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CNN NEWSROOM

Tonight, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) Speak at Rally in Arizona; Senate Republicans Poised to Filibuster Commission Legislation; CDC Says, 12 to 15-Year-Olds Made Up Nearly a Quarter of New Vaccinations in Past Week. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 21, 2021 - 10:30   ET

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


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Tonight, the nationwide pro-Trump America First, as it is called, tour arrives in Arizona. That means two controversial pushers of Trump's big lie, and it is a lie, House Representative Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene will soon be speaking in the state that's right now at the epicenter of one of the most bizarre election audits -- it's not really an audit -- ever.

Right now, Arizona Republicans are sharply divided over the so-called audit that state senate Republicans ordered in Maricopa County. That's right, Republicans in that state opposing it, calling it based on no fact. The move is based solely on Trump fan conspiracies that have already been proven false.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Time and time again, the big lie has sharply divided Republicans. My next guess is an elected Republican official in Maricopa County but one not afraid to tell the truth, happy to bring in Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County Recorder. It's good to have you.

And I should note, like you ran on this platform of make Maricopa Boring Again. You've never done national T.V. interviews until one week ago. And now you are really a face of this fight for truth.

So let's begin with the latest headline out of the so-called audit and that is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who has been critical of the audit, is now recommending that you guys, officials, replace all of the election devices, those machines that were turned over, to state senate Republicans and the so-called cyber ninjas because she says DHS experts advised her that once election officials lose control of the devices, it's dangerous. They can be compromised and shouldn't be reused. Do you agree with her and should the machines be replaced?

STEPHEN RICHER (R), MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: Well, thanks for having me on, Poppy. And thanks for pointing out that I failed miserably at my campaign promise. It is very disappointing to me and I certainly don't relish this. We did get that letter from Secretary Hobbs yesterday and we're still digesting it, we're still processing it. We obviously had some concerns regarding the equipment and what state it would be returned. What we do know at this time is that we will absolutely not put anything into an election system that we are not 100 percent confident in. And if that means that we can't use the equipment, then that's something we'll have to deal with, but we will not use anything that we don't have absolute confidence in.

HARLOW: It appears that this is going to go beyond Arizona, right? There are other states talking about doing more partisan so-called audits like this, even after a recount and recount and recount again and elections being confirmed by the governor. Look at Georgia. You have a Trump supporter running to replace Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who has talked about doing the same thing as you guys are doing. Do you have advice to states that may be next?

RICHER: Well, Georgia is a particularly peculiar situation because they've done full recounts, multiple full recounts. So I don't know what they would hope to achieve.

HARLOW: Right.

RICHER: And quite frankly I don't know what Arizona hopes to achieve at this point because the auditing company that was selected had never been election audits prior to this year. And the only one that had one before this one was in Antrim County, and that's been widely discredited.

So if they found something, the people were not talking about at this point, the independents and the Democrats and a good chunk of Republicans wouldn't believe anything that they have to conclude.

HARLOW: You told my colleague, Don Lemon, a few days ago that you are scared by this, and that is an interesting choice of words. Can you explain that more? What are you most scared of that's happening in your state right now?

RICHER: Well, this is the foundation upon which everything is built. I mean, all of these state legislators who are clamoring for this, the only reason they have authority is because we all fundamentally ascribe to this system, our electoral system, by which they are imbued with power, with authority. And they seem to not appreciate that while they're denigrating that very system, they're pulling out their own authority.

And if they do that, then why should anyone pay attention to any forms of government, systems of government, the judicial system, anything? And that's a recipe for chaos. I worry about our ability to conduct future elections. You know, a lot of people might stay home, like they did in Georgia for the Senate runoffs, or they might, you know, try and be disruptive to the process, which I think would be terrible.

HARLOW: This is tied to the insurrection and what's happening in D.C. right now because it was the big lie, you know, that led people there to the Capitol. And now it appears that a majority of your party, as represented in the Senate, you're not going to have -- there are not going to be these 60 votes to get a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of all of this.

[10:35:10]

I wonder as a Republican official in Arizona, what do you think about that?

RICHER: You know, I've kept my interests and focus pretty close to the ground here on my office because we've had enough to deal with, but anything that prompts violence should be looked at thoroughly. It should be condemned wholly. It should be eliminated to the greatest extent possible. It's a sad reality but it is one that we need to categorically condemn at every level.

HARLOW: Thank you, Maricopa County Recorder, again, Republican Stephen Richer, thank you very much.

RICHER: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: Well, it is beginning to look, as we just talked about, less and less likely that lawmakers will create this bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection. So then what will Democrats do next week if this doesn't even get a debate on the Senate floor? We'll ask one.

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SCIUTTO: Legislation to create a bipartisan commission, by the way, bipartisan proposal of legislation to create that commission to investigate the Capitol riot now appears likely to fail, be filibustered, in fact, in the Senate, as Republicans voice objections even to debating the bill.

Joining me now to discuss is Congressman Josh Gottheimer. He's a Democrat from New Jersey. He also sits on the Homeland Security Committee but one of the co-chairs of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Thanks for having me, Jim. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: All right. So, next week, we're going to be in the bizarre territory of GOP senators filibustering a bipartisan proposal negotiated by Republicans and Democrats in the House for a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6th. Many of them are now against it though they were for it before. Here is John Cornyn tweeting on February 13th, I agree with Speaker Pelosi that a 9/11-type investigation is called for to help prevent this from happening again.

You speak to Republicans all the time on the Problem Solvers Caucus. What changed? GOTTHEIMER: Well, this is one that is a head scratcher. You know, John Katko, who is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, who led the negotiations on the Republican side, literally got everything that the Republicans asked for. This is a purely bipartisan, bicameral commission set to get done by the end of the year. You need -- for any subpoenas, you need Republicans onboard.

But this is one of these things that should be an obvious one to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th but also to prevent another insurrection on our Capitol and attack on our democracy, House or Senate. There is nothing partisan about this.

So I understand you've got outside forces, you've got the former president who doesn't want this to happen, to get to the facts. You know, I'm hoping, as Senator Manchin implied that he thinks we can actually get enough Republican senators onboard to move this in the Senate. But this is just an obvious thing where we should get to the facts and get to the bottom of it.

SCIUTTO: What do your GOP colleagues tell you privately about this? Again, Problem Solvers Caucus, you guys are trying to make deals here. Are they scared of Trump? Are they scared of Trump voters?

GOTTHEIMER: I mean, listen, the Problem Solvers Caucus endorsed this package. We've got about 20 of the 35 Republicans in the House who supported this package. Privately, what they say is that somehow this became a partisan football. Instead of this just being about getting the facts, as you point out, Senator Cornyn and other Republican senators saying in the past months that this is something that we should do, 9/11-style commission.

You had Tom Kean come out, the former Republican governor, who led the 9/11 commission, saying this is an obvious thing. I don't know, partisanship seems to creep into far too many things and I think the former president obviously weighing in on this wasn't helpful.

I'm still hopeful this gets done. I think it has to get done. This is what we need, again, for the sake of our democracy to prevent another insurrection but also to protect our nation's Capitol.

SCIUTTO: I salute your hope. The fact is, a lot of Democrats and Republicans are not hopeful. And I just wonder, both sides have talked about bipartisanship since the start of this administration but you had a COVID relief bill passed with not a single Republican vote. I mean, if there was an opportunity, you'd think it would be this one given, as you noted, it was negotiated by Republicans as well. They got concessions, for instance, equal representation on this commission.

I mean, if you can't get bipartisan agreement on this, what can? What can you get agreement on?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, you know, the truth is that there's lots of things we work on every week together recently on mental health, things for veterans, cancer research, things that get done all the time that are bipartisan, right? It's just these bigger ones that -- the fights to get the attention, as you know.

We're working together now, a group of us in the House and Senate, on getting an infrastructure package done. There is a group of us in a bipartisan, bicameral way working on police reform. The Problem Solvers Caucus is working on immigration reform with a group right now.

So I know the fights are what gets the most attention but there are things we're working on all the time. If you look at the COVID-19 packages, five of them were bipartisan. The problem solvers working as a group of senators at the end of last year, got the $908 billion package done over the finish line. It is just a matter of whether you are willing to sit at the table, do the hard work and get it done. It's not a tweet -- this is not about tweets. This is about actually working hard and moving the ball.

SCIUTTO: I get it. And, listen, yes, the fights do get coverage but so does the ultimate legislation. I mean, let's talk about infrastructure for a moment, because there has been a notable shift in hopes on that.

[10:45:03]

Until a few days ago, you heard Republicans and Democrats saying, we're moving in the right direction. There is a change now. And, again, things can change tomorrow as well. You're part of the team trying to make a deal on this. Where does it stand? I mean, for instance, is there any movement on how to pay for the infrastructure plan, from either side?

GOTTHEIMER: There is. These things go back and forth all the time, as you might imagine. And I was just on a call with a group of senators yesterday and the meeting earlier this week, the Problem Solvers Caucus, we put out our version of a bipartisan plan on this and now we're working with a group of senators. And I am still very hopeful we can get a piece of the president's larger package on jobs, the physical infrastructure piece, the roads, the bridges, the tunnels, the water, the grid, energy grid. i think there is a way to get that done in a bipartisan way. I'm not giving up on that. And, again, the conversations I had yesterday give me hope. But you go up and down on this all the time.

The key is you just have to stay at the table and, as you started with this, try to keep the politics and the partisan politics from some of the extremes in both parties out of it. And that is the hard part. But it's our job to keep doing it.

SCIUTTO: I get it, from your lips to God's ears. So tell me, if you're able to get a smaller piece of the infrastructure plan then, and you have hope for it, paid for, how? Gas tax, some negotiation on raising the corporate tax rate?

GOTTHEIMER: I mean, you've heard the president. One thing that I've been pushing for a long time is closing the tax gap, which the IRS commissioner spends a trillion dollars a year going after tax cheats, making sure globally corporations who operate in the U.S. who don't pay any taxes, to make sure that there is -- that they actually contribute to those roads and police and other protection.

You know, I think we've got a whole list of things, like user fees and public/private partnerships and infrastructure bank. There are plenty of ways that we can, I believe, close that gap and generate some revenue to pay for the infrastructure. And I think, you know, those are the exact conversations that are happening right now. I'm less excited about -- sorry, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: No, I was going to say, it sounds like -- none of the things you described there to pay for that smaller deal included a corporate tax hike. Are you saying Democrats are open to pay for at least a smaller carved out infrastructure plan that does not include a corporate tax hike?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, the Republicans have made it pretty clear right now that that is not something they're interested in and I'm interested in getting something done. I think there are other ways to do it. It means that the package of that piece, you know, will be smaller than maybe something else we visit on other infrastructures or on some of the other proposals the president has put out on job and job creation and manufacturing.

So, I mean, there are different ways we'll get there. We have to be -- you can't close off any path if you want to negotiate to try to get to an agreement. And so my attitude is I'm not going to negotiate publicly. I'm going to keep working it behind the scenes with Democrats or Republicans sitting at the table until we can get there. And I'm hopeful we can and I don't think any of us should give up on that.

SCIUTTO: We look forward to your update and you are welcome back on this broadcast when you have it. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thanks very much for joining us.

GOTTHEIMER: Thanks, Jim, I appreciate it. Thanks, good to see you.

HARLOW: Well, new, encouraging data out this morning about the pace of vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds but there are some troubling signs in terms of overall vaccination rates. More on that, next.

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SCIUTTO: The rate of new vaccinations per day across the U.S. is dropping down nearly 50 percent from a peak back in April, but here is the good news and there is some. The country is seeing a surge in vaccinations among the youngest group of newly eligible Americans.

HARLOW: Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us. Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

HARLOW: Let's start with the great news, children ages 12 to 15 have only been eligible to get vaccinated for a couple weeks but there are a lot of them.

COHEN: There are. It is really interesting. People really have come out and gotten their 12 to 15-year-olds vaccinated. I think there was some concern, people might be hesitant, and who knows? This might be like with adults where you get a good number and then it kind of dissipates a bit.

But let's take a look at the specific numbers. So what we see when we look at CDC data is that nearly 1 in 11 children ages 12 to 15 in the United States have received at least one dose. So that is really not too bad, nearly 1 in 11. And if you look at it sort of as a percentage of all the people who have been vaccinated, the number of people who have received first doses in the past week in this age group is 24 percent and they represent 5 percent of the population. So, obviously, they are coming out in sort of more than the usual numbers. So this is really pretty great people are coming out in these numbers to get their children vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: So, bigger picture, why are we seeing the overall daily new vaccination rate fall? I mean, is it that we've gotten into the parts of the population that are most willing to get it?

COHEN: That's right. So, in the beginning, there was this mad rush and it was like the Hunger Games, right, where people were competing to get doses, because those were the vaccine enthusiastic who would do anything. And then as time went on, as the months went by, you got the sort of less enthusiastic but still willing to get it. And now we're down to the more hard core.

So let's take a look at how it breaks down. So, right now three of five Americans have gotten -- adults have gotten at least one dose. So either vaccinated fully or they're on their way, three out of five. So that is good news.

One out of five says, no way, I don't want this vaccine. You can see that in surveys or maybe you'll get it in my boss tells me I have to.

[10:55:04]

But, really, that is a very, very sort of adamantly anti-vaccine group, that red guy.

The yellow guy is the question mark, and that's what the CDC and others are trying to get at. Some of those folks say, wait and see. Some of those folks say, you know, I'm not so sure, I need to think about it. But how to get to that yellow person is the big question.

HARLOW: It is. Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

HARLOW: Have a great weekend.

COHEN: You too.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us today. We hope you all have a great weekend. We'll see you Monday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. I'm one of those green guys with the big syringe right here. I jumped right in.

At This House with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.

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