, that's OK.

But, on the other hand, we're creating jobs. We're creating bridges. We're protecting people from flooding. Hopefully, they change their mind.


BASH: So, many in your party say that they're opposed to this on its substance, but also because that it's really just cover, giving cover to Democrats, so that they can pass their multitrillion-dollar reconciliation bill.

I know you say they're separate, but a lot of Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, don't necessarily see it that way. Are they playing you here?

CASSIDY: The fact that Pelosi says she has to link them tells you she doesn't have the votes for the $3.5 trillion package.

One of my colleagues said, hey -- a Democratic colleague said, infrastructure is the dessert. The $3.5 trillion, spend a lot of money and tax a lot of money, is spinach. I have eaten my dessert, and now I'm supposed to eat my spinach? I don't think so.

The other thing, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a coalition of 28 Republicans, 28 Democrats, headed by Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick, have come out in favor of this. She doesn't need a radical left wing. She can pass the infrastructure package with just that committed group of American congress men and women who want to see our country get better to have the $110 billion for the roads and bridges and highways, et cetera, and the new jobs.

They can pass the infrastructure package without having the radical left. And that, I think, opens a pathway.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask about the investigation that Senator Dick Durbin of Judiciary, the Judiciary chairman, who's coming on after you, is doing into the way that former President Trump tried to overturn the election.

A former top Justice Department official described Trump's direct instructions to push false election fraud claims. I know you have condemned the lies about the election. But what does it tell you about the lengths that the former president was willing to go to overturn the election?

CASSIDY: Excuse me.

First, what you just described is -- one, if it happened, it's wrong. Let's say that.

Secondly, though, as you describe it -- and I read the "New York Times" article -- an unnamed official in a closed-door session reportedly said this. So, it still kind of meets the definition of hearsay at this point. If it happened, it's wrong.

On the other hand, I'd like some sort of validation beyond that which I just described.


Senator Bill Cassidy, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

CASSIDY: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And we could have been one Trump move away from a full-blown coup attempt.

The chairman of the committee investigating a plot to overturn the election inside the Justice Department joins me next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

We're learning new details of just how close President Trump came to enlisting the Justice Department in his scheme to overturn the election.

This weekend, investigators on Capitol Hill interviewed two top Justice officials at the center of the former president's efforts. Both officials, according to a source familiar with the matter, provided detailed account of a tumultuous period during which senior Justice Department lawyers sought to deploy the department's resources to push Trump's false claims of voter fraud.

Joining me to discuss this is the chairman of the committee investigating all of that, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Thank you so much for joining me.

So, your committee interviewed Jeffrey Rosen, who is -- was the acting attorney general for Donald Trump at the end of his presidency. Rosen was reportedly getting calls from Trump nearly every day about overturning election results. What did he tell you?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): He told us a lot, seven hours of testimony.

And I might quickly add, this was done on a bipartisan basis, Democratic staff and Republican legal staff asking questions during this period of time. Mr. Rosen appeared voluntarily, which says a lot, and cooperated with us. The Justice Department had set it up for us and said, we're waiving any privilege. He can speak to any issue. We're not holding him back.

And I thought he was very open. And there's a lot there, an awful lot there, you can imagine, seven hours of testimony. And it really is important that we ask these questions, because what was going on in the Department of Justice was frightening, from a constitutional point of view, to think that Bill Barr left, resigned after he had announced he didn't see irregularities in the election, and then his replacement was under extraordinary pressure from the president the United States, even to the point where they were talking about replacing him.

BASH: Yes.

DURBIN: That pressure was on.

BASH: So, you said there's a lot there.

DURBIN: There is a lot there.

BASH: What did he tell you specifically about the pressure that the former president placed on him directly?

DURBIN: I can't get into that at this moment.

But I will tell you that, ultimately, there will be a report. There are more people that we will try to bring in. I would like to bring in Jeffrey Clark, for example. He was the heir apparent, in Trump's mind, if Rosen was not going to do his bidding. And Rosen stood fast and didn't.

And so there was a tense period of time there at a moment where the president was going to put his own man in as attorney general.

BASH: I understand you're not ready to give me the details of what he said during those seven hours, but I guess the question, the key question is whether the former president, when he was still president, tried to get Jeffrey Rosen to overturn the election results.

DURBIN: It was not that direct, but he was asking him to do certain things related to states' election returns, which he refused to do. He just said, I'm not going to do that.

He was being asked by the White House, the leadership in the White House, to meet with certain people who had these wild, bizarre theories of why that election wasn't valid, and he refused to do it.


I'd have to say history is going to be very kind to Mr. Rosen when it's all over. And I -- when he was initially appointed, I didn't think that was the case. I was wrong.

BASH: When you were listening to that testimony yesterday, what was the most shocking to you? DURBIN: Just how directly, personally involved the president was, the

pressure he was putting on Jeffrey Rosen. It was real, very real. And it was very specific. This president's not subtle when he wants something, the former president. He is not subtle when he wants something.

And I think it's a good thing for America that we had a person like Rosen in that position, who stood -- withstood the pressure.

BASH: It sounds like this is a man, in Donald Trump, who actually knew about the levers of power that he had to potentially try to use to keep the election results from happening.


And I also say that there were forces within the White House who were also pushing back against the president's wild views. But, having said that, it was a very tense period in history. We're going to get to the bottom of it.

And the voluntary cooperation of people like Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue is invaluable. There's another meeting coming up this week, another interview. We're going to keep pushing forward on this. I have been on this since January. And now we're getting some real results.

BASH: I want to ask about Richard Donoghue, but who within the White House was pushing back against the president?

DURBIN: I can't get into that at this point, Dana.

BASH: You gave me a teaser there.

DURBIN: Yes, I know.


DURBIN: But I will tell you that the president's instincts were just flat-out wrong, what he tried to do, because of this big lie that he still holds onto to this day.

Fortunately, a lot of people saw through it and did their best to calm him down.

BASH: So, you mentioned that you also spoke with the acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, on Friday.

According to notes that have actually been released, he witnessed President Trump telling his boss to "just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R congressman."

DURBIN: Yes, I'm afraid I can't get into specific testimony, but I'm afraid that was the impression. It was clear.

The president was looking for a green light from an attorney general. Bill Barr reached a point where he couldn't do it anymore. And Rosen stepped in, and he was not prepared to do it. And the president said, we will find another one.

Think about that for a second. The president is looking for the right person as attorney general who will give him an answer of yes. And Richard Donoghue was deputy attorney general. He witnessed all of this.

BASH: There are also questions about Jeffrey Clark, who's the other man you said you want to talk to, about whether or not he interacted with Republican elected officials, particularly Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry.

What did you learn about that?

DURBIN: That part, we have not -- I haven't seen any testimony from that.

But we're going to do our best to ask Mr. Clark to come in and tell the story from his point of view.

BASH: Are you worried that there were sitting members of Congress who were involved in this?

DURBIN: It's a legitimate question.

BASH: Do you believe that Jeffrey Clark is going to come in, or will you have to subpoena him?

DURBIN: I don't know. It'll be interesting.

He has nothing to fall back on now with Department of Justice policy. Merrick Garland has opened the door and said, we're waiving all privilege here. So, he may decide, for personal reasons or other reasons, he doesn't want to testify. But I hope he will.

BASH: And what about the former Attorney General Bill Barr? I know you want to talk to him. Do you think he will come in voluntarily?

DURBIN: I hope so. We have a lot of questions relating to this incident and others during the tenure that he was attorney general.

BASH: Will you subpoena him if he doesn't?

DURBIN: It takes a bipartisan vote to subpoena. I don't know that we're going to be able to accomplish that.

People think the mighty Senate Judiciary Committee can just send out the subpoenas, and off we go. It's much more constrained.

BASH: How helpful would it be to actually speak with former President Donald Trump?

DURBIN: Not likely.

BASH: What has shocked you the most, generally speaking, in terms of what you have seen? You said you have been looking into this since January. DURBIN: I guess the thought that we have come to accept that this president and his bizarre conduct, we came to accept over four years as normal.

It's outrageous. When you look back on the Richard Nixon episode and the Saturday Night Massacre, people out of principle were turning around and threatening to resign. The same thing happened here, incidentally, within the Department of Justice. There was a point where virtually everyone in the authority in the Department of Justice was going to walk if the president had his way.

I mean, these are moments in history which you would never want to see repeated. And, with Donald Trump, they were.

BASH: Is what you're seeing and what you're describing an attempted coup?

DURBIN: Well, it was -- they were going through the ordinary process.

It isn't as if the president was removing the attorney general and making pronouncements, which would happen in a coup, I suppose, by classic definition. But it was leading up to that, that kind of process.

BASH: And last question on this.

Have you spoken to the current attorney general, Merrick Garland? And do you think that there's potential for criminal charges?


DURBIN: I don't know the answer to that. I think we're -- it's too early in the investigation.


So, I want to ask about infrastructure...


BASH: ... the deal that is on the floor as we speak. It's poised to pass in coming days.

There are a group of moderate House Democrats who wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said, please back off your pledge to hold the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan.

This is part of the letter: "This is a once-in-a-century investment -- this once in a century investment deserves its own consideration without regard to other legislation. After years of waiting, the country cannot afford unnecessary delays to finally deliver on a physical infrastructure package."

So, if it is that vital, should the House pass it right away? DURBIN: Well, Dana, let me say initially the real question in the

Senate -- I guess in the Senate, perhaps in the House as well, is whether the center will hold.

There's a question now why we're waiting and doing nothing day after day after day. There are forces still trying to stop this bipartisan agreement in the United States Senate.

You just had Bill Cassidy on. He's become a real friend. We have worked together on this. I trust him. He trusts me. We have candid conversations. And that's a good thing. We have considered more amendments on the floor of the Senate, 22, with this bill than we had in a year under Senator McConnell in previous years.

But the question now is, moving forward, what can we accomplish? Nancy Pelosi has an extraordinary challenge, four-vote margin. That isn't much when you really sit down and count votes.

I don't want to really project the strategy. I want her to do it. She is as accomplished as they come. I can understand people want to see the infrastructure bill pass with no strings attached. But he -- she has to hold not enough votes -- not just enough votes for the infrastructure bill, but the follow-on budget resolution.

So, I give her all the flexibility she needs to reach that goal.

BASH: And, before I let you go, I have to ask about the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

It seems as though you're thinking about, you and your colleagues are thinking about stretching the limits of the Senate rules, maybe trying to get voting rights in. That's what Senator Klobuchar mentioned. You mentioned DACA.

How much are you going to try to stuff in there?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that this is a once-in-a-political- lifetime opportunity when it comes to issues like immigration.

It's been 36 years since we have had immigration reform. It's long overdue. Everyone knows the system is broken. We can see it on our borders. We know it already internally. And there is precedent. We have included -- the Republicans have included immigration measures in 2005 in the same budget resolution.

So, I think it's not an unreasonable request, and it's long overdue.

BASH: Senator Dick Durbin, Judiciary chair, Senate majority whip, you have got a lot of titles -- and grandfather, that's another one.


DURBIN: You bet.

BASH: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

DURBIN: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: A sit-in on the steps of the Capitol gets the president's attention and throws millions of struggling Americans a potential lifeline.

How did Congresswoman Cori Bush get the White House to act? She joins me next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

For her, it's personal.

This week, for several days and nights, Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush, who once lived in a car with her two children, slept on the steps of the Capitol, pushing Congress and the president to help keep millions of Americans from facing eviction. And it forced something you don't see here in Washington very often, action.

She joins me live now from St. Louis.

Thank you so much, Congresswoman, for joining me.

You have talked a lot over the last week about how personal a fight this was for you, being evicted three times yourself, including while you were raising two young children.

And I'm going to ask you about some of the details of what happened.

But, before, I can't help but wonder, given the fact that you raised those kids -- now they're grown up -- what did they think of your efforts?


BUSH: To them, it's like, this is what mom does. Mom -- you know, mom fights for everyone.

And they have seen me do this, whether sleeping out on the street to help in my own community to raise awareness to what's happening to our unhoused community members, to fighting for justice for Michael Brown, who -- the anniversary of his death is tomorrow.

And so my children have seen this over and over again. And they stand with me. And they have been radicalized too. So they're -- this is who they want to see their mother -- this is who they know.

BASH: Your efforts resulted in the CDC issuing a new 60-day eviction freeze for people living in areas with high or substantial COVID transmission, which basically covers almost the whole country right now.

But, as you know, even President Biden said he's not really sure whether this move is constitutional. It's already facing legal challenges. So, if the courts ultimately strike it down, what's your next move?

BUSH: Well, so that's why I rushed back to St. Louis to make sure that -- and we have been telling -- we have been saying it nationally, that we have to do the work now to get this money out.

We have to do the work to make sure that our states and our local governments are able to release this money, get this money out into the hands of the people who need it the most. So we're telling tenants, we're telling -- we're telling landlords to go online or show up at the clinics that are happening around the country and get and apply for this money.


And for our local government and states, please get this money out. This has to happen. Sixty days, we may not have. So, we are pushing really hard to make sure that people apply. That's one thing that we keep hearing too is that -- especially locally, I have heard where people aren't applying.

Well, we understand that there have been barriers to people applying and those resources being able to be moved. So, we are working out those kinks right now.

BASH: I want to ask you about an op-ed that you wrote for

And, in it, you said -- quote -- "Now that we have again demonstrated what grassroots movements are capable of, there is no limit to what we can do. The change that we have been marching, organizing and pushing for is within reach. We just have to take it."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to have taken a different stance. On Friday, she drew a distinction -- she's done this before -- between being an advocate and being a legislator.

What's your response?

BUSH: I'm both.


BUSH: I'm both.

I walked into Congress -- before I walked into Congress, after I won my primary, I started talking about being a politivist. I am a politivist. I don't -- I think that it's OK to have both, because, when we legislate, yes, we have that power of the pen, the power of the purse. We're able to write bills. We're able to co-sponsor, send letters.

All of that is wonderful. You need that. But the activist side of me, that advocate, is the one that remembers what it was like to be in positions where I felt overlooked and neglected and unheard. And so many others in our communities -- I'm a nurse, so I am always advocating. That's who -- that's what we do.

And so having both of those, that's that pressure. The activist is going to bring the pressure. The activist is going to highlight the issues, so that the legislator can then hit the ball out of the park.

BASH: Congresswoman, I want to ask about the criticism that you're facing about comments you made in an interview this past week.

I want our viewers to listen.


BUSH: I'm going to make sure I have security because I know I have had attempts on my life. And I have too much work to do, there are too many people that need help right now for me to allow that.

So, if I end up spending $200,000, if I spend 10 more dollars on it, you know what, I get to be here to do the work. So, suck it up. And defunding the police has to happen. We need to defund the police.


BASH: So, I know you have seen that Republicans are pointing to the fact that you said you have your own security, while, almost in the same breath, advocating for defunding the police.

Now, I do want to emphasize I understand you have security protection because you have received multiple death threats. But the clip that I displayed is being used in attack ads against not you, but -- not just you, but other Democrats.

So, could those comments end up being harmful to your fellow Democrats, politically speaking?

BUSH: I think what we have to look at is the fact that I made it to Congress in 2020, I was elected to Congress, and we are still fighting this same fight. We're still fighting to save black lives.

That was not -- that work was not done before I got here. This is the reason why I ran, was to save lives, to save my son's life. It was because Michael Brown, who we're fighting for, and still trying to get justice for. It's because he didn't get justice, and Vonderrit Myers didn't get justice, and Kajieme Powell didn't get justice, and so many others. That is why.

And because that was not -- that was not fixed before I got here, to then come at me and say you're the reason why we have these problems, no, the reason why we have these problems is because those that were in power and could have fixed this problem before now didn't and cost -- it cost lives.

And so now that I'm here, I -- we just -- we just introduced the People's Response Act to make sure that we are looking at the money that -- the money that should be going to social safety nets to make sure that our community members who are living with mental health issues are able to function and live in society... BASH: So...

BUSH: ... the way that anyone would ask to.

So, I don't believe -- as far as my -- as far as my colleagues, I absolutely empathize. I empathize. But you know what? The same thing that the Republicans will do, which is figure out how to work with this on the comms spaces, that's what we have to do.

My job is to save lives, the lives of my community, because, when we're when we're talking about every single year increasing the budget for police, and then the budget for, like, Health and Human Services continuing to shrink, and St. Louis being number one for police violence year after year after year, number one, number two for homicides year and year, after year...

BASH: Congresswoman...

BUSH: So, when we're adding more money to the police, but we're still dying.

BASH: Congresswoman, I...

BUSH: So, something has to change.

BASH: Congresswoman, I -- yes. And I hear what you're saying. But I also heard you say that you think it's a comms problem.

Is it that? Because...

BUSH: No, I'm saying that we can also -- that that's another way that you can tackle this.

You have to tackle it from more than one place. We have to work on what we want to say, what is our message, but then we also have to understand that we have to save lives too. St. Louis can't keep being put on the back burner. And I'm here to stand up for my community.


BASH: Congresswoman Cori Bush, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

BUSH: Absolutely. Thank you.

BASH: And up next, a revealing conversation with one of the highest- ranking female staffers in the White House.


BASH: She started on a famous astronaut's political campaign and hasn't stopped launching through glass ceilings ever since.


Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn is leaving the White House this month. We went there to see her before she goes.

And it's our latest installment of "Badass Women of Washington."


BASH: You first came here as an intern in 19...


BASH: Wow.

DUNN: Yes.

BASH: For President Carter.

DUNN: For President Carter.

BASH: But it was a man's world.

DUNN: It was a total man's world.

BASH (voice-over): Anita Dunn was one of the first women in presidential politics to change that, eventually landing in the inner circle of two winning campaigns and two administrations, President Obama and now President Biden.

As a junior staffer in 1984 on John Glenn's campaign, she set a high bar for herself.

DUNN: I made the decision that the next time I wanted to work on a presidential campaign, I was going to be at the table. So, I didn't work on campaigns until I was at a point where that's where my seat was.

BASH: Dunn earned that seat by working as a congressional aide, then political consultant for countless Democratic congressional campaigns, though it was hard to find work during the 1996 election, when she was pregnant.

(on camera): Is it true that really only female candidates would hire you?

DUNN: I would say, if you look at who hired me that year, yes, that is quite true. Somebody would call me and say, I have got this candidate in town. I want to bring them over to meet you. And I'd be coming down the stairs in my most pregnant self, and I could just watch the candidate's face, like...


BASH: And then you didn't get the job?

DUNN: And I wouldn't get hired, of course not.

I wanted people to know I was a mom. I talked openly about, I'm not going to be in or I can't be on that call because... BASH: That was pretty risky back then.

DUNN: But I felt it was important.

If you have senior women who are openly talking about their children, and the time they're going to set aside for their children, and the parameters of their relationships, like, I'm leaving the office every day at this time for pickup at day care, it gives other women permission.

BASH: It was intentional.


DUNN: It was quite intentional, yes.

BASH (voice-over): Now many of the women she's surrounded by in the Biden White House have small children. She is known for having an open door policy.

DUNN: I'm not a big believer in mentorship, although I am happy to mentor anybody who wants to walk through my door and get some advice.

I'm a huge believer in sponsorship, which is...

BASH (on camera): What's the difference?

DUNN: Oh, the difference is huge, Dana.

Mentorship is, I'm happy to give you advice. I'm happy to be your sounding board. I'm happy to be your wailing wall when things don't go well. But sponsorship is a very active role in somebody's career. It is not, just I'm going to give you advice, but I'm going to actively promote you.

BASH (voice-over): Her sponsors were men, since there were so few women. This is a recommendation letter written some 45 years ago by her first White House boss, Carter chief of staff Hamilton Jordan.

Dunn is widely credited for turning around the Biden campaign during the 2020 primaries, after brutal losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

DUNN: At the end of the day, it's about setting priorities, and not being scared to make decisions.

People in politics who are scared to make decisions are losing campaign managers and losing operatives.

BASH (on camera): So, make a decision and stick with it.

DUNN: And stick with it. And, by the way, you're going to make a wrong decision occasionally. There are people who are paralyzed about making a mistake. And that is, in politics, one of the worst things you can do, is allow yourself to get paralyzed.

BASH (voice-over): While President Biden is known for forgiving, it is Dunn, ever the loyal staffer, who doesn't forget.

(on camera): Is that fair that you hold grudges?

DUNN: I have gotten that reputation. And I think most people who have worked with me will tell you that I'm actually a pretty nice person who does forgive, and I move on.

But I also believe that, in politics, it is important sometimes for people to understand that there are lines they should not cross.

BASH (voice-over): As a trailblazing woman in Democratic politics, Dunn said reading the New York attorney general report on Andrew Cuomo's sexual harassment allegations was painful.

DUNN: You and I were on Capitol Hill for a long time. And we have seen the power relationships that can exist in politics.

Reading about the experiences those 11 women had gone through felt like 45 years of watching America, in many respects.

BASH: She says she only joined this administration temporarily to help with the COVID crisis and is soon leaving.

DUNN: My first ambition was to be a sportscaster.

BASH (on camera): Really?

DUNN: Yes.

BASH (voice-over): She may not have lived that dream.

DUNN: I'm a very competitive person, Dana, so I ended up in politics.

BASH: But she did OK.


BASH: Thank you, Anita Dunn.

On this program, I press newsmakers about the news of the day. But tomorrow night you'll see a different kind of interview show where I spend time with influential people to get a sense of the person behind the public face.

First up, "Being... AOC." It's one of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez's most personal TV interviews to date. But we also talked about any plans she may have for higher office.


BASH: Are you going to challenge Senator Schumer in a primary race?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D-NY): You know, I -- here's the thing, is that -- and I know it drives everybody nuts, but the way that I really feel about this and the way that I really approach my politics and my political career is that I do not look at things and I do not set my course positionally. And I know there's a lot of people who do not believe that. But I really -- I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things.

And so all that is to say is that I make decisions based on what I think our people need and my community needs. And so I'm not commenting on that.


BASH: You can watch a lot more of my in-depth interview tomorrow night at 9:00 P.M. right here on CNN. Thanks so much for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.