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Biden to Give Address Before Joint Session of Congress Tomorrow; Pelosi Confident about Security Ahead of Biden's Address to Congress; FOX Host Tells Viewers to Confront People Wearing Masks Outdoors; Florida Private School Bans Vaccinated Teachers from Student Contact; DHS Launches Probe to Root Out Violent Extremism Within Ranks. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: President Biden marks his first 100 days in office this Friday. Tomorrow, he'll give his first address before a joint session of Congress.

It will be the first presidential address ever given before lawmakers during a global pandemic.

That's historic.


CAMAROTA: And it will also be the first joint address since the January 6th capitol insurrection.

Manu Raju is with us, CNN chief congressional correspondent, on Capitol Hill, with a preview.

Manu, Speaker Pelosi has said she's confident about security, that it will be OK for this speech. But the rioters on January 6th did say they were looking for the next opportunity when Congress would all be in session.

So what are the security measures?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the first time that a joint session of Congress will have met since January 6th.

Pelosi said she just had a security briefing and she said she's confident in the security measures.

But she said it will be different not because of the security but because of the COVID protocols that are being taken throughout the chamber.

Those, she said, are being dictated by the office of the attending physician, Brian Moynihan, who has indicated that there should be fewer members and guests in the chamber.

In fact, members are not allowed to bring guests. But a total of 200 people will be allowed in the chamber. Typically, there will be 1,600 people in the House chamber for a joint address.

And members per caucus will be divided, a fraction of members from each of the four caucuses on Capitol Hill, and then a handful of other people who will be in attendance.

So members will have to also follow very strict COVID protocols. They have to sit six feet apart from each other. They have to where KN-95 masks.

They're in the allowed --according to a memo sent around, any physical contact. That means no arm shaking -- or no handshaking, no fist bumps perhaps, at least according to these guidelines, no elbow bumps.

We'll see if members actually listen to that.

But typically, you see members who are swaying (ph) along the aisle as the president comes through in a roaring applause. That is just simply not going to be the case.

Members won't be lining the aisles. We'll see if any rush up and don't listen to the requirements.

It will be a much different address, with very strict protocols, fewer people in attendance.

And we'll see how much members ultimately listen to the requirement to sit six feet apart. And also to wear KN-95 masks, which are required for every attendee.

BLACKWELL: So now the question is, if the numbers are winnowed, who gets to go?

RAJU: Yes, that's been a big question over the last few days here.

We're hearing that roughly about 30 Senate Republicans will be allowed to go up 50, according to what Mitch McConnell just told his caucus at a closed-door lunch, 'm told by a person in the room.

They're asking for people who want to attend, they'll look at the people who want to attend and they'll decide. If there are more than 30, they have to decide who can go.


The Senate Democrats did something a bit different. They had a lottery of sorts, where they picked names and decided who could go to the speech because a lot -- there's a lot of interest on the Democratic side. House Democrats are figuring out their own way. We're hearing probably

members of the leadership and a select other members could go as well.

House Republicans actually were in Orlando for their retreat just up until today. It is uncertain how many of those members will come back. Many don't want to listen to the president from the opposing party.

The Republican leadership, Kevin McCarthy, the top leader, will come back from that, but not his number two, Steve Scalise.

We'll see how Republicans and Democrats ultimately attend this speech, but very few members will be there -- guys?

BLACKWELL: Very different aesthetics there. A different image.

Manu Raju, for us on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Be sure to join CNN tomorrow as President Joe Biden gives his first address to a joint session of Congress. Jake Tapper, Abby Phillip, Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer will lead CNN's special live coverage. It starts tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

CAMAROTA: Still ahead, Tucker Carlson's latest rant has taken a turn from just outrageous rhetoric to a call to action. We'll tell you what he's encouraging his viewers to do now.



BLACKWELL: The FOX News host, Tucker Carlson, is taking his anti-mask crusade to new and really disturbing levels.

On his show, Monday night, the right-wing host launched a tirade on the masked millions of Americans who wear them to protect them from coronavirus and others from coronavirus.

Carlson called mask wearing repulsive. And said parents who force their kids to wear the face coverings should be reported to the police for child abuse.

He also urged his viewers to confront anyone they see in public wearing a mask.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT": The next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate, ask politely but firmly, would you please take off your mask, science shows there's no reason for you to be wearing it, your mask is making me uncomfortable.

We should do that. And we should keep doing it until wearing a mask outside is roughly as socially accepted as lighting a Marlboro in an elevator.


BLACKWELL: Brian Stelter is CNN's chief media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES." Asha Rangappa is a CNN legal and national security analyst.

Brian, listen, we're used to hearing these rants from Tucker Carlson. But this seems to be different now that he's telling people to confront others because they're wearing a mask.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Right, taking it too far. And that's Carlson's specialty, taking it too far.

He's counterproductive in the way that a troll often is, trying to bait liberals into doing the opposite of what he says, trying to start fights.

But in this case, he seems to actually be encouraging his viewers to start fights in the real world. And that is why he's been condemned for the last 18 hours.

Especially his suggestion that child services should be involved and people should call child protective services if a child is wearing a mask.

There's an incredible rural/urban divide, a red state/blue state divide on masks. I think it is worsening as we speak. Hopefully, today's guidelines, loosening up, will change that.

But Carlson is feeding into an audience that wants to believe the worst about other tribes. It's downright sectarian at this point, his behavior.

Whatever happened to the conservative idea of live and let live? That is a conservative idea. But for Carlson, that's cuckoo.

Obviously, nobody should be confronted for wearing a mask or for wearing a mask at this point, frankly.

I was at the park last week, by myself, minding my business with my daughter. Somebody confronted me because I wasn't wearing a mask. That's not fair anymore.

And neither is Carlson telling folks to confront mask wearers. It is just so incredibly counterproductive.

And it makes you wonder, is he trying to get people to start fights?. It sure seems that way, right?

BLACKWELL: You know, Brian, to your point, I don't think we played the most outrageous part, where he basically says, if you see a child wearing a mask, to him, it is the same as child abuse, and you should call the police if you see a child wearing a mask.

Do you think -- you've been a law enforcement officer. I have a couple of questions for you, Asha. Do you think Americans should be calling the police on their neighbors' kids? Do you think that's something that the viewers, even of FNC, would be game for?

And as a law enforcement officer, what happens when the police field phone calls about I see a child wearing a mask?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, they -- people should definitely not call the police on parents who have their children out wearing a mask.

That is a waste of resources. It distracts law enforcement from real things that they need to be dealing with. So that is not an appropriate response.

I think that, you know, on the substance, his rant is kind of objectively bonkers.

But he is also a master class in propaganda, Alisyn. He's very effective at meeting the three goals of propaganda, which is to, one, shake people's beliefs, two, reinforce those beliefs and, three, to get people to act on those beliefs.

And in this case, what he's trying to do -- we already have seen how he's conditioned -- he and others have conditioned people to cognitively see mask wearing, vaccines, as dangerous and to, you know, impact their own behavior, by not doing those things.

But what he's now doing is channeling his propaganda to condition them to engage in anti-social behavior against their own neighbors, their fellow citizens, their kids' schools. He mentions that.


And I think this should be very troubling. When, you know, foreign countries do it to us, we call it active measures.

BLACKWELL: Asha, speaking of schools, there's a private school in Miami that is citing some false claims and barring vaccinated teachers from contact with students.

This is the Centner Academy. The co-founder and CEO wrote a letter. Here is part of it:

"COVID-19 vaccines are still in an experimental stage. They're not yet FDA approved. Rather, they have emergency use authorization.

"Clinical trials are not scheduled to be complete until 2023. It will be years before we have reliable information regarding the short and long-term effects of the COVID 19 vaccines.

"If you want to get the vaccine before the school year ends, please let us know right away, as we cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known.

"We're not 100 percent sure that the COVID injections are safe and there are too many unknown variables for us to feel comfortable at this current time."

Listen, there are a lot of people who have questions. But you teach about disinformation. Is this that? And, I mean, this is also private school policy.

What are your thoughts there?

RANGAPPA: This is definitely disinformation. I mean, we have not heard anything about this -- of something like this from the scientists, from the CDC.

I mean, basically, this is turning COVID on its head. It's basically saying, if you have a vaccine, you're somehow contagious and you need to socially distance from others, which makes no sense.

But as you noted, Victor, this is a private school, so they can have whatever policies they want.

When I saw that story, though, one question that came to me is I don't know how they can compel teachers to share their health information.

It is ironic that these are probably the same people who are against vaccine passports because they believe in keeping your health information private.

But, so on that front, I don't know how they would be able to know if someone got the vaccine or not.

And I hope people will take their own health into their own hands, and, you know, protect themselves and protect others.

And, you know, they don't need to reveal that to anyone if they don't want to.

STELTER: I think it is worse than disinformation. It is disinformation as policy, right?

When you're making up rules based on lies, and those are crazy lies, then you're crating policy based on crazy lies that are on the Internet, on fringe Web sites.

It is a really disturbing trend. And hopefully, it will not advance any further.

But it seems to me, whether it is Tucker Carlson or a private school in Miami, irrational people are making it a lot harder to have rational discussions about this right now.

CAMAROTA: I'm glad you brought that up, Brian, because this entire segment has been about turning something on its head.

That's what both of this is doing. It is saying --


CAMAROTA: -- what if. We're just posing the question. What if masks weren't safe and

helpful? What if they were harmful? I'm just posing the question.

And they go to -- they're off to the races with it. That's the -- that's the entire modus operandi of doing something like that and saying something like that.

Thank you, both, for the rational discussion.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

CAMAROTA: OK, Homeland Security is on a new mission in the fight against violent extremism. They're now taking a look within their own ranks.



CAMAROTA: The Department of Homeland Security is announcing an internal review to assess the threat of violent extremism from within its own ranks.

The review of potential insider threats comes from the wake of the January 6th capitol riot and is part of a broader focus by the Biden administration on threats here at home.

CNN's senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is following the story.

Alex, was there something specific that prompted this?


No, there was no one particular incident, according to DHS, that prompted this internal review.

Essentially, what they're saying is they want to reflect inside DHS what they're doing in the rest of the country and prioritizing the threat of domestic violent extremist, which they repeatedly said is the single most-persistent and lethal threat when it comes to terrorism inside the United States.

This is the first time a review like this has been undertaken by the department.

And in explaining it, they do, in fact, point to January 6th and the insurrection at the United States capitol, and the fact that domestic violent extremism is on the rise, and is the most dangerous threat in terms of terrorism, as I just mentioned.

I want to read part of what the secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Mayorkas, told journalists earlier today.

He said, "We are seeking to achieve our nation's security and combat the most significant terrorism-related threat to the homeland. And we, as a department, must reflect that the security we seek to achieve for the country as a whole."

So essentially, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards.

DHS is a massive department. They have 240,000 employees. Most people don't realize that that includes agencies like FEMA, TSA, Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Coast Guard.

So, this is a massive review that they are undertaking.

BLACKWELL: All right, Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

All right, so an important shift in the U.S. as President Biden announces new rules for mask wearing.

But horror in India as experts fear the country has more than a half billion COVID cases.


Stay with us.



BLACKWELL: Top of a brand-new hour. I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

CAMAROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We begin with the push by the Biden administration to get more people vaccinated.