Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Says, Still Digging Our Way Out of a Very Deep Hole; Texas Republicans Advance Bill That Would Make it Harder to Vote; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Says, The Republican Party Can't Grow Without Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Party in Arizona is in turmoil is a dramatic understatement from the always diplomatic Jeff Zeleny. Grateful to have you there on the ground, Jeff.

And grateful for you joining us today and throughout the week. Have a great week. And don't go anywhere, a busy news day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Friday, and thanks for joining us, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We are still digging out. A disappointing jobs report this morning, but President Biden doesn't really see it that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We knew this wouldn't be a sprint, it would be a marathon. Quite frankly, we're moving more rapidly than I thought we would.

But when we passed the American rescue plan, I want to remind everybody it was designed to help us over the course of a year, not 60 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Well, 266,000 jobs were added last month, that is well below the million job boost analysts were forecasting.

Let's go right to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Kaitlan, what else did we hear from President Biden?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was arguing essentially that looking at the data from this jobs report, he says, makes the case for his economic agenda, not just talking there about the American rescue plan, that COVID-19 relief bill that he passed after first taking office that, of course, it's now additional stimulus checks, extended those enhanced unemployment benefits.

But he was saying it's not just going to go into effect right away. He was saying it wasn't going to be a 60-day turnaround. He said that he envisions it more taking close to a year to have this happen.

And so the way he was framing it was, and this is still going on, despite the criticism that has been coming in as this negative jobs report that really shocked everyone, he said it's proof of just how deep the hole of an economic hole that America was in because of the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We're still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs. Let me say that again. It cost us 22 million jobs.

Today's report makes clear, thank goodness we passed the American rescue plan. Help is here. And more help is on the way. And more help is needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now, Ana, one criticism and one question, really, has been about whether or not those enhanced unemployment benefits are contributing to these numbers, with, of course, an additional $300 per week that people are getting in these unemployment benefits and whether or not that is factoring into the numbers that we are seeing in this lackluster jobs report.

And President Biden says he doesn't believe there's any evidence of that. When he looks at this report, his treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, is in the briefing room right now, she is echoing a similar sentiment, saying the that this data actually shows people are looking for jobs and many can't find them.

But she did say that the White House has heard from businesses who say they are struggling to hire workers right now. So that is going to be a question facing the White House as we see how this plays out. And I think a lot of this, what you hear from White House officials is, it's a really largely unpredictable nature here.

Of course, we are not used to coming out of an economic disaster following a pandemic, and so that's kind of what President Biden was alluding to. But his main message was, framing this in a way that is reassuring to Americans and saying that it's proof his economic agenda is working, and, of course, still a lot of questions about what that's going to look like going forward and whether or not this is volatile, and this is temporary, and just changes for this month, depending on what it looks like for next month.

CABRERA: Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you.

Let's bring in Mark Zandi, he's the chief economist for Moody's Analytics. Mark, first of all, why did the experts get this wrong? They were expecting a million jobs, not 266,000. MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, you know, we have these months, the BLS, the Bureau Labor Statistics, the government agency that puts this data together, it's based on a survey, and a lot of uncertainty around the survey month-to-month. And everyone (INAUDIBLE) at BLS there is this curve ball. This is a pretty wicked curve ball but it was a curve ball.

And, Ana, my sense though is that the economy is just fine, it's strong, the employment data is incongruous with all the other economic data. And when we're having a conversation a month from now or two months from now, we're going to get job numbers that we're all going to feel much better about. So I wouldn't put too much weight on this particular number.

CABRERA: And they're not just numbers, they're obviously people who were talking about jobs. We've been reporting that restaurants and factories are struggling to hire, which seems counterintuitive. What do you think is behind the worker shortage when, clearly, there are still millions unemployed?

ZANDI: Well, you've got a lot of employers reopening all at once, all over the country, and it's a bit of a scramble, right. I mean, you've got people that have left the labor force and a lot of parents are home, still taking care of kids because schools haven't gone back to in-person education, you've got people still nervous about the pandemic or taking care of sick family members and friends. So, you know, things have gotten scrambled here, and getting all the chairs back in the right order is going to take a few months for that to happen.

[13:05:01]

But even despite that, I mean, in today's jobs numbers, the restaurant industry added well over 200,000 jobs. So I don't think the labor issues are endemic. I don't of that big a deal. I think we'll work through them. And by summer/fall we'll see employers able to hire workers that they need.

CABRERA: Well, I sure hope you're right. And, hopefully, people feel comfortable going back into those environments. We know Montana and South Carolina are ending their federal pandemic unemployment benefits next month. We've learned the Chamber of Commerce will begin lobbying the White House to end the extra $300 payments per week as well and their argument is all that this is de-incentivizing people from working. Biden, of course, disagrees. What is your view, when should these payments be phased out?

ZANDI: Well, I think they should be phased out when the pandemic is over. The pandemic is not over. We're still grappling with it. And we were heading in the right direction and it feels like by the summertime, we'll achieve something close to herd resilience, resistance and we can all get back to normal.

But until that day, I think the economy continues to need support and unemployed workers continue to get support. I mean, you saw on Thursday, yesterday, that another 600,000 people filed for unemployment insurance. That's three times the level you would expect to see in a well-functioning, typical economy.

So we've made a lot of progress. We've come back a long way. But we've got a long way to go and the economy is not normal. And until that day, I think the government should continue to provide support, and that includes you (ph).

Now, I know there are some concerns that the high U.I. payments is disincentivizing people but the effort there is pretty slim. I mean, there's been a number of really good studies done, academic, peer reviewed studies because these benefits have been around for more than a year, and no one is going to be able to connect those dots. Maybe -- I'm sure there are anecdotes. I'm sure there are cases, but it's not widespread. I don't think it's a big problem.

And, by the way, under current ARP, these are going to -- the extra U.I. benefits are going to expire by September, so, you know, if this is an issue, it won't be an issue for very long.

CABRERA: There are also big concerns about other types of shortages, commodities shortages, from lumber to steel to computer chips, which are making prices go way up on homes. In fact, because of the lumber shortage, new homes cost $36,000 more. We're also seeing shortages of rental cars. All of this could eventually be passed down to other consumer goods, right? Why is this happening?

ZANDI: Well, I mean, it's almost like what's happening in the job market, right? I mean, all of a sudden, things are starting to open up, people are spend again, you've got a lot of demand. And then, of course, the supply of these things were significantly pulled back during the pandemic.

Global supply chains got completely scrambled because a lot of these manufacturing products were produced all over the world and brought together and sold here but they got scrambled because -- and the pandemic is still -- you know, we're making a lot of progress here, but overseas, it's a complete mess. I mean, the pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world.

So it's very difficult to get those goods here. So you've got -- it's just demand and supply. You've got a pick up and demand, where you have constrained supply and that means that prices jump, and that's what we're observing.

Now, if history is any guide, we've been through recessions before, not like this one, but, you know, other recessions, you know, we will start to see the supply side of these markets start to gain traction, businesses will reopen, they'll invest, because they can make money at these prices. And that increased supply will then moderate the price increases going forward.

So I think this will be temporary. You know, next few months is going to be uncomfortable because of this adjustment, but it's kind of -- sorry to say, it's the kind of typical, you know, adjustment process coming out of a wrenching period like the one we've been in.

CABRERA: And I think that's little comfort to some people who are struggling already, and now same prices go up, but thank you for helping us at least make sense of it. Mark Zandi, good to see you and happy Friday.

ZANDI: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: So much of the economic hurt right now is directly tied to the pandemic, and more promising news today, at least on vaccines, Pfizer is now seeking full FDA approval of its coronavirus vaccine. Right now, it still has only the emergency use authorization, like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

And here with us now to discuss why this is significant, former Acting CDC Director Dr. Richard Besser. Dr. Besser, thanks for being with us. What more is needed for full approval that makes it different from the emergency use authorization?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: Yes. Ana, the FDA set certain standards in bars that have to be achieved for a manufacturer to come forward for full approval. During the emergency use, the bar is lower. We're in the midst of a crisis and just showing that the benefits outweigh the risk got products approved and that they were safe.

Now, we have months of data, millions and millions of doses that have been given, and so the company can provide data on how the vaccines have fared in real world use, what the protections levels have been, and what's been seen in terms of safety. And I expect that the FDA will likely call the committee back that approved the emergency use authorization to review the data as well and determine should the vaccine be fully approved.

[13:10:09]

And if it is fully approved, that could be a big step.

CABRERA: Let me ask you, because you're a pediatrician, as we approach more children becoming eligible for the vaccine. There was a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found 19 percent of parents say they definitely won't get their child vaccinated. What do you say to parents who are hesitant?

BESSER: You know, it's a challenge. I look at those numbers and see them as a starting point. And what I see there is that people have questions, they have concerns. And if you meet people where they are with respect and understand why some people are on the fence right now, some people are saying they don't want the vaccine, you're going to see a lot of movement around that.

As more and more people are able to do things that they can't do before, the desire to get vaccinated will go up, because it not only protects the individual but it helps reduce transmission in the community, and that could help prevent some of these variants we're all concerned about from occurring.

CABRERA: And as a parent myself, you know, I'm one who wants to get my children vaccinated because I want them as protected as possible, but right now they're not eligible. They're nine and five. So what's your advice to parents who may be vaccinated but whose children are not in terms of just navigating the summer?

BESSER: Yes, I mean, it's -- it's challenging. I would look at the recommendations from public health and it's another one of those reasons that I use when I talk to people about vaccination.

One of the other reasons that adults need to get vaccinated is it helps protect children. We don't have vaccines for children right now. Hopefully very soon, we'll have vaccines for kids starting at the age 12. But for younger children, it's following public health guidance, it's getting vaccinated, that will help protect kids.

Thankfully, as weather is good and we're outdoors, there's a lot of things children can do this summer that they weren't able to do last summer, and that, I think, will be really important.

CABRERA: So, would you send your kids to summer camp?

BESSER: I would. You know, there're recommendations out there now about how to do that safely, and I would. It's an experience that for so many children is important in terms of physical health, emotional health, it's a good thing for families and children. So, within the guidelines of public health, I'm very comfortable with camps reopening.

CABRERA: This caught my eye, the CEO of Norwegian cruise line says it could suspend Florida departures because of a new state law that prohibits businesses from asking whether employees or customers have been vaccinated against COVID. Where do you stand on disclosing vaccinations?

BESSER: It's really important. You know, vaccination is about protecting yourself, but it's also about protecting other people. And, you know, when I think about a cruise ship, I worked at the CDC for 13 years, and part of that was investigating outbreaks on cruise ships.

When you think about a vessel that's out to sea with thousands of people on it, you want to know that people are vaccinated. Otherwise, that's a very high risk setting. You have a lot of people who are elderly, a lot of people who have medical conditions that may put them at increased risk, a lot of people with disabilities. And if you're not able to ask about vaccination, and require vaccination, you're putting a lot of people at unnecessary risk.

CABRERA: Dr. Richard Besser, always good to hear from you. Thanks for being here.

BESSER: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: Have a great weekend.

CABRERA: Texas joining the ranks of Republican-led states to move forward on making it harder to vote. We'll have details just ahead.

Plus, as the GOP infighting escalates, Senator Lindsey Graham says the party simply can't move forward without former President Trump.

And a case of Foxitis, a lawyer for an accused Capitol rioter says his Fox News obsession contributed to his actions during the insurrection.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

CABRERA: Texas Republicans are one step closer now to passing a bill that would make it harder for Texans to vote, especially in areas where more Democratic voters live.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Texas for us. Ed, what exactly is in this bill and what happens next?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a number of highly controversial elements of these bills and there are a couple of different versions making their way through the Texas legislature right now. And it was a late night on the House side of the state legislature. Lawmakers went late into the night, even early this morning, around 3:00 in the morning. Along partisan lines the Texas House passed one version of this bill.

And some of the ideas that are floating around and included in some of these bills include limiting the early voting hours across the state gives -- also giving partisan poll watchers more authority, which could also include video recording, voters asking for help. .

As it stands right now no recording devices are allowed inside polling locations. And it would also ban county officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. That was done in Harris County leading up to the November election, and Harris County officials, where Houston is located, so that was one of the more successful things they've done.

There's also some question as to whether or not 24-hour voting locations would be allowed, drive-through ballot locations, whether or not that would be allowed, so all of this making its way through the legislature. So it will be a contentious few days as lawmakers continue to battle over all of this. Ana?

CABRERA: Georgia, Florida, and now Texas.

[13:20:00]

Ed Lavandera, thank you for the update.

All these voting restrictions being passed by Republicans are meant to fix a problem that really doesn't exist. It's all part of the big lie, this false idea that there was massive voter fraud in the last election. There isn't. There wasn't. So why are Republicans still going along with this?

Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no. I've always liked Liz Cheney, but she's made a determination that the Republican Party can't grow with President Trump. I've determined we can't grow without him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now, former Congresswoman from Virginia Barbara Comstock, and former advisor to four U.S. presidents David Gergen. It's so nice to see both of you on this Friday. Thank you for being here with us.

Congresswoman, let me start with you, because under President Trump, the facts are Republicans lost the White House, the House and the Senate. So why are some Republicans so convinced that there is no future without Trump? What am I missing here?

FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA): I don't understand. You know, Trump got 46.9, so that is a minority. He is now -- he divided the country and now he's dividing the Republican Party. So you are dividing up what is a minority. So they proudly boast that they have 70 percent of Republicans. Well, 70 percent of 46.9 does not get you anywhere near 50.1, and it doesn't win you states even with, you know, changing dynamics.

So it is not a -- when you are under 50, what you do is what George Bush did in 2004, you know, between 2000 and 2004, he worked to get a majority. And this is not a strategy to do that, because Donald Trump is a very divisive figure.

We have wonderful Republicans. We saw Tim Scott out there, Senator Tim Scott, who is now working on racial justice issues. We have, you know, Asian-American women like Young Kim who came forward and are dealing with the tough issues, like the Asian-American hate crimes. We have people who are great on economic issues, governors like Chris Sununu, who I hope runs for Senate for New Hampshire. He ran double digits ahead of Trump.

So there are so many great Republicans who we have out there to hang our hat on a two-time impeached guy who lost the popular vote twice, does not make any sense, but it has become a cult of personality, it's very destructive and I am very sad to see it come to this because it's excluding a lot of the positive things -- the policies that Republicans have done, and placed this toxic personality on top of it that's harming what are actually good policies for the American people.

CABRERA: David, you have served under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Have you ever seen a former president, much less a one- term president, who has been impeached twice, as Congresswoman Comstock pointed out, with so much power?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, no, and I agree with much of what Barbara just said, the Republican Party is -- used to be a lot better than this. And I think we've reached the point of fracturing the party so that the people I came up respecting in the Republican Party, like John McCain, he would never put up with this nonsense.

He would have taken Liz Cheney's position in a heartbeat. George Schultz wouldn't have put up with it. Jim Baker would struggle with things like that. You can go through the list, Elliott Richardson, going all the way back, you know, into the 1950s when Republicans like Margaret Chase Smith was standing up against Joe McCarthy.

Where are the Margaret Chase Smiths of today? We need more, because this is not only dangerous to the Republican Party, and we need a center-right party just as we need a center-left party, but we don't need a radical party that's built on lies. And that's the road we're going down. And once you get into this environment, the big lies start to take hold and it changes your culture.

You know, if you go back to the '20s and '30s in Germany, what was Hitler doing? Writing Mein Kampf in a cell. He was there talking about the big lies, blaming it on the Jews. Where was Goebbels, his propaganda minister? Goebbels famously said, if you tell a lie that's big enough and you keep saying it often enough, eventually people will come to believe it. And that's where we are now, and that is a distinct danger to the union over time.

CABRERA: And obviously Hitler would have Nazi Germany such an extreme case, but I do understand your point of this being a slippery slope and the fear that is out there.

Congresswoman, one of the Republican lawmakers currently who has been outspoken against Trump is Adam Kinzinger. And he reacted to a recent interview with Elise Stefanik, the congresswoman favored to replaced Liz Cheney in House GOP Leadership. And Kinzinger said this, quote, I'm just going to go ahead and say this ain't unity, it's capitulation to crazy. Congresswoman, would you go that far?

COMSTOCK: I totally agree with Adam. And it's just sad to see that when we actually can focus on policies and turn the page and have some great policies that we can work on that are post-pandemic and post- Trump.

[13:25:06]

And it is -- it's just a -- I can't come up with any explanation for why you want to hitch your wagon to somebody who has already demonstrated he can divide your party, divide the country, and be destructive. And I think what people aren't realizing is it's not going to stop with Liz Cheney. You already have Tucker Carlson in these attacks he's making on Kevin McCarthy and Frank Luntz.

You're going to see these Trump consultants who are looking for a way to make a buck show up in red districts, not just red districts that are people who are retiring, but they're going to primary people because they can go to somebody and say, hey, I'll ratchet up your mail, like Marjorie Greene, get Marjorie Greene to come in here and primary somebody. And if you win the primary, you'll win the seat. And that's how we lose seats because that's exactly what Trump did in '18. Remember, he went after Mark Sanford, got his opponent in there, then we lost that seat. And I am afraid that's the kind of thing that's going to happen at a time when I worked hard last year to get more women elected, to get more minorities elected, to get state legislators elected. I didn't support Donald Trump, but I supported Republicans down ballot. They did better than Donald Trump. So it makes no sense to say let's go hang with the loser. He is a sore loser. He was a big loser. And it is time to move on.

CABRERA: I mean, this is the other thing that doesn't make sense to me. Elise Stefanik, she has become a fierce Trump loyalist, she has defended his election lie, but it hasn't always been this way. I want you to hear comments she made in 2015 and 2016 just weeks before the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY) (voice over): I think in the presidential field, there are some candidates who, over the long run, and they've already started this process, are somewhat disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements.

His statements regarding NATO, his statements regarding Putin, regarding some of the positions in regards to Iraq that he made regarding the oil fields, I absolutely oppose those.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: David, Stefanik is just the latest. We've seen it with Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham. What happens to these lawmakers? What do they learn or find out or experience that just causes them to forego their morals and convictions, really, in favor of Trump?

GERGEN: Well, I'm not sure if that's directed at me. But a couple of things happen when they do that, when they start moving toward Trump that way, a lot of their donations get cut off. There are a lot of big donors out there right now who are holding their breath and holding on to their wallets, not wanting to give money to causes they can't defend. And so there's that problem.

And then there's the problem that, you know, you've got people at your doorstep all the time, this is a power game. And people who are like Elise Stefanik, you know, I know some of her friends. I don't know her. But I keep hearing she's changed so much. She used to be sort of a moderate left -- right of center person, she was well respected and with a great future. And now she's taken a hard right swerve and people say they don't recognize her. Why would she do that? I think it has to be about power.

CABRERA: Well, David Gergen and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, I really appreciate both of your insights and perspective on this. Thanks again for being here.

GERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Blame it on Foxitis? You heard me right, the lawyer says his client's obsessive watching of Fox News is to blame for his actions during the Capitol riot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:00]