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Panic Buying Drains Gas Pumps; President Biden Meets With Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers; Republicans Oust Liz Cheney From Leadership. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 12, 2021 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And it shows that we're still dealing with the aftermath of the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

Six months, nine days after Donald Trump lost reelection, House Republicans are making it clear that they are choosing Trump over the truth. Today, in a swift voice vote, they ousted Congresswoman Liz Cheney as House conference chair because she stands by that truth that the former president was defeated legitimately and that there was no mass election fraud.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Let's not forget that it was lies about the election that drove Trump supporters to riot and attack police officers and vandalize the U.S. Capitol on January 6, while calling for Mike Pence to be killed.

And, immediately after that attack, even Republican leaders agreed that Trump had incited the crowd.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Trump and I, we have had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh, my God, I hate it.

From my point of view, he's been a consequential president. But, today, first thing you will see, all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

CHENEY: We just had a violent mob assault the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent us from carrying out our constitutional duty. And there's no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.


CAMEROTA: Just remember, that attack was based on a big lie that Trump fed to his supporters over and over again that the election was stolen from him.

Let's be clear, Joe Biden received the most votes of any U.S. president, defeating Donald Trump by seven million votes. But when it came to holding Trump accountable, almost all Republicans jumped back on the Trump train.


GRAHAM: The people who try to erase him are going to wind up getting erased. It's impossible for this party to move forward without President Trump being its leader.


CAMEROTA: And now the facts of what happened on January 6 are being whitewashed before our very eyes.

Just listen to some Republicans today at a heated hearing about this attack.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): The FBI is fishing through homes of veterans and citizens with no criminal records and restricting the liberties of individuals that have never been accused of a crime.

Zero firearms from suspects charged with breaching the Capitol.

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.


CAMEROTA: Not true.

Let's get to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

So, Jessica, some of these lawmakers were grilling the former defense secretary and acting attorney general who were in charge on January 6. Some of them were not grilling them. What did we learn today?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn and Victor, this was billed as a fact-finding hearing by the House Oversight Committee, but it's been ongoing for four hours now, and it has really devolved into this partisan finger-pointing.

Democrats, for their part, they have been tearing into the former acting defense secretary and the former acting attorney general, really allowing them little time to respond, while, on the flip side, Republicans have been twisting the truth of what happened on January 6.

You heard it there. And we saw it from Republican Congressman Paul Gosar. He issued that lengthy, full-throated defense of the rioters, saying law enforcement is going after law-abiding U.S. citizens.

And we actually just heard from Congressman Andrew Clyde. He said this was not an insurrection at all. He said, instead, it was an undisciplined mob, in his words. He claimed that they stayed in orderly fashion inside the Capitol, just taking videos and pictures. Of course, that's a far cry from what we saw unfold.

And all of this is amplifying calls from several members of the committee to press for a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6. Of course, the formation of that has been stalled.

But things got particularly fiery when Democrats questioned acting Defense Secretary -- the former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller's response time for giving the green light to the National Guard to move in to secure the Capitol, and then called out Miller for seeming to backtrack on previous comments that he made that former President Trump's comments are what led to the Capitol attack

Here it is.



REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Sir, because of your actions, I will be...


CHRISTOPHER MILLER, FORMER ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There were 8,000 badged and credential police officers on duty. The United States armed forces should only be used as a last resort.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you weren't there. They were -- and you were AWOL. You were AWOL, Mr. Secretary. You were AWOL.

MILLER: That's completely inaccurate. That's completely inaccurate.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Remember, as you said before -- as you said before, you have responsibility for everything. Something goes wrong -- quote, unquote -- "I own it completely, 110 percent."

Sir, you partially own this mayhem.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Reclaiming my time again, for your written testimony for today, for today, this morning, you stated the following about the president's quote: "I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day."


LYNCH: That was this morning. So, this is a -- this is a -- this is a very recent reversal of your testimony.


MILLER: Absolutely not. That's ridiculous.

LYNCH: You're ridiculous.


SCHNEIDER: And so that exchange was particularly notable, guys, because Defense Secretary Miller, he said in his prepared remarks, he also said back in March that it was Trump's speech that led to these rioters storming the Capitol.

But in testimony today, he backtracked, and he said it, that -- he said that the investigation into the people that day, it has since shown more of a planned conspiracy than spontaneous attack that was provoked by Trump. So, that was Miller's defense there.

And he also, guys, gave a full-throated defense of his actions and the Defense Department's response on January 6, and he really testified, saying that anyone who understands the military would appreciate that they acted as fast as possible that day, even though we have obviously learned in the meantime that National Guard troops, they didn't arrive until after 5:00.

But this hearing is really gone off the rails in the past four hours, and it really showcases the divisions here between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to what you would think would be a clear-cut issue about January 6 -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a lot of heat, not nearly enough light.

Jessica Schneider there for us, thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: So, the vote to oust Liz Cheney from Republican leadership lasted just 16 minutes, but the repercussions of that vote will last much longer

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now.

So, Ryan, was Liz Cheney booed when she spoke right before the vote?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's what we are told, Alisyn, that, during this very short meeting, which came after weeks of drama surrounding Cheney's future, that, when Cheney got up to speak and try and plead her case to her fellow members of the Republican Conference, there was a smattering of boos from people who wanted to see her removed from that post as the third-ranking House Republican.

But what is interesting, and you have kind of alluded to this point, Alisyn, is that, after there was all this back-and-forth and the public bickering between different factions of the Republican Party, this meeting this morning was actually pretty drama-free. Outside of those boos, Cheney stated her case. Kevin McCarthy stood up and called for a vote. And they voted by a voice vote, basically just a group of yeas and nays. They declared the vote over and that Cheney was out. And it was over after that.

So, now it's clear that Republicans have chosen their path forward. They're not going to side with Cheney, someone who has called out specifically former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election. And they seem poised to replace her with New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. She's right now the only candidate for conference chair.

She put out a letter to her colleagues this morning, where she promised that her goal would be to unify the Republican Party to win back the majority in 2022. Now, she didn't specifically get into anything related to the 2020 election, instead trying to focus on the future and what is next for Republicans.

But it's impossible to ignore that this backdrop still exists and that the ultimate litmus test right now for Republicans is a loyalty to the former president and then, by extension, what he is saying about the 2020 election.

Republicans had a choice here. They chose to go with the former president, as opposed to those who are speaking the truth about what happened. The big question now is, will they be punished or rewarded for that in the 2022 midterms, Victor and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for all of that.

Joining us now, CNN political director David Chalian, also here, CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman. He was the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.

So, David, mark our calendars, 5/12/21. I mean, is it overstating it to say that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will read about this day as just another moment when the fabric of democracy was challenged?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I do think we are at an inflection point.

And I think the future is going to dictate whether this is just Liz Cheney, a nearly lone voice, speaking the truth inside her own party, and the party, just as it currently Is doing, quadruples down on being anti-democratic, small-D democratic, and putting democracy and the Constitution to the side for a commitment to a cult of personality dedication to Donald Trump.


Because, if that's the case, it's an inflection point that will just careen the Republican Party forever into that direction and perhaps into its demise eventually, or it's an inflection point where the history books -- and, again, I don't know that we know the answer to this, Alisyn, but where the history books will be written to say, it was in this moment where this person spoke up for truth inside her own party, and the party began to wrestle more aggressively with how it wanted to portray itself to the American people in the future, as total -- as a total commitment to democracy a or total commitment to Trump and this cult of personality.

As Liz Cheney said in the bite that you played on the top, you can't do both things at once. You can't support the big lie and support the Constitution. The two things are at odds with each other. And so how big a day, that, the future will tell us. But I do think we are in one of those inflection points.

BLACKWELL: Chairman Rogers, boos in the morning, bickering in the afternoon over this big election lie and the insurrection.

Speaking of at odds, as we heard from David there, I want you to listen to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy here. This is immediately after this meeting at the White House this afternoon. And he's asked about Elise Stefanik, who could be the next conference chair, and the big lie. Let's listen.


MCCARTHY: Well, first of all, the conference will decide, but I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We're sitting here with the president today.


BLACKWELL: He says that nobody believes that.

His entire conference -- or he led the majority of his conference to vote out Liz Cheney because she refuses to sell that lie. Your reaction to what we have watched thus far today?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, this is not a great day for the Republican Party. And we are going to have to get our act together.

This blind, passionate support for Trump is dooming us. And I think there has to be a kind of a reckoning here that Donald Trump is not the president. He lost by a significant margin. He will not be the president going into 20 -- after 2024 election.

This is the Republicans' opportunity to shake ourselves out and regain the high ground on things that we believe, the principles of the party. And Liz Cheney talked about some of that as she was walking out the door about those conservative principles and fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility, character matters, kind of realigning that the government shouldn't be in your life every day and shouldn't be accelerated in your life every day, like we see happening in Washington.

Those are real things that people can understand. And we have to get back to talking about this. This is unfortunate. I think it's going to cause a mark in the Republican Party for some time to come. But I'm hoping, Victor, that we take -- that we Republicans take this as an opportunity to shake ourselves out of where we find ourselves today.

CAMEROTA: I don't know if it's going in that direction, Chairman Rogers, based upon the leadership choices they're making.

But I want to ask you, Chairman Rogers, to put on your law enforcement hat for a moment, the FBI hat, all of your vast experience with that. Have you ever seen a whitewashing of an attack like this, as we saw today, the Republicans in Congress who were trying to pretend that somehow, because this was a preplanned attack and people showed up in tactical gear, that that absolves former President Donald Trump of his responsibility?

He summoned the mob, as Liz Cheney said. And the idea that they're trying to pretend it wasn't that big of a deal, the Capitol Police had to ferry them to hide for their lives. I mean, it's only been four months. How could they already be whitewashing this?


I mean, this is really concerning to me. You -- this was an event that should have never happened in American democracy, in our republic. And any notion that it was OK or, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, it wasn't that serious is just dead wrong. It was an assault on democracy, as we know, here in the United States.

And so trying to walk away from that, to me, is wrong. We would be better off for these members to say, yes, this happened, it shouldn't have happened. Maybe they say it's exuberance of the moment. Whatever you do, you cannot condone illegal activity that attacks democracy.

And I don't -- I mean, my argument is, listen, if the riots during the summer were illegal, this certainly was illegal, and we shouldn't have that double standard. And so I am -- I do think it's a smaller number. I just saw a great poll that only a third of Republicans would consider Donald Trump in the next election.

That tells me that those numbers are improving, not getting worse. So, I think now, again, I think -- and Liz Cheney isn't going to go away. She's going to continue to make her case. There are lots of Republicans out there who are saying, all right, listen, it's time to move on now.


And I'm hoping that that does catch hold. Now, my wife does say that I'm an eternal optimist and might be a genetic defect. But I do believe we can get through this, based on what's at stake for the country.


ROGERS: And it's really about the country. And if we don't do the -- put our country first, we're all going to be in trouble. CAMEROTA: Yes.

ROGERS: I don't care what party you are.

BLACKWELL: David, I want you to listen here to South Carolina Republican Congressman Ralph Norman, because, in the effort to get to the truth, there still has -- this partisan fight over a commission that could be or should be coming.

Here's what he's still questioning four months after the insurrection.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): At 2:07, a mob of Trump supporters breached the steps. I don't know who did a poll that it's Trump supporters. You had the media saying the same thing, just like you had the media saying Officer Sicknick was killed with a fire extinguisher, which he was not.

But I don't know who did the poll to say that they were Trump supporters.


BLACKWELL: He still doesn't believe that they were even Trump supporters who were at the Capitol.

How far are we from getting to the light, to the truth, other than the heat we have seen?


Victor, I don't know that a poll was needed, because many of them were holding up Trump campaign flags and banners.


BLACKWELL: There were literal flagpoles there with Trump flags on them.

CHALIAN: So, that's just, like, closing your eyes to the reality of what happened before you.

And this is -- as you guys are making clear, Victor, this is totally connected to the Liz Cheney moment, right? This whitewashing of what actually occurred on January 6 is a commitment to the big lie, which means a complete and total discounting of the constitutional democratic process that occurred.

And so these two things are entirely connected. I know the chairman pointed to a poll that shows maybe Donald Trump is losing some altitude inside the Republican Party. I will just say, it's not just about Donald Trump, though; 70 percent of self-identified Republicans in our last poll nationally do not believe that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president. So, Trumpism and this commitment to the big lie is the dominant

philosophy inside the Republican Party now. So, all those other issues that Mike Rogers rightly pointed out and talked about that should be the debates of the day, they're out the window, because we're not getting through this threshold issue of having a functioning democracy with facts and truth as a baseline.

BLACKWELL: Yes, four months, and still, at this point, still so far from that commission to get to the bottom of it.

David Chalian, Mike Rogers, thank you both.

So, the top two congressional Republicans are drawing a line when it comes to paying for the president's infrastructure deal. We will talk about whether there's any hope of compromise after today's White House meeting.

CAMEROTA: And gas stations across the country running out of gas. We are live with panicked people who are waiting on line in North Carolina.



CAMEROTA: President Biden and Vice President Harris meeting today with the top two Democrats and top two Republicans in Congress.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House.

So, Kaitlan, what did they accomplish?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that still remains to be seen. It's far from certain right now, Alisyn, because of course, we know the big thing that everyone is looking to see if they came to any middle ground on or found any middle ground on was, of course, that big infrastructure proposal that President Biden has put forward.

Republicans have countered it with a smaller offer. And so this was really the first time that you have seen President Biden convene the big leaders from both parties in the Oval Office since he took office. And so the question is whether or not they can actually make up some room on what this agreement on infrastructure is going to look like, because we know all of the issues where they disagree.

The question and a much smaller subject is whether or not -- where they can agree. And so, on infrastructure, it's not just that they don't agree on what counts as infrastructure. They both conceded that point today, saying that that is where they need to start, finding out on what they can agree on, before they talk about the parts that they don't agree on.

But when it comes to what they don't agree on, what seems to be pretty clear coming out of that meeting is how to pay for an infrastructure plan. And so listen to what the Republicans who came out to the microphones

after said about how they view how to pay for infrastructure.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're not interested in reopening the 2017 tax bill. We both made that clear to the president. That's our red line.

MCCARTHY: So, raising taxes would be the biggest mistake you could make.


COLLINS: Of course, that's just what President Biden has done, proposed raising that corporate tax rate.

And we later heard from House Speaker Pelosi when she was back on Capitol Hill talking about those 2017 tax cuts that former President Trump passed, saying she believed it was a big rip, AKA, a big scam.

And so that still seems to be something that the House speaker is pushing for. But whether or not they actually get to that, it really remains to be seen. And this is really seen as the critical week to know whether or not bipartisanship is actually going to happen, if they're going to make that big infrastructure proposal that President Biden put forward into a smaller one.

And, of course, all of this comes before he is scheduled to meet with those Republican senators at the White House tomorrow who have put forward that $568 billion infrastructure proposal, compared to the $2.3 trillion one that President Biden put forward.


BLACKWELL: All right, Kaitlan Collins for us there at the White House, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: And still ahead: panic at the pump. We're live with Americans lining up for gas.


CAMEROTA: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is warning against hoarding gasoline.

People are scrambling for fuel across the Southeast, amid these major shortages and soaring prices. This, of course, was all triggered by that ransomware