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Sen. Ben Cardin is Interviewed about Infrastructure and Policing; DOJ Investigating Louisville Police; Cheney Not Ruling out Presidential Bid. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, the man in the middle now so often, says he opposes passing President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan through budget reconciliation. That is with only Democratic votes. Republicans have proposed a bill that spends about a third of the president's target. Some Democrats, including Manchin, but also Senator Chris Coons, a big Biden ally, have suggested as a result splitting the bills, begin with so-called hard infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, pipes, save other items for a second bill, a second package.

With me now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Senator, good to have you on this morning.

I wonder if you support this idea of splitting the bills. Start with the hard stuff, get some GOP votes and then move on to the other priorities.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Jim, first, it's good to be with you.

Infrastructure is more than roads and bridges. We have to rebuild America. We have buildings, we have energy infrastructure. We need to be bold to modernize our nation. So I support the president's approach.

But I can tell you, as the chair of the subcommittee on infrastructure in the environment of public works committee, we are working in a bipartisan manner to deal with the transportation part of the infrastructure package. So I'm hopeful that we'll be able to make progress on a bipartisan basis, but I do hope that we're bold in dealing with the issue.

SCIUTTO: So you say you're working on a transportation carve out in effect. Are you confident that you've got 10 Republican votes and all the Democrats you would need to pass that?

CARDIN: I am confident that there's strong bipartisan support for a transportation infrastructure bill. We passed it out of our committee in the last Congress by unanimous vote. The Republican numbers on transportation are about $300 billion. That's even more than we passed last year. So I think we can work with Republicans on the transportation and, by the way, also the water bill, which is on the floor this week.

I don't know how these all get married at the end of the day. That decision has not yet been made. So I don't know whether it will be taken up on the floor separately from the rest, but I do know we can make progress on a bipartisan basis to deal with infrastructure.

SCIUTTO: Has the president, to you knowledge, expressed support for that plan, splitting it out?

CARDIN: No, I'm not suggesting splitting it out. What I am suggesting is that our committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation, should be able to put that part together in a -- hopefully in a bipartisan manner. How the bill comes to the floor has not yet been determined.

I'd leave that to Senator Schumer and the president as far as strategies to get to the finish line, but I would hope that we could work together where we can to advance this package.

It's in America's interest. This is not a partisan issue.


CARDIN: Infrastructure has always been bipartisan. Let's work together.

SCIUTTO: I want to talk about how you pay for this, right? Because, as you know, the president's plan, Democratic plan, includes increases in the corporate tax rate, some other increases on capital gains, et cetera.

I've spoken to Republicans, for instance Senator Wicker, who said they would support pay-fors such as perhaps an increase in the gasoline tax, basically a user fee as opposed to an income tax rise.

Have you spoken to any GOP lawmakers open to raising taxes to pay for this or is that a dead issue?

CARDIN: I have talked to Republicans about pay-fors. And I agree with Senator Wicker in that we should try to come together with a bipartisan package for paying for the ongoing expenses. We've been able to do that in the past in regards to transportation programs. So I think we have to be open.

I understand the president's commitment not to hit middle income or those under $400,000 in additional tax burdens. We can look for ways to make sure we live up to that type of commitment and look at additional revenue sources that may help us come together.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. All right. I want to get to policing. Of course the other major issue of debate and at least negotiation at this point between Republicans and Democrats.


GOP Senator Tim Scott, one of your colleagues, who, of course, is leading the Republican effort on this, says that a federal ban on chokeholds is, in his words, not off the table.

On that key point, which has been an issue -- a sticking issue to this point, can the two parties come to agreement?

CARDIN: Jim, we're going to have to wait to see whether we can or not. I know that Senator Booker, on behalf of the Democrats, has been negotiating. I have two provisions that are included in the Justice in Policing, the End Racial and Religious Profiling and Law Enforcement, Integrity and Trust Act. I am hopeful that we will be able to get a good part of the Justice in Policing bill done by bipartisan agreement so we can get the bill on the floor.

Take up amendments. Let's vote on amendments. Let's do what the Senate has done in the past. Let's bring an issue to the floor. Let's offer amendments that are relevant to the issue. Let's vote on them. And let's move this bill. It's been --


CARDIN: It's long overdue that we have federal reform of policing.

SCIUTTO: I get the aspiration. And that's commendable. But you know that this -- these efforts have died before. I mean there was a moment last June, after George Floyd's killing, and it didn't get anywhere.

The other sticking point, of course, is lowering the threshold for prosecuting police officers for unjust use of violence from willful in effect to reckless. I mean many -- many Republicans have said, I ain't going there.

Is that an issue that can be overcome?

CARDIN: Well, there's a different majority leader in this Congress than in the last Congress. And the Democrats are committed to getting a bill, not only on the floor, but to the president for signature.

What happened in the last Congress is that the Republicans had a bill that did not do the job. They were not going to negotiate with us and we were unable to get a fair floor (ph) process to resolve the issues.

I am confident, with Senator Schumer's leadership, that we'll be able to bring a bill to the floor and I think we can hopefully work together, get amendments that we can consider, have a more open process and, at the end of the day, get a meaningful bill to the president for his signature.

SCIUTTO: All right, we'll be watching.

As you know, we're approaching the four month anniversary of January 6th and yet Congress has still authorized no new funding for all the many, you know, key recommendations for improving security on Capitol Hill and no agreement on commission, just to study what happened, what the failures were, et cetera. I mean Congress was attacked and Congress still has not acted to protect itself. How do you explain that?

CARDIN: Well, we have taken steps. We have taken steps to make sure that we're protected. The security at the Capitol is quite different than it was on January the 6th. We are sharing information among the different agencies. We've had many hearings on Capitol Hill.

I agree with you, we need a --

SCIUTTO: But I'm talking about the long-term -- as you know, the long- term changes recommended by Russel Honore's commission. They're talking about hundreds, perhaps a thousand more U.S. Capitol Police officers. This stuff's still on the shelf. I'm just curious, why hasn't Congress overcome this?

CARDIN: Well, there are recommendations that are currently being evaluated, including more police officers, including the fencing, how the fencing's going to be handled. Those issues are still being debated. There's not a consensus yet. But I can assure you that the security at the Capitol is different than it was in January, on January the 6th, and we are taking the necessary precautions.

But I agree with you, there should be a commission, an independent commission, that evaluates what happened on January the 6th. And I am disappointed we haven't moved forward with that commission.

SCIUTTO: All right. Well, Senator Ben Cardin, a pleasure having you on the broadcast this morning. We appreciate you joining.

CARDIN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, the Justice Department is now opening a broad investigation into the Louisville Police Department. This comes more than a year after officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own home. This during a botched no-knock raid as they're known.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us this morning.

So, Jessica, this is the second time in a week that the DOJ has announced what is a very broad civil rights investigation into a local police force, right? This follows Minneapolis.

Do you have details specifically on what they are investigating?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, this is wide ranging. Same thing as we'll see in Minneapolis, we'll see now in Louisville. It examines, Poppy, you know, whether officers there use unreasonable force, whether they conduct illegal searches, whether they discriminate based on race or even if they unlawfully execute search warrants on private homes.

And this is a review that, as the attorney general said, it will seek input from every corner of Louisville. That means members of the community, as well as this in-depth probe of the police. This could take months. This could take years. And the attorney general talked about the fact that the police department has already taken some steps toward reform when they reached a settlement with Breonna Taylor's family. But this will be a much more comprehensive look.

So we've heard from community groups. They are celebrating. And even city officials, they are pledging cooperation. So here's what the mayor said just a little while ago to CNN.


MAYOR GREG FISCHER (D), LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY: We've done a lot of deep review ourselves through outside consultants with our department. We've had a lot of reform take place in our city. But the DOJ should be the gold standard for investigation. So anything that they find, we're going to get right to work to because what does a great police force look like right now in the 21st century America is a real question, and we aim to be that best police force.


SCHNEIDER: So a lot of people outspoken in their support. We've even heard from Senate Minority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell. He comes from Louisville, Kentucky. He told reporters yesterday that he has no issues with DOJ opening this investigation into his hometown and he said this, it's certainly not inappropriate.


So, Poppy and Jim, a broad swath of support for this broad investigation.

SCIUTTO: Breonna Taylor's family, how are they reacting?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, so we got a statement from the family attorney basically saying, this is absolutely wonderful news. They said this, we've known for a long time that our police department is plagued by issues that are continuously swept under the rug. And the fact that he stepped up and ordered this today, meaning the attorney general, it says a lot and it goes a long way. We were given some assurances by Biden and his team that this really was a top priority for them and it's announcements like this one today that are really validating.

So Breonna Taylor's family speaking out in support of this. But really we've heard nothing but support from the community, guys, as this moves forward and will for quite some time now.

Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Several major investigations.

Jessica Schneider, thank you. Well, the number three Republican in the House, and the highest ranking GOP member to vote to impeach President Trump, is not ruling out her own potential 2024 presidential run. Hear what Congresswoman Liz Cheney is saying, next.



SCIUTTO: Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who belongs to the Republican -- the House Republican leadership and voted to impeach then President Trump, may be considering a presidential bid herself in 2024. When asked by "The New York Post" if she would ever considering running in the future she replied, quote, I'm not ruling anything in or out. Ever is a long time.

Classic political answer on a run like that.

HARLOW: Yes, it is.

Cheney added that she believes senator who led what she called the unconstitutional effort against certifying the 2020 election should be disqualified from running.

Our political director, David Chalian, is with us this morning.

We're lucky to have you. We almost never get you, David. Thank you for being here.

What's --

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thanks for asking to have me.

HARLOW: What's your read on Liz Cheney?

CHALIAN: I think it's the second thing there that's far more important right now than the first.


CHALIAN: Whether or not she runs in 2024. She's right, that's ions away in the life of politics.

But what Liz Cheney is doing here is really interesting. She is making a firm stand to try and be the leader that rids Donald Trump from the Republican Party because she believes that that is what the party needs to move forward.

She also knows, guys, as you know, she's in the small minority in the Republican Party. She does not represent the majority point of view whether among Republican voters or even Republican elected members in Congress. As you noted, she was only one of ten to vote to impeach the president in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection. But her taking on senators like Cruz and Hawley, people who really may run in 2024 for the presidential nomination, and calling it disqualifying, their support for that Electoral College count rejection challenge, if you will, again, not necessarily a majority view inside the Republican Party, but one Liz Cheney is firmly planting a flag on and saying, this, I believe, is the way that the Republican Party can move forward.

SCIUTTO: David Chalian, as you know, there are two schools of thought, right, on Trump. There's the school of thought, some of this within the party, right, that he -- he drags them down, right? We saw that in 2020. And you'll see it again in the midterms and beyond. And others that, like, hey, don't underestimate the guy, he remains very popular with the base. You know, Republican lawmakers are more likely to need him to win than not. And I just wonder what the smart people tell you on that.

CHALIAN: Well, the smart Republicans will tell you both are true, right? He drags down when it comes to independent voters, maybe some more moderate Republicans that you need if you're running a statewide race for Senate or if you're running in a presidential contest, Jim. But when it comes to these House races, he was he was a big help, right? Republicans gained seats in the House in the 2020 election. That was because Donald Trump was atop the ticket and able to juice turnout among the Republican base.

So it depends on sort of where you sit as to how you see the benefit of that Trump energy inside the party.

HARLOW: The rift, divide, whatever you want to call it between Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy is just so interesting because, remember, you know, a month or so ago they were literally standing next to each other at the podium completely disagreeing on things and then she again, yesterday I believe it was, came out and again opposed what he said on Fox over the weekend about the insurrection and the president's responsibility.

And I just wonder what you make of that given may she will run for president in 2024 given those comments and certainly McCarthy wants to be speaker of the House.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about it. And McCarthy has made his bet I think according to what I was just talking about in terms of the way that the path back to the majority for Republicans in the House, McCarthy has decided the most successful path is to embrace Trump and to bring him into the fold. Remember, he had that one moment of saying he bears responsibility for January 6th and then that went away. So he's chosen his path and he thinks that's his best shot at being speaker.

But you are right to note, you have the number one and the number three leader of the Republican conference at complete odds over this fundamental issue of Donald Trump's role in the party.

HARLOW: Right.


Final question. U.S. Census out. It gives more seats to some pretty reliably red states, or at least leaning red state, like a Texas, a Florida, a North Carolina.


I just wonder, has the map just become more difficult for Democrats in 2024?

CHALIAN: Well, if you look at it, Republican states that went for Donald Trump here, he got sort of like a net gain of three electoral votes, right, or three congressional seats for the Trump states. So that's a pretty small advantage, but it is an advantage here from the numbers. What you see here is the decade's long trend continuing of the migration from the Midwest rust belt to the northeast, to the sunbelt of the south and the west, and that potentially could benefit some Republicans.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, it's interesting because everybody always talks about how demographics favor Democrats. But then you keep seeing (INAUDIBLE) like this and you're like, is that really true?

CHALIAN: That's right.

SCIUTTO: We'll see.

David Chalian, thanks very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys. Great to be with you.

HARLOW: Thanks. Thanks, David.

Well, in just a few hours, President Biden is expected to announce new CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans. What can you expect? We have a live preview.



SCIUTTO: A very good Tuesday morning you to. I'm Jim Sciutto.