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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Interview With Fmr. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA); Interview With U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 05, 2022 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Unconscionable. As families mourn, children lost in Uvalde, more Americans die in mass shootings.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How much more carnage are we willing to accept?

TAPPER: With just days to come to an agreement are senators any closer to a deal?

I will speak exclusively with the lead Democratic negotiator, Senator Chris Murphy, next.

And economic hurricane. As CEOs warn Americans that more hurt is coming, the Biden administration admits they got it wrong.

JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take.

TAPPER: So what's their plan to fix it?

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo joins me to discuss in moments.

Plus: prime-time event. The January 6 Committee will finally pull back the curtain, but, with Americans' attention focused elsewhere, can they make their case?

FMR. REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA): The biggest challenge we have is, how do we compete with a story of fantasy?

I will speak with former Republican Congressman and senior adviser to the January 6 Committee Denver Riggleman ahead.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is angry at the lack of leadership.

Senate negotiators say this will be the critical week to see if they can reach a deal to do anything to respond to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, that took the lives of 31 Americans. The talks are intensifying, as President Biden delivered a rare prime-time address Thursday, saying, enough is enough, and outlining a series of measures to try to stem the violence, including a ban on some kinds of semiautomatic weapons.

But, even with good intentions from some on both sides, the passage of anything, the chances still seem remote. And, as lawmakers deliberate, Americans continue to be killed daily in this uniquely American epidemic.

Overnight, at least three people were killed and 11 wounded after a mass shooting on South Street in Philadelphia, one of the city's most popular areas for restaurants and bars.

And, on a personal basis, that's an area less than a mile from where I grew up. That's the street where I would go to get a slice or watch a movie, another community traumatized by gun violence, one of six mass shootings this weekend, leaving a total of six dead and more than a dozen injured, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.

I will be honest. It can be frustrating to report on and fall in negotiations that always seem to go nowhere, as more and more Americans continue to be killed. But the most meaningful change does need to come from Washington.

So let's begin with one of the two men at the center of the Senate negotiations on gun safety, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Senator Murphy, thank you so much for being here.


TAPPER: I appreciate it.

So, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants a deal this week. And let's be honest. The issue here is, what are Republican senators and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, what are those 51 individuals, what are they willing to agree to?

How close are you? What are the sticking points.

MURPHY: So I have never been part of negotiations as serious as these. There are more Republicans at the table talking about changing our gun laws and investing in mental health than at any time since Sandy Hook.

Now, I have also been part of many failed negotiations in the past. So I'm sober-minded about our chances. We're talking about a meaningful change in our gun laws, a major investment in mental health, perhaps some money for school security, that would make a difference.

On the table is red flag laws, changes to our background check system to improve the existing system, a handful of other items that will make a difference. Can we get there by the end of next week, as Senator Schumer has requested? I don't know. But as late as last night, we were engaged in conversations about

trying to put a package together, because I think Republicans realize how scared parents and kids are across this country. I think they realize that the answer this time cannot be nothing, that it's frankly a test of democracy, it's a test of the federal government as to whether we can deliver at a moment of just fierce anxiety amongst the American public.

So we're closer than ever before. Let's see if we land it.

TAPPER: So, more than 250 Texas conservative gun enthusiasts and donors have a full-page ad in today's "Dallas Morning News" endorsing your negotiations with their home senator, Senator John Cornyn, and calling for red flag laws, which you mentioned, expanding background checks, which you mentioned, raising the age to buy a gun, a semiautomatic, I assume, to 21.

It's already 21 for a handgun.

MURPHY: Right.

TAPPER: You didn't mention that.

Just a few days ago, I have to say, Senator Cornyn tweeted that Second Amendment restrictions are -- quote -- "not going to happen," he said.

So what does that mean, not going to happen? Does that mean none of the things you're negotiating are going to happen?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, I guess I also agree that we're not going to do anything that compromises people's Second Amendment rights. We're not going to do anything that compromises the ability of a law-abiding American to be able to buy a weapon.


What we're talking about is trying to make sure that dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals don't have their hands on weapons. Senator Cornyn has also talked about his interest in taking a look at how we access juvenile records for these young men who tend to be 18 to 21, committing these mass murders, to make sure that they can't get their hands on a weapon if they have had problems with the law in the past.

So, I think there's agreement amongst the negotiators that we're going to take some commonsense steps that do not compromise Second Amendment rights. We're likely going to pair it with some significant mental health spending, which will make a difference as well.

And I think everything Senator Cornyn has said is consistent with the negotiations we're having. Listen, we're not going to do everything I want. We're not going to put a piece of legislation the table that's going to ban assault weapons, or we're not going to pass comprehensive background checks.

But, right now, people in this country want us to make progress. They just don't want the status quo to continue for another 30 years.

TAPPER: Is raising the age limit, as these Texas conservatives say they want to happen from 18 to 21 -- because, disproportionately, crimes committed with semiautomatic rifles, I have seen statistics that show, are disproportionately committed by people, men between 18 to 21.

Is that on the table?

MURPHY: I think, right now, we're trying to figure out what can get 60 to 70 votes in the Senate.

It is true that the reason why 18-to-21-year-olds are banned from buying pistols is that, at the time, that was seen as the most dangerous weapon that you could buy. Today, we're realizing AR-15s are in fact the most dangerous weapon that an 18-to-21-year-old can buy.


TAPPER: Although, just...


MURPHY: Right now, we need to find what has 60 votes.


I mean, most of the -- when you look at the gun statistics, still, most of the gun deaths are suicides...

MURPHY: Right.

TAPPER: ... and most of the homicides are still committed with handguns, not AR-15-style weapons, correct?

MURPHY: Well, and that's why the red flag law is probably the most important here.

And it's not just about getting more states to pass red flag laws. It's actually about helping states implement red flag laws. So, what we're talking about is not just providing incentives for states to pass new laws, but helping fund existing red flag laws, so that more individuals who are contemplating suicides can have their weapons temporarily taken from them to save their lives.

TAPPER: So we had a great report done by Leyla Santiago, our correspondent in Florida, who did -- who looked at what happened in Florida after they passed red flag laws after the Parkland shooting in 2018.

And she had I think it was the Pasco County sheriff talking about how effective they worked. And it had me thinking, why doesn't -- why don't you just take all the laws that the Florida governor and the Florida -- and the -- who was a Republican -- and the Republican-led legislature in Florida, all those laws that they passed after Parkland -- and they did a lot. There was a waiting period. They raised the age from 18 to 21, red

flag laws, hardening schools, so that they were safer, et cetera, et cetera. Why not just take that make that the template? That Republican governor who signed it is now the Republican senator who's leading the charge for Republican Senate elections, Rick Scott?

Why not just take that and say, this is a great law that Republicans passed in Florida, let's make it national?

MURPHY: Well, Senator Scott, then-Governor Scott, passed that law in Florida because it was the right thing to do, but also because Republican saw it as good politics.

And we have to make the case for Republicans that, right now, this is good politics, that, if they want to get reelected, then they cannot stand in the way of the commonsense changes that we're talking about right now.

TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. We will be right back.



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

We're back with Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy.

Apologies. We had some technical issues with his microphone that have since been remedied.

So, let's go back to what we were talking about, which was the fact that Republicans in Florida after the Parkland shooting passed a whole sweeping mess of reforms. And my question is, why don't you just take those and make that the template and say, look, this was -- this is Donald Trump's home state?

Rick Scott, the head of your Senate campaign reelection committee, signed these into law when he was governor. Republicans in the legislature in this very pro-gun state, they were on board. And why not just make Republicans vote for that?

MURPHY: So I think, as I mentioned before, we're broadly trying to figure out what has 60 votes.

But I think the template for Florida is the right one, which is, do some significant mental health investment, some school safety money, and some modest, but impactful changes in gun laws. That's the kind of package we're putting together right now.

That's the kind of package I think can pass the Senate.

TAPPER: Although I would say that Florida did raise the age you can purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. It doesn't sound like that's going to be in the package you're talking about. MURPHY: I mean, again, right now, we're trying to discover what can

get to 60 votes.

But I will say this. As Senator Cornyn has said, there is interest in taking a look at that age range, 18 to 21, and doing what is necessary to make sure that we aren't giving a weapon to anybody that has during their younger years a mental health history, a juvenile record.

Often, those juvenile records aren't accessible when they walk into the gun store buying as an adult. So we're having a conversation about that specific population, 18 to 21, and how to make sure that only the right people, law-abiding citizens, are getting their hands on weapons.

TAPPER: In 2016, after the Pulse shooting in Florida, the Senate voted on four gun bills. The two Republican proposals would have made minor improvements to the background check system and would have allowed the government to temporarily block someone on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun.

You voted against both because you thought they did not go far enough. In retrospect, do you wish you would voted yes?

MURPHY: No, because we had much better legislation the floor at the time. So it was in many ways a choice between the two.


We have since then passed some of those improvements to the background check system. That's really the only gun legislation that's passed in the last 10 years. And I'm glad that, this time around, we have far more Republicans that are willing to work together.

We don't need to have competing proposals on the Senate floor next week or the week after. We have to have one proposal that can get 60, 70 votes from both parties. And so that's why, right now, we aren't exchanging offers between both sides. We are writing a piece of legislation together, collaboratively, so that we can avoid what happened back in 2016.

TAPPER: Do -- does it have to happen this week? Is this do-or-die week? And would President Biden getting involved in negotiations help?

MURPHY: I think the Senate needs to do this ourselves.

I have talked to the White House every single day since these negotiations began. But, right now, the Senate needs to handle these negotiations. I think, this week, we need to have concepts to present to our colleagues. I don't know that we're going to vote this coming week, but we need to make decisions on whether or not we have a sustainable package in the next five days.

TAPPER: I know you're prepared to fail. You have been through this for I don't even know how long now, years and years, more than decades -- more than a decade.

Is it going to work? Are you going to get there?

MURPHY: I'm more confident than ever that we're going to get there, but I'm also more anxious about failure this time around.

When I was in Connecticut last week, I have never seen the look on parents' faces that I did. There's just a deep, deep fear for our children right now, and also a fear that government is so fundamentally broken that it can't put politics aside to guarantee the one thing that matters most to adults in this country, the physical safety of their children.

And so I think the possibility of success is better than ever before. But I think the consequences of failure for our entire democracy are more significant than ever.

TAPPER: All right, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, thanks so much for being with us.

MURPHY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

President Biden is heading back to D.C. right now.

He's facing another challenge, an unsteady economy. Gas prices are now at nearly $10 a gallon in Mendocino, California, the most expensive gas in the country, as the Biden administration struggles to get inflation under control and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admits she got it wrong when she said the problem would be manageable.

What is the administration doing to combat inflation?


TAPPER: And joining me now is the secretary of commerce, Gina Raimondo.

Secretary Raimondo, thanks for joining us.

So, you heard Secretary Yellen this week said she got it wrong about inflation. In July, you told Bloomberg that inflation would be temporary, about a year ago.

As recently as six months ago, you were calling inflation a -- quote -- "short-term problem," not a long-term problem. So, you got it wrong too.

GINA RAIMONDO, U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, good morning. Good to be with you.

So, clearly, we are and Americans are struggling with inflation, but I don't think anyone predicted Putin's war in Ukraine or various other things that have happened that have been unexpected. I still think we will get inflation under control. We just have to stick with it and see it through. You know, I think it -- it's worth noting that gas prices are up $1.40

a gallon since Putin moved troops into Ukraine. So, the president and our team is doing everything we possibly can to get inflation under control.

The reality is, the cause of this inflation is the supply chain problems that were caused by COVID we're still struggling with. Putin's war is driving the price of food and gas up, and that's -- you know, we can't deny that. We know Americans are struggling, and demand changes. You know, demand continues to be strong post-COVID in ways that were different than pre-COVID.

So, we are committed to it, and, most important, the Fed. I mean, obviously, the Fed monetary policy has much bigger tools than any administration to get inflation under control.

And you heard Larry Summers, a top economist, just yesterday saying you're starting to see -- you know, you're starting to see inflation come down.

TAPPER: Well, all due respect, Madam Secretary, Larry Summers, a year ago, more than a year ago, was saying that the Biden administration was putting too much money into the economy, flooding too much money into the economy, and he was concerned about inflation

And Biden administration officials said that Larry Summers was wrong. And it turned out Larry Summers was right.

RAIMONDO: I don't really agree with that characterization.

Look, the reality is, I was just in Europe a couple of weeks ago. Gas there in France is $10 a gallon. and -- right? And they didn't have an American Rescue Plan like we did.

I shudder to think, Jake, what we'd be living through right now if we didn't have the American Rescue Plan. Remember, that was the money for vaccinations, which actually allowed us to get everybody back to work. That was the money for emergency rental relief.


I was the governor of Rhode Island before this job. When I took over as governor, we were deep into the -- quote, unquote -- "recovery" from the stimulus last time, which was anemic. When I took over, unemployment in my state was 7 or 8 percent. So, I can't -- you know, when the president -- when President Biden took over, we had 18 million people collecting unemployment insurance.

That's down more than 90 percent right now.


RAIMONDO: We have a strong economy now. People are working.

Inflation's a problem. I will grant you that, and we will get it under control because we're going to stick with it until we do. TAPPER: Well, when do you think you're going to be able to get it

under control?

Because there are some economists, for example, as well as voices inside the Biden administration, who say one thing you could do is to lift Trump era tariffs on China, another country.

Now, you previously have said that those tariffs have been effective, but do you still believe that these tariffs should remain in place, even if it means those companies passing the costs onto American consumers?

Wouldn't that be one small fix that the Biden administration could -- could make?

RAIMONDO: It's a great question, Jake.

And it -- we are looking at it. In fact, the president has asked us on his team to analyze that. And so we're in the process of doing that for him, and he will have to make that decision.

I will say it depends on what we're talking about and what kinds of products. So, for example, steel and aluminum, we've decided to keep some of those tariffs, because we need to protect American workers and we need to protect our steel industry. That's a matter of national security.

There are other products, household goods, bicycles, et cetera, and it may make sense. And I know the president is looking at that.

Here's what I do know. President Biden gets up every day and goes to bed every night thinking about, what can we do to get a lid on inflation? And anyone who brings him a good idea that he thinks will help American families, he's open to doing it.

TAPPER: The Abbott plant at the center of the baby formula shortage has officially restarted operations.

President Biden this week said he didn't learn about the severity of the infant formula shortage until April. But problems first emerged back at the Abbott plant back in October of 2021. An industry executive said they knew how bad this could get when the plant closed in February.

You're the secretary of Commerce. When did you first learn of this problem?

RAIMONDO: I first learned about it a couple of months ago.

So, this is -- this is a difficult issue, but...

TAPPER: So, April?

RAIMONDO: Yes, probably April.

I'm not involved in the administration's response here, I should say. But I think they're doing a very good job. As soon as they learned that this could be a severe shortage, they got on top of it.

But, fundamentally, Jake, this is about safety. Again, I'm a mom. I have had little babies. My heart goes out to moms and dads trying to get formula who can't have it. But, at the end of the day, the worst outcome would be if the FDA hadn't shut it down and kids got sick.

So, as you said, the plant opened up again yesterday. The president is taking extraordinary measures to have baby formula flown in. And they will stick with this until -- until it's back to normal.

TAPPER: We're talking about two critical issues here that directly affect the American people where they live where the Biden administration looks like it was caught flat-footed, inflation and baby formula, not to mention the record gas prices, which were hurt by the war in Ukraine, no doubt, but that's not the only reason why they're so high.

Why does it seem the Biden administration is consistently playing clean-up on these problems that are playing out exactly as many experts forecast they would, instead of heading them off before they become a crisis?

RAIMONDO: So, again, I mean, that's one way to look at it.

But I want to go back to the basic facts, right? I was the governor of Rhode Island during COVID. It's a state of a million people. And we had over 100,000 people collecting unemployment. We had people getting kicked out of their homes because they couldn't afford the rent.

Because of the president's leadership, we are -- America is back to work. Wages are increasing. The labor market is strong. People have not been thrown out of their homes. We are not seeing the anemic and very painful economic recovery that we experienced in 2009, '10, '11, '12 and '13 after the last economic slowdown.

Yes, inflation's a problem. In no way do I want to minimize that. The Fed is independent.


RAIMONDO: They are taking action. And you're already starting to see that.

But, fundamentally, what we have here is a robust economic recovery. And I think that's in large part due to the president's leadership.


TAPPER: So, you've called the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage a -- quote -- "huge national security issue." I know you've been focused on it a lot.

The CEO of Intel says he thinks that shortage could continue at least until 2024. Do you agree with that? And what can be done to fix this supply chain crisis?

RAIMONDO: Yes, unfortunately, I do agree with that.

Again, it's a story of demand, right? The whole economy went digital. Everything digital requires chips. And so demand is through the roof.

The only thing that can be done -- what we're doing immediately is working with companies to help them increase their production, increase transparency between the suppliers and the consumers. But those are all short-term fixes.

There is one solution. It is not a hard solution. Congress needs to act and pass the CHIPS bill. I don't know why they're delaying. It's a national security issue. There are hundreds of semiconductor chips in every Javelin launching system, in every piece of military equipment. It's bipartisan.


RAIMONDO: You know, Mitch McConnell voted for it in the Senate. It's bipartisan. Let's get this done and deliver for the American people, by the way, create a lot of jobs in the process.

TAPPER: Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, thank you so much for your time today.

RAIMONDO: Thanks, Jake.


TAPPER: The January 6 hearings starting this week will review new information about what happened that day, we're told.

The Republican who helped investigate is here with -- to share something that shocked him.

That's next.



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

After more than a year, the January 6 Select House Committee will begin revealing their findings to the public with a series of hearings. It begins this Thursday in prime time.

So, how much does the committee know that we do not currently?

Joining me now, a former Republican congressman who advised the January 6 Committee for eight months on the inside, former Congressman, Republican congressman, Denver Riggleman.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

RIGGLEMAN: Great to be here. TAPPER: So, I understand there's a lot that you can't say because they're saving it for the committee, but there is some stuff you can tell us.

For instance, what did Donald Trump know about the insurrection and when did he know it?

RIGGLEMAN: I think, with some of the data that we have seen, that's what the committee is going to be able to reveal, right?

And I know that a lot of individuals are worried about the -- just the six hearings, but they're going to be very concise. I think they're actually going to be exciting, when they can press that.

But I believe, when they do the bottom line up front, it's sort of the military saying, when they do it at the front.

TAPPER: Bluff, yes.

RIGGLEMAN: Yes, the bluff, right?

When they lay that out up front, I think people are going to be absolutely surprised how much was known with multiple groups. And I think that's what's going to be exciting to see the committee. There's some very talented investigators behind the doors, and even with our teams and things like that and what they found, but, again, the investigators going through the thousands of interviews that they have and all the data and the videos.

I think -- I do think they're going to be very successful in those six -- I think in those six hearings.

TAPPER: And will there be anything resembling a smoking gun, something that proves that Donald Trump or somebody around him knew that what happened January 6 was not a spontaneous outcry by his supporters, but was a planned attempt to get them to stop counting the electoral votes?

RIGGLEMAN: I think, when you look at the totality of the evidence -- and some of these are my personal opinions, right?


RIGGLEMAN: When you look at the totality of the evidence, it's pretty apparent that, at some points, President Trump knew what was going on, obviously, right?

I mean, if you're having meetings within the White House, if you're having individuals that you're paying out there doing lawsuits, the 64, 65 lawsuits, if you're pushing this sort of lie even on Twitter and social media, which is very important, which I think the committee is going to concentrate on, if you look at what's happening and the message that's being pushed by President Trump himself on social media and other individuals, you start to see this pipeline of information that's very damaging and is pushing things like Stop the Steal. So, again, I think the committee is going to be able to wrap that up.

And what I hope the American people do -- and this is -- listen, I had to give command briefings when I was an intelligence officer, and you're trying to get the generals' attention.

But, also, the American people have to look at this from the beginning, take their notes, and understand that the committee has to build a case in a very solid, facts-based way. There's not going to be a lot of partisan whining or screaming. The investigators behind the door are nonpartisan individuals.

They're going to present this case in a very cogent way. But the American people need to -- they need to take notes.

TAPPER: So it doesn't sound like you're saying there's a smoking gun, other than the entire case will be a smoking gun, but no specific, like, we're coming to Washington on this day to overturn the election, Donald Trump signs off, like...

RIGGLEMAN: Well, that probably is going to be very difficult to even find, based on the limited authorities of Congress...

TAPPER: Right.

RIGGLEMAN: ... as far as getting data and things like that.

However, there's multiple groups involved. And I think that's what's exciting about the hearings, is, they're going to be able to put the multiple groups together. Remember, there's different investigative teams that were looking at different parts of this the whole time.

TAPPER: Right.

RIGGLEMAN: Then they have had to merge that.

And that has been the -- I think the biggest challenge for the committee, is, they didn't -- I don't know if even I -- and I have been in data before. I have never seen this much data, right? It's absolutely incredible.

And the fact is, without the talent behind the door for the committee, I don't know if they could have parsed it.

TAPPER: So, do you think January 6 was an attempted coup? Your opinion, was this an attempted coup?

RIGGLEMAN: Personal opinion?



TAPPER: It was an attempted coup?

RIGGLEMAN: Yes. And if you just go by the definition of coup in the dictionary, if you

look at the groups that were involved, I just have a unique perspective, because we can look at certain things.

TAPPER: By President Trump, just to be clear?



RIGGLEMAN: Yes, I mean, attempted coup.

I think, when you look at the people around him and the fact that there's awareness or they're talking about things that are -- let's be honest, they're blatantly untrue. They're propaganda.

And I have just had the good fortune -- it's actually the awful fortune -- of being involved with conspiracy theories, as you know.


TAPPER: Right.

RIGGLEMAN: We talked about this back in 2019, 2020.

I did this well before the committee was doing it. So, I have been looking at this data for a long time. So, it gives me probably a unique perspective that was even pre-committee on what we were seeing with disinformation.

And I think that's a real threat to the American -- I think it's a real threat to America. But I also believe it's a real challenge to try those -- to try to control those multiple media channels that are sort of mainlining this insanity into people's heads.

TAPPER: Your former Republican colleague Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is the vice chair of this committee, she said this about the Republican Party, airing this weekend. Take a listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We have too many people now in the Republican Party who are not taking their responsibilities seriously and who have pledged their allegiance and loyalty to Donald Trump.

It is contrary to everything conservatives believe to embrace a personality cult. And yet that is what so many in my party are doing today.


TAPPER: A personality cult. Do you agree with that characterization?

RIGGLEMAN: I do. I do.

TAPPER: That too many Republicans, it's a personality cult, not a party?


And I got to see that firsthand, as you know, with our team and the text messages. I get to see that firsthand.

TAPPER: Can I just ask you? I'm sorry to interrupt, but we're running out of time.


TAPPER: And I want to ask you.

You were a Republican congressman. Do you still consider yourself a Republican?

RIGGLEMAN: I think the party left me some time ago. I don't.

And I think that's something that I have -- I have had to grapple with even behind the scenes. What I have seen behind the scenes has even pushed me further away, that the party has moved away from conservative principles to this cult of personality that Liz Cheney is talking about.

She's absolutely correct. And when you see it behind the door, when you see the data, when you see the investigation, when you see those smart people and what they come up with Jake, it's absolutely stunning, that cult of personality, but also the belief systems, that I don't think any real conservative could follow at any point. It's absolutely insane what people have sort of put their arms around.

And if you look at Stop the Steal, if you look at some of the COVID issues with the vaccination conspiracy theories, when you look at all the things in total, the fact is that a lot that has been pushed by people around the president. It has been pushed by people who support the president.

And seeing this, the actual words on paper, through private types of things or through public types of things, is absolutely shocking. And there's no way that I can continue in that vein.

TAPPER: All right, former Republican and former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, thank you so much for being here. Good to see you.

RIGGLEMAN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: You can watch the hearings live on CNN and get all the best recordings and analysis.

It begins this Thursday evening on CNN.

A Republican senator being pushed by his constituents to act on guns, but is public pressure actually changing minds on Capitol Hill?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The answer is not to do nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get rid of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. There are things that we can do.





SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): You're going to still have AR-15s, even if you stop selling them right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you ban them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The answer is not to do nothing.


GRASSLEY: Whatever we do through the Cornyn/Murphy cooperative effort to make schools safe and to do what you can with guns, that probably would not get 60 votes.


TAPPER: Americans are getting heated over guns, but might that translate into action in Washington?

Our panel is here.

Scott, let me start with you, because I'm not sure if Senator Grassley there was saying that a ban on AR-15-style weapons would not get 60 votes, or what Murphy and Cornyn are trying to do is not going to get 60 votes. Kind of unclear there.

But is there -- is it possible something will get done here?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's very possible. I don't think it's likely anything happens this week. In fact, I think they will probably need most of the June work period to get that done.

I also think that Senate Republicans are likely to try to go for something that could get 70, 75 votes. I don't think there's much interest, candidly, in getting all Democrats and then just the bare...

TAPPER: Just 10, yes.


And so that likely means, what, that you're looking at something that's very targeted, that's very germane to the tragedies that have happened, and that, candidly, would not impede or impact law-abiding citizens.

And so I think there's something in there to be done. I think it's going to have to get more votes than 60. I think it's going to take more time. But I do think the political impetus is there to act.

TAPPER: So, red flag laws, Congresswoman Escobar, theoretically could have an effect, although, if it's only people that never broke the law before, I don't know that that's the case, right?

I mean, red flag laws are supposed to take into account a person's stability, and not just their legal record. I know that you have a list of things that you would like to have happen, but do you think it's -- do you -- are you willing to take what you can get at this point?


Yes, I'm willing to take what I can get. But I can guarantee you, just based on the conversation that's happening in the Senate, it will not be enough. I know the focus is on schools and mental health, and that's important.

But in El Paso in 2019, the massacre was at a Walmart. So are we going to harden every single public facility, or are we going to get to the underlying issue, which is guns? That is the foundation of every massacre. And when you look at what Republicans want to do, I want Americans to look at the state of Texas, because it is the test case for what Republicans want, which is solving the gun violence problem with more guns.

And what that's done is made Texas the number one state for mass shootings. And we have got to attack the gun situation, and not just the school situation.


GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: Well, there's plenty of room under the Constitution, under the Second Amendment, for reasonable gun regulation, including especially regulation of AR-15s, which are tantamount or close to M-16s that the Supreme Court in Heller said could be banned.

So, there are so many reasonable alternatives between doing nothing and complete -- completely banning all weapons that are within the constitutional realm. I don't understand -- I have never understood why that stuff hasn't passed.

TAPPER: Ashley, there seems to be something of a disconnect between people saying they support stricter gun regulations, which we see this in poll after poll, and how they actually vote in elections.

Take a look at this breakdown from "The New York Times" on support for background checks in various states. The expected support is always -- here in California in 2016, 91 percent expected support in California, but it ends up being 63 percent. It still passed, though, but if you look at Maine in 2016, 83 percent expected support, 48 percent actual support. That

measure did not pass.

What is the reason for the disconnect? Obviously, polling is not necessarily of voters. It's the public. Is it just people who feel this way don't turn out to vote?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a mixture of things.

It makes me really sad to hear like we have to take what we can get after 19 children were murdered and 10 people in a grocery store. I was a junior in high school during Columbine. My entire adult life, people have failed us that have been elected to protect me, to do what's best for our country.

And so I think, as we look towards the midterms, yes, the economy will be a big conversation, but we need to have candidates going to doors, having conversations, talking about the real social issues that are plaguing our streets. And it's not just mass shootings. It's violence in urban communities. It's a chronic disease that is plaguing our country.

And I think -- I think -- I do fundamentally believe this time could be different because of the timing of these massacres and when the midterms -- if we can connect the dots for voters, I think they will actually vote for candidates who won't just take what we can get, but actually give us what we deserve.

TAPPER: Well, look, at first-time Republican Congressman Chris Jacobs from New York.

After the shooting in Buffalo, he said his mind was open to some gun restrictions. And then he announced just a few days ago he's announced he's ending his reelection bid because he got so much negative blowback from Republicans. And then he was going to face a reelection fight. Take a listen.


REP. CHRIS JACOBS (R-NY): If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated. For the Republicans, it came -- it became pretty apparent to me over the last week that that issue is gun control, any gun control.


TAPPER: What do you think, Scott?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, the Second Amendment is obviously one of those core sort of pillar issues for most conservatives and most Republicans. And their default position is to is to defend it.

That doesn't mean there aren't, as George said, policy issues inside of that. And there have been some things that have happened incrementally along the way.

I think -- I think what Republicans are looking for here are things that are germane to what happened, but also -- and I'm glad you brought this up -- because there's more than just mass shootings going on.

TAPPER: Right.

JENNINGS: Eighty percent of murders in this country are habitual offenders. They're out of jail unit for six, seven arrests.

And I don't hear a lot of people talking about that right now, that we have mass shootings, and the school issue is front and center. Most of the murders in this country -- we had a big shooting in Philadelphia. We don't know what happened last night. But most of these kinds of gun crimes get lost.


TAPPER: Well, most of them are also not AR-15s. Most of them are handguns.

JENNINGS: But -- right.

ALLISON: But, Scott, you say defend the Second Amendment.

What about protecting the people? What about -- they're just words on paper if they don't actually protect the people who live in this country. Democracy, you have to -- you have to -- voters want more than just rhetoric.

And I get what you're saying. Yes, handguns are a problem. And we need to -- and people are talking about it. The Biden administration put out reforms around community violence prevention to make sure it's not just like putting more police on the street. It's about actually dealing with mental health, dealing with issues of homelessness. It's a comprehensive approach.

It's not just about defending the First Amendment. It's about protecting the people that actually put you in there to serve. I just -- it's so frustrating when it's just about the Second Amendment and not about the people.

ESCOBAR: Yes, absolutely.

And, Ashley, I want to touch on something you mentioned about the fact that it's sad that we have to take what we can get. And that's true for the moment. But I think it's important that we -- that we take action.

But I think, to your point -- and this is to a point that I have been making in all of my public statements -- it ultimately comes down to the American people and this November. It's not a question anymore of if this carnage will come to your community in America. It's a question of when...


ESCOBAR: ... and whether you will do your part as an American voter to support those of us who are willing to take action and hold accountable those who have not just stood in the way of sensible gun violence prevention, but those like Greg Abbott in my state who, after a horrific tragedy in El Paso, expanded access to guns and reduced our protections, not just protections for families, for children, but law enforcement.


One of the things that we don't talk about enough is the fact that law enforcement has been begging legislators -- that was the case in Texas -- to not make this wider access more available.

TAPPER: Yes. They're afraid of being outgunned.

We only have a couple minutes left. And I do want to turn to the January 6 hearings, because that's going to be really important this week.

George, committee member Congressman Jamie Raskin did a preview of the upcoming hearings. He made a case for why people should care. Take a listen.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I know a lot of people would like to see Donald Trump in prison for the rest of his life.

But from the standpoint of the committee, that's quite beside the point, because our goal is to strengthen and fortify the democratic constitutional order.


TAPPER: What will the hearings need to accomplish for them to be successful?

CONWAY: I think they just need to -- I don't think they need any new bombshells.

I think they need to lay out the things that we have seen that have come out over the last 17 months, and lay it out in an orderly and compelling fashion. I mean, the fact of the matter is, as Congressman Riggleman pointed out in the last segment, that this was an attempted coup. This was an attempt to overthrow democracy.

It was an attempt to stop dead in its tracks on January 6 the peaceful transition of power. And that's a coup. And that was -- and it was a multifaceted -- and with all due respect to Jamie Raskin, it was a criminal conspiracy, a multifaceted criminal conspiracy led by the president of the United States, to stop by whatever means necessary the proper counting of electoral votes under the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act.


And that's what we're going to hear starting Thursday evening, the January 6 hearings. Be sure to tune into CNN. We're going to be covering them live every time they happen.

Thanks one, and all for, being here. Really appreciate it.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is breaking box office records. Is it also taking a geopolitical stand?

That's next.



TAPPER: The film "Top Gun: Maverick" surprised a lot of people, in a good way, when it was released in theaters this past week.

In the film, Tom Cruise reprises his role as an American fighter pilot.


TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: This is your captain speaking.


TAPPER: But what caught our attention was the patch on Maverick's bomber jacket, the red and blue Taiwanese flag.

Now, a trailer for the film that came out in 2019 did not show that patch, but instead an ambiguous symbol. This was taken as a sign that Paramount Pictures would be yet another studio following in a grand corporate American tradition of refraining from angering the Chinese government, for fear of losing access to its lucrative market, in this case by recognizing that Taiwan and its self-governance were a priority.

So, why did Paramount decide to bring back the Taiwanese flag, making it highly unlikely that "Top Gun: Maverick" will be released in the huge market of China?

Well, Paramount did not respond to a request for comment, but one of the film's initial big backers, Chinese company Tencent, withdrew its backing from the film in 2019, according to "The Wall Street Journal," which cited unnamed sources. No reply from Tencent either.

Now, it is possible that, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, a rah-rah movie about the American military would not be welcome in that country. China's communist leadership has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad, Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said.

And that's seen in its policies not just about Taiwan, but also Hong Kong, Tibet, and especially Xinjiang, where the U.S. has accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, charges that Beijing, of course, denies, to say nothing of China's government's refusal to be transparent about the coronavirus pandemic that started there and has killed nearly 6.3 million people globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins, including more than one million in the United States.

Now, if this is possibly a sign that American companies might begin taking a stand against the repressive Chinese government and its long list of troubling policies and actions, well, then we're all for it.

It's more than we saw from the U.N. high commissioner for human rights when she visited and seemed to be reading from Communist Party talking points. She said the visit was not an investigation of China, but, rather, an opportunity to discuss human rights. OK.

Maybe, ultimately, it will take a maverick to lead the way for the rest of the world to embrace the risks to stand up for what is right.

As the country prepares to watch the January 6 hearings, tonight, a deep dive into the Watergate scandal, with Woodward and Bernstein, the Watergate prosecutors, and the man who turned on Nixon, White House counsel John Dean.

The new CNN original series "Watergate: Blueprint For a Scandal" premieres tonight at 9:00 only on CNN.


NARRATOR: Tonight, a CNN original series.

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no intention of ever walking away from the job that the people elected me to do.

NARRATOR: Experience Watergate like never before. Hear what happened behind closed doors from the people who were there, the journalists.

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST: Most people didn't believe the stories we were writing.

NARRATOR: The investigators, the lawmakers, and the ultimate inside man.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Many have tried to dissect the events of Watergate. I lived them, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wiretapping, it was explosive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nixon engaged in activities that were criminal to secure his victory.

NARRATOR: And see how this pivotal moment still echoes 50 years later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have a president who thinks he can do anything, we are in trouble.


NARRATOR: "Watergate: Blueprint For a Scandal" premieres tonight at 9:00, only on CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)