Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Fauci on Masks Outside; GOP Lawmakers Downplay Insurrection; Cheney Comments about Trump; Barbara Comstock and Sarah Longwell are Interviewed about Liz Cheney; Pete Buttigieg is Interviewed about Gas Supply, Colonial Pipeline, and Infrastructure. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET

Aired May 13, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Romas by Linda Rowe Thomas Collection specializes in custom couture. My designs have been featured on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, New York Fashion Week and so many more.

The name of my non-profit is Designing Hope. It started out with me wanting to help burn survivors. In the process, I realized that not everyone's scars are visible. I'm hoping that my light, that my mother gave me, gives someone else the encouragement to step out on their dreams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Beautiful, right? What a story. Beautiful.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. We're so glad you're with us this morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

OK, we're trying to get Jim. Jim's audio. He'll be with us in just a moment.

But let's begin with breaking news on the vaccine front.

Just moments ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci said people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not -- do not need to wear masks outside.

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with more.

Elizabeth, good morning to you. It's a big deal. Maybe we can play it for our viewers so they can hear Dr. Fauci and get your thoughts on the other side.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: And I know, Gayle, we've got to make that transition. If you were vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask outside. It would be a very unusual situation if you were going into a completely crowded situation where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask. But any other time, if you're vaccinated and you're outside, put aside your mask, you don't have to wear it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: All right, Jim is with us.

Jim, Elizabeth, great news. Big deal.

COHEN: It is a big deal, and it's a big deal because Fauci said it and he is the ultimate public health communicator. And he put it so clearly. To tell you the truth, April 27th, the CDC pretty much said the same thing, but they said it with this graphic that really didn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense and it was really hard to comprehend.

But when Tony Fauci, who is such a great communicator, comes out and says, put the mask aside unless you're falling all over each other when you're outside, that means a lot.

I must say, I'm here in New York City watching people walk around, all of them wearing masks, and I'm thinking, why are they doing this, these people are probably vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, you are protected to such a large degree that if you're outdoors, you do not need to wear a mask, unless, as Dr. Fauci put it, you are falling all over other people.

Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Elizabeth, a question for you, should we consider this the definitive guidance here because, to be fair, there's been some back and forth on guidance like this regarding mask wearing and other steps post vaccination. I mean, is this the final word or are we going to get some clarification from the CDC later today to confuse people?

COHEN: All right, so I'm going to give you a two-part answer, Jim. I think for -- at this moment, this is the definitive guidance, because, again, it really is pretty much what the CDC said on April 27th, they just didn't say it nearly as well as Dr. Fauci did.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COHEN: However, I always want to give a P.S. One thing that we know from having covered this pandemic for more than a year is that things change.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COHEN: Is there a chance there could be some horrific variant that comes out and the vaccine didn't really work all that well against it and the CDC and Fauci are going to say, wait a second, put your mask back on, even when you're outside, even if you're vaccinated?

Sure. That's possible. But who knows if that's going to happen. So right now, yes, I think we can take this as the ultimate word, you don't need to wear a mask outside if you're vaccinated, as long as you're not falling all over other people like at some kind of super crowded parade or something like that.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

It's good news. It's good news.

COHEN: It is.

SCIUTTO: And it's another sign of movement in the right direction.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Turning now to the ongoing battle between truth and lies. Some sitting Republican members of Congress denying basic facts that you could see with your own eyes that the video record, like this we're showing now, shows. And, yet, they're trying to rewrite the history of the violent Capitol insurrection. A GOP lawmaker calling rioters, quote, peaceful patriots, while sitting in the very same building that those rioters ransacked earlier this year.

Another sitting GOP lawmaker claims there was no insurrection. Again, denying what you and I and the country saw with our own eyes.

Take a look at this moment. That's a Capitol police officer assaulted.

This all comes as body camera video, exclusively obtained by CNN, like videos that you're seeing here, proves otherwise, showing the moment a D.C. police officer was brutally assaulted by that mob.

[09:05:02]

Listen to this moment.

(VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Well, Officer Michael Fanone says he was ultimately knocked unconscious and suffered a heart attack, decidedly not the behavior of so-called peaceful patriots, clearly.

Let's begin on this topic with our colleague Whitney Wild.

Whitney, what more does that Fanone video show?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really shows the brutality of that attack. And in some moments it's almost as if Officer Fanone is drowning in a sea of rioters. The way that the video looks is it's -- it sort of depicts him almost looking like he's trying to swim back to the surface as the riot collapses down upon him.

And while the pictures show the ferocity of that crowd, it's the audio that captures his terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got one!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get off me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get off!

OFFICER FANONE: (screaming).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you. I got you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're better than him (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold it. I got you. I got you.

I got him.

FANONE: (INAUDIBLE). You can't do this. I got kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILD: I've got kids.

He was basically begging for his life as that crowd, you know, seemed basically bent on harming him. But, however, that plea apparently resonated with some rioters because some of those people offered him a little bit of protection. Eventually, the video shows that he was able to make his way inside.

As you mentioned, that day he suffered a list of injuries. He was Tased. He suffered a heart attack, a concussion. And in an open letter, he slammed lawmakers who are telling what are just outright lies about this attack, calling those actions disgraceful.

Four people have been charged for that attack, Jim and Poppy. But the thing that is -- that you need to remember about this is it's people like Michael Fanone who gave their, you know, emotions to that day, their blood that day to save the Capitol. And without his heroic actions, that day could have been much worse. That fight went on for hours at the Capitol, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Whitney Wild reporting in Washington.

Thank you, Whitney. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is vowing to do whatever it takes, her words, to keep former President Trump out of the Oval Office, even considering her own run for the White House, maybe.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: How far are you willing to take this? Would you run for president?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that it is the most important issue that we are facing right now as a country. And we are facing a huge array of issues. So he must not ever again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.

GUTHRIE: But my question was, would you run for president to stop that?

CHENEY: I'm going to do everything that I can, both to make sure that that never happens, but also to make sure that the Republican Party gets back to substance and policy.

GUTHRIE: Before I drop it, will -- will you rule out a run for president?

CHENEY: Right now, I am very focused on making sure that our party becomes again a party that stands for truth and stands for fundamental principles that are conservative and mostly stands for the Constitution. And I won't let a former president or anybody else unravel the democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Unravel the democracy. Remarkable words.

CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins us now.

Jamie, that is the woman who, until 24 hours ago, was the number three in the House GOP leadership. Her exact words, she said this later again, he's going to unravel the democracy to come back into power. That is a remarkable statement from someone that senior describing the seriousness of the threat she sees from Trump.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Liz Cheney believes that Donald Trump not only was a threat on January 6th, but that he remains a threat. And a lot of Republicans, elected officials, I speak to think that Donald Trump may run again in 2024.

[09:10:05]

So I think that speaks to her comments about unravel democracy.

I will say, guys, Savannah Guthrie asked that question three times about running for president. Liz Cheney did not say no. She didn't come close to saying no. So I think it's a possibility that if she thinks Donald Trump will, to quote her words, come anyone near the Oval Office, that she is considering running for the White House.

It might be a sacrificial run, but she's prepared to put it all out there, just the way she was prepared to lose being in the leadership by repeatedly saying that Trump had lied.

HARLOW: So, Jamie, in terms of her replacement, it's sort of all but done that it's going to be Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. And, yes, that matters, but I think equally important, if not more important, is who's not going to be there. What voice is not going to be there? The fact that Liz Cheney is not going to be there telling the truth at the top, or near the top, right, and what the consequences are for the party on that and for the American people.

GANGEL: No question about it. And also in the interview she did with Savannah, she talks about Kevin McCarthy. And I believe that what she says is that his leadership is not principled. I think she said it was sad and dangerous.

We have some new reporting about the days leading up to that vote. And I'm told by a source familiar that Kevin McCarthy was hoping that Liz Cheney would resign. That he would not have to take that vote.

We know that our colleague, Manu Raju, has reported they had a phone call in the days leading up to it. And I think it says a lot that Kevin McCarthy was hoping there was another way other than a vote.

SCIUTTO: A bad bet, you might say, Jamie, when Liz Cheney is involved, to hope that she would resign.

GANGEL: Correct. Correct.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Wouldn't hold your breath for that one.

Jamie Gangel, as always, such important reporting. Thank you.

GANGEL: Sure.

HARLOW: So let me bring in now, former Republican congresswoman from Virginia, Barbara Comstock, as well as Sarah Longwell, Republican strategist and publisher of "The Bulwark."

It's good to have you back, Congresswoman. And, Sarah, great to have you on. I've read a lot about you and nice to have you here with us.

So, Congresswoman, let me begin with you and your comments that Trump's reign over the party has been, quote, a sickness infecting the party at every level. My Cheney related question for you on that is, does that change at all with her out of leadership, but vowing in that fantastic interview that Savannah did, vowing to do everything she can to make sure he isn't the head of the party again, at least not in the Oval Office.

BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think it actually gives her a bigger platform now and you already see that in interviews and I think in speeches going forward. And she has made clear that silence was not an option because of the former president's big lies and refusal, I mean, you know, as recently as yesterday, to admit that he lost.

And, you know, then you see it infecting members in that hearing yesterday that you just profiled, members who were trying to pretend that nothing -- you know, that that was a tourism thing on January 6th? I mean Officer Fanone deserves thanks and gratitude, not dismissal the way some of these members are giving him.

So Liz is going to be able to impact the January 6th commission and getting that through. She's going to have a national voice. And I'm just very proud of her. And I pulled out a book. I'm going to advertise a little book here that her mom wrote, "A is for Abigail" and under "l" it says, you know, "l" is for lifting people up.

HARLOW: Oh.

COMSTOCK: And I would put Liz in that category. She's lifted this up. I just ordered this book again for my granddaughter, the one I have here is signed by Lynn to my daughter, and it is an historic day, and I think she has a sense of history, like her mother, like her father, very deeply, you know, embedded in that history. And so it's all principled action here and I'm very proud of her.

HARLOW: Another book to add to my kids' library. Thank you for that.

COMSTOCK: Yes, it's great.

HARLOW: Sarah, your piece, the headline on one of your most recent pieces really says a lot, you say, the headline is, "Liz Cheney should run for president." What I think is interesting is, you make this argument while acknowledging she probably wouldn't win. So talk to me about what it would do for the party and what you hope it would do.

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, well, look, they can throw her out of leadership, but they can't stop her from leading.

[09:15:04]

And there's a long and noble tradition of people running for president to raise the salience of issues, or to shape the future of the party. And that, I think, is Liz Cheney's main goal. She doesn't want the Republican Party to be this anti-democratic force in the country that it's becoming. And so she is ready to do whatever it takes to pull the party and the country back from the brink.

And I think running for president is the way that she could have the kind of platform where she could speak to -- because, look, 70 percent of the party, they think that the election was stolen, they think the insurrection was no big deal. But there is that 30 percent that kind of wants to move on from Donald Trump. And I think that she's the person who could potentially lead the party off of this dangerous path.

HARLOW: I was so struck, Sarah, in this profile piece, big profile piece on you about a year ago when you talked about how hard it was to -- would be -- was, would be, to find someone to run against Trump, a fellow Republican. And the words you used were, it was easier to get three guys to go into Chernobyl than it was to get somebody to run against Trump.

What about in 2024? Does it get even harder?

LONGWELL: Well, not if you have somebody who's ready to do it on principle. Yes, look, for everybody else, for the Nikki Haleys or the Marco Rubios, if Donald Trump runs, he's going to freeze them all out. None of them will run against him because, frankly, the party has been -- is -- has been -- lost itself to cowardice.

What's so exciting about what Liz Cheney is doing for somebody like me who's been so desperate for somebody to lead is that she is stepping up on principle. It is not a political calculation.

It is coming from somewhere deeply rooted in wanting to save the Republican Party, save the country, restore the rule of law, protect the Constitution and, frankly, just tell the truth. If you're a Republican, like me, you have just been gaslighted for the last four and a half years. And so to just have somebody say, hey, the sky is blue, this is what is -- this is what's true is so refreshing.

And, look, courage is contagious. I believe that she -- if she gets out there and starts, you know, really going toe-to-toe with Trump, just never know what could happen.

HARLOW: That's true. You don't.

I was really struck also, Congresswoman, by this exchange in the interview that Savannah did with Liz Cheney.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): This isn't about looking backwards. This is about the real time current potential damage that he's doing. That he continues to do.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Some of your colleagues say, though, we supported you before, Congresswoman Cheney. You made your point. Now drop it. Let's focus on the future.

CHENEY: Well, it's an ongoing threat. So silence is not an option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I was so struck by that because she's talking about it in the present moment, not the past, right? And the party says she's looking back. We have to look forward. She's looking forward and saying, this is a danger to democracy, to the republic, Congresswoman.

COMSTOCK: Well, it very much is, and I think, you know, from the hearing yesterday, but also you had the report yesterday that Marjorie Greene, one of Donald Trump's favorite candidate -- you know, members of Congress, was chasing around Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, really, it seems like it was stalking her.

HARLOW: Right.

COMSTOCK: And, you know, I think this is really a danger when you have Trump still, you know, inciting people to do these kind of crazy things. And people just think of somebody like Marjorie Greene as a nut, but, you know, this is somebody who I think is very dangerous. And I would -- I would be frightened if I were in Congress to be around here and I'm certain, you know, that others are.

And so this is a problem that Trump keeps inciting these problems. And the denial of it, too. So it is very much a present threat.

And it's at a time when we know Trump's influence is waning. His popularity is in the 30s overall for the country overall, so that means he couldn't win, and I am confident he would never win president, even if he is the nominee. And then with independents, he's down at 14 percent.

So this is a politically stupid thing to do, as well as morally wrong. And Liz is getting it exactly right. And as a conservative -- I'd say there's a lot of conservatives that want a home because we were conservatives when Donald Trump was inviting Bill and Hillary Clinton to his wedding and opposing Bill Clinton's impeachment and, you know, all kind of other liberal things. I remember when he was supporting partial birth abortion.

So Donald Trump has never really been a conservative. It's all about him and the cult of personality. And so it's sad to see people acquiesce to that, but I do think courage is contagious. Liz, Adam Kinzinger, others around the country, I think you're going to see governors -- more governors stand up. They're working on solutions. And that's usually where we've got -- where we've gotten leaders, too.

So I think we are going to, in the future years, have many more Republican leaders, conservatives, who want to have a different path other than this cult of personality of the former guy who's down on his, you know, the prince of Mar-a-Lago who's out talking to people, you know, kind of sounding like a madman saying he's still president.

[09:20:19]

HARLOW: Congresswoman Comstock, thank you.

Sarah Longwell, thank you. Maybe there will be t-shirts, courage is contagious.

Thank you both very much.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: If only it were contagious.

HARLOW: Right. SCIUTTO: Still to come, fuel supplies running short. Why? Panic buying. What will the Biden administration do about it? I'm going to speak with Treasury Secretary Pete Buttigieg about that and the ongoing infrastructure negotiation, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:05]

SCIUTTO: This morning, some good news. Colonial Pipeline says it is back online and has returned to operations after that ransomware attack caused a six-day shutdown and led, unfortunately, to panic buying at gas stations, which actually worsened shortages.

Southeastern and mid-Atlantic states are still facing significant shortages. But, we should note, it's not a supply issue. The major reason for it, according to local officials, state officials is Americans' panic buying and some of them, sadly, hoarding gas.

Well, the run on gas, as well as that crack in a Memphis bridge that has shut down a major U.S. highway and part of the Mississippi River is now magnifying the Biden administration's push for an infrastructure plan. President Biden will meet with Republican senators again later today after infrastructure talks between him and the top four congressional leaders made little apparent progress yesterday.

Joining me now to discuss, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for taking the time this morning.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So, first, if we could start on Colonial Pipeline.

Based on what you're hearing from the company, when will full service be restored?

BUTTIGIEG: So all of the indications that we've seen so far are very encouraging. Product is moving, but it moves slowly, about five miles an hour in some cases and so it will take a few days for things to be fully back to normal.

And it's one of the reasons why we didn't skip a beat from the very beginning of this through this interim period in making sure that we're supporting other ways to get product to where it needs to be, whether that's over the water, whether that is with trucks with some of the flexibilities our department's provided, to try to ease any of those supply disruptions that may continue for the next few days in that interim period as we get to full normal operations on the pipeline.

SCIUTTO: State officials have made the point that what's really driven the shortage here is panic buying, right? Is that people thinking there's going to be a shortage, they go out and, you know, they're filling up and leading to some of this. I wonder what you say to folks who -- and understandably might be worried, but what do you say to folks who are going out there, filling up, you know, at every opportunity in the midst of this?.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I certainly understand why there's concern. But my message is, don't let this turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are seeing issues where there might not have been issues otherwise because people rushed to the pump and took more than they needed. Of course, if you need to fill up to get to where you're going or to go through your daily routine or get ready for tomorrow, that's normal and that's expected. But you don't need to -- certainly don't need to be hoarding.

We have all the supply we need as a country. We have a temporary issue in terms of getting it to where it needs to be. And that's why we're taking these other measures with things like trucks to help compensate all the pipelines getting back up to speed.

SCIUTTO: OK.

Infrastructure, of course, an enormous priority for the administration. But what was exposed this week, right, was a vulnerability to cyberattack and the president has an executive order that involves new regulations for companies who do business with the federal government, but, as you know, a lot of our infrastructure is privately run.

Do you believe there should be a law requiring private companies to protect themselves, a whole host of measures to prevent this kind of thing from happening again?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think as a country we are going to have to take more policy steps. The president issued an executive order that creates new reporting requirements and tightens up a lot of security issues, especially for companies that work with the federal government.

But as you point out, so much of the infrastructure in this country is actually not owned and operated by the federal government. It's private. After all, this pipeline issue was caused by a cyberattack on a private company.

I would add to that, that a lot of our most important infrastructure is run by local authorities, whether you're talking about a city running a water infrastructure, you know, water utility or something like a subway system. So we're going to need to do more. And I'll say the American Jobs Plan includes a lot of dollars for resilience and it's going to include expectations that when we are federally funding a local government, for example, or looking at a plan applying for a grant, we're going to want to know and see that cybersecurity was considered.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. I mean we always know in cyberattacks, right, you're only as strong as your weakest link, right? The weakest (INAUDIBLE).

BUTTIGIEG: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: All right, President Biden, they're going to meet with GOP senators this afternoon. As you know, Republicans are setting -- they're calling it a red line in terms of raising the corporate tax rate to pay for Biden's infrastructure plan.

I wonder, is the Biden administration open to other ways to pay for this, including, for instance, a rise in the gasoline tax? In other words, is that a red line for President Biden, raising the corporate tax rate?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, the president is not going to support a plan that raises taxes on ordinary Americans, especially when you don't have to in order to fund his vision. The American Jobs Plan is fully paid for. And the president has proposed to fully pay for it just by asking corporations to pay their fair share.

[09:30:05]

It's what most Americans think is the right thing to do and we think it is.