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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI); Interview With Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH); Interview With National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; Interview With Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). Aired 9- 10a ET
Aired November 14, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Cost of living. Soaring inflation puts the screws to everyday Americans.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything from a gallon of gas to a loaf of bread costs more, and it's worrisome.
TAPPER: But after months of downplaying rising prices...
BIDEN: They're just going to pop up a little bit and then go back down.
TAPPER: ... what is the Biden administration doing now to help? I will speak to top White House economic adviser Brian Deese.
And a chilling message. Former President Trump ally Steve Bannon indicted for criminal contempt of Congress, a clear message to others refusing to cooperate with the January 6 probe. Whom are they trying to protect?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALEZ (R-OH): Donald Trump led us into a ditch on January 6.
TAPPER: Exclusive interviews with Republican Congressmen Fred Upton and Anthony Gonzalez in moments.
Plus: trial and error? A high-profile murder case puts race and the criminal justice system on display after a tumultuous several years. Is justice blind? Former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass joins me to discuss ahead.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is watching economic anxiety grow.
President Biden will celebrate a victory tomorrow, signing the new bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. But, as the president heralds this accomplishment, one that a significant majority of the American people support, he has also been running into a new economic reality, inflation, as prices in the U.S. surge more than they have in 30 years, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And as the holidays approach, Americans are seeing higher prices on everything from gas to groceries. This week, the president changed his message on the issue, acknowledging for the first time inflation is -- quote -- "worrisome" and -- quote -- "one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people," a response perhaps to the political reality.
A brand-new poll from "The Washington Post"/ABC News shows Biden's approval rating sinking to 41 percent, a new low, largely because of a negative shift among Democrats and independents, as 70 percent of the American people, according to this poll, rate the economy negatively, 70 percent; 63 percent of the American people think Biden has not accomplished much so far.
Joining us down to discuss, top economic adviser to President Biden Brian Deese.
Brian, thanks for joining us.
So let's start on this dire inflation report. Take a look at how much prices have risen over the last year, regular gas prices up more than 50 percent, utility gas 28 percent, used cars, beef, pork eggs all up. This new "Washington Post" poll shows 70 percent of those polled view the economy negatively; 38 percent say the economy is in poor condition.
How concerned are you and the president about inflation? And what specifically are you doing to fix it?
BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, inflation is high right now. And it is affecting consumers in their pocketbook and also in their outlook for the economy.
But those concerns underscore why it's so important that we move forward on the Build Back Better legislation, this legislation that the House is going to consider this week. This, more than anything, will go at the costs that Americans face.
You talk about health care, one of the biggest costs of American families face. This will lower prescription drug prices, put a cap on prescription drug costs for our seniors. Child care, not only a big cost driver for families, but a big impediment for more parents and women to get back into the work force, this bill will cut the cost of child care by more than half for most working families.
And housing too, a big cost driver for families, this bill will build affordable homes all around the country to make it easier for families to afford housing and also to move to places where the job opportunities are.
All of these things go right at lowering costs for American families. And this bill is fully paid for. It's not going to add to inflationary pressures, quite the opposite, because we're going to pay for everything in this bill by raising taxes on big companies, large corporations and the highest-income Americans. So there's an urgency to act. The House is going to consider this bill
this week. And we're looking forward to making progress and getting this done.
TAPPER: Right, but nothing you just mentioned, assuming that everything you're saying is accurate and comes to -- comes to pass the way you want, nothing you mentioned would bring down grocery prices, would bring down gas prices.
For instance, let's just take gas prices for a second. Is President Biden willing to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Is he willing to stop gas and oil exports, so as to alleviate the gas price issue at the pump?
DEESE: Well, we are very committed to do everything that we can to make sure that American consumers don't bear the brunt of high gas prices and volatile energy prices.
And the president has made clear that all options are on the table. We're monitoring the situation very carefully. One of the things that we're really focused on right now is making sure that American consumers don't actually get taken advantage of.
One of the things that we have seen in oil and gas markets is, because of consolidation, we have fewer large companies actually controlling the market. And so, at moments like this, there's a real concern of price gouging or market manipulation that could put consumers more well -- could actually harm consumers.
So we have asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a very close look at that right now in the current market conditions. And we're also engaging internationally with our counterparts to make sure that other oil-producing nations are not taking advantage of the strength of the recovery and actually profiting at the American consumer's expense.
So all those issues are on the table, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We're monitoring that closely. And we will continue to do so.
TAPPER: So, Brian, you saw the bad poll numbers for the president when it comes to the economy.
I don't know how much of a factor this was, but President Biden finally publicly acknowledged inflation is worrisome this week. I want to play some sound of what you and President Biden were saying a few months ago, in June.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: By the way, talk of inflation, the overwhelming consensus is, it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down. No one's talking about this great, great...
DEESE: To the degree that people are focused on inflationary pressures in the short term, that really is not the issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you think that you and the president were wrong, and inflation is not a short-term pop up a little bit and then go back down issue?
DEESE: No, I don't think so, Jake.
I think what we have said consistently is that the pandemic and the economy are interlinked. And, certainly, we saw, just as the Delta variant posed real health challenges to the economy, it also had economic impacts.
More people were consuming goods at home, watching TV, rather than buying a new television, rather than going out to the movies and spending on services. And so that's added to some of the supply chain challenges that we face.
But we're seeing these price increases in inflation globally because of the supply chain challenges associated with COVID. That's why we're going right at attacking those issues right now as well.
In the very immediate term, we're working with ports around the country to get goods moving more quickly through the economy. And this infrastructure bill, the bipartisan bill that the president will sign tomorrow, is the most significant step that we will have taken in decades to actually invest in the arteries that help move goods more quickly through our economy, more cheaply through our economy, and was designed to -- that we can move out quickly on some areas, like our ports, to try to start providing some relief.
So, we are -- have been focused on this issue. We continue to be focused on this issue in the short term, but also addressing these medium-term issues as well.
TAPPER: So -- but you talk about the Build Back Better Act, which is $1.75 trillion, as a solution to this problem.
But your predecessor under President Obama, Larry Summers, he pointed this week to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was passed earlier this year in March. He said that's a major reason behind the rising inflation, something he called at the time -- quote -- "the least responsible macroeconomic policy we have had in the last 40 years."
Is it possible that Americans are suffering now from high prices because the Biden administration overstimulated the economy with all of this money going into the economy?
DEESE: Well, no, that's not our perspective.
The American Rescue Plan saved us from an acute economic emergency. It's hard to remember, but recall that, when the president took office, there were 18 million people collecting unemployment benefits and 3,000 Americans a day dying. But Professor Summers agrees on the Build Back Better plan that it
will not increase inflation, and actually making investments in things like lowering the cost of child care or providing universal preschool will actually improve the productive capacity of our economy.
So, I think we actually know what we need to do here. We need to make a fully-paid-for investment that will actually unlock more opportunity, to get more people working in the economy. And that's where our focus is.
TAPPER: If you are standing by your statement and the president's statement that inflation is transitory, short-lived, when do you think inflation is going to go back below the 2 percent level considered normal?
DEESE: Well, look, there's lots of independent experts that make predictions. Most believe that inflation will moderate next year.
But I really think that, consistent with what you were talking about before, most Americans are less interested in predictions, and they're more interested in actions and seeing concrete action to try to address these -- address these issues. That's what our focus is.
And the poll that you put forward showed that the significant majority of Americans support the components of the Build Back Better agenda because it is oriented toward delivering on the practical cost issues that they face in their lives, housing, health care, child care, transportation.
These are things that typical Americans are dealing with.
DEESE: And these are solutions that we can provide. And action is going to speak louder than words. We recognize that. That's what the American people are looking for.
DEESE: And that's why we are focused on moving this bill through Congress and getting this infrastructure bill implemented without delay.
TAPPER: So is Build Back Better, is that act going to pass the House this week?
DEESE: Well, we are confident that it will. We are confident that Speaker Pelosi is going to bring it up and that it will pass this week. We will move forward to the next process and moving it to the Senate.
TAPPER: Is the SALT tax deduction, state and local tax deduction, is that going to be in the Build Back Better Act? Some experts say it could actually result in the wealthiest Americans in these states getting a tax break.
DEESE: Well, there's a fix to that issue that is included in the House bill.
This was an issue that the Trump tax cut, the 2017 tax cut, created huge uncertainty in our tax system by capping that deduction for state and local taxes for a couple of years and then letting the cap go away completely.
What the fix in the House bill would do would be provide a long-term higher cap on that issue. And so that's in the bill. And we expect that that will be part of the bill that will be put on the floor and be considered by the House this week.
TAPPER: All right, Brian Deese, thanks so much for joining us today. Appreciate it.
Two of my next guests have something terrible in common. They're both Republicans and they both received death threats over votes they have passed in Congress that Trump didn't like.
I will talk to Republican Congressman Fred Upton and Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez ahead.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Extraordinary new charges this week in the House investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A federal grand jury Friday indicted ally to former President Trump Steve Bannon on two charges of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before the congressional committee and for refusing to provide them the documents.
That indictment, the committee members hope, sends a clear message to other Trump allies who are avoiding testifying, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who, on Friday, ignored a subpoena this week.
Joining us now, one of the handful of Republican congressmen who supported holding Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress, Republican Fred Upton of Michigan.
And, Congressman, we're going to get to Bannon in a second.
But, first, you just heard Brian Deese defending the White House's response to inflation and predicting a successful vote on the Build Back Better Act in the House this week. What do you think?
REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): Well, I'm not at all convinced that the Build Back Better plan is actually going to pass or even be considered this week.
I don't think the votes are there yet. A good number of Democrats had demanded and are going to receive a CBO report as to whether is, it really paid for? What does it do when you expand Medicare? What does that do to the solvency?
And Joe Manchin asked the question about inflation. What is this going to do to inflation? I can remember talking to Larry Summers a few months ago. He was very worried about the spending by the Congress and what it in fact was going to do to inflation.
So I don't -- somehow, I don't think we're going to get these answers to necessarily get the -- for Pelosi to get the votes set before the end of the week. And we also know that this bill is going to be widely different from what the Senate ultimately may do. Not a lot of days in the legislative calendar yet.
We have got the continuing resolution, which, without an extension, would shut down the government December 3, not too far away. And, of course, we have the debt ceiling extension that expires on December 3 as well.
So there are a lot of hurdles before this thing -- before I will say this turkey really starts to move.
TAPPER: All right, a nice Thanksgiving metaphor. Appreciate it.
On the Bannon indictment, other Trump allies, such as former Chief of Staff Meadows, are also stonewalling the committee. Would you be willing to vote to hold Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress?
UPTON: Well, we will see what the select committee does. They have to make -- they have to decide. They have to move it forward.
One of the reasons that I voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt was, he didn't cooperate at all. And, in fact, at the time, one of the arguments was that even Mark Meadows was having his lawyers communicate with the committee. It seemed like there was going to be some progress that was going to be made.
But the -- former President Trump said early on he did everything totally appropriate. Those were his words. So we ought to let the sun shine in, be fully transparent. And that means get to the truth, find out exactly what happened.
And if you stonewall Congress -- and I'm a former committee chair. I use the subpoena. Even the threat of subpoena was able to get people to come testify to tell -- give us the facts, so we could go after fraud and abuse.
If you refuse to participate in that, all of a sudden, you don't really have an equal branch of government trying to get to the answers of this. So, for me, I want to see what the select committee will do see, what the recommendation is, and then take it from there.
TAPPER: So, Congressman, you voted for the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan that President Biden is going to sign tomorrow, along with 12 other House Republicans, 19 other Senate Republicans.
Trump campaigned on infrastructure in 2016. He promised it would be -- quote -- "very bipartisan." Of course, that never happened. Now he's leading the charge against Republicans like you who voted for the bill.
Things are so toxic, you're getting phone calls like this one:
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You dumb mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) traitor, piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) piece of trash.
I hope you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) die. I hope your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) family dies. I hope everyone in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) staff dies, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, to be clear, these are threats coming from conservatives, from Republicans. You're getting these death threats because you voted to fund roads and bridges and broadband.
To what do you attribute all this? Is it Donald Trump attacking you? Is it Marjorie Taylor Greene calling you a traitor and posting your phone number? What has happened to the Republican Party?
UPTON: You know, it's a sad day. It really is.
We all know that we have a polarized electorate out there, divided government. This bill that I voted for that President Biden's going to sign tomorrow, and it passed 69-30 in the Senate way back in August. It was a blueprint.
I'm a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group. Larry Hogan, Republican governor of Maryland, hosted, I don't know, 25, 30 of us back in April, governors, senators, House members. We defined what infrastructure was, what it should be.
And, actually, Larry Summers was a participant. And we all confessed that we should pay for it, and pay for it without raising taxes. And that's what we did with this bill, which was why it received overwhelming support in the Senate.
Lindsey Graham, President Trump's favorite top Republican in the Senate, supported this bill when it passed 69-30. We need roads and highways, let me tell you. This was a bipartisan plan. It needed to happen. And I'm glad that we got it past the finish line, and we actually took it away.
Remember, for a little while, it seemed like it was going to be joined with the Build Back Better plan. And we cut the cord so that, in fact, they were separate votes. TAPPER: So this all is happening in an era of menace and threats and
I want you to take a listen to an interview former President Trump did with ABC News' Jonathan Karl in March in which Trump appeared to justify or at least not care about the threats to the life of Mike Pence on January 6. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: You heard those chants -- that was terrible. I mean, it was the...
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He could have -- well, the people were very angry.
KARL: They were saying, "Hang Mike Pence."
TRUMP: Because it's common sense, Jon. It's common sense that you're supposed to protect. How can you -- if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just to remind our viewers, this is the crowd and the chant that Jon Karl was asking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: How worried are you that January 6 was not the climax or the end of this new era of violence and menace in our politics, but, in fact, perhaps just the beginning?
UPTON: Well, I tell you, obviously, I was there on January 6. I saw the gallows that were constructed on the East Front of the Capitol.
I was not -- thank goodness, I was not in the chamber when it was -- when they tried to breach it on that fateful day. But I saw the crowd. I saw the crowd move down the Mall towards the White House to hear the president's speech.
And I saw them come back. I talked to the SWAT team members afterwards, picked up some of the broken glass from the Capitol, obviously saw the footage that was there live as I was holed up in my office feeling protected.
But it was -- it was a really scary day. That violence -- I mean, you look at the calls to all of us that voted for the bipartisan bill this last week, the death threats that are there, a couple of arrests, I think, have been made already on -- with some of my colleagues. We passed along the information that's been sent to my office with the phone calls.
And I presume we will get some letters and some other stuff here as well. But, yes, it's a tough time, and it's so unsettling. This is not what our democracy is about, these physical threats not only to ourselves, but also to our family members, as well as to our staff. It is a sad day in America when this type of stuff -- I have got a better four-letter word for it, but I will save you -- when it happens.
TAPPER: We're not actually mandated by the FCC. You can curse on our air if you want, because we're cable.
UPTON: I know. I know, because you're on cable. I was -- I was chairman of the subcommittee, so I know all about it.
TAPPER: So -- but, Congressman, you just heard Jon Karl asking Donald Trump about the chants of "Hang Mike Pence," and Donald Trump's response was, well, the people were very upset.
UPTON: They were real.
TAPPER: And he started to go into the election.
But what is your reaction to Donald Trump seeming to explain and justify it all?
UPTON: But remember too -- well, you remember the call that you all reported with Kevin McCarthy, when, allegedly, the president -- when Kevin called the president to tell these folks to back off, and the response from Mr. Trump was: I guess they care more about the election than you do, Kevin.
TAPPER: And what's your reaction to that?
UPTON: That is what was reported after January 6.
TAPPER: But -- but -- yes, but what's your reaction to that?
UPTON: It's not right. It's not appropriate. And it's certainly not totally -- totally appropriate, as the president said in his own words, in terms of his actions that he took that day.
TAPPER: Quickly, before you go, sir, are you committed to running for another term in 2022?
UPTON: Well, we don't know what our districts look like yet.
We're in the midst of looking at maps. Michigan loses a seat. We will evaluate everything probably before the end of the year in terms of making our own decision. We have never made a decision more than a year out.
TAPPER: Congressman Fred Upton, thank you so much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.
UPTON: You bet.
TAPPER: Your holiday gifts and those sweatpants you ordered might be stuck off the Port of Los Angeles or Long Beach. Is there any way to speed up those shipments?
The woman who wants to be Los Angeles mayor, Congresswoman Karen Bass, is next.
Plus: an exclusive interview with another congressman who voted to impeach Trump and now is ending his congressional career, his chilling warning about Donald Trump -- coming up.
TAPPER: Drivers in California are now paying more than anyone else in the United States to fill up their tanks. The average price of gas in the Golden State hit $4.67 a gallon this weekend, breaking the state record for the highest recorded gas price ever, according to AAA.
Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She's running to be the next mayor of Los Angeles.
Congresswoman, always good to see you.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Thank you.
TAPPER: So, these record-setting gas prices in California come as the Biden administration has not halted oil and gas exports, has not tapped into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, has not gotten results from OPEC.
Do you want the Biden administration to do more to get these prices down?
BASS: Well, we certainly need to do something.
I mean, as you mentioned, the medium price is $4. And in many places, it's $5. I know that the oil industry said that one of the reasons for the increase in price was because they had to slow down production because they had to do some maintenance. So, whatever -- we have got to reduce the price of gas in California.
TAPPER: Is there a specific step you want them to take, opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, anything in particular?
BASS: Well, I'm not sure.
I mean, that is certainly one thing that could be done. But I'm kind of more concerned about the oil producers being able to get back online. So, they said that it was high because of maintenance. That should be ending soon. So, hopefully, we will see some reduction, and the administration won't have to intervene. TAPPER: On the supply chain issue, bottlenecks are continuing to plague Los Angeles...
TAPPER: ... thus hitting all of us. You're running for Los Angeles mayor.
Right now, 83 container ships are backed up in the water off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach a full month after the administration vowed to operate the ports 24/7.
If you were mayor right now, what would you ask Joe Biden to do differently to fix this?
BASS: Well, I'm not sure that he could do anything more than the 24/7 right now.
But we obviously have to deal with the longer-term issues too. We have a work force issue. We have a lack of truck drivers. When -- Secretary Buttigieg and Governor Newsom just a few weeks ago signed agreements to speed up infrastructure projects in the port.
So a lot needs to be done. But I'm not sure if anything else could be done right now. They're also charging the folks if they leave the containers offshore too long. So, aside from those things, I'm not really sure they could do anything right now today.
TAPPER: Speaking of infrastructure, President Biden will sign the infrastructure bill into law tomorrow.
You pushed to include a provision that would allow the U.S. government to hire people from the immediate area to work on infrastructure projects in their neighborhoods. Are you disappointed that this bill took so long to pass into law? And what might that mean for communities like yours in Los Angeles?
BASS: Well, local hire is a provision that is really important that we actually had into law, and the Trump administration removed it. So getting it back in is a big deal.
It seemed strange that you could not give preferential treatment to people that live in the area where the construction projects are going through. It's very important in my specific district. We have a major line going through. And so to be able to prioritize the hiring of people in the neighborhood is key, because it's also a neighborhood where unemployment is high.
TAPPER: You're the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, so I was wondering what you thought about this trial of the three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
During the trial this week, a defense attorney made this remark in the courtroom. Take a listen.
BASS: Yes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If we're going to start a precedent starting yesterday where we're going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury, I believe that's intimidating and it's an attempt to pressure -- could be consciously or unconsciously, an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.
And we don't want any more black pastors coming in here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "We don't want any more black pastors coming in here."
Now, the attorney has since apologized for those comments. But what was your reaction when you heard that in a courtroom in the United States in 2021?
BASS: Well, I mean, I think it's despicable.
But when they were selecting the jury, remember, they selected pretty much an all-white jury. And then the judge acknowledged that that was a problem and allowed the jury to be seated anyway. So, I think that particular trial is off to a bad start, just like the trial of Rittenhouse is off to a bad start as well.
A year ago, we were talking about racial reckoning, and it seemed to be an enlightened period. And now we have had major setbacks. And I think that people understand that you can use race politically. It charges people up. It's a highly emotional issue. And I think it's just really sad.
That trial, the Arbery trial, is a trial of a lynching. That is exactly what happened in that case. And look at Rittenhouse. Both of those trials were based in race. And I'm very concerned about the outcome for both of them.
TAPPER: Kyle Rittenhouse is a white man who's accused of shooting and -- three other white men, and killing two of them.
TAPPER: Explain how you think there's a racial dimension to this case.
BASS: Well, because remember, now, where were those white men that were killed? They were at a protest protesting in solidarity for black folks.
So, to me, it was reminiscent of the civil rights movement when you had young white people that participated in the sit-ins and the protests, and they were subject to beatings. They were subjects to shootings. Many of them were killed as well. And it's as though the judge is taking that very lightly. Remember,
the judge in Rittenhouse case said you couldn't even refer to the people that were killed as victims. You could refer to them as rioters.
Here, you have a 17-year-old boy who was driven by his mother across state lines with an automatic weapon -- frankly, she should have been detained for child endangerment -- to go to a protest where he says he's going to help the police? I mean, it was ridiculous.
He walks across with his automatic weapon, and the police just look at him. And the majority of the people that were protesting were African- American, but the white men that were killed were protesting in solidarity with the black people. So it reminded me of the civil rights movement.
TAPPER: Just a yes or no on this, because we're out of time. Is the Build Back Better Act going to pass the House this week?
TAPPER: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
I have never actually gotten only a one-word answer when I ask for one.
TAPPER: I really appreciate it.
Coming up: an extraordinary warning about former President Trump from a sitting Republican congressman, an exclusive interview you will not want to miss -- next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January have decided that their careers in Congress are over, including my next guest, Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who revealed to me, in his first and only national television interview, what led him to break from his party against the big lie that the election was stolen, what he is worried Trump is trying to do now ahead of 2024.
TAPPER: He came very close to overturning an election through various methods. How worried are you, the next time, he will be better positioned and he will undermine democracy?
GONZALEZ: It looks to me -- and I think any objective observer would come to this conclusion -- that he has evaluated what went wrong on January 6. Why is it that he wasn't able to steal the election? Who stood in his way?
Every single American institution is just run by people. And you need the right people to make the right decision in the most difficult times. He's going systematically through the country and trying to remove those people and install people who are going to do exactly what he wants them to do, who believe the big lie, who will go along with anything he says.
And, again, I think it's all pushing towards one of two outcomes. He either wins legitimately, which he may do, or, if he loses again, he will just try to steal it. But he will try to steal it with his people in those positions.
And that's then the most difficult challenge for our country. You ask yourself the question, do the institutions hold again? Do they hold with a different set of people in place? I hope so. But you can't guarantee it.
TAPPER: What do you remember about January 6?
GONZALEZ: I was sitting in the balcony when the session was called to order.
And I saw the first objection. At that point, I throw on my Twitter, and I could see that people were breaking the line. So, I peeked out the window, saw more people breaking. And I said, I'm just going to go back to my office. This doesn't look like a good thing, so, ultimately, barricaded ourselves in, put some street clothes on, in case I had to run for it.
And, luckily, I didn't. Nobody came in. But it was -- it was pretty harrowing. I mean, there were tough calls with my wife. There were tough calls with my family. But, at the time, you don't know how it's going to end. Thank God that there weren't more people killed.
But, at the time, you don't know that. At the time, you know that there's an angry, violent mob who believes the election was stolen in the United States of America. And you're seeing even members of Congress saying, this is our 1776 moment.
If that's what people are saying, well, of course, you're going to have violence, and, of course, you're going to have a riot at the Capitol.
TAPPER: There are people who voted to certify the election who did not vote to impeach.
Was that the most difficult vote of your life, or was the certification one more tough?
GONZALEZ: The impeachment was the hardest vote, for sure. In order to get me to vote for an impeachment, any impeachment, I have to believe that there was a grave assault on the country committed by the sitting president, whoever it is.
And so it was deeply sad to come to the conclusion that I did and to feel like I could no longer trust the president of the United States, even for a few days, to be the commander in chief of our military. I felt like -- like I had no choice in the matter. I had to do what I felt was right to protect the country.
TAPPER: And then you not only put your political career in jeopardy by doing that. You got death threats.
This will sound weird, and I don't mean it to. It'll sound flippant, but I always expected death threats in this job. So, that wasn't a surprise. Unfortunately, it happened maybe sooner than I would like, and it happened in this way.
But that wasn't what made me decide not to run again. It really wasn't, as terrible as those death threats are, right? For me, it was more of a lifestyle decision for my family and kind of what kind of family life we want going forward.
But, look, to state the obvious, though I expected death threats at some point in this job, there is no legitimate place for political violence anywhere in this country. And the fact that we have seen it and, I would argue, normalized it over the last two years sets our country back significantly. It's one of the biggest things I'm worried about.
TAPPER: There are hopefully Republican voters and maybe even some Republican leaders watching you right now. What is your message to them?
GONZALEZ: Two things. One, keep the faith. This country's been through a lot. We have fought through it, and we have persevered.
The country -- as much as I despise almost every policy of the Biden administration, and we could talk about that for six hours, the country can survive around a bad policy. The country can't survive torching the Constitution. We have to hold fast to the Constitution. That needs to be the bedrock upon which we build our party and our movement.
We have to be a party of ideas. We have to be a party of truth. And the cold, hard truth is, Donald Trump led us into a ditch on January 6. The former president lied to us. He lied to every one of us. And, in doing so, he cost us the House, the Senate and the White House.
I see, fundamentally, a person who shouldn't be able to hold office again because of what he did around January 6. But I also see somebody who's an enormous political loser. And I don't know why anybody who wants to win elections going forward would follow that.
I simply -- like, I don't get it ethically. I certainly don't get it politically. Neither of them makes sense.
If he's the nominee again in '24, I will do everything I personally can to make sure he doesn't win. Now, I'm not voting for Democrats, but whether that's find a viable third party or whether that's try to defeat him in primaries, whatever it is, that's going to be where I'll spend my time.
TAPPER: Because you're worried about what he will do to democracy?
GONZALEZ: Yes, I don't trust him.
January 6 was the line that can't be crossed. January 6 was an unconstitutional attempt, led by the president of the United States, to overturn an American election and reinstall himself in power illegitimately.
That's fallen nation territory. That's Third World country territory.
My family left Cuba to avoid that fate. I will not let it happen here.
Can I stop him? I have no idea. But I believe, as a citizen of this country who loves this country and respects the Constitution, that's my responsibility.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Former Governor Chris Christie gave an early endorsement to Donald Trump in 2016. Four years and one insurrection later, have Christie's feelings changed? My co-anchor and friend Dana Bash sat down with Christie for a new special and they talked about his own White House ambitions and his take on Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Donald Trump made it pretty clear he wants to run for president again. Would you support him?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR (R-NJ): Oh, look, I don't know that he's going to run. I don't know --
BASH: But what if he does?
CHRISTIE: -- if I'm going to run. Well, look, what if? I've learned --
BASH: I mean, it's not as if it's a big secret that he's seriously considering it.
CHRISTIE: He's seriously considering it. Let's see what happens when he does and let's see who he is and what he says and how he conducts himself.
BASH: After everything you've described that he has done, you still --
CHRISTIE: Dana, what I'm saying --
(CROSSTALK) CHRISTIE: -- look, what I'm saying to you is that I'm not going to sit here in 2021 and prejudge all of this. I voted for him in '16 and in '20. On election night in '20 I said that what he was doing was absolutely horrible and wrong and continued to be. You can draw whatever conclusions from that you want. But in the end, in 2021 the idea of making predictions for 2024 is folly. And by the way --
BASH: With all due respect, that sounds like a copout.
CHRISTIE: I'm know -- I'm sure you think it's a copout. But you know what, I also know that there's no reason to create tumult in a party that already has a lot of tumult in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And you can see more of Dana's interview with Chris Christie on his COVID battle, his own plans for 2024 on Monday night. "Being Chris Christie" a special with Dana Bash airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday.
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"Fareed Zakaria GPS" is next.