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President Biden Addresses COVID Relief as Senate Debates the Bill; 8 Democrats Vote Against Minimum Wage Increase in COVID Relief Bill; Trump Appointee Arrested in Connection with Capitol Riot; Russia Vows Retaliation Over U.S. Sanctions Per Navalny Poisoning. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 5, 2021 - 15:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to make a big difference in terms of their lives. And people in the country are hurting right now. With less than 2 weeks from enhanced unemployment checks being cut out.

And 7 million kids don't have enough food, 13 million people are behind in their rent and in the American Rescue Plan I believe -- and according to the polling data -- the vast majority of Americans believe is essential to giving them some help and to turn it around.

And I think it's going to provide immediate relief for millions of people that are going to be able to use it in a very constructive way and also grow the economy in the process, but it's essential getting kids back to school safely.

It is also getting a lifeline to small businesses, many of whom, 400,000 have gone under, affecting entire communities. And it is clearly, clearly necessary a lifeline for getting the upper hand against COVID-19 and getting it under control.

That isn't some academic discussion. It's about you. It's about people like you and families that I grew up with all over America, and, you know, you all have lived lives of service. You not only have taken care of yourself and your families, but you've lived lives of service to help other people as well. And so, again, this isn't an academic discussion.

You deserve our thanks and our support and I'm going to hand it back to Cedric so we can hear from you all.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: And that was President Biden moments ago as he kicks off a roundtable discussion on his COVID Relief Bill and the economic impacts of the pandemic.

With me now CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, he is a former Republican Congressman. Welcome, both of you.

So Charlie, there you heard the president saying that this isn't really political or something academic. This is an issue that's infecting millions of Americans, but we're hearing different stories from both parties. Americans are behind it. Republicans largely are not in Congress. Is that a risky move?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's as risky as people think, Bianna, for this reason. According to the CBO, about $700 billion of this funding wouldn't be able to be expended until 2022 and after. Look, there's no question there's a need for a bill. My own opinion is this is a bit too large. It needs to be targeted a bit more than it is, and so I think they need to bring it down a little -- they might bring it down a little. But, you know, these bills tend to smell worse over time. It's easy to pick them apart.

But there's a lot of good in this bill that the Democrats can take credit for, and -- but at the end of the day I don't think it's going to be a big political issue going forward.

GOLODRYGA: Dana, how big of a concern is it for Democrats when you have Senator Joe Manchin sort of throwing in a surprise, a last-minute surprise questioning weekly unemployment benefits? Is this going to be a deal-breaker?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they are going to make it so that it's not a deal-breaker, and it's difficult. Look, this is the perfect example, the first example, probably one of many examples if Democrats have, you know, Democrat-only bills for lots of reasons -- which we can talk about later -- example of how negotiating among themselves and among Democrats is going to be of the utmost importance and an example of how much power each Democratic Senator has.

You know, Joe Manchin understands that without his vote because there's going to be no Republican support on this, this thing goes down. You know, my understanding is that he doesn't want to be the person to torpedo this. But he does want to use the leverage that I just described in a way that he thinks will make the bill better, and it is a very, very difficult balance. Again, this is about negotiating among Democrats to get this passed.

GOLODRYGA: And on that point, Charlie, is this an opportunity for Republicans to exacerbate this divide that we're seeing within the Democratic party on an issue like minimum wage, right? Initially it seemed like this was something that the parliamentarian said wasn't possible to get through reconciliation, but now we're seeing that there are seven Democratic Senators and Angus King as well who say they are against a $15 minimum wage increase. One of them Chris Coons who by the way is very, very close with President Biden. What can we read into this, and how should Republicans be responding?

DENT: Well, if Republicans were smart about this, they would enter a serious negotiation with the Democrats on an increase in the minimum wage. I voted for the last one in 2009.


I think they could easily come to an agreement say between $10 and $11 an hour, add a cost of living adjustment and they could all declare victory. I think that would be very smart.

A $15 national minimum wage will have significant impacts in many parts of the country, in parts I'm sure in West Virginia, and Charleston versus Manhattan. I mean, the $15 minimum wage will have a considerably different impact.

So I think there's an opportunity for Republicans to engage. I think this is a -- clearly, it's a popular issue, but I think if they come in at about $10 or 11 with that cost of living adjustment, they can all come out smelling pretty good. Progressives won't be happy but so be it.

GOLODRYGA: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: Yes, and this is a perfect example, you know, of what we're going to see and what we're already seeing in the so-called vote-o- rama where you have vote after vote after vote on amendments, is you know Democrats who are worried about Republican so-called poison pills and putting up votes that are very difficult for Democrats to take.

This is a vote that was very difficult for Democrats to take, put out by one of the most famous progressives, the most famous maybe in the Senate and that is Bernie Sanders. And so it was a very tough vote and Democrats are admitting it, and the reason is because people like Chris Coons, or Angus King, they are with Charlie Dent. They're with their party. They believe there should an increase up to $15 for the minimum wage. They just don't believe that it should be on this bill because the parliamentarian has said it doesn't belong there. Therefore, if they add it, it could, you know, torpedo, you know, the entire thing.

So that's -- that's one reason, and the other is, you know, the bill that Congressman Dent didn't voted for was paired with small business tax breaks. That is absolutely something that is going to have to happen in order to get this thing done if and when it's done separately from the COVID Relief Bill.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I know you both will be following this closely. Dana Bash and Charlie Dent thank you so much. We appreciate it. Never a dull moment in Washington.

Well, right now federal investigators are poring through records of communications between lawmakers and the pro-Trump insurrectionists. New details about messages sent in the days before the Capitol attack.



GOLODRYGA: Federal investigators have revealed that they are now digging into communications between U.S. lawmakers and the rioters who took part in the deadly siege on the Capitol on January 6th. It's all in an effort to uncover if any of these elected officials wittingly or unwittingly helped the rioters carry out the insurrection.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is following the details. Evan, what have investigators discovered so far?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, one of the things they have done is they've taken some of the devices, cell phones, computers belonging to the people who were charged or under investigation in the insurrection. And on some of those devices what they found that they have had those contacts between the alleged rioters and members of Congress.

Now, in some cases you have rioters who were talking to each other talking about their interactions with members of Congress and in some cases, some are claiming that they were acting as security guards for lawmakers who were speaking at events surrounding January 6th.

So now the FBI and prosecutors have to figure out what all of this means. Because of those communications, it doesn't mean necessarily that anyone on the legislative side, the Capitol Hill side, broke the law obviously, and we also don't know or have any indications that any lawmakers are actively under investigation. But this is certainly as one official said to me, that there's smoke here, and the FBI is going to have to figure out what all this means.

As you pointed out, some of this could have been unwitting help in the sense that, you know, Democrats have been claiming that some Republicans provided tours to some of the people who later ended up invading the Capitol. So we'll have to see what all this means and it will probably take some months before we do.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and we have members of Congress saying they don't know if they can trust their fellow Congressmen and women because of this.

We're also hearing a former State Department aide under former President Trump has now been charged. What can you tell us about this?

PEREZ: Yes, he made his first appearance in court today and one of the first things he's doing is complaining about the prison or the jail conditions. His name is Federico Klein. He worked as sort of a low- level political appointee in the Trump State Department in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. What we don't know is, you know, how much of this had to do with, you know, why was he there on January 6th? He was still an employee of the State Department, but why was that?

What we know is that he was charged with allegedly participating in the assault on the police officers. There are pictures of him doing that. Today in court one of the first things he complained about is there are cockroaches in the jail cell where he is. We'll see.

He'll be appearing in court again in a couple of weeks, but this is the first, Bianna, this is the first Trump political appointee who's been arrested in the January 6th insurrection.

GOLODRYGA: Hitting close to home there for the president and all of his advisers. Evan Perez, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Well, new threats from Russia in retaliation for U.S. sanctions after

the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. What is President Biden's response to the message from Moscow?



GOLODRYGA: Russia is vowing retaliation as the Biden administration announces new sanctions alongside the European Union over the alleged poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The sanctions target a number of high-ranking officials as well as several businesses involved in the production of biological agents. Moscow is dismissing those moves while urging Washington, quote, not to play with fire.

Ekaterina KotriKadze is a host and correspondent at Dozhd TV with the only independent news network inside Russia, and she joins us now from Russia. Katia, always good to see you.


GOLODRYGA: The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, you've interviewed her many times. She warned that the West should be surprised by the Kremlin's upcoming response. What can we expect that response to look like?


KOTRIKADZE: There's not much that they can actually do, Bianna, because, you know, we understand that they need to answer somehow. There should be any kind of reaction from Moscow, so they are ready to say the words. So do not play with fire, it's kind of a new sentence from Russian Federation.

They're just thinking in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about different kinds of words they can use to answer the Western countries. But actually, what can it be? I mean, can you imagine some kind of street sanctions from Russia to Joseph Biden? I can hardly imagine it.

It can be, you know, ban for the U.S. or EU officials to visit Russian Federation, but it doesn't change much. So that's why we understand that this is just a statement -- another the statement from Maria Zakharova. There was some kind of statements from other, you know, people, from Kremlin or from minister of foreign affairs, but nothing serious and they can do nothing actually from the Russian side.

But, you know, from the other hand, I'm sure that they are not really scared of these actions that are already taken by the Biden administration and by European Union, because this is nothing really serious, on this stage at least.

You know, the sanctions that are imposed already and will be imposed. But the sanctions that are declared, this is something that we were waiting for here and this is even less that we're waiting for. And for example, the, you know, that the members of Navalny's team are, as I see, are a little bit disappointed by the steps that are taken.

GOLODRYGA: Right, as opposed to sanctioning government officials, which the Kremlin can use and turn into propaganda to say to all Russians that they are sanctions against every single Russian citizen. The Navalny team has been focused and has urged Western leaders to sanction Kremlin-friendly oligarchs.

There have been reports that the U.S. is weighing the possibility of doing that. Would that be more effective if the U.S. --

KOTRIKADZE: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: -- together with Europe, said that they were going to be sanctioning oligarchs?

KOTRIKADZE: Yes, because the people are in the sanctions list, on this stage, seven members of Russian governmental system, those people are used to sanctions already. They have been on different lists already, nothing new.

So that's why Navalny's team suggests, they suggest, and they offered to impose sanctions against the oligarchs, the businessmen from the inner circle of Vladimir Putin. It would be different because as Navalny's colleagues hope, actually, these people are interested in having the assets in the U.S. and in Europe. Mainly in Europe, actually.

These are people who have a lot of money, really millions, as Navalny's colleagues think, and they are dreaming about their future not in Crimea -- which was annexed from Ukraine -- or in Sochi, which is a part of Russia. They dream about the future in France, for example, or in Italy. And they have the assets. They have the accounts and, you know, houses --

GOLODRYGA: And they're the ones that help support Putin as well. When they're happy, Putin's happy and vice versa.

Ekaterina, I'm so sorry, unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there. I'll always remember that you said people in Russia want the opportunity to vote for or against Navalny, right? They don't want him behind bars for a ridiculous charge.

KOTRIKADZE: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: We will keep talking, I appreciate you joining us tonight, thank you so much Ekaterina Kotrikadze.

KOTRIKADZE: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, breaking news coverage continues as the Senate debates the COVID Relief Bill, Democrats concerned after eight of their own, vote with Republicans and against a minimum wage amendment.

But first, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the CNN Heroes campaign. And this week we are introducing the very first CNN Hero of 2021. Growing up along the coast of Maine, Lindi Dodi developed a passion

for marine mammals. So when government funding vanished, well, she jumped right in.


LINDI DODI, CNN HERO 2021: Releasing a seal is really bittersweet. And as much as I'm excited to see that animal be released, it's also hard in the sense of seeing that animal now gone.

You guys know you're going back to the ocean.

So any seal that we rescue, the ultimate goal is for that animal to be released back into the ocean. I feel this intense responsibility to help these animals and, really, this is what I was put on this earth to do.




GOLODRYGA: Tiger Woods told police that he had no memory of driving or how he lost control of his car after crashing last week near Los Angeles. The SUV rolled several times before ending up well off the road.

Wood suffered severe injuries to his right leg, requiring multiple surgeries. The golf legend has not yet said whether he'll attempt a return to the tour.

Well that's it for me. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.