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Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Live Coverage of President Biden Press Conference; President Biden Reduces Stimulus Checks' Phase Out. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 14:00   ET



DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: And then arrived up to 10 days after the election, but it would not require states to accept ballots that were mailed after Election Day and that arrived up to 10 days later. So you couldn't mail, you know six, seven days later, have it arrive on day 10 and have it accepted. That continues to be wrong, false in its entirety.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes, I'm so glad you sort that out. The thing is, he says it and he says it and other people say it and it sticks, right? These are the concerns.

DALE: Yes.

KEILAR: And certainly I think they know what they're saying, that it isn't true, but thank you, Daniel, it's so important that you're fact- checking it for us and we are going to have more on this in just a moment.

We begin this hour with some breaking news. Security at the nation's capital is on high alert after new intel warns domestic extremists may be plotting another attack on the U.S. Capitol tomorrow. The FBI and Homeland Security, hearing increased chatter among extremist groups discussing possible plots. The threats include members of one group that was actually part of the January 6th Capitol attack.

Capitol Police and the House sergeant at arms have beefed up security based on the warnings, which originate from another outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory, which absurdly posits that Donald Trump will retake the presidency tomorrow. Yes, the day after today, tomorrow.

As security officials are dealing with this new threat, the Senate today grilled other officials about what went wrong on January 6th. And this morning, the commander of the D.C. National Guard painted a damning picture of the Pentagon's lumbering response to the attack. Here he is, explaining why a larger presence wasn't authorized and how that could have impacted the riot.


WILLIAM WALKER, COMMANDING GENERAL, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD: So the Army senior leaders did not think that it looked good, it would be a good optic. They further stated that it could incite the crowd.

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, and 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.


KEILAR: Late, when pressed by Republican Senator Roy Blunt, Major General Walker, in no uncertain terms, said that he thinks the National Guard had the capacity to respond immediately to the Capitol Police chief's desperate call for help.


SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): General Walker, if the restrictions on your authorities hadn't been put in place by DOD, what would you have done when Chief Sund called you at 1:49 on January 6th with an urgent request for National Guard assistance?

WALKER: I would have sent them there immediately, as soon as I hung up, my next call would have been to my subordinate commanders, get every single guardsman in this building and everybody that's helping the Metropolitan Police, remission them to the Capitol without delay.


KEILAR: Instead, his troops assembled, ready to board buses to the Capitol, and they waited, they waited for more than three hours before being called into action. Congressman Eric Swalwell joins me, he serves on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

What is your response to that learning, waiting, they waited, they just were sitting there, waiting to come to you guys?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Brianna, by the grace of God, more people were not killed including, you know, more police officers, custodial staff, lawmakers. And we still were delayed for nearly seven hours from continuing our job to certify every American's vote. It's maddening to hear this.

Three lessons I take away from this. One, D.C. should be a state so that they don't have to rely on the Department of Defense. Two, Michael Flynn's brother had a serious conflict of interest, should not have been in the chain of command. Michael Flynn was a part of telling this big lie, and a part of the Stop the Steal effort.

And three, this is, you know, really all the more reason that we need to increase, you know, the intelligence that we have around major national security events at the Capitol. And it's just frustrating to hear that we had to wait so long and it could have been much worse.

KEILAR: At the heart of this, who is to blame for this delay?

SWALWELL: Well, Donald Trump, right? I mean, he incited, inflamed, assembled the mob. We can't lose sight of that. You know, law enforcement officers risk their lives every day, and there were failures at the top --


KEILAR: But the delay part, the delay --

SWALWELL: Yes, the --

KEILAR: -- in getting help.

SWALWELL: So I think DOD certainly has to own up to the three-hour- plus delay. They are to blame. Capitol Police, their leadership were not prepared at all. And so there has to continue to be accountability for that.

But, Brianna, here we are, as you alluded in your opening. QAnon believes that Donald Trump is going to become president tomorrow. And while it's frustrating to have a security fortress around the Capitol, these types of threats that QAnon continues to inspire impede us from doing the work we have to do on COVID, on voting rights, on racial justice.


And I have colleagues who will not denounce these threats. In fact, they had an insurrection reunion this weekend, where they went back to perpetuating them.

KEILAR: Do you know what the threats are? What are the threats right now when it comes to tomorrow?

SWALWELL: I have not -- I've seen exactly what you've seen, I've not been briefed on specific threats. I can tell you, Brianna, as someone who reads their D.M.s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the threats are coming in every day to me and my colleagues. One colleague told me today that they had just been fitted for a bulletproof vest, which is just the worst thing in the world, to listen to somebody explain to you.

And look, we signed up for this, we know that we're public servants --


KEILAR: Where are they -- and is that just -- that's for being on the Capitol Complex grounds?

SWALWELL: And going home. You know, a lot of the threats for many of us are at home as well.

But again, we know what we signed up for, but when you have to think about your security all the time, that limits your ability to fight for your constituents. And all I'm asking my colleagues -- Senator Cruz, Senator Hawley, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene -- just denounce these groups.

Elizabeth Neumann testified to the Homeland Security Committee two weeks ago. I asked her, I said, if these groups are denounced by the people that they idolize or they look up to, does that affect them? And she said yes. She said if they are not denounced, they take that as a permissive operating environment, they take that as being emboldened. We need every member of Congress to denounce these groups, recognize Joe Biden as the legitimate president.

KEILAR: And, look, you do make a good point there, certainly -- I'm glad you brought it up -- about the vulnerability of members of Congress when they are in their home districts. There are many of you, you go home, you do not always have protection and certainly that is something that needs to have an eye kept on it.

I want to ask you, even in light of that, about the former vice president's op-ed. We just heard our Daniel Dale fact-check the former vice president's lies about voting in the 2020 election. He made a number of claims that are untrue about election-related efforts. What's your reaction to that?

SWALWELL: His claims have been discredited by Chris Krebs from the Department of Homeland Security, formally (ph). He said that this was the most secure election ever, that there was no fraud that would have even come close to changing the outcome. And much of the fraud that has been reported, and where people have been arrested, were people who were trying to help Donald Trump.

And so, again, as long as you perpetuate this -- and, Brianna, if you look at CPAC over this weekend -- that insurrection reunion, as they called it -- they did a poll among their members of what the number- one issue was for them. It wasn't abortion, it wasn't the Second Amendment -- which are traditional conservative issues -- it wasn't taxes or smaller government, it was election integrity.

They believe Donald Trump is the lawful president. And as long as they believe that, it inspires others to take up arms against their government. And that's why we have this Capitol-like fortress.

KEILAR: Congressman Eric Swalwell, we'll be watching, certainly, the Capitol tomorrow. Thank you so much for being with us --

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: I want to turn now -- let's listen in to President Biden speaking at the White House.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- proudly to all of you. Like all of us, cancer's personal for almost everybody. It's probably the one word that is the most frightening word in the English language to people, when they hear that C-word, cancer. It's -- it is just devastating.

And I always ask, when I talk about cancer, I ask the audience if they -- to raise their hand if any of them were suffering from cancer as I spoke, and-or they lost someone. And virtually 70 percent of every audience, whether or not it's 4,000 people or 400 people. And a lot of folks in this room have, like many of you, maybe, have been victims of cancer and overcome it.

But there's so much hope that that's what I want to talk about with these folks, about what we do from a legislative and substantive point of view to make the kind of inroads I think we can make.

So that's what we're talking about today. Thank you for coming in, and we're -- I'm optimistic we're going to get something done here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, troops were targeted with rocket attacks. Any response?

BIDEN: We are following that through right now. Thank God no one was killed by the rocket. One individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we're identifying who's responsible, and we'll make judgments from that point, OK? Thank you.



BIDEN: I didn't hear the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Message to Texas, Mr. President? Jackson, Mississippi?

BIDEN: Texas, I think, is a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms, we've been able to move that all the way up to the end of May, to have enough for every American to get, every adult American, to get a shot.

And the last thing -- the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters.

I carry a card with me, I don't have it, I put it on my desk. As of last -- as of yesterday, we had lost 511,874 Americans. We're going to lose thousands more. This will not occur, we'll not have everybody vaccinated until sometime in the summer, when we have the vaccine to do it, getting the shot in someone's arm and then getting the second shot. You're going to take time.

And it's critical -- critical, critical, critical -- that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that, I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it. So thank you very much.


KEILAR: All right, there you have President Biden calling states who are ending mask mandates, saying that they're making a big mistake. That was his quote. We're going to discuss this with a small business owner in Texas, where that is happening, coming up.

First though, let's get back now to former Vice President Mike Pence's op-ed, because this is very important when we're talking about elections in our country. I want to bring in CNN's Gloria Borger, and CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein.

Gloria, it is six weeks later. I think this is one of the most eye- popping parts of this, is Pence was there. He understands what the lie can do, and yet he sees opportunity in it and is now pushing it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Disinformation about the election, those lies threatened his own life. People were running through the Capitol, saying, hang Pence. There was a noose outside the Capitol that was meant for Mike Pence.

And because he would have no part of the president's shenanigans, he has been effectively excommunicated by Donald Trump and by Donald Trump's supporters, after four years of doing nothing but being completely and utterly loyal to Donald Trump. So it is completely absurd at that level.

But he is a politically ambitious man, he wants to figure out a way to get back in. And so he writes this op-ed on a website affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, which is a conservative thinktank.

And I think what I'm seeing here is sort of what could become the official pivot for Republicans who don't want to go all the way with Donald Trump on the rigged election, so you move from the rigged election a little bit, to talking about the post-election.

And saying, you know, we have to increase voter restrictions in the future because we can't let these so-called irregularities -- which, by the way, were not irregularities, but they were things that states did so people could vote in a pandemic. But according to Pence, so we don't let these so-called irregularities happen again.

It's ridiculous, but it's Mike Pence's way of getting back in the conversation so people will talk to him again.

KEILAR: I mean, this is something you can't split the baby on, Carl.


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Look, the party of Lincoln has become the party of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, especially of black Americans. This is a racist agenda, intended to keep participation in our elections down, especially among people of color. It is a disgrace.

Think of what this country has meant in terms of extending voting rights to all Americans. The whole idea -- when I grew up, when Gloria grew up, in school, we would have voter turnout drives to get our parents to come out to vote.

Now, the object of the Republicans, a minority party, is to keep voters out of the polling places if it is expected that those voters might be voting Democratic. It is the most undemocratic means of undermining our electoral system as can be imagined, and it is an absolute and utter disgrace.


And at the same time, it is very successful for the Republican Party. They control two thirds -- almost -- of the state legislatures, where their primary agenda is voter suppression.

So we now have one of our two parties that has really dedicated itself to the proposition that people should not be able to vote if it is expected they might vote for the opposition party.

KEILAR: Yes. Gloria and Carl, I just need some more time with you, so just stick around --


KEILAR: -- if you will, I'm going to have you weigh in on this report about Dr. Ronny Jackson, who is the former White House doctor and current congressman from Texas, who is accused of drinking and taking sleeping pills while on duty on presidential trips, and also accused of harassing his staff. Hear what he has to say about the allegations.

Plus, breaking news on the COVID relief bill, President Biden has conceded to moderate Democrats about who will get the next round of stimulus checks.



KEILAR: We do have some breaking news coming to us from Capitol Hill. A Democratic source tells CNN that President Biden and Senate Democrats have struck a deal on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. And this impacts a lot of people who will be getting or not getting the next round of $1,400 stimulus checks.

CNN's political director David Chalian is joining me here. This is something that I think a lot of people will want to perk their ears up for. What's the compromise here?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, and remember, Brianna, President Biden, he telegraphed, from the moment he got into the White House, that he was willing to negotiate on the targeting of who gets these checks. What he wasn't willing to negotiate on was the check amount, right? He wanted $1,400 as that full amount to go out as relief to people.

But they waited until the very end here to come up with this compromise, as they're trying to make sure to keep all 50 Democrats on board. Take a look, with those stimulus checks, what happens now.

The phase out begins at $75,000 for a single tax filer, and now that caps out at $80,000. So if you're an individual tax filer and you make more, $80,000 or more, you're not eligible to get any money in this next round of stimulus checks.

TEXT: Biden Agrees to Concessions on Stimulus Checks, Per a Democratic Source: Phase out begins at $75,000 for single filers, now ends at $80,000; Phase out begins at $112,500 for head of household, now ends at $120,000; Phase out begins at $150,000 for joint filers, now ends at $160,000

CHALIAN: You see the numbers here for a head of household. And for couples who are filing together, the phase out begins at $150,000 and it ends at $160,000. So a household earning $160,000 no longer going to be eligible for any of that stimulus money in terms of these relief checks as a part of this compromise.

This is what it means for more targeted approach to getting these checks in people's hands -- Brianna.

KEILAR: We also saw, David, the White House abandon the nomination of its OMB director, Neera Tanden. She withdrew after it became clear she wasn't going to get the votes that she needed. Where does the president stand on getting his cabinet nominees confirmed?

CHALIAN: Yes, this is the first big loss for the Biden administration in terms of forming the cabinet, which is not unprecedented. The Trump administration, the Obama administration, they dealt with people having to withdraw their nominations as well.

But take a look at the folks that have been confirmed to date. You see here, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Yellen, Defense Secretary Austin, all these folks have already been confirmed by the United States Senate.

Here's where it stands on the folks who have not yet been confirmed. you noted that Neera Tanden has withdrawn her nomination, we await the new OMB director being named, or at least the nominee, I should say.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, he's going to get a vote real soon and it looks like smooth sailing. Deb Haaland, the Interior secretary nominee, got good news when Susan Collins announced -- a Republican -- she's going to vote for her.

The HUD secretary, Marcia Fudge, nominee; Labor, Marty Walsh; and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, that is likely to be a very partisan vote as well. He is a controversial nominee, and a lot of Republicans are galvanizing around opposing him, but no Democrat has bailed yet.

So it looks like everyone else is on target to get through the Senate confirmation process. We'll see when all those votes finally do take place -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, thank you for taking us through that, David Chalian --


KEILAR: -- appreciate it. Still ahead, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he's sorry and he's embarrassed by allegations of sexual harassment. But he insists he never touched anyone inappropriately, I should say. I'll be speaking live to the state's senate majority leader, a pivotal figure.


Plus, Texas' governor gets rid of his mask mandate and clears the way for businesses to fully reopen at the same time. One brewery owner joins me to explain why he thinks it's the wrong call.


KEILAR: In a striking report first obtained by CNN, Congressman Ronny Jackson is facing new allegations of misconduct during his time working as the top White House physician to Presidents Obama and Trump.

A probe conducted by the Department of Defense inspector general concluded that Jackson, who achieved the rank of rear admiral, made sexual comments, drank alcohol on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping pills, which prompted concern from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

This is the same physician who famously gave Trump this bill of health.


RONNY JACKSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: The president's overall health is excellent. His cardiac performance during his physical exam was very good. He continues to enjoy the significant long-term cardiac and overall health benefits that come from a lifetime of abstinence from tobacco and alcohol.

He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him.

I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.


KEILAR: Gloria Borger and Carl Bernstein are back with us. Gloria, what do you make of this really stunning review?

BORGER: Well, what I keep thinking about is how did this guy keep his job, how did he get promoted, and what was he doing there? I mean, this is a man -- they interviewed over 78 people.


And by the way, these interviews, the I.G. was kept from doing his job for months and months because the White House wanted to claim privilege on some of these interviews.