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House Holds Hearing on Deadly Insurrection at U.S. Capitol; Democrats Struggle to Unite on Relief Bill and Cabinet Nominees; California Lagging Behind Other States to Reopen Schools. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired February 25, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(HOUSE HEARING - JOINED IN PROGRESS)
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT), CHAIRWOMAN, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I know it does a lot of ceremonial things and I appreciate that. Everybody has to be taken care of it.
But this board and its -- where was the board and how did it function prior to January 6th, and on January 6th?
YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: So, ma'am, if I could answer that question. As it relates to Capitol Police, prior to January 6th, I think it's important to note that by statute, in order for U.S. Capitol Police to have the National Guard on its grounds in a law enforcement capacity, the Capitol Police Board must first declare an emergency. So in order for us to --
DELAURO: The Capitol police, your responsibility was to declare an emergency before the Capitol Police Board could respond. No? Okay.
PITTMAN: No, ma'am. So by statute, in order for the U.S. Capitol Police to have the National Guards on our grounds, the Capitol Police Board must declare --
DELAURO: Board --
PITTMAN: Yes, ma'am.
DELAURO: Was there any emergency declared? Of either prior to, the intelligence information that determined that they were coming for the Congress and quite frankly in the midst -- what -- where was this board prior to and during this insurrection?
PITTMAN: Yes, ma'am. So it is my understanding that Chief Sund did make the request to the Capitol Police Board to declare an emergency.
DELAURO: When? When? When? PITTMAN: Prior to January 6th.
DELAURO: Prior to January 6th?
DELAURO: And the response from the Capitol Police Board was that --
PITTMAN: His request was denied.
DELAURO: Right. And the issue was, and I don't have all of my quotes in front of me here, but that it was the optics of the National Guard being (AUDIO GAP) the concern?
PITTMAN: Ma'am, I don't have -- I was not privy firsthand to those conversations, to say whether or not they said optics. But I know the request was denied.
DELAURO: The request was denied. The request made prior to January 6th that we have National Guard on the premise, and that request was denied by this board. And it would appear that this board has -- I can't get a delineation and we'll find it of where its authority begins and (INAUDIBLE) what it is and does it -- rule by fiat, they make a decision and it occurs.
TIMOTHY BLODGETT, ACTING HOUSE SERGEANT AT ARMS: Yes, ma'am, I believe --
DELAURO: You're on the board.
BLODGETT: Yes. I'm currently on the board, yes. I was not on the board on January 6th.
However, my understanding is it was brought up at the December board meeting. Let's go back and check. That Chief Sund brought up the National Guard to Mr. Irving on the 4th. Mr. Irving, I believe testified the other day that he did not take that to be an ask for a emergency declaration.
Talked to Mr. Stenger, they did not believe that the chief ever spoke to the architect of the Capitol, prior to that. I believe that is what Mr. Blanton testified to yesterday, who was also on the board. So, the ask would have to come from all three.
(END OF HOUSE HEARING)
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us.
At this hour, we have been watching a House hearing into the deadly insurrection in the Capitol and what happened, where the failures were, and where the failures are now, and you could clearly sense that these House lawmakers from Tim Ryan to Jamie Herrera Beutler, Democrat and Republicans alike, they are not happy with the answers that they are getting so far.
Let's talk about this as we continue to keep our eye on this hearing as they're dealing with some very -- clearly, some technical issues. Joining me right now is CNN senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director.
And CNN law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey. Also, he was also the former police chief of D.C.
Very different tone, I will say, in this hearing, Andy, than what we heard in the Senate side with other members of the law enforcement that were in charge of protecting the Capitol on January 6th. I mean, they were frustrated, from Tim Ryan to Jaime Herrera Beutler with the answers that they were getting and focused in two areas that seemed clearly: the intelligence and the failures of intelligence and what was done with it before January 6th, and then the failures operational or otherwise on the day.
What did you take from this so far?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I have to -- I have to start, Kate, by saying it reminds me as experience of testifying on the House side. It is a more aggressive form of questioning. The members are kind of -- they don't really hold back. You know right away when they're not happy with what they're hearing and I think that is pretty evident from the hearing -- the testimony that we've heard so far.
I think you hit on the two major issues that will continue to dominate this process. On the intelligence side, it's not only what intelligence did we have but what conclusions did we base on that intelligence and of course how was it communicated and how did it effect the preparation and the operational planning that the Capitol police department put into their -- to their position for January 6th.
Obviously, a lot of missteps along that process. Frustration I have here is that it is really unlikely that we're going to get to the bottom of each one of the important questions by a ragged charged hearing like this and this is --
BOLDUAN: That's actually I was going to -- I'm sorry to jump in, Andy, but that is what I was going to ask you, because I was wondering if you thought it was a satisfactory answer, what you heard from the acing Capitol Police chief who was the head of intel on the day of the insurrection when she said that we had intelligence.
They -- obviously, we know about the FBI bulletin, but the intelligence that they had failed to predict the scope of the attack, failed to predict, in her words, failed to predict that everyday Americans would take on this mob mentality, that's how she put it, everyday Americans taking on this mob mentality and rushing the Capitol like they did.
Is that an acceptable answer?
MCCABE: You know, I don't think so. I think if the leadership expected the intelligence bulletins to tell them what to do and predict the future of what was going to happen, they were -- they were misguided. I mean, intelligence is very rarely ever prescriptive. Here is exactly what is going to happen, here's the steps you should take.
I also think that the reports that they -- we know they had included comments about how they -- how there were some indications from the chatter they were hearing that the Capitol itself would be targeted. So the question is why do they make the decisions they did having that information in their hands and I don't think we've gotten to the bottom of that?
BOLDUAN: And chief, I wanted your take, because there were clear operational breakdowns and clear failures. I mean, from communications to how the acting chief put it, the Capitol lockdown was not properly activated, that communications broke down, operational protocol not followed.
These are a lot of words that I would like to understand if you could put into plain English what that means if they admitted to anything today?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, what you saw is and what you're seeing even a couple of days ago is a lot of CYA in my opinion. There was a lot of breakdowns that took place. They weren't prepared to the level that they should have been prepared even though with the number of peoples that stormed the Capitol, perhaps they would have lost it any way, but I think they could have done a lot more to prevent the actual incursion into the Capitol.
That is why you need to have an independent body actually take a look to find out exactly what took place. And Andy is absolutely right, rarely do get you get intelligence that really can accurately predict, if you want to use that word, what might occur. But it gives you an indication as to how -- what level should you prepare for.
I think part of what you're seeing here is an over-confidence on the part of the Capitol. You could say arrogance in some sense, that that sort of thing just wouldn't happen. When you tabletop an exercise, there are supposed to be difficult scenarios and in some cases the worst case scenarios. The worst case for the Capitol is the actual incursion into the building itself, and what you do as a result of that.
And so, you know, the numbers of people they have available, they keep talking about National Guard, they have MOUs in place with other law enforcements, the MPD, Arlington, Fairfax, at least I believe I did when I was in Metropolitan Police Department, they could provide help.
Not National Guard, but other law enforcement.
So was that activated, was that asked for? I mean, there's a lot of unanswered questions.
BOLDUAN: And, Ramsey, down to quite simply, Jaime Herrera Beutler, I mean, she said I'm frustrated many times because sheer hearing a lot of process and not hearing what they're doing right now to actually --
BOLDUAN: -- fix the problems that they're admitting to. And she had as question that seemed -- I -- to me, it seemed, if there is a simple question to be answered in this. It seemed pretty simple.
She said, why were we left on the House floor when the Senate was already being evacuated? When you knew that they were in the building? She didn't get a straight answer.
RAMSEY: Good question. But there needs to be an answer to that, because the possibility of something like this happening again, God forbid, but it is possible that it could happen. But you still have plans and hope you never have to implement those plans.
Part of the problem here, and you can see it now, the bureaucracy that exists there. The chief has to work with the board -- has to ask the board for approval, I'm sure they got a run it up their chain a bit.
In any emergency situation, the police chief ought to be able to make certain decisions and get it done. If they can't do that, you hired the wrong person to be the chief, if you can't trust them to make decisions in the middle of a crisis. I mean, it is ridiculous to think that you have to go through this many layers in an emergency.
That works under normal circumstances when everything is come calm and nothing is going on. It does not work when the pressure is on, and believe me, I mean, I've -- I was a police chief for 17 years in major cities and I've had more than my share of incidents occur.
You keep the mayor informed. You keep your bosses informed as to what's going on. But the decisions you make, you have to be trusted to make the right decisions.
BOLDUAN: I was retelling to someone, my memory of your leadership during the D.C. sniper, Chief, actually, when you talk about when the pressure is on, especially for an extended period of time.
Chief, thank you so much. Andy, thanks. I really appreciate it, guys.
We're going to continue watching this hearing, clearly very important, and we're going to be bringing you the highlights as they come in.
Still ahead for us at the very same time, the challenge of a 50/50 split in the Senate, how members of the president's own party are creating problems for his cabinet nominees now, and his massive COVID relief package. How will the White House get past this?
BOLDUAN: President Biden is learning right now how challenging a 50/50 split in the Senate really is. Now up to possibly three of his cabinet picks could be in question, along with key parts of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. And the White House is working overtime to try and keep all Senate Democrats together and unified.
This is really putting into sharp focus the power of two moderate Democrats in the Senate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
We're joined now by CNN's Lauren Fox in Capitol Hill, and CNN's John Harwood at the White House.
Lauren, you have new reporting on Senators Manchin and Sinema, and how the Biden White House may have miscalculated their power?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Kate. I mean, look, these two senators have certainly revealed themselves to be crucial to passing anything through the U.S. Senate. And we should note, any one Democratic senator could have outsized power given the narrow majority that Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, holds right now in the U.S. Senate.
But specifically, these two senators have endangers perhaps Neera Tanden, the Office of Management and Budget nominee for the Biden administration, as well as potentially the COVID relief bill.
And I want to talk a little bit about Neera Tanden first. Manchin came out against her nomination on Friday. We still haven't heard how Kyrsten Sinema would vote on her.
But obviously, this is revealing because it's the first nominee that the Biden administration has struggled to push through. Those early national security nominees, they moved a little more quickly, a little more easily. This was a different story.
We also are going to be keeping an eye on these two members because of what they are arguing on the $15 minimum wage. Kyrsten Sinema has made clear she doesn't believe that a minimum wage belongs in the COVID bill. She doesn't think it's directly related.
Again, if they don't get Republican votes, they need every single Democrat to fall in line. Manchin has signaled he could be open to reducing that minimum wage bill. We should also note that the Senate parliamentarian may ultimately be the one to urge the Democrats to take this provision out because it does not comply with Senate budget procedure rules.
But I think it's just important to remember that, again, any senator could have an outsized role but these are the members who are already standing up and standing against certain aspects of the Biden administration agenda here.
And, John, is there any indication that the White House plans to change its approach with regard to Neera Tanden as Lauren was talking about, Neera Tanden's nomination, or even the COVID relief bill.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Kate, for this reason. First of all, there is a distinction between Sinema and Manchin as Lauren just indicated. Manchin is a declared no.
HARWOOD: Sinema is not declared.
If you get a Republican to support Neera Tanden and we have one indication of a possibility and that is Lisa Murkowski, the moderate from Alaska, if she's willing to support Neera Tanden. I think the White House believes party solidarity would come into play and lead Krysten Sinema to support Tanden and she would pass. If Lisa Murkowski is a no and that is when you see them go to an alternative nominee.
Same thing on COVID relief, the decision is, in some respects, out of their hands because if the parliamentarian rules that the minimum wage does not belong in this bill, it's going to come out.
The White House knows it does not have the strength to sustain a majority vote to overrule the parliamentarian's decision. In that case, the minimum wage would not be an issue in this bill. They believe that they would hold all 50 senators.
If the parliamentarian says $15 minimum wage could stay in, then you have the beginning of a conversation and a negotiation with Manchin and Sinema and then the question is, if Manchin and Sinema insist on some sort of change, reduction in the $15, what does this do on the House side or if the House could not move, then you're going to have a threshold test for Manchin and Sinema of, are you willing to bring this bill down because of your objections?
I think the White House is still betting at the end of the day that when it comes to final passage on that bill, whether it is a $15 minimum wage or no minimum wage increase, or something less, $13, they will hold all 50 Democratic senators. But we're going to get the proof in the next couple of weeks.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, we sure will, and maybe even today in terms of the first step with the parliamentarian ruling.
It's good to see you, guys. Thank you very much. Really interesting perspective.
Still ahead for us, we have 50,000 deaths from coronavirus in the state of California. The governor is facing a recall effort over his leadership in the pandemic. The state's lieutenant governor is our guest.
BOLDUAN: A new concerning variant is spreading rapidly in New York City. According to researchers, it contains a mutation that allows it to dodge the body's immune system and possibly weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.
There's also alarming new information about a variant surging in California. Studies are suggesting it might not only be more contagious but also cause more severe illness. This comes all as California becomes the very first state to see 50,000 deaths from coronavirus, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all deaths in the United States.
Governor Gavin Newsom is now facing a recall attempt over his response to the pandemic.
One of the biggest points of criticism involves schools. Most of the state's 6 million students haven't had in-person classes for almost a year. Last week, Newsom announced that starting March 1st, 10 percent of all vaccine doses that the state receives each week will go to teachers and school staff. But will that be enough to get teachers and students back in classroom now?
Joining me now is the lieutenant governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis.
Lieutenant Governor, thank you for being here.
It is the question the governor and superintendents of the largest school systems in your state have not been able to answer, which is when will schools reopen for in-person? What do you say to parents right now?
LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D-CA): Well, Kate, thank you for having me, and greetings from California.
You laid it out pretty well. We have a big challenge ahead of us in getting schools reopened. But, you know, we are the largest state in the country, 40 million people, we have 1,000 school districts.
So everyone knew this would be challenging and the focus of the negotiations right now is how are we going to make sure that we get people back into school safely, student and educators.
And those conversations are ongoing. It's very much the issue that everyone is working on right now.
And as you noted, starting March 1st, every county will be required to set aside 10 percent of their allocation of doses for teachers and educators. We think that's going to go along way.
We also have a situation now where our positivity rate in the state has been dramatically reduced. So just at the beginning of January, we had about 14 percent of the tests coming back positive. We're down now to about 3 percent.
So when we see the incidents of the virus decreasing, that gives us a lot more confidence that we're able to bring people back into the classroom safely, along with vaccines and PPE and hand-washing stations and, of course, masks in order to resume our normal, you know, education process in a safe way.
So that's really the direction that we're going and as I said, no -- no issue is consuming leaders in California more right now than getting our kids back in school.
BOLDUAN: But still, this isn't new. This isn't a new problem. And what I don't hear from you is a date that you're confident that you can say kids are going to be in back in person.
You mentioned that vaccines is an issue. The CDC has said very clearly vaccinations for teachers and school workers are not a prerequisite for reopening. But the second largest school district in the country is not reopening because of that very issue, really. The demand from the teachers union in L.A. is that they are fully vaccinated before returning to in-person.
Does that make sense to you?
KOUNALAKIS: Well, I think it's really just an ongoing negotiation at this point and --
BOLDUAN: Why is it a negotiation if we rely on the scientists of the CDC to tell us what is safe?
KOUNALAKIS: School districts are the ones who get to make the final decision. What the governor and legislature can do is offer resources and financial.