Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Set to Vote to Oust Liz Cheney as Early as Wednesday; Kevin McCarthy Officially Backs Outer of Cheney, Endorses Stefanik. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 10:30   ET



JOHN SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This as the number one House Republican, in leadership at least, Kevin McCarthy has publicly endorsed her replacement.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with details. It seems all but done and dusted, does it not, for a transition in leadership there?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No question about it because Kevin McCarthy, in fact, has been working behind the scenes for Liz Cheney's ouster in the aftermath of her battle with former President Donald Trump. Her calling out his election lies.

And, of course, she was one of 10 Republicans that voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection. But this latest battle flaring anew (ph) in the aftermath of recent remarks she made criticizing the former president.

But Kevin McCarthy has tried to align himself with the former president as he tries to regain the majority. They contend this all an effort to unify. The Cheney supporters say this is an effort to whitewash history here.

But nevertheless, Kevin McCarthy came out publicly yesterday and made clear he is endorsing Elise Stefanik the New York Republican to replace Liz Cheney as the number three on his leadership team.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Everyone in leadership serves at the pleasure of the conference. And as you know there is a lot at stake. Democrats are destroying this nation.

To defeat Nancy Pelosi and this socialist agenda we need to be united and that starts with leadership. That's why we will have a vote next week and we want to be united and looking moving forward.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN ANCHOR: Do you support Elise Stefanik for that job?



RAJU: Of course all this really has to do with January 6. How Donald Trump acted ahead of January 6 and how Republicans responded to the former president's actions. And this is going to be a key topic of conversation when the conference does meet on Wednesday.

Adam Kinzinger, who is a Republican who has sided with Cheney, who has voted to impeach Donald Trump and who is critical of Kevin McCarthy issued a tweet this morning making clear his concerns about the way this handled ahead of January 6, saying a few days before January 6, our GOP members had a conference call.

I told Kevin that his words and our party's actions would lead to violence on January 6. Kevin dismissively responded with, OK Adam, operator next question. And we got violence.

So we have a House Republican calling out the top Republican in his conference for ignoring warnings ahead of January 6, about the rhetoric, essentially saying that it lead to the violence here.

So those are the kind of things they'll talk about behind closed doors. And I've reached out to McCarthy's office this morning, but I have not heard back yet about this accusation here. Guys?

SCIUTTO: A fellow Republican who was in the room there, it's quite a broad side. Manu Raju thanks very much.

Joining us now is Amy Edmonds. She served three terms in the Wyoming House of Representatives and also served on Congresswoman Cheney's staff in 2017. Amy great to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, the Republican Party has chosen Trump as basically in (ph) leadership. You've got to endorse the big lie. You can't hold a position of leadership. I just wonder, in Wyoming where the Cheney's have deep roots going back to her father as well, have they chosen the same path? I mean is Liz Cheney's political career done in Wyoming from what you can tell?

EDMONDS: No. No, it's not. I mean Liz Cheney and the Cheney brand is a powerful force here in Wyoming and I -- you know, I've spoken to quite a few Republicans. I hear from more and more of them, who really feel that she's taking an incredibly courageous stance and they're very, very proud of her.

For those that didn't like her impeachment vote they still recognize that she is a powerful force for Wyoming in D.C. She has, you know, the contacts and the things that we need as a small state.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: When you look at the Trump support and the Cheney support in your state, I mean to be clear you voted for President Trump in 2020. Obviously changed your opinion of him after the insurrection on the 6th of January, but he got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming and she got 69 percent of the vote in Wyoming, right? And so, I just wonder if the electorate is really as split as Kevin

McCarthy thinks it is at least in that state among Republicans? I mean, he says it's sort of clear as night and day.

EDMONDS: I think that's a big mistake to make, to somehow say that because folks on November 4, vote for President -- former President Trump that they somehow they remain completely and utterly loyal to him. I mean, I'm an example of that as not being true. So much has happened since the election on the 4th.

And, you know, in Wyoming we're very much a red state, we're very heavily Republican. A lot of those votes were not a full endorsement of Donald Trump but an absolute fear of Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: We couldn't help but notice that Liz Cheney decided last year not to run for a Wyoming Senate seat. She has, by CNN's own reporting, not really fought this leadership decision here within the House GOP Caucus. I just wonder do you have a sense of her plans.


And could a run for the White House, for the Republican nomination at least, be in her plans?

EDMONDS: You know, Liz is pretty laser focused on Wyoming, but I know she's also deeply concerned about the GOP just as most of -- a lot of us Republicans are. And so, for her this idea of telling the truth, having a party that is willing to face the truth is so, so important. And I think she will continue to be a leader in that.

HARLOW: Amy, let me get your reaction to Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn yesterday on this network with Jake Tapper, because he talked about being opposed to Liz Cheney's ideas on a lot of things, but embracing the difference of ideas and how important that is to democracy. And then he said this. Listen.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Now they talk a lot about cancel culture. This is the classic cancel culture. They are perpetrating that which they argue that they are against.


HARLOW: They're talking about your fellow Republicans, like Kevin McCarthy. Is he right?

EDMONDS: Well he is. I mean, in a sense this really is the feeling of cancel culture. You cannot -- you know, Kevin McCarthy cannot on hand say we need to be united. But then to create this sense of united he wants to purge. You can't have it both ways.

SCIUTTO: Well, that is an issue now because a lot of Republicans are trying to have it both ways. As Senator Bill Cassidy who, of course, voted to impeach -- to remove rather Trump in the trials say, well the party's big enough in effect for both wings, the Trump wing and the other.

But I just wonder, is it -- I mean, how can -- how can the big tent sustain the big lie, right? If -- if you -- if you have that fundamental disagreement about who won an election and all the consequences of that, I mean is that -- are -- can those two things really live together?

EDMONDS: I think it's -- my personal opinion, I think it's going to be very difficult for that to happen and also because I think will continue to split the party over issues of voter integrity which is a hugely important issue for all of us whether you're a Republican or Democrat.

If we have a large sector of the sector of the country who does not believe that the election was valid or that ongoing elections are going to be valid this is a big problem, which his why I know that Liz is so passionate about we need to be a party of telling the truth.


HARLOW: You've talked to her recently, I mean within the last week. Is that an assessment she has made at any cost? And even if it costs her, her political future?

EDMONDS: She's a -- you know, she's a deeply honorable woman. And so, Poppy, the answer is yes. But there's so many of us Republicans that are going to fight to be sure she stays and continues to represent us. This issue is very, very important.

She knows it, but she's also a very powerful force and she will be in Wyoming talking to voters, you know, telling them why this was so important and why having -- you know, having a confidence in our vote -- voting is so, so important.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. And with a deliberate effort under way now to continue to sap away -- leach away that confidence. Amy Edmonds, thanks so much for coming on. We really do appreciate it.

EDMONDS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks Amy. All right, still ahead the coronavirus crisis continues to spiral in India. The country is reporting more than 22 million COVID cases. The government response is being called inexcusable.



HARLOW: So in India the COVID-19 outbreak there remains near record levels. There is growing pressure for a nationwide lockdown. The country has no recorded more than 22 million COVID cases.

SCIUTTO: And while more than half of India's states and territories have implemented their own restrictions to deal with the surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a national shutdown, even advocating against one last month during this national address.

CNN's Anna Coren has more.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, Jim, the majority of India has gone into lockdown in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of COVID's second wave with the country surpassing a total of more than 22 million cases and more than 246,000 deaths.

At least half the states and union territories have imposed lockdowns as Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to refuse to enforce a nationwide order despite growing pressure for him to do so.

On the weekend "The Lancet" medical journal said that India has squandered its early success over COVID-19 and that the government's actions were inexcusable. Prime Minister Modi has not addressed his people publicly in almost three weeks.

And as a result of the oxygen crisis that has engulfed India's hospitals, the Supreme Court has set up a national taskforce to work out supply and distribution. The second wave ravaging India has also crossed borders. Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are reporting a surge in cases.

Pakistan is imposing nine-day lockdown to stop the spread, especially with upcoming Eid's celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. It's calling on the military to enforce restrictions and stop the mass movement of people during the holiday.

Back to you.

HARLOW: OK, Anna thank you very much for that reporting. Well, across Africa countries where vaccines supply is really -- vaccine is really in short supply, there's a big fear, Jim, that they could see similar to what India has just seen.

SCIUTTO: Listen, a huge disparity from country to country, particularly based on wealth. Many African nations quickly running out of their first batch of vaccine doses with no sign of a second shipment in the near future.


CNN's David McKenzie, he's live in Johannesburg, South Africa. So David, South Africa's president today called the situation similar. He used this term vaccine apartheid. Is that what you're finding on the ground there?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly there's a lot of frustration, Poppy and Jim, and anger and also nervousness, because many countries in Africa are facing a dramatic wave like we've seen India. And it's really part of a perfect storm.

You know, India was a massive supplier of vaccines for that system, that global alliance to get poorer countries their vaccines. Already, Poppy and Jim, eight countries have ran out of those first doses of vaccines. There are long delays expected for the second dose and hundreds of

millions of people might not get any doses at all. We spoke to a senior humanitarian official who said that that delay out of India could have a really significant ripple effect. Take a listen to the Vaccine Czar in Kenya.


WILLIS AKHWALE, CHAIRMAN VACCINE TASKFORCE KENYA: When you start hearing certain populations are getting vaccines and you are not, yes they start a feeling of kind of discrimination in the process.

So for me I'm hoping that the global community comes together, looks at this as really a global effort.


MCKENZIE: While we've been talking about this vaccine inequality for months now, Jim and Poppy, now that reality is really starting to bite.

HARLOW: You know the fact that India was such a huge producer of vaccine and is going through this now. And that South Africa, David, where you are was like one of the main trial sites for the vaccine trials. To have this happening there is just -- I mean, the irony is not lost on anyone and it's tragic.

MCKENZIE: Well it is tragic. Here in South Africa it's kind of a unique case because they saw that variant develop here or it was identified here that was shown to be breaking through the protection of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccines, so they then sold it back to the African Union. So, the South African government has been criticized for not getting its plan together.

And as Jim said in the beginning, there's a varied situation from country to country. You have the Democratic Republic of Congo that go a whole lot of vaccines from the Vaccine Alliance and wasn't even able to give it out because of the lack of capacity.

So, just if the situation in India calms down and vaccines are produced and they get to the continent, that doesn't mean this will be a fix. What they believe is a concerted effort is needed by every country, otherwise all countries stay unsafe. Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's a global pandemic. It's the way it works. David McKenzie thanks very much.

Well here in the U.S. two Democratic Senators are asking 10 U.S. airlines to either change their policies or issue refunds for flights canceled during the pandemic. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal say that airlines are holding $10 billion in airline credits like this.

HARLOW: So they're calling on -- this is all the major carriers, to either change the expiration dates on those credits or issue actual cash refunds to customers. Consumer advocates say some customers report being pressured into accepting credits instead of cash back. We'll keep an eye on that.

SCIUTTO: Well coming up, drama at the Kentucky Derby. The winner has failed a post-race drug test. The horse's trainer claims he did nothing wrong.



HARLOW: We may be just days away from the next leg of the Triple Crown, but horseracing fans will have to wait to see if the winner of the Kentucky Derby will actually be on that track.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean it's sad for the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit's title seriously in jeopardy now after the horse failed a post-race drug test. Now the horse's trainer has been suspended.

CNN's Sports Andy Scholes following this. I mean, I think it's Bob Baffert. I mean, he's been fined before for this kind of thing. What do we know?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well Jim and Poppy, so Bob Baffert just moments ago Fox News that he's headed to the Preakness with Medina Spirit, you know, and they're moving forward as if they were just trying to win this second leg of the Triple Crown.

Will Medina Spirit actually get to run this weekend in Baltimore? Well, that's certainly up in the air, but if he does Bob Baffert is actually undefeated with a Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness going for that second leg of the Triple Crown.

Now after the news of Medina Spirit's failed drug test the Preakness Stakes putting out a statement that read in part, "We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts."

Now they've already pushed back the post-position draw until tomorrow because of all this uncertainty. Now Baffert says he doesn't know how Medina Spirit could have a raised level of an anti-inflammatory drug, because he nor anyone in his barn never administered this drug to the horse at all. Baffert is adamant that he did not cheat to win the Kentucky Derby. He's denied any wrongdoing and he said they're going to investigate how this happened.


BOB BAFFERT, AMERICAN HORSE TRAINER: I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn't do. And this really -- it's disturbing. It's an injustice to the horse. I don't know what's going on racing right now, but there's something not right. And I don't feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged.


And we're going to -- we're going to do a complete -- you know our own investigation. We're going to be transparent with the race commission like we've always been.


SCHOLES: Now Medina Spirit's actually the fifth horse to fail a drug test for Baffert -- Bob Baffert in the past year, but he's always said that those guys -- guys that those all contamination and they all work themselves out.

If Medina Spirit is actually disqualified from the Kentucky Derby Mandaloun would be named the winner.

HARLOW: OK, Andy Scholes thank you. And thanks to all of you for joining us today. We'll see you right back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. At This Hour with Kate Baldwin starts right after a short break.