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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview With Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser; Interview With Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM); Trump Backs Loyalist to Replace Liz Cheney; Interview With Fmr. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL). Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 5, 2021 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can affect -- make sure the standard of living of people I grew up with, if they have childcare, can afford it, so 20 million women can be back in the work force. This is just not -- it makes no sense to me.

[15:00:10]

But it's going to -- I'm going to have to be able to explain this. And I'm going to keep banging at it. I think I'm not being solicitous and I'm not trying to ruin your reputation. I think most of you understand what I'm saying. Whether you agree with me or not, I think you understand what I'm saying.

It's fair to say this is about making the average multimillionaire pay just a fair share. It's not going to affect their standard of living a little bit.

Thank you all very much.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, you have been listening there -- you have been listening there to President Biden. He really covered the gamut--

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- from restaurants to Republicans--

BLACKWELL: He certainly did.

CAMEROTA: -- as we heard, Victor.

And, I mean, he just had so many interesting things. We will start with the Republican infighting. He weighed in, and he put a finer point with a chuckle about how he just doesn't understand Republicans anymore.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the remarks that these things after the scripted comments are usually the most revealing here, obviously, the most passionate. He also talked about there being a mini-revolution within the Republican Conference, and he expected after Trump that the party would be farther along in determining who they are. We heard from Mark McKinnon earlier today that there is no question about who the Republican Party is.

The president there saying that he doesn't understand Republicans.

CAMEROTA: And, Victor, wasn't it interesting to hear him justify the raising of the corporate tax rate and to justify all of this spending?

And I guess that it is his style that, when he's very serious, and wants to really underscore point, he whispers it, as we just heard, and he basically just said that what he's doing, he doesn't, believe will deprive any of the executives of their second or third home or their private jets.

And yet, as he said, I think passionately, that it would really affect the lives of the people that he grew up with.

BLACKWELL: Yes, corporate tax, 21 percent, wants to increase that to 28. The question was, would he compromise to 25 percent? He says that he's willing to compromise. But -- and this is what we're probably going to hear from Republicans throughout this administration -- that quote from him that he's not willing to deficit-spend.

If the president goes in that direction, that sound bite, of course, will come back.

Let's bring in now CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, a passionate defense from this president of his proposals there on Capitol Hill and a defense of what's already been signed into law.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

And it's not a surprise. We have known from the very beginning that President Biden has wanted to go big. That was a big part of his campaign pledge when he was running for office and then his inaugural speech. And the speech that we recently saw him give to a joint session of Congress made it clear that he wasn't going to back down from some of these big proposals.

And while he's willing to work with Republicans, if they can find common ground on some of these issues, like, for instance, a lot of these hard infrastructure projects like bridges and roads, that he wasn't going to back down from the bigger, loftier goals about dealing with climate change or dealing with greater access to education, whether it be pre-K education or free community college.

These are things that President Biden believes he wants to get done, and he wants them to get done now. And I also think it's important to point out, Victor and Alisyn, the backdrop of all this is the timeline that Democrats are really concerned about.

Historically, the first midterm election is dangerous for the party that is in power, particularly the party that holds the White House. And they're nervous, especially given the margins in the House of Representatives, that they may no longer control the House of Representatives after 2022.

And that's part of why he needs to get some of these big ticket items done now. It's still not going to be easy. You're dealing with a 50/50 Senate, whether or not they go the reconciliation route. There seems to be some roadblocks there. But it's clear that Biden has made it very clear to the folks up here on Capitol Hill that he wants to go big.

And that's what we're going to see in this package over the next couple of weeks.

CAMEROTA: Ryan, you're also covering the internecine fighting in the Republican Party, which President Biden just called a mini-revolution.

NOBLES: Yes, it's interesting to hear him describe it as such. I don't know if mini is the right way to describe it.

I think, for the most part, it seems pretty clear that Donald Trump owns the Republican Party. And what we have seen happen here over the past two weeks demonstrates that at a great level. It was just a couple of months ago where there were Republicans, in fact, the majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives, that were willing to stand by Liz Cheney as she made these attacks against Donald Trump, and specifically called him out for his embrace of the big lie that he actually won the 2020 election.

Her repeated criticism just became too much for Republicans, and they seem to be so nervous about losing the support of Donald Trump, especially in some of these red districts across the country, that they are just not going to cross him.

[15:05:00]

And that's why it seems very clear that Liz Cheney is going to lose that leadership post next week. And Trump already endorsing Elise Stefanik, the New York congresswoman who has been a big supporter of President Trump for that position.

And what I think is interesting is what we saw from Mitch McConnell today, right, the Senate minority leader, someone that has attempted to distance himself from President Trump. He would prefer just not to talk about him at all. At one point, McConnell was very supportive of Liz Cheney.

This is how he responded to a question about her today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration. What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: He refused to even say her name, this after just a couple of weeks ago voicing support for her and her role in the Republican Conference.

It shows that even someone like McConnell, who even today was attacked pretty viciously by former President Trump in a statement -- I think Trump called him gutless -- refuses to cross Donald Trump.

It shows us where the Republican Party is right now. They are unified, but they're unified behind the former president and his falsehoods about what happened in the 2020 election.

BLACKWELL: Ryan Nobles for us there on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, thank you.

Let's bring it now Francis Rooney, Republican, former congressman from Florida, just retired from Congress, with his last day of the job three days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

Listen, we just heard what Mitch McConnell said. This has changed so quickly for Liz Cheney. What do you -- what's your reaction to what you heard there and how quickly support seems to be dissolving for the congresswoman?

FMR. REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): Well, I -- it's extremely disturbing to me and to see our party become a cult of the personality and demands of Donald Trump.

This is a great party, started with Abraham Lincoln, helped solve slavery, or at least get rid of slavery, in the Civil War. Look at all the great things that have happened with the Reagan revolution and all the wealth and wages that have been created by free enterprise solutions, instead of government solutions.

And that's all out the window right now, as the party's devolved into a cult of Donald Trump. And what's happening to Liz, to me, is absolutely unconscionable. I mean, what happened to the party that could accommodate Nelson Rockefeller's views and Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater's views?

Now you're either in lockstep with Trump or you're out.

CAMEROTA: Congressmen, here's the part that I have never been able to understand.

Donald Trump lost the presidential election by seven million votes. This is the man that they want to hitch their wagon to? Why?

ROONEY: It makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to me that 147 elected members and senators would not certify that election. That is almost as much of an insurrectionalist event as January 6 was.

BLACKWELL: Does this help Republicans win the majority in the House? I mean, I know that this decision and what McCarthy, Leader McCarthy, is saying about Liz Cheney ingratiates him to the former president, but I don't know, what's your view, if this helps them get the majority back.

ROONEY: Well, I guess they have taken their polling, and they think they're better off with Trump than without him, and that he can keep members from being primaried and maybe give them enough a tailwind to get them across the finish line.

But, long term, this is a disaster. Our party has self-sorted into a declining voter base and demographic cohort which can't be sustained in the long run. George Bush got all kinds of suburban people, college-educated people, women, minorities. He got almost half of Hispanics. We have thrown all that out the window.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of Republican women, former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock was on "NEW DAY" this morning, and she talked about the sacrifice that she believes that current Republican congresswomen have to make, in terms of their own free will, in order to abide by this big lie.

So let me just play for you what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA): And so I think this is a mistake. It's a bad message. And I say woe to any woman who wants to be a handmaiden to this and to sort of get a leadership spot on the heels of really something that is unseemly, to embrace the big lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: She's invoking "The Handmaid's Tale" there to say what Elise Stefanik has had to give up in terms of being rational to now this litmus test of going along with the lie.

ROONEY: Yes.

For the first couple years I was up there, Elise was a relatively responsible, moderate to conservative legislator. She wasn't this Trump fanatic that she became in recent times.

[15:10:03]

And I don't think it's -- I think, in deference to Barbara, I think it's women, but it's not just women. It's men too.

Look at all the people that are flocking to pay homage to Trump. They're not doing anybody any good in the long run. They may be helping themselves in the short run. But -- and that gets into a separate problem of how everything is such a short-run, self- aggrandizement program in the Congress right now, but that's a separate issue.

BLACKWELL: So what then happens to the conservative values that you hold? We put up earlier the ratings for Congresswoman Cheney, that she has high ratings with American Conservative Union, Americans For Prosperity, Heritage Action, National Right to Life, higher than those of Elise Stefanik.

What happened to those values? Are we now seeing that what the party values is endorsement from the former president?

ROONEY: That's exactly right.

What happened to what our party stood for, the party of Reagan, the party that solved so many problems on the basis of free enterprise, not government intervention, that controlled spending, not spent like our 115th Congress did? We have lost our ground, and now we're just a cult of personality of Trump, I guess.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, despite that, do you--

ROONEY: Nobody's more conservative than Liz Cheney, OK? I know her. She's very conservative, certainly more conservative probably than I am. And she's very well-respected for her policy views.

This attack is malicious and baseless.

CAMEROTA: But, given that -- as you say, that they're just into short-term gains, do you think that all of this will help win back the House in -- next year?

ROONEY: It could. It could. They could have their polling right. It could keep enough people from being primaried that they win. They only need five. It's a pretty thin thing, and history is on their side.

BLACKWELL: Let me get you on one more.

ROONEY: But I'm in business, OK?

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

ROONEY: You got to look for the long run.

The long run is, if you're not embracing the next sets of voters that are coming along and getting your fair share, you're going to have a real problem.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the Facebook decision.

The company will continue to keep the former president off its platform for six months. The board suggested that Facebook then revisit this to determine if they will continue the ban.

He now has this blog on his Web site where he's sending statements out. That's where he endorsed Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheney. What's your view of the president's future on these social media platforms? Should he return?

ROONEY: Well, I think he's demonstrated how lethal he can be using social media. He actually tweeted or Facebooked against me one time during my

campaign, when one of my opponents said something that he really liked a lot. And I had to go buy a lot more ads to counter it. So I really don't appreciate what he did.

But there's also issues about whether Facebook ought to have the power to do that or not. But the practical effect of trying to silence the president is OK with me, I think we need to move on from him anyway. I look at him as like you look at an intelligence problem. You isolate and contain. I would ignore him, but nobody seems to want to do that.

CAMEROTA: Former Congressman Francis Rooney, we always appreciate getting your perspective. Thank you.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

CAMEROTA: Next: the push to make Washington, D.C., a state. The mayor there is going to join us live, as the Democratic Governors Association welcomes her to their ranks. How does that work? She's not a governor from a state. We will talk about that.

Also ahead, a Tennessee state lawmaker under fire after his comments on the Three-Fifths Compromise. The chair of the state's Black Caucus has a lot of thoughts on this one.

And questions over the CDC's guidance about summer camps. Even Dr. Fauci says these rules may be a bit too strict. What are parents to do?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:37]

CAMEROTA: The fight for Washington, D.C., to become a state, it will soon head to the Senate.

But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin may have just killed its chances of passing, saying he will not support such a bill.

Our next guests are making an announcement here on our program, in hopes of convincing Manchin and other lawmakers that D.C. is indeed deserving of statehood.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York (sic) Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham are here with us.

Thanks so much, ladies, for being here.

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D-NM): Thank you so much.

MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: Thank you very much for having us.

CAMEROTA: Governor, you are announcing today you're inviting Mayor Bowser to become part of the Democratic Governors Association. But, of course, she's not a governor. So how is this going to work? LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, look, she's an executive leader in the District

working on all of the things that Democratic governors are responsible, from continuing to save lives, get folks vaccinated in our fight against COVID, to every other meaningful issue, from voting rights protection, health care reform and access, educational investments for every single one of her constituents and families.

And that's exactly what the Democratic governors across this country are doing every day. And this partnership is an incredible announcement to really reinforce, that's what we're dedicated to and that's what we are about. And we're delighted to be able to make this announcement today.

[15:20:02]

CAMEROTA: Mayor Bowser, the House passed a bill to make D.C. a state last month. But now Governor Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, says that he doesn't support it.

So, is it DOA?

BOWSER: No, it's not DOA.

And let me thank the governor for her leadership, leadership of the Governors Association, and her willingness to embrace the city, county and state that Washington, D.C., is right now.

Like she said, we function as a state in so many ways. We're treated as a state throughout federal law. And what's missing is two senators to represent us in the Senate, so, we will be just like every other taxpaying American.

What we know is that we have work to do in the Senate. And we have strong allies. The president of the United States has issued a very strong statement supporting statehood for D.C. Senator Schumer has been very strong in his support for D.C. statehood.

And so we know that they're going to work with Senator Manchin and others, so that this is an issue that is finally resolved, a wrong that is finally right in our democracy.

CAMEROTA: All right, we will follow that and see what develops.

In the mean time, Mayor, while I have you, I want to ask you about your new guidelines for reopening D.C. It's getting a lot of attention. Here's what you're saying: "Beginning May 1, multipurpose facilities and then use may host events such as weddings, provided that there may be no more than 25 percent capacity in any room, or up to 250 people."

Here's what's getting a lot of attention: "Standing and dancing receptions are not allowed."

What good is a wedding without dancing, Mayor? And why no dancing?

(LAUGHTER) BOWSER: Well, I think there's a lot of good to a wedding, like people starting off their lives together and doing it in a safe way, and not doing it in a way that puts themselves or their guests in danger.

And let me be clear. On May 1, we were proud of our residents and businesses who make conditions in D.C. such that we can start opening up these facilities. An alternate headline may be, now you can host a wedding in Washington, D.C., a regional meeting. You can have your friends and family for a family reunion and birthday parties at our hotels and restaurants.

And just like our restaurant guidelines suggest is that you have to be seated to enjoy the restaurant.

CAMEROTA: I see that -- we will give you a minute for your earpiece there.

In the meantime, Governor, let me ask you about your restrictions. You're doing something interesting. You're saying that, when New Mexico -- it can reopen when 60 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. That's interesting, because that's the incentive model.

So, you're telling people, hey, you want to reopen fully, then everybody needs to go out and get fully vaccinated. And not every state is doing that. And, in fact, I'm wondering if you think that President Biden should take a page from that and say things like, you will get more PPP or restaurant funds once you can show that everybody involved is vaccinated.

LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, I will tell you that I am incredibly proud of the president. He did exactly what we needed in the White House.

He followed science. It's evidence-based. And he has leaned in and led to make sure that Americans can get access to vaccinations and to make sure that our COVID-safe practices, right, are still robust across the country.

And it's put New Mexico in an incredible position. So, I do think telling people, look, at 60 percent, we know that we create a baseline of immunity. I think that's where the president is going with 70 percent at least having one shot. We need as much, right, of that baseline across the country to protect us from variants that are here, more that are potentially coming, so that we don't regress in our fight against COVID.

And I think New Mexicans will get -- will make President Biden and vice president very proud. We're likely to get beyond that. And I do want to point out that, even though we have created that incentive, we have been very clear that all of our very strict COVID-safe practices will remain intact, including mask mandates for everything except the CDC guidance for individuals engaged in outdoor activities and small vaccinated groups, that we're going to really stay the course to continue to protect New Mexicans.

CAMEROTA: Is there dancing allowed in New Mexico, Governor?

(LAUGHTER)

LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, I will tell you what, if you're socially distanced, and you're wearing a mask, and you meet the other requirements with our level of vaccinations, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. Right. And--

(CROSSTALK)

LUJAN GRISHAM: But I will say that I want to give the mayor -- it takes courage to be really clear about what constitutes high-risk activities and behaviors.

[15:25:09]

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LUJAN GRISHAM: And it is something that Democratic governors are leading in this country, evidence-based.

CAMEROTA: I hear you.

But, Mayor, just -- just is there any way that you would reconsider, with masks on and, say, a card that shows fully vaccinated, that you would allow dancing?

BOWSER: We're absolutely considering opening more activity as our case rates go down and our vaccination rates go up. And that's in our hotels, and that's in our other venues.

CAMEROTA: Understood.

Mayor Bowser, Governor Lujan Grisham, thank you very much for covering all of these topics with us. Great to see you.

LUJAN GRISHAM: Thanks for having us.

BOWSER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Victor.

BLACKWELL: I don't know. A wedding reception without the Electric Slide? Never seen it. Never seen it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure it's ever happened.

BLACKWELL: All right.

So, let's talk about this, this new exchange in the national debate over how to teach the ugliest parts of American history. A Republican state lawmaker in Tennessee is arguing that the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted slaves as less than a full person, was well- intentioned, that it was actually aimed at ending slavery.

The chair of the state's Black Caucus is with us live.

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