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FBI Warns of Extremist Chatter to Attack U.S. Capitol Tomorrow; Biden Makes Concession on Checks in $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Talks; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Speaks amid Harassment, Nursing Home Allegations. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired March 3, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage on a very busy news day right now. Have a good day.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
We are beginning with breaking news coming from the Capitol of New York. Any moment, we will hear from Governor Andrew Cuomo who just tweeted he will speak at 1:00 Eastern to, quote, make an announcement.
This, of course, is coming as he is facing growing calls to resign after three women have come forward and accused him of sexual harassment and amid an investigation into his handling of the counting of nursing home deaths amid the pandemic.
CNN's Athena Jones is in Albany standing by for this story. Athena, what more can you tell us about this announcement?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, this is ostensibly going to be a press conference about COVID. We get frequent updates from the governor about the COVID situation. That's what made him rise to fame sort of nationally was his handling of COVID during the height of the pandemic here in New York.
But, of course, he is facing a number of controversies that he could be asked about. There is the still unfolding nursing home scandal, there are these accusations of bullying and intimidation, and also these two former aides who have accused him of sexual harassment and now a third woman accusing him of an unwanted advance at a wedding reception a couple of years ago.
The last we heard from him in terms of any kind of statement was Sunday night when he said in response to the second allegation from a young woman named Charlotte Bennett that he apologized for his actions having been misinterpreted. Well, we know that that young woman has blasted that apology saying, look, his actions weren't misinterpreted. She called his behavior predatory. And she's been urging other women to come forward.
That is when a day later or so we saw Anna Ruch, this third woman, who is accusing the governor of touching her inappropriately, asking to kiss her at this wedding reception.
We have not seen the governor in person, in public in a week. And so now this is going to be the first opportunity for members of the press to ask questions and even if he wants to focus on COVID, we can imagine all sorts of questions about these other topics are going to come up.
And one more thing I want to mention is that a lawyer for Charlotte Bennett, that second accuser, has called Governor Cuomo's actions textbook sexual harassment and very much wants this independent investigation that has been launched to make sure they look into whether other women have been subjected to a hostile work environment.
So, there are dozens of questions that he could be asked about a number of topics as this gets going here, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Athena, we know that you are standing by in Albany for this, we are as well. We are going to bring our viewers his comments live when he does address the allegations.
We also do have some other breaking news, an alarming warning that domestic extremists may be plotting another attack on the U.S. Capitol tomorrow. According to sources, the FBI and Homeland Security are hearing increased chatter from extremist groups, including members of one that attacked the Capitol six weeks ago discussing possible plots.
Tomorrow's date is significant to QAnon conspiracy theorists because they believe in an absurd theory that Donald Trump will retake the presidency on March 4th. So this is coming at a very significant time.
Right now, the head of the D.C. National Guard is testifying for the first time since the January 6th siege. And it's damning. He says that he was stunned by the delay from the Trump administration to grant permission to deploy troops during the siege. And we'll have more on that in a moment.
Also, despite the fact that Donald Trump put a target on his back, falsely claiming that Mike Pence could overturn the election that day, the former vice president is straight up pushing the big lie in a new op-ed falsely claiming widespread election fraud without evidence.
Let's go right now to CNN's Whitney Wild. Tell us, Whitney, how serious these March 4th conspiracy theory threats are and what you're learning about them.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the chatter is what's really concerning. So, USCP, the United States Capitol Police Department, thinks that this is serious enough that they need to ramp up their staffing, additionally, House sergeant at arms Timothy Blodgett is sending notices to members of Congress saying, look, this information's out there, and you need to be aware and you need to be vigilant.
So, serious enough that the security officials on Capitol Hill are doing everything they feel like is appropriate to keep people in the loop, and that includes keeping the rank and file in the loop. USCP is saying today that they are sharing their actions as well as their intelligence department-wide.
This also came up in the hearing today, Senator Ron Johnson asking intelligence officials about this plot. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Is that a threat that you're aware of?
MELISSA SMISLOVA, ACTING INTELLIGENCE CHIEF, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: Senator, we issued a bulletin last night co-authored with the FBI about extremists discussing March 4th and 6th. Is that what you're referring to?
It is joint intelligence bulletin we released last night around -- it was very late, midnight, I think, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILD: So what's different this time is, as you heard that intelligence official say, they found out about this intelligence late last night. Now, they are on high alert. They are not going to let another January 6th happen on their watch.
However, Brianna, it's important to know that what we are hearing from other intelligence officials is that, at this point, this is just chatter. There is no indication anybody is headed to D.C. right now. But we are keeping a very close eye on it, because as we saw on January 6th, situations change and they change fast. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Whitney, thank you so much for that.
As officials are beefing up security at the Capitol, senators inside the Capitol grilled FBI and defense officials about what went wrong on January 6th.
Moments ago the, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard painted a mixture of mixed messages and bureaucratic handwringing, which left bus loads of his troops sitting for hours and waiting for the green light to mobilize at the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM WALKER, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDING GENERAL: At 1:49 P.M., I received a frantic call from then chief of United States Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters.
Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol. And he requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster.
The approval for Chief Sund's request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by army senior leaders at 5:08 P.M., about three hours and 19 minutes later.
SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): What would have been the impact of sending those 155 right around that 2:00 timeframe?
WALKER: Well, based on my experience with the summer, I have 19 years -- I have 39 years in the National Guard. I was in the Florida Guard, Hurricane Andrew. I've been involved in civil disturbances. So I believe that number could have made a difference. We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is with us now. It is hearing the general, hearing General Walker there talk about that, Josh, is -- you know, he's very straightforward but he really gives you a sense of how dire the situation was. What new insights do we get into the timeline and some of these security failures?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing that distance of time from when that call first came in, a frantic call from the U.S. Capitol, asking for support and actually working its way through those bureaucratic channels to get members of the National Guard deployed.
And, as you say, hearing from the head of the National Guard, you really get that sense of desperation that they were there waiting to be deployed, waiting to have their members go and assist as the nation, indeed the world, watched the United States Capitol being stormed. And just seeing that tick tock is opening up just a new aperture, new window into those decisions.
And one thing that's interesting is what the head of the National Guard said, is that when you compare the constraints on his team on January 6th with what happened last year during some of the Black Lives Matter protests, he said there was no bureaucratic hurdle last year. He was able to deploy his military members as he saw fit. That was different this time where he was actually told by the secretary of defense that it would require his signature in order to move people ahead and move people to assist law enforcement. And so there's a difference there.
There's this question about maybe its optics, they thought there was overuse of force last year so they didn't want that to happen again. But also there's been this lingering question about whether the United States government looks at right-wing extremism differently than it does other types and whether they were simply unprepared.
The last thing that I think it also worth noting is that we got some additional insight from that hearing into this FBI report, the initial intelligence from their Norfolk office, the FBI official saying, as we heard from the FBI director, that they shared this information with their Joint Terrorism Task Force.
But that just raises that question. And this was actually a point made by Senator Hassan during that hearing. This wasn't a run-of-the-mill threat. This wasn't a run-of-the-mill location. This was the United States Capitol on January 6th, a day that was symbolic in that the election was going to be certified, you had all of the members of Congress there, you had the vice president of the United States, should someone have picked up the phone and started setting hair on fire when they received this report.
Again, a lot of lingering questions there, a lot coming out of that hearing today about what appears to be failures both in preparation and in responding to that domestic terrorist attack, Brianna.
KEILAR: Josh Campbell, thank you for tracking that for us.
I want to bring in our CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, and we also have CNN law Enforcement Analyst Peter Licata with us.
Jim, what's the significance of your new reporting today about a new threat to the Capitol?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's remarkable, Brianna. Nearly two months out from January 6th, there was another threat to the Capitol that authorities are taking seriously enough to deploy, extend and greater deploy National Guardsmen, right, men and women around the Capitol.
And I just want to draw attention to a statement that came out from the U.S. Capitol Police after Whitney and I broke the story this morning. They say, we have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an unidentified militia group on Thursday, March 4th.
The words there more than just chatter here, right? Something that gives them a sense of a possible plot, which suggests some evidence of organization, and they're taking steps necessary.
That said, when you listen to that hearing, Brianna, even as they're efforting to respond to this latest threat, you still have so much time wasted on issues that have already been settled. I've got to tell you, as I was watching yesterday, for instance, the number of questions from Republican lawmakers about Antifa, which had nothing to do with January 6th, as the FBI director said repeatedly, nothing to do that day, domestic terrorism, white supremacy, this kind of extremism, a threat on par with international terrorism.
You see how the politics continue to infuse a response to a real national security issue.
KEILAR: Yes. And they know Antifa isn't a part of this. A lot of their base thinks it is, and they're playing very much to that.
Peter, you can't help when you see these miscommunication issues when it comes to January 6th. You can't help but think of 9/11, where afterward there was this massive effort to solve the issue of interagency coordination and communication when it comes to threats. Why are we getting this picture of miscommunication regarding a threat when it comes to the Capitol attack?
PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Brianna, it's kind of amazing. So, the situational information report that was derived out of FBI Norfolk and provided via the Joint Terrorism Task Force out of the Washington Field Office. So that's the item of concern.
So these reports are reports, unclassified reports, that are generated by the FBI that have detailed information that allows the FBI to pass that to our public safety counterparts in law enforcement. So, generally, that information should be actionable. So intelligence should be actionable.
And then the Capitol Police's failure on this end of it is, yes, we received that report, we kind of got it late. But intelligence in these intelligence reports shouldn't just be taking it at face value. So even though what's going on right now in preparation for March 4th for this QAnon event or the alleged QAnon event based on these other reports, this intelligence needs to be developed. It needs to be nurtured.
So I've worked numerous special events in New York City, my career as an FBI agent from visits from the pope to New Year's Eve events, about over dozen New Year's Eve events in Times Square, U.N. General Assemblies. There are post-standards (ph). There are undercover agents, undercover law enforcement blending with the crowd that should have had the ability to see what was going on in the crowd to understand that there's escalation.
So, yes, we had intelligence, but the intelligence wasn't nurtured, it wasn't derived and it wasn't developed. There's also a failure on that, not just on how the information did or didn't get properly in a timely manner to the Capitol Police but also what was done with regard to when it was finally received and what type of preparation the Capitol Police made as those crowds started to swell.
KEILAR: That's a really interesting point there, Peter.
Jim, you just heard our colleague, Josh, talk about the D.C. National Guard commander testifying that optics may have contributed to the lack of a security presence initially on January 6th. Let's watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: So, the army senior leaders did not think that it would look good. It would be a good optic. They further stated that it could incite the crowd. So their best military advice would be to the secretary of the army, who could not get on the call. So we wanted the secretary of the army to join the call, but he was not available. We were told he was with the secretary of defense and not available.
But the army senior leadership expressed to Chief Contee, chief Sund, Dr. Mitchell, the deputy mayor, and others on the call that it would not be their best military advice to have uniform Guardsmen on the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Jim, what do you think about that?
SCIUTTO: Well, it's not the first time I've heard it in the wake of January 6th. I spoke to folks in law enforcement and even D.C. mayor's office, if you look at public comments there following the events of last June, Black Lives Matter protests and discussions of active military, uniformed military, others wearing military uniforms. There was reaction at a number of levels that that did not look good for the U.S. military on the streets responding to civilian protests.
So, going into this, there was something of an overlearning of that lesson, it seems, right, and making more hoops for folks to jump through to deploy in the event of something like this. Now, that may, it seems, have contributed to the delay in getting National Guard forces out there on January 6th.
And I will tell you this. In the wake of that January 6th, the recommendations that might be made public as soon as this week, according to my reporting and Zachary Cohen's reporting, is that they want to create an on-alert 24/7 D.C. National Guard battalion that can take very quick calls to respond to threats to the Capitol and elsewhere to re-correct, in effect, that lesson, so that the National Guard is ready and it can happen much more quickly than we saw on January 6th.
KEILAR: That is very interesting. Jim, thank you so much, peter, thank you so much to you as well.
Mike Pence, who escaped the Senate chamber just one minute before Capitol rioters breached it, is now pushing the big lie that prompted the attack. We're going to discuss his dangerous new op-ed.
Plus, in moments, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is supposed to make an announcement as he faces allegations of sexual harassment.
And more breaking news, President Biden has conceded to moderate Democrats agreeing to narrow income limits for the next round of stimulus checks.
This is CNN's special coverage.
KEILAR: More breaking news. a democratic source tells CNN that President Biden has just reached a compromise with moderate Democrats to narrow the income eligibility for the next round of stimulus checks. This is part of the push to get the president's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package through the Senate.
CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live on this from the Hill for us. What are these income limits that they have agreed to, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, they have agreed to phase out the more of the upper income that would be eligible for the stimulus checks under the House-passed bill.
So, essentially, the people who make up to $75,000 a year will still be eligible for the full benefit as proposed by the House-passed plan. That's $1,400 for people who make up to $75,000. But if you make more than $80,000 under this deal that the senators reached, you would not get a dime. And that's double for families.
And under the House plan, actually, if you made up to $100,000 for an individual, you would still get a benefit. It would be less than $1,400. But you get still some form of relief check from the government.
So this deal that was reached among Senate Democrats that Joe Biden, the president has signed off on, would eliminate anybody getting additional money from the federal government if they make more than $80,000 a year an individual.
Now, this came as a number of moderate Democrats have raised concerns about it being too expansive. They wanted more targeted relief checks as part of the larger $.9 trillion plan.
Now, also as part of this deal that was worked out among Senate Democrats that the White House signed off on is to ensure that jobless benefits, enhanced jobless benefits for individuals would continue at $400 a week until later in the summer. That is different than what some moderate Democrats, including Joe Manchin, had pushed for. Manchin, for one, had asked to pare back that benefit to $300 a week. But they ultimately have agreed to $400 a week that would be included in this plan. But the big change there is about the eligibility of those stimulus checks.
And I just spent some time, Brianna, on the House side of the Capitol talking some more progressive members who actually seem not pleased by the changes but not enough for them to tank the bill assuming it gets passed by the Senate and gets passed by the House. So they may begrudgingly accept these changes which may be necessary in the Senate to win over moderate Democrats, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, that will certainly be key. We'll have to see what it does to the goodwill there between the White House and progressives. Manu, thank you so much, live for us from Capitol Hill.
Congressional lawmakers still may not be in lockstep over President Biden's COVID relief bill, but several state and city leaders are, and many of them are Republican. Dozens of GOP mayors across the country are imploring lawmakers to get behind the plan that they say the American people need right now.
Jeff Williams is the Republican mayor of Arlington, Texas. He was one of four GOP members to attend a sit-down last month with President Biden and other governors and mayors to discuss the COVID relief plan. He also joined more than 30 Republican mayors in signing an open letter to Congress to pass this bill.
Mayor, thanks for being with us today.
MAYOR JEFF WILLIAMS (R-ARLINGTON, TX): Thank you for having me, Brianna.
KEILAR: So, Mayor, most of your Republican colleagues here in Washington are fervently against this plan. Why are you in favor? Why do you break with them on that?
WILLIAMS: Well, it's been obvious here for the last few months that both Republicans and Democrats have been really in favor of state and local assistance until it gets to talking about how much money. And then, consequently, when that discussion starts, there's been too much of a void between Democrats and Republicans. And so we end up on the cutting room floor.
And it is so important right now because cities are still going through the pandemic. In fact, here in our community, we have opened up on our own a vaccination center there at our expense, and because it was the right thing to do to try to take care of our citizens and help protect them. And so we also are experiencing expenses there in testing and so forth also that is continuing. And we don't know when the pandemic will be over.
But also we want to be able to help, continue to help our citizens. Cities know where the needs are. There have been aid that has come.
But, of course, we know where the holes are where our citizens, our small businesses need help.
And just as an example, cities are really known for their small businesses, the mom and pop restaurants, the neighborhood hardware store. For us it's the largest Christmas store in Texas there. So, there are a lot of those that have really been hurting. And we want to be able to help them.
And then, of course, the most important thing is that continue on with quality services, and because right now our citizens and our businesses need them more than ever.
So we are -- really come together, mayors from all over the country have come together asking for aid, just like we would if we had had a flood. This pandemic has been a national disaster. So we are asking for the same thing that we would if we'd experienced a flood or an earthquake or some other national disaster --
KEILAR: So let me ask you this.
WILLIAMS: -- or emergency aid. Go ahead.
KEILAR: You outline what you call an obvious -- that's the word you used -- an obvious need. And you outline it very clearly there talking about what you are seeing with business owners and people who live in your city.
Presumably, you would think especially members of Congress who represent the same people that you do, that they would see that there is an obvious need. Is that problematic for you that they are not seeing what you're seeing or responding to what you're seeing in support of getting aid to these people?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think it continues to be -- they know the need, and, in fact, I've been very encouraged over the last few months there that they really do see the need. As I mentioned before, it's the amount of money. And that is where it seems to always fall apart there with the quantity of money.
But, yet, the need is very real, and I've got citizens there that are crying out for help. And I need to be able to respond to the best way I can --
KEILAR: But you're saying I need to get my constituents something, right? I'm not going to take nothing because I maybe don't like the exact number. I need to get something for them. That's not how congressional Republicans are seeing it though.
WILLIAMS: Well --
KEILAR: What do you say to them?
WILLIAMS: Well, I would say that we really still need the help. And, actually, I think our economic recovery will be very much shortened here with this help. And, in fact, Jerome Powell, head of our Federal Reserve has said that time and time again. Even locally here, our Dallas Federal Reserve Chairman there, Rob Kaplan, said that we need to get help to our cities because that will shorten this economic recovery, and they are an important economic engine of our nation.
KEILAR: Mayor Jeff Williams of Arlington, Texas, thank you so much for being with us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: It's great to see you, Mayor.
In moments, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is supposed to make an announcement as he faces allegations of sexual harassment.
Plus, Mike Pence, who escaped the Senate chamber just one minute before Capitol rioters breached it, is now pushing the big lie that prompted the attack. We will fact-check.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- and I will fully cooperate with that review.