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State of the Union
Interview With Former Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Interview With White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha; Interview With Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN); Interview With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 24, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): On the front lines. Today, the American secretaries of state and defense travel to a war zone to meet with Ukraine's president in Kyiv. At home, Putin's war is contributing to pain at the pump.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is Vladimir Putin's gas price increase.
BASH: Can President Biden arm Ukraine and fight inflation at the same time? I will speak to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ukrainian-born GOP Congresswoman Victoria Spartz next.
And masks on. The CDC loses its mask fight, for now.
QUESTION: Mr. President, should people continue to wear masks on planes?
BIDEN: That's up to them.
BASH: But, with variants multiplying and frustrations growing, are policies meaning the moment? White House COVID coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha joins me exclusively live in studio.
Plus: Truth hurts. The top Republican House leader caught on tape saying what he really thinks about Donald Trump and the insurrection.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): And it would be my recommendation that he should resign.
BASH: Will his public contradictions matter at all to House Republicans?
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is turning its eyes towards Kyiv.
Today, the U.S. secretaries of state and defense are outside the wire. That's according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The pair are on a high-stakes diplomatic trip to meet with him in Kyiv. Zelenskyy caught the U.S. off-guard Saturday when he announced the visit and warned that U.S. officials should not come -- quote -- "with empty hands."
On the battlefield, fighting is disrupting the Orthodox Easter holiday. In Odessa, a strategic port city, the mayor says Russian shelling killed at least eight people, including a 3-month-old infant and her mother, as Russia reveals its goal in Ukraine is to take full control over Southern Ukraine and the Donbass region.
And two months in, the reverberations of Putin's war are contributing to an already difficult economic situation here in the U.S., where inflation is now above 8 percent. President Biden is trying to blame Vladimir Putin for high gas prices.
But our first guest this morning says Democrats are going to need to address the concerns of Americans or face consequences at the polls.
BASH: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Banking Committee.
Senator, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
You wrote a new op-ed just this week warning about the economic pain that so many Americans are facing. Inflation is at a 40-year high. You have been working on economic issues your entire life. So do you think that inflation has peaked? And could the U.S. be facing a recession?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Look, we have a lot of economic headwinds in front of us.
But the way I see this is how families are experiencing it right now. And that is because of supply chain problems and because of price gouging from giant corporations. Families are paying more at the pump. They're paying more when they go to the grocery store. They're paying more when they try to buy hamburger.
And so it is the responsibility of Congress, of the president to get out there and make the changes we need to make to bring down those prices for families. And we can do that. We have the tools. But we have got to -- we got to get up off our rear ends and make it happen.
BASH: Do you think that America is heading towards a recession if it doesn't act, if Congress and the president don't act?
WARREN: Look, we are -- we are in an uneasy economic moment. But I think it's -- I think talk of recession is way too early.
We are doing better on unkinking the supply chain. And that helps. We also need to push back against the giant corporations that have decided, not only are they going to pass along costs, they're going to take a big dollop of extra profits. And those are things that get our economy -- I think the way to
describe is, they get it out of whack. They get prices too high. We have got too many corporations that are doing too much profit- gathering.
But do keep in mind how strong many of the fundamentals are. The president has created 7.9 million new jobs in the first 14 months that he's been in office. Unemployment is low. And that is a very good sign. GDP is high. We're still seeing growth.
So, sure, there's plenty to worry about. Obviously, Ukraine is another unknown in that. But I think that, for me, it's less concern about recession over the long arc and more about the immediacy of what's happening to American families and what we in Congress, what our administration can do about it now.
We do those things, should get the fundamentals back in line, and I feel better about where the economy goes.
BASH: Well, you probably have seen some highly respected economists, from Larry Summers to Jason Furman, say that it is, in fact, what Congress did, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, that was too big, and is now a contributing factor to inflation.
I understand there are a lot of factors that contribute to inflation. Is this one of them?
WARREN: You know, Dana, when someone says too big, I hope that they go talk to the millions, millions of small business owners whose businesses were saved because we actually put money into a Rescue Plan.
I also hope they will talk to the millions of people who've gotten vaccinations and who've gotten free testing, because that's how we bring COVID under control, so that businesses can be open, so that this economy can move forward. And talk to the millions of people who have jobs.
Just over a year ago, the economists were predicting that we were going to be facing multiple years of high unemployment and low GDP. But, because the Democrats acted -- and, let's be clear, the Democrats last spring had to act alone, couldn't pick up a single Republican vote.
Because the Democrats acted, we have the basics, we have the fundamentals working in this economy. And, you know, there's the difference. The Democrats are out there trying to do something. We're trying to save small businesses. We're trying to lower costs for the family who's standing there at the grocery checkout line and trying to figure out what to send back because they don't have enough money to cover.
WARREN: And what are the Republicans doing? They're saying, let's fight the culture wars.
They have no ideas on the economy, other than to impose pain on American families and small businesses. That's not an idea. What they want is, they want power for themselves, rather than to help the American people.
BASH: You're talking about Republicans. Midterms are now less than 200 days away.
BASH: I want to share part of President Biden's message to Democratic donors in Seattle just this week.
He said -- quote -- "I admit to you what I haven't done. And the reason I'm getting out on the road, instead of dealing with the day- to-day emergencies in my office, is making the case of what we have done."
Is touting accomplishments a winning strategy for Democrats in November?
WARREN: Look, I am very glad to talk about what we have done, obviously. And I think the president deserves real credit, but it's not enough.
We have got less than 200 days until the election, and American families are hurting. Our job while we are here in the majority is to deliver on behalf of those families. And that means making government work for them. And there is so much that we can do and so much, frankly, that is popular across the country among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
We can, for example, stop the price gouging. Let's authorize the FTC to investigate and prosecute on price gouging. That will help bring down prices. Let's attack the corruption in Washington head on, so that we're actually saying members of Congress can't trade in stocks. Let's cancel student loan debt. The president has the power to do that all by himself, and would touch the lives of tens of millions of people across this country.
There is so much we can do. And if we do it over the next 200 days, we're going to be in fine shape. This is what democracy is about.
BASH: And if you...
WARREN: Take it to the people, what we have done, but we need to get the work done.
BASH: And, if you don't well, you lose control of Congress?
WARREN: Yes, I think we're going to be in real trouble. If we don't get up and deliver, then I believe that Democrats are going to lose.
Democrats win when they do -- when they work on behalf of working people. And we can't just rest on what we have already done. We need to be fighting going forward. There are things that the American people elected us to do, and we still need to get out there and do them.
We do that, then we're going to be fine in the elections. That's how -- that's how democracy works, especially when we're up against a party that just wants to fight culture wars. That's not going to help people in their lives.
Our job is Democrats is to help hardworking Americans. And we can do that. We can make government work, not just for the billionaires, not just for the giant corporations. We can actually make it work for everyone. But we need to get up and do it.
BASH: Senator, the Biden administration is reversing what's known as Title 42, a Trump era rule...
BASH: ... making it easier to turn away migrants at the border.
That's going to happen in less than a month. But almost a dozen of your fellow Democratic senators are expressing concerns about this. You support lifting Title 42. So what is your plan to handle a likely surge in migrants? And are you confident that they will be treated humanely?
WARREN: Look, Title 42 is not consistent with our values and it doesn't keep us safer.
The Biden administration is putting plans in place to deal with people who are asking for amnesty and humanitarian relief at the border. But, keep in mind, we need comprehensive immigration reform. And that's something all the Democrats are on board for. We have to work out the details. We still need to be in that fight, though.
That's where we need to make significant change.
BASH: President Biden just unveiled another $800 million package to help Ukraine. It's more heavy artillery weapons, tactical drones, economic help, and a new refugee program.
But he's almost exhausted all of the money that you and Congress approved so far. What is Congress going to do when you return this coming week?
WARREN: If President Biden asks for more money in order to support Ukraine, either militarily or for humanitarian relief, then I will support him in that, and I believe all of the Democrats will.
BASH: And before I let you go, I want to ask about something "The New York Times" reported this past week.
They revealed new audio from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from the days immediately following January 6. Listen to what he said in two separate calls that, again, "The New York Times" reported.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he needs to acknowledge that.
The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass. And it would be my recommendation he should resign.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: You know he's not saying that now. What's your reaction?
WARREN: Kevin McCarthy is a liar and a traitor.
This is outrageous. And that is really the illness that pervades the Republican leadership right now, that they say one thing to the American public and something else in private.
They understand that it is wrong, what happened, an attempt to overthrow our government, and that the Republicans instead want to continue to try to figure out how to make 2020 election different, instead of spending their energy on how it is that we go forward in order to build an economy, in order to make this country work better for the people who sent us to Washington.
Shame on Kevin McCarthy.
BASH: Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
WARREN: You bet. Good to see you.
BASH: Up next, the first ever Ukrainian-born lawmaker elected to the U.S. Congress joins us exclusively from Kyiv in the very middle of a personal trip.
And ahead: There are tapes. Will Kevin McCarthy's private words cost him his dream job? It's likely really dependent on a man named Donald Trump and his temper.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
A homecoming to a hellscape.
Congresswoman Victoria Spartz was born in Ukraine near Chernihiv. Both of her grandmothers are still there, living through Vladimir Putin's eight-week-old war. Spartz was on the front lines earlier this month to observe the ongoing fighting and devastation, including in Bucha. And she's back in Ukraine today to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Republican Congresswoman Spartz of Indiana joins me now from Kyiv.
Thank you so much for joining me. Happy Easter to you.
First, what's it like to be back there? It should be a celebration with your family. And, instead, you see your country of birth under assault.
REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): Well, thank you for having me. And thank you really for covering what's happening in Ukraine, because this is very terri -- I mean, it's terrible. It's a horrific situation.
But it's also so inspiring. And I felt that it's so important for me to go and see my grandma, who's getting very, very old, and you don't know how many Easters she's going to have, to support the people here, because they very -- they fight this big war for freedom.
And I think we as Americans know when, we look at that, it makes us stronger too. But it was interesting. I talked to one of the American here today. And he told me: "You know, Victoria, these Ukrainians, they're more actually Americans than I thought. They really remind me of Americans, and they really inspire all of us."
So, I'm happy to be here to support them in these very, very difficult times.
BASH: What's it like there in the capital city at this moment?
SPARTZ: Well, I think I have actually met with a church -- with the head of Ukrainian church.
And people, even they go through troubles, but they try to celebrate it. They also had today -- they brought the fire from Jerusalem to go around the country and bring this holy spirit of Jerusalem. And I happen to be there when the -- it was crossing the border.
So, they actually let me greet it with one of the priests. And that was really amazing experience for me. And I think that's God's blessing for this country, because God supports people that fight for good and people that really fight the evil. And these people do fight the evil.
BASH: Wow, that sounds incredibly powerful.
President Zelenskyy says that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are visiting where you are in Kyiv today. Does that send a strong enough message of solidarity from the U.S. government?
SPARTZ: Well, I think it's important.
I'm glad to see some of our elected officials do come here, because our people do support this fight. And it's important for us to be on the ground. And it shows that our country stands with the people of Ukraine.
I hope -- I sent a letter to Secretary Blinken. Maybe we could bring some of that diplomats at least back to Lviv. It can help some Americans here, but also to work better with Ukrainian government.
So, I think we can do that. So, I'm glad to see some step. And I hope President Biden will actually someday to make here to meet with President Zelenskyy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson came to Ukraine. I think we can do it. We're strong people. We're a strong country. We definitely can arrange for our people to come here and visit Ukrainians.
BASH: And you're saying that the U.S. should reopen diplomatic facilities of some kind in Ukraine, which they currently do not have?
SPARTZ: Yes. Yes. Yes.
A lot of people, a lot of countries are actually bringing back to Kyiv, but the least we can do, actually bring it maybe to Lviv. And a lot of -- in any job, whether it's a political job or diplomatic job, you do take some risks. You need to be smart. But, also, that's a part of your job to do your service. And if you are not on the ground, it's very difficult to do your job.
So I think it's important, but it also sends a strong message for Ukrainian people. They're fighting a big war. And they are fighting for freedoms and for all of us. And it's important for them to see they're supported, actually. And it makes them stronger. And they're going to win it.
But the visuals of that support and Americans being here, it will be very, very important for them.
BASH: President Biden just unveiled another $800 million, a package of that size.
And it includes more heavy artillery weapons, tactical drones, and also additional economic support. Are you satisfied that the Biden administration is doing enough? And, if not, how much more money should Congress approve to help?
SPARTZ: Well, I think I'm glad to see in the recent few weeks that we actually start doing more serious -- more serious support, because they really need it.
Tell you the truth, when they approved last package, I would probably flip. Instead of given the $3.5 billion to military aid and $10 billion to humanitarian aid, that I haven't even seen it, or actually giving money to organizations like U.N., never to be seen anywhere, not really doing the job that they should be doing, we actually need to put more pressure for them to enforce humanitarian corridors, to do more functions for them to negotiate peace.
But I haven't seen them or do even humanitarian missions. Nothing is happening here. So I think they do need more security assistance, but we also need to ask some questions. What's happened with another $10 billion that we provided? Because I haven't seen it on the ground anywhere at all.
And these people are suffering. And these humanitarian crises are going to be very, very significant, and not just here, but it's going to destabilize the whole world with everything that has happened in the ports and everywhere else.
So it's a very serious situation here.
BASH: Congresswoman, we have been talking about protecting democracy abroad, where you are in Ukraine.
But I do want to ask about a different kind of threat to democracy here in the U.S. An audio copy of a call that Kevin McCarthy had with some of his colleagues was obtained by "The New York Times" where he shared some strong feelings about President Trump about what happened on January 6.
This call happened just days after the attack. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation he should resign.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: He went on to say in another call that he -- quote -- "had it with this guy."
He's your leader of your Republican Caucus. What's your reaction?
SPARTZ: Well, I think we will have a lot of politics. And I think an election going to come, and we will do all these different debates.
But I will be honest with you, Dana. We need to really deal with serious issue right now. We have war in Europe. We have serious situation the border, and it's going to end in catastrophe. And this is if we lift Title 42. Let's work on serious issues.
I know there's a lot of politics, a lot of drama. And I will tell you one thing. Our Republican Party is very diverse party. And we have a diverse opinion, which is good. We don't have a top-down approach. So, we have debates about issues and ideas. I think it's healthy.
So, I think I will let sort it out, politics.
SPARTZ: But I really want us to figure out how we can find some common ground to work on issues, and even maybe on bipartisan basis, because we do have serious issues.
BASH: And that's absolutely true.
But one thing that's not a policy debate is the question of telling the truth. And it doesn't seem that he did. Does that bother you, particularly on something as grave and as important as what happened on January 6?
SPARTZ: Well, I think they need to explain.
I don't know. I don't know a view of the personal conversation, who said what. I think Leader McCarthy and President Trump, they need to do explanation of what's happening and explain what's happening. I wasn't there. I didn't hear it. There is a lot of things people try to spin.
So, I'm not going to be commenting. But I think they should discuss what's happening and send -- and explain what it was and why it is. But, ultimately, people have different opinions. People change views. That's OK. That's a part of political process, to communicate and have different views and learn about the issues, and maybe change sometimes opinions, and have debate and deliberation.
That's very healthy. So it's not necessarily people maybe not tell the truth, but people can change an opinion based on learning about circumstances. So I wasn't there. But I tell you one thing, that I was very surprised -- I was in the chamber on January 6 -- that, after we had breakthrough in the chambers, that it took us almost an hour before Nancy Pelosi stopped the session.
That was surprising for me, because it posed a lot of risk for the members inside and for also our Capitol Police. And we never got an answer to that question. So, hopefully, someday we will.
BASH: Before I let you go, Congresswoman, we talked at the beginning about your grandmothers. They are still there in Ukraine.
You were able to attend Easter services with one of them earlier this morning. There's a photo of both of you. She's 88 years old. The other is 95. They both lived through so much. They lived through the horrors of Hitler and Stalin and now Putin.
You must be incredibly worried about their safety.
SPARTZ: Well, I do.
And I -- honestly, they're really in shock. They couldn't believe, after everything that Ukraine went through, Stalin, World War II -- almost most of my family was killed. My grandma that I met today with, her father, her mother, everyone was shot, because they were helping to lead partisan movement, her father.
And, really, Ukrainians, I mean, paid for so much blood to win that war. So, for her, it's, like, unbelievable. But I'm more worried about the young kids that are now getting shelled and killed and raped. They are raping teenage girls.
The atrocities that happen in this country, even some men that talk to -- they start crying. I mean, this is so bad. I mean, this is something that -- unbelievable. And world has to help Ukraine to win this war, bring the peace back to Europe, and bring the international order back.
SPARTZ: That's a responsibility for us. And we need to put more pressure on Russia.
BASH: Thank you for sharing that. And thank you so much for joining me this morning.
SPARTZ: Thank you.
BASH: And happy Easter to you.
SPARTZ: Thank you. Thank you very much.
BASH: The U.S. arrives at another coronavirus crossroads. Are mask mandates on planes gone for good? And do you need a fourth shot?
We are going to ask the new doctor in charge of the Biden White House COVID response.
Stay with us.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
It's COVID fatigue vs. COVID frustration.
Two-plus years into the pandemic, masks are off pretty much everywhere, including planes, trains buses, after a federal judge ruled that that is possible. But, as a new variant is driving case counts higher again, is the new normal here to stay?
Well, with me to talk about that is Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration's new coronavirus response coordinator.
Thank you so much for being here. I should say, because it's you especially, we both tested, and tested negative, before talking in person.
So, coronavirus is spreading. It is mutating. U.S. cases are still pretty low, but climbed more than 50 percent in the last two weeks. What will the next few months look like, in your mind?
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning, first of all.
BASH: Good morning.
JHA: Thank you for having me here.
Yes. So, indeed, first of all, take a step back, we're in a much better place than we have been throughout much of this pandemic, right, more than 200 million Americans vaccinated. Hospitalizations are at their lowest in the entire pandemic since March of 2020. But you're absolutely right.
Case numbers are rising, driven by this BA.2 subvariant of Omicron. And we're going to watch this carefully. My expectation is that we're going to see cases go up, we're going to see cases go down. The key things, make sure that hospitalizations and deaths are not rising in any substantial way, looking at variants, paying very close attention.
Let's see where the next few months go. I'm concerned. I'm going to watch those numbers. But, at this point, I remain confident that we're going to get through this without disruption.
BASH: We were talking before the show about this figure, 50 percent increase in the last two weeks, and about how that last year would have made everybody go back inside.
But it is a different world now. And there are questions still that a lot of people have about, what do you do with information like that, that case counts are rising?
Yes, so, first of all, absolutely right. We would have reacted to this differently a year ago. Cases are still important. Infections are still important. We want to keep those infection numbers low. But they mean something different now than they did a year ago, right? They mean something different because people are vaccinated and boosted. They mean something different because we have a lot more therapeutics available.
So we are going to have to change our behavior and respond in a different way as the pandemic evolves. And I think, at this point, responding with care and caution, but not overreacting, is critical.
BASH: So one of the ways that we have changed our behavior, thanks to a federal court ruling this week, is, there are no mask mandates on planes, on trains, on buses.
You mentioned that deaths are at their lowest rates, hospitalization numbers are better. Most airlines and many transportation systems did follow suit and lift their mandates. So take aside the legal dispute right now. Do you believe a federal mask mandate on transportation is necessary?
JHA: So, let's go back to about 10 days ago, when the CDC scientists asked for a 15-day extension. Why did they ask for that? What did they say they needed?
All the stuff we have been talking about, new BA.2, cases are rising. And they said we need a 15-day time period to assess whether that is going to lead to a big spike in hospitalizations and deaths.
Any time you have a new variant, you want to know, how is it going to play out? That's what the CDC scientists asked for. I think it's really important in a pandemic to be able to do things like that, give scientists time to assess this. That was the basis for asking for that extension. I thought that was very reasonable. I wish we had been able to carry through on that.
BASH: I want you to listen to what Dr. Fauci told my colleague Kasie Hunt this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I was both surprised and disappointed, because those types of things really are the purview of the CDC. This is a public health issue.
We are concerned about that, about courts getting involved in things that are unequivocally a public health decision. I mean, this is a CDC issue. It should not have been a court issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Can you clarify that?
What is the Biden administration position on the judicial branch and its right to have influence over public health policy?
So, the judiciary plays a really important -- co-equal branch of government, right, very, very important. I believe that decisions around those should be driven by the scientists, right? Whether people should be unmasked or not, that certainly is what it means to follow the science and to look at what the scientific agencies are recommending.
Obviously, the judiciary has an important role to play. What I -- what you heard you heard out of the administration, out of the Department of Justice was the assessment that this was an incorrect decision, and the DOJ is now appealing that decision.
BASH: There is so much frustration among a lot of parents who have children under 5 that there is not a vaccine yet for them.
What's the holdup? And when will it get done?
JHA: Yes, I have a lot of friends with kids under 5. And I totally understand they're frustrated. I am frustrated on their behalf.
Throughout the whole pandemic, we have made these determinations based on when we have evidence and data. Right now, neither Moderna nor Pfizer have yet submitted an application for an emergency authorization. We expect Moderna to do that this week.
And then the FDA scientists are going to do what they have done throughout the whole pandemic, right, which is, they're going to evaluate the data, they are going to assess it for safety and effectiveness, and they're going to make a determination of when -- when it meets their standards, they're going to make that determination.
BASH: When do you think that could be?
JHA: It's really hard for me, sitting here, to prejudge that analysis. They will move very quickly, as they have throughout.
I have no expectations that there can be any major hiccups, that this should move quickly.
BASH: So you're talking -- it's going to be May next week. Are you talking the spring, the summer?
JHA: I mean, again, my expectation, it's certainly going to happen in the next couple of months.
BASH: People want to make summer plans.
JHA: I understand. I understand. And that's my -- my mental model, it's going to happen the next couple of months.
If you look at the timeline of how we have done this in the past, that's been the timeline. I'm expecting that to be again what happens here. Very hard to prejudge a specific date and time. We really have to let them do their work. We want to be fast, but we want to get it right.
BASH: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much. Again, nice to see you in person.
JHA: Nice to see you in person. Thank you.
BASH: And Florida's governor tells Disney, just stick to cartoons. What does the latest front in the culture war mean for the midterms?
We're going to talk about that and much more with our panel. They're here after a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did you tell House Republicans on a January 11 phone call that President Trump told you he agreed that he bore some responsibility for January 6?
MCCARTHY: I'm not sure what call you're talking about.
I've been very clear to the president. He bears responsibility for his words and actions. He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he needs to acknowledge that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. We're here with our panel.
Scott Jennings, I'm going to put this to you. You heard the contradiction there. What are the implications?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think there really any implications, because it doesn't seem like the House Republican Conference is revolting against Leader McCarthy. It doesn't sound like Donald Trump, from the reporting, is upset with Leader McCarthy.
And I think, if I were in his shoes, I would just pivot back to what the midterm is going to be about, inflation, crime, immigration, and those issues that matter most to the American people. I'm sure, as he gets beyond the election, and if Republicans win the House, ten people will try to make hay out of this.
But I don't get the feeling today that this was going to have any impact whatsoever on his attempt to become speaker after the Republicans win.
BASH: Alyssa Farah Griffin, you worked in that House for a Republican member. You worked in the Trump White House.
You heard that President Trump -- Scott referred to this -- told "The Wall Street Journal" he's not mad at McCarthy. "I think it's all a big compliment, frankly."
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think, right now, Donald Trump is actually kind of relishing the fact that he's gotten people to flip so much since where they were on January 7.
I would disagree a tiny bit with Scott. It does not have any impact on the midterms. You're right about that. But I think -- I was in the House in 2015 when McCarthy was denied the speakership by the right- most flank. That right-most flank is going to be much larger after these midterms.
And they're going to use every piece of leverage they have either to get one of their own into leadership or to get some real extractions out of him. So my prediction is, you're going to see about a year of Kevin McCarthy having to really suck up to the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Paul Gosars of the world to keep those people in line, which is unfortunate for countless reasons.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), FORMER MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Well, it remains to be seen.
So we have heard these tapes leaked. Who knows if there will be more. And, also, it's not as if Donald Trump takes a position and always sticks with it. So we may see him wake up tomorrow and change his mind.
But I just wish that Republicans could be more brave in public. It reminded me of a meeting that I had with someone over in our state Senate, who told me, don't you dare leave here and tweet and say we had a good meeting.
If only we could talk in public about how we get along and how we work across party lines, ten I think the country would be in much better shape.
BASH: A Republican said that to you in Georgia?
BOTTOMS: A Republican leader who shall remain nameless.
XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
First of all, I think one of the lessons is also, don't lie. I mean, we have seen this time and time again in crisis communications. Once you lie, and there is a tape of any sort, then you're in bigger trouble.
But the reality is, is the hypocrisy from the Republican Party, saying one thing in private, ten saying something else in public, is just -- I mean, do you really want to be seen like that to the American people, when this issue shouldn't be political?
BASH: Xochitl, I say this with respect. You sound like a Democrat.
BASH: Because what Scott just said is, there is no lesson here. It doesn't matter.
JENNINGS: Well, the question is, what happens next?
I mean, there are some crisis communications lessons to be learned here, perhaps.
BASH: But are there? Is this even a crisis?
JENNINGS: Sure. Well...
BASH: And isn't it a crisis that it's not a crisis?
JENNINGS: I mean -- I mean, it overtook a couple of news cycles.
But the question is, six months from now, eight months from now, a year from now, is this going to have any impact on his seeking this? And I just don't personally believe that it is, because his constituents are the House Republican Conference. His constituency is not, with all due respect to JMart at "The New York Times."
And so his constituents don't seem upset about it in this moment. And if they don't get that way over time, and if Republicans win a big victory, I just don't see them holding them it against him.
FARAH GRIFFIN: I do think it's emblematic of a bigger problem in the Trump era, which is for the last five-plus years, Republicans have said something very different privately than they have said publicly.
I'm somebody -- and I'm sure I was guilty of it at some point as well, but where you have so many elected officials that I talk to who privately will say they don't want to see him in office, they're tired of what he was doing, the way that he's conducted himself since leaving, but then publicly are going to stand with him.
I think that's problematic. And it's revelatory to the public. They don't really fall for that. I think that this will have an impact over time.
BASH: Let's talk about what's happening in Florida and how that impacts politics across the country.
Ron DeSantis, the governor there, signed a law stripping Disney of its special status over criticism of Florida's law, which bans certain discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Just a few weeks ago, right at this table, I asked a different Republican governor, Larry Hogan of Maryland, about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): The whole thing seems like just a crazy fight. He wants to criticize Disney for expressing how they feel about that -- that bill. I mean, they have every right to.
We have this thing called freedom of speech. They can come out and say what they think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: A former mayor of a southern city, do you think that there is something there, that Republicans are kind of grabbing on to that is politically potent?
BOTTOMS: Yes, I think this is a very dangerous area.
We saw it in Georgia. When there was criticism from Delta Air Lines over the new voter bill, there was an attempt to take away $35 million in gas tax credits. Now, the difference, Disney World can't just pick up and leave Florida.
But when you target corporations who have choices, they can move their headquarters anywhere in the world, then I think that it is a very dangerous path for the Republican Party, especially the party that claims to be pro-business. And you're stifling the ability of people to express an opinion.
And what we see happening in Florida is the first, I'm sure, of many steps, as we have seen in Georgia, and we are seeing it across the country. BASH: A Democratic Michigan state senator went viral this week for forcefully pushing back against these Republican efforts. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. MALLORY MCMORROW (D-MI): The very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense.
We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Is that how Democrats should react across the board?
HINOJOSA: Well, I think that Democrats should call-out the fact that Republicans continue to focus on culture wars, instead of, for example, fighting the pandemic, fighting Russian aggression, ensuring that we are doing everything we can to bring down costs.
If Republicans want to make this an election about culture wars, then they're going to lose the midterms. One thing that Republicans should look at is the Democratic playbook after we lost everything in 2016. Democrats weren't out there fighting culture wars.
Democrats were out there running on health care. They were running on issues to make people's lives better. That's how we won the House, the Senate and the White House. And if Republicans don't do that, ten they're not going to win.
JENNINGS: Republicans are really unhappy with some of these corporations in Georgia and Florida and elsewhere who wade into these issues with aggressive stupidity, and that the CEOs of these companies who call up like Ron DeSantis, like the CEO of Disney did, and haven't read the law.
They buy into the narrative about a law, just like Delta and Coca-Cola and MLB, whoever, bought into the narrative about the Georgia voting law. They didn't bother to listen to their people or whoever about what's actually in the law.
And so I'm of two minds. I'm a little nervous about conservatives using government to punish people. But, at the other end of it, I think somebody needs to be taught a lesson here, because what they portrayed the Florida law as was not what at all it really does.
And the CEO of Disney kicked open the saloon door here and started shooting from the hip, and he winged the bartender and the piano player without realizing where he was. And Ron DeSantis, the sheriff, came in and said, not in my town. I'm sympathetic.
BOTTOMS: But you don't think there should be criticism of a voter law that says you can't hand out water in 90-degree weather when people are standing in line to vote in Georgia?
JENNINGS: No. It is easier to vote in Georgia than it is in Delaware, than it is in New York, than it is in all these other states.
The way the voter law was portrayed in Georgia by the media, the way the voter -- like this don't -- so-called don't say gay bill was portrayed in Florida was a complete lie. It was a farce. It was a narrative.
And these CEOs got into a situation that then got out of their control. And I would think they would use this as a learning experience.
FARAH GRIFFIN: But I will say, I think it's the wrong focus for Republicans.
The culture wars are undoubtedly very animating for a certain segment of the base. But we have inflation to run on, high fuel prices under President Biden, an economic struggle that the entire country is feeling. That's where we should be focused. That brings out the broadest swathe of voters.
JENNINGS: Yes, but if you're Ron DeSantis, where he's an expert, this man has all the right enemies.
And I don't know if it's by luck or smarts, but it doesn't matter, because he has picked all the right enemies. And this is the right enemy for him.
BASH: We're going to have to leave it there.
BASH: We have a lot more to talk about. We will get back next week.
Up next: the man who took on Vladimir Putin and lived.
Stay with us.
BASH: This coming week is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Israel, but commemorated worldwide.
A musical now on stage in New York is all about that, remembering or, in this case, teaching about a very famous group of comedians and singers you have never heard of thanks to the Nazis. The story's relevance today is chilling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These six brilliantly talented young men not only found musical harmony, but they found personal harmony, even in their relationships.
A Jewish fellow marries a Gentile woman. A Gentile member of the group marries a Jewish woman. It was harmonious in every way, standing in stark contrast to what was happening in the world around them.
BARRY MANILOW, MUSICIAN: We don't know them in America, but they were so famous that the story is even weirder, because what happened to them? They just disappeared. All their records were destroyed, destroyed. All their movies, 12 movies were burned.
They just annihilated them, after being so tremendously popular around the world.
BASH (voice-over): Harmony's relevance now is chilling, with war raging in Ukraine, innocent lives disrupted by hate.
(on camera): Doing this musical now, with everything going on not just in the world, but with anti-Semitism on the rise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unprecedented new levels of anti-Semitism, yes.
I think one of the many joys about doing this show now is that it seems to be resonating...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... more than ever. And that's remarkable that, after everything we have been through, that it's landing at this time, but...
MANILOW: But it sounds very current.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds very current.
BASH: And you can watch my special "Being Barry Manilow" on demand.
Tonight, the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Putin and lived to expose the truth. The Sundance Award-winning CNN film "Navalny" premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.