Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to GOP, Our Children are Watching; Signs of Hope as U.S. Cases, Deaths, Hospitalizations Drop Sharply; Facebook Oversight Board Defends Decision to Uphold Trump Ban, Defer on Whether it Should be Permanent. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 6, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Fascinating question for the justice and the president.

Thanks for joining us today in Inside Politics. I'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good afternoon.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, thanks for being with us.

Here is what we're watching this hour. Republicans choosing between a truth and a lie and it appears the lies have it. Liz Cheney, the only member of Republican House leadership, willing to defend the election results and blame Donald Trump for his role in the Capitol insurrection, is about to lose her position. But she' not going quietly. Instead, she is admonishing her own party on her way out the door.

Plus, we have incredibly promising news, more than a year now into the pandemic, the number of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations here in the U.S. are all at their lowest points in months and the CDC says these trends are likely only going to get better.

And President Biden is on the road today selling his massive infrastructure plan, a proposal focused on rebuilding America's roads, rails, pipes and bridges and more, perhaps one of the few things that can bring Democrats and Republicans together, right? So how's that looking?


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): 100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.


CABRERA: One of the president's economic advisers will join us live and I'll ask him about Senator McConnell's promise to obstruct.

But, first, to Capitol Hill, and the very public effort to purge Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her GOP leadership post. Cheney has just written an op-ed. And in it, she warns her Republican colleagues that history is watching, that their children are watching, along with this, quote, the Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill. Manu, are there any Republicans publicly coming to Cheney's defense?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very few, the ones who are, are typically the ones who are in the minority of this Trump- supporting Republican conference, one of whom was Anthony Gonzalez, who is a Republican who joined Liz Cheney to impeach Donald Trump. He said that if there's a prerequisite for lying in the Republican conference, then Liz Cheney should not be a leader of the conference. That's what he told me last week.

But I am told that he's also not making phone calls on her behalf in order to save her from this position because Liz Cheney herself recognizes what's happening here. And what's happening is that the Republican leaders have turned against her in the aftermath of her battle with Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, the top two Republican leaders are publicly and privately backing Elise Stefanik, the New York Republican, to come and replace her within a vote that's expected to happen on Wednesday.

Stefanik herself, who has had a more moderate voting record in her past, became a loyal Trump ally particularly in the last couple years of his administration and led the effort -- helped lead the effort in the House against Democrats who impeached Donald Trump the first time for abusing power and for obstructing Congress.

And, today, when she was on a radio show with the former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, she also embraced the notion that there was something amiss with the 2020 election, something that she has done repeatedly and something that Cheney has warned against them, and also backed the Republican-led effort to cast doubt on Biden's victory in Arizona.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people.

We want to be able to fix and strengthen our election security and our election integrity going into future elections. That should be something, whether you're Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone should agree with having faith in our election system.


RAJU: Now, her rhetoric here is different than Liz Cheney, who has actually warned against casting doubt about the legitimacy of an election in which there's been no evidence of widespread fraud. Stefanik herself voted to overturn the electoral results in Pennsylvania. And so that's one reason why that Trump and Trump allies have supported her throughout this process.

But she is getting some criticism from her past voting record representing a district in Upstate, New York, a more moderate record. One conservative group, outside group, the Club for Growth, put out a tweet saying that Elise Stefanik is not a good spokesperson for the House Republican conference, she is a liberal with a 35 percent Club for Growth lifetime rating, fourth worst in the House GOP. And House Republicans should find a conservative to lead messaging and win back the House majority.

We're hearing some concern among some conservative members of the House Republican conference but that is not going to be enough to stop what seems almost inevitable here, Ana, which is Elise Stefanik expected to be elected on Wednesday perhaps by a wide majority when it comes time to oust Liz Cheney and shake up the Republican leadership team. Ana?

CABRERA: It is very interesting, Manu Raju, what's happening there in Washington.


Thank you.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, former Chief Policy Director for the House Republican conference and Executive Director for Stand Up Republic Evan McMullin and Republican Election Lawyer Ben Ginsberg. Good to have both of you here.

Evan, the silence is deafening right now. No sitting Congress member is really coming to Liz Cheney's defense, at least not publicly. You say this is going to hurt Republicans in the suburbs in 2022, explain.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CHIEF POLICY DIRECTOR, HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Well, first of all, let's start with recent history that, unfortunately, for the Republicans, they've lost two cycles of elections due largely to the suburbs moving away from the party, especially women in the suburbs. And so by canning Liz Cheney, who's somebody who rejects the big lie, along with many in the suburbs, I think the Republican Party leadership sadly in Congress is sending a message to those very voters who they've lost in, again, two cycles, the two most recent cycles, that they have no place in the Republican Party.

And I think obviously that's going to make it harder for Kevin McCarthy to achieve his big goal, which is to be speaker of the House. And it's going to make it harder for the Republican Party to establish a governing, sustainable majority in the future.

CABRERA: So there's one thing about what's best for the Republican Party, and the other thing is what's best for America, right? I want to read more from Liz Cheney's op-ed. She writes this, quote, Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work, confidence in the results of elections, and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.

Then by siding with Trump, and refusing to call out this big lie, are Republicans on a path now that could actually threaten American democracy?

BEN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's a real problem. The key to the way we conduct our democracy is to losers accepting the results of the election and the peaceful transfer of power taking place. And by corroding faith in the elections, you undermine that.

Now, one thing that the Republicans are missing is that if they can do it in this case, it is not hard to imagine for their political opponents to saying the same thing about an election that Republicans might be narrowly ahead in. So once you unravel the fabric of what really makes the democracy work, you open up a can of worms, it's really dangerous and there's no guarantee of who it helps and who it hurts.

CABRERA: I do think it's worth saying though that in this case, it wasn't a narrow win for Joe Biden. He won pretty handily by multimillion number of votes.

Evan, I just want to tick through a few of the other current House Republican remarks, what they've done or said in the last few months. You have Mo Brooks telling Trump supporters to taking down names and kicking ass just before the Capitol insurrection. Paul Gosar, he recently spoke at a conference with white nationalists. You have Matt Gaetz under federal investigation related to prostitution and sex trafficking, and yet, there hasn't been any consequence for these members. It's Liz Cheney, whose only transgression here is telling the truth, who is being forced out of her leadership position. What message does that send to the American people about what this party prioritizes?

MCMULLIN: Well, look, I think, Ana, this is what happens when you abandon principle and truth, anything and everything goes except for truth. And that's what we're seeing unfortunately inside the party right now.

I think we are seeing sort of a battle of two ideas about how the Republican Party can prevail electorally in the future. Liz Cheney's view, of course, is that in order to be competitive in the future, the party has got to deal with reality so that it can make necessary adjustments following the two cycles of losses that's already suffered and then hopefully compete once again.

The other view that I think a lot of Republicans who are aligned with Trump, and even some who aren't necessarily fully aligned with Trump have, is that it's a more shorter term view, and that is that the Trump side of the party and the side of the party that wants to turn the page and move on have to somehow work out their differences because that's the only way for near term electoral wins. I disagree with that, but that is -- that, of course, is their view.

And you're seeing that fight, and I think that's one of the reasons Congressman Cheney is in trouble now with her conference is that there are a number of other Republican leaders who may agree with her about the election and its legitimacy, but they're deciding that they would rather try to bridge the divide between those who believe the big lie themselves than chart a new course based on truth and principle. [13:10:03]

CABRERA: And the big lie, it appears, has worked in at least this way, GOP leaders who go along with it are elevated, it's also worked in many ways with Republican voters in terms of questioning a legitimacy of the election, more than two-thirds believing now the election was stolen, according to the latest polling. I wonder if Trump has now led some Republicans to believe that the system is so flawed that they shouldn't even vote. You know, we saw what happened in Georgia. Ben, what do you think this means for upcoming elections and turning out the vote?

GINSBERG: Yes. It can be a very self-destructive strategy in the sense that if Republican voters tend to believe that the results don't matter or that they're rigged, then they won't come out to vote. The same can be said for a number of the restrictive voting laws that are being passed on a state level. They are making Republicans go back, look at the past instead of the future and the truth of the matter is a lot of those bills make it harder to vote absentee, yet that's been a bedrock in any number of states that have helped Republicans over the years.

So the big lie is manifesting itself on two levels. One is what's happening to Liz Cheney and sort of the herd mentality on the Hill, and the second is the restrictive voting bills in the states, neither of which are going to help Republicans in the long run become a majority party because these bills and the purging of Liz Cheney is about subtraction instead of addition, addition being the hallmark of being a successful political party.

CABRERA: Carly Fiorina was asked this morning, who, of course, is a former Republican presidential candidate, whether somebody like Liz Cheney could potentially get out of the party and start, you know, run against the party in many ways as an independent or a third party candidate. I know, Evan, you tried to do that, to offer an alternative to Trump, at one point. Do you think that Cheney would have a better chance of succeeding in that because she has, you know, big name recognition, at least that's why Carly Fiorina suggested that could work?

MCMULLIN: Well, look, I think there's a huge opportunity in American politics right now for disruption. Of course, there are many barriers, but the need for something new is certainly there. And when I say something new, yes, that could be a new party, yes, that's very difficult. But it could also be sort of a new political identity, a new movement that steps aside from the parties or that works more independently of the parties, and I think there is a possibility there.

Look, according to Gallup, more Americans than ever before, since they've been collecting this data, consider themselves independents, 62 percent of Americans don't feel well represented by either party. There's massive openness to disruption, I think, and need for disruption, positive disruption in the American political ecosystem. And so I think that is worth considering. And there are a group of us, former party leaders, who are looking at this, you know, and making plans to offer that kind of new home for voters who feel disaffected, voters who don't feel at home, and certainly in the Republican Party now, in its current status, and also Americans who are in the center, and even center-left. So there's a massive opportunity there, and we're working on that, and I think we'll have more to say soon.

CABRERA: Evan McMullin and Ben Ginsberg, it's great to have both of you here. Thank you.

GINSBERG: Thank you.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: This is the best coronavirus news we've had in months, COVID cases and hospitalizations sinking to their lowest points in nearly seven months, deaths also dropping in a big way. We'll have details just ahead.

Plus, members of the Facebook oversight board today defending their decision to uphold the ban on former President Trump, but punting it on whether it should be permanent.

And Rudy Giuliani's allies now said to be begging Trump to help pay his mounting legal bills. Why hasn't Trump opened his war chest?



CABRERA: Okay. We may not be in the clear with the coronavirus yet but there is good news to report today. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is at its lowest point in nearly seven months. Right now, the U.S. is averaging around 45,000 new cases each day. That is down 81 percent from four months ago. Deaths from COVID are also plunging, the seven- day average at its lowest point since last July.

Dr. Richina Bicette is an emergency medicine physician, she is also the medical director of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

First, Doctor, good to see you, your reaction to these encouraging trends?

RICHINA BICETTE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I'm ecstatic. I can't help but to be excited to see the numbers going down. As you've mentioned, these are the lowest numbers since around late September, early October of last year.

But you're right, Ana, we are not out of the woods just yet because although we saw these numbers in September/October last year, shortly thereafter, we began to see cases rise before they hit that unprecedented spike in January.

So we're not in the clear. We do still need to be vigilant and remember that the pandemic is not over.

CABRERA: But now we have the vaccine and more people are getting vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy, however, is emerging as a concern here in the U.S. Republicans, we know, have had more vaccine hesitancy than Democrats or Independents, but a new survey by Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the number of Republicans who say they plan to get a vaccine, or have gotten a vaccine, has gone up, 9 percent, in the past month.


So what do you think has made the difference?

BICETTE: You know, it's interesting to see. The CDC has a map on its website of where vaccination rates are highest across the United States. And it's eerily split in a similar fashion to which states vote red and which states vote blue.

For some reason from the very start, this pandemic has become a partisan issue and that's not the case at all. We tried to think of Australia as our golden child for handling the coronavirus pandemic, and one thing that they've done so well is that their two political parties have become unified in their response and that's why they've been able to manage so well. Their prime minister is actually quoted as saying, there are no red and blue teams, there are only Australians.

I think right now what's helping with vaccine hesitancy is that almost 150 million Americans have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. So that means almost everyone knows someone, someone that looks like them, someone that has a similar career as them, someone that has a similar lifestyle as them that have gotten vaccinated. And we know the vaccines are safe, we know that they're effective, and that probably is contributing to more people being willing to get vaccinated.

CABRERA: We're also seeing a lot of creative ways to try to incentivize people to get vaccinated. We just reported in the last week or so that Major League Baseball teams, like the Mariners, the Yankees, the Mets are all offering vaccines at their stadium, and also free tickets in exchange. Yes, the New York City mayor today saying he wants to offer vaccines to tourists visiting Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and The High Line. In West Virginia, young adults who get vaccinated get a $100 savings bond. And just yesterday, vaccinated football fans, we learned, will get a chance to win tickets to the Super Bowl. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

BICETTE: I have never seen anything like this before, but I also have never seen anything like COVID before. So I think unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

CABRERA: A new study shows one dose of the Pfizer vaccine is not enough. People need to get both vaccine doses. If there was any question here, let me give you the facts and what we're learning. One dose, this is based on a study done in Israel, real people study, just one dose gave 57 percent protection against infection, a little more than 75 percent against hospitalization and death, but compare that to more than 95 percent protection against infection and death seven days after the second dose.

So, Doctor, what is your message to people who haven't returned for their second dose, and is it too late if somebody has gone past that three or four-week recommended increment?

BICETTE: It's not too late. There are countries across the world that have actually spread the recommended time period from the first to the second dose. But we've said this from the very, very beginning, you are not fully vaccinated until it's been two weeks after your second dose. We really need people to return and get vaccinated, not only because the rates of infection, and being -- and getting coronavirus after you only have one shot, are higher, if you only get one dose, but we don't know how long that immunity lasts because that wasn't studied when Pfizer and Moderna originally produced their vaccines. So, yes, everyone needs to get two doses.

There are some side effects that you can expect, and the more we discuss that and the more we warn people that these are things that potentially are expected after getting vaccinated, I think people will get more comfortable with returning for their second dose.

CABRERA: Dr. Richina Bicette, it's great to have you here, thank you, as always.

BICETTE: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: The Facebook oversight board today speaking out after it punted on whether to permanently ban former President Trump from the social network, why they say that's not their decision.



CABRERA: Welcome back. Members of the Facebook oversight board are speaking out today on their controversial decision to uphold the social networks ban on former President Trump for now. The group ultimately punted on whether the ban should remain in place permanently and took the ball back in Mark Zuckerberg's court, calling on the company to clarify its rules and issue a final verdict within six months.

Today, it was clear that members of this board were uncomfortable making the final decision.


HENRY OLSEN, FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD MEMBER: I don't think that limiting people who you don't like, who have influence, is the appropriate way to govern a platform that seeks to be devoted to free speech.

JAMAL GREENE, FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD MEMBER: The board's job is not to make decisions about users in the first instance. Facebook has a responsibility to its users and to its community and to the broader public to make its own decisions.


CABRERA: CNN's Chief Media Correspondent and Anchor of Reliable Sources Brian Stelter joins us now. So what happens now, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: What happens now is Facebook does have six months to come up with new rules. It's as if they operate this superhighway but there's no lines on the road, there's no way to know when you've veered off the highway, so now they have to put the rules into place.

In the meantime, Trump can use this to his advantage and stoke grievances about what he calls conservative censorship of speech. Of course, big tech companies say they are not doing that, they're just trying to apply rules.