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Cyber Threats; Biden Agenda; President Biden Prepares For First Overseas Trip. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 7, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Biles is already a four-time Olympic gold medalist heading into the Tokyo Games this summer.

Her floor routine, in particular, was just jaw-dropping, with a few flips, even more twists. She threw the laws of physics out the window. Incredible.

Thanks so much for being here. I will see you back here tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter at @AnaCabrera.

And NEWSROOM continues with Alisyn and Victor.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us on NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

President Biden's agenda is facing a critical test this week at home and abroad. You know, he's still working to shore up an infrastructure deal with Republicans. The president is scheduled to speak again with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito today.

But the two are still hundreds of billions of dollars apart. Congressional Democrats are also working to secure deals on policing overhauls and voting legislation before the end of June.

CAMEROTA: All of this as both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take their first international trips since being elected. Vice President Harris is in Guatemala today to discuss illegal migration. And President Biden leaves Wednesday for a weeklong trip to Europe, where he will attend the G7 and NATO summit.

His main goal is to strengthen those transatlantic relationships that unraveled under President Trump. But other countries are still wary, so the stakes are high.

CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly joins us now.

So, Phil, let's start with the president's overseas trip. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says that these ransomware attacks that we keep seeing will be a major topic. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't

think there's any question about it, just the pervasive nature of them and their dramatic threat to physical infrastructure is I think why you have seen the administration signal a new level of urgency over the course of the last several weeks.

I asked Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, what they hope to get out of the G7 summit, of the NATO summit, the U.S.-E.U. meetings that are expected to transpire.

And he made clear they believe international cooperation in terms of communication, in terms of sharing of intelligence, in terms of kind of coming together as allies to push back in terms of countering these attacks that we have seen so much of over the course of the last several weeks, really have been around for months and years, is crucial to the United States' overall plan.

You have seen the U.S. try and kick into gear a whole-of-government approach to respond to things like the Colonial Pipeline attack, obviously the attack that we saw last week targeting one of the largest world, U.S. -- or largest world meat producers. All of these have brought significant concerns inside of the administration.

You have seen U.S. action. More U.S. actions are planned over the course of the next several weeks and months, I'm told by officials, but also the U.S. going into a very, very significant series of summits with U.S. allies, acknowledging that this will have to be fairly high on an agenda, an expansive agenda that will deal with things like obviously the pandemic, the global economy, how the U.S. and its allies confront Russia, how they confront a rising China as well, but ransomware attacks certainly on the agenda, given what we have seen over the last couple of weeks, guys.

BLACKWELL: So, Phil, let's talk infrastructure.

The transportation secretary had said today was the fish-or-cut-bait date. The administration walked back from that. We got talks again today. What's expected from this call?

MATTINGLY: Right now, we don't know if the call is going to happen today or tomorrow. There's some scheduling issues they need to work out.

I think the reality is, is, there is no longer a deadline when you talk to White House officials. And that underscores the reality of where things stand. They are no closer to a deal. Obviously, President Biden rejected the last offer from the kind of primary Republican group that he'd been talking to

He still wants to talk to Shelley Moore Capito, the lead negotiator of that group. But the White House has made clear, given the fact things with that group don't seem to be heading in a positive deal-making direction, they are now opening the door to any Republicans who want to talk about a potential path forward.

And that's created a lot of anxiety on Capitol Hill with a lot of progressive Democrats, who are concerned that the window is closing. The longer you wait, the closer you get to a midterm election year, the less of a possibility that the wide-ranging, I think transformative, to some degree, agenda President Biden has put on the table gets to getting passed, to put it bluntly.

Here's the -- kind of the crux here, and I think this is the thing that matters more than anything else. The White House has said that they want action more than anything else. And that might mean they leave Republicans aside. They can't leave Republicans aside so long as Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, says he still wants bipartisan talks.

And, guys, he still wants bipartisan talks. So they're still looking for bipartisan talks.

BLACKWELL: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Let's pick up right there with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is confident that these bipartisan deals are possible, specifically on infrastructure. President Biden better hope so, because Manchin is making it clear, again, that he's not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster.

In a new op-ed, Manchin also says that he will vote against the For the People Act. That's the sweeping package of election reforms.

CAMEROTA: OK, joining us now, CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

So, Manu, put it into context for us, everything that Manchin said this weekend and why this is such a big deal.



Democrats need every single vote if they want to advance their agenda along party lines. If they want to change the Senate's rules to allow legislation to move along party lines, they would need the support of someone like Joe Manchin. Right now, under the Senate's rules, 60 senators would be needed to break a Republican-led filibuster or any filibuster.

That's longstanding Senate rules. Changing those rules would have dramatic impact on this institution, on future presidents and on the current president. And Joe Manchin has been abundantly clear on this issue for a year or more or longer. He's resisted calls in the past to change the filibuster. And he continues to do so now.

And that means -- what does that mean going forward? That means that Joe Biden's agenda on some key social issues will need the support of 10 Republican senators, at least, in order to move forward. And that includes the issue of voting, a major piece of legislation called the For the People Act Democrats want to bring to the floor on the week of June 21. There's a problem. Manchin opposes that, made that very clear in an

op-ed over the weekend; 49 Democrats, the others in his caucus, support that, have actually signed on as co-sponsors. But Manchin is opposed to that. So even if you were to agree to change the rules, they still would not have the votes to get it passed.

Now, how can they move forward? Manchin has proposed the idea of a more narrow proposal, something to restore the -- an aspect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. He is working with a Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, to deal with that issue, a more narrow issue in how states change their laws and the federal government reviewing some of those changes, a new process for doing that.

But there's a problem with that. That also lacks the 60 votes to move ahead. So what Joe Manchin here is calling for is two sides to get together on some key issues. They have been able to do so on some, but on so many other issues, that remains elusive, whether it's on gun issues, whether it's on voting issues.

And that means that a lot of these issues are almost certain to fall by the wayside -- guys.

CAMEROTA: Manu, Joe Manchin has a lot of power right now. Thank you very much for breaking it all down for us.

With us now is CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. He's also the host of the podcast ""The Axe Files."

David, great to see you.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Nice to see you guys. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Let's start with Joe Manchin. He is the eternal optimist when it comes to bipartisanship. But it doesn't sound like it's just pie in the sky. I mean, what he told Chris Wallace on FOX yesterday, he thinks that he has reason to believe that bipartisanship is possible.

So listen to this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): In the first five months of this year, we have operated more the way the Senate is supposed to operate, in a bipartisan way, than ever since I have been here in 10 years.

So, under Schumer's -- under Senator Schumer's leadership, we have had more bills, we have had more amendments voted on, we have gone through a normal process more, and people are continually trying to push us to more division.


CAMEROTA: Isn't that interesting, Axe? He thinks that there's been more bipartisanship now than in the past 10 years.

AXELROD: Well, he certainly also sees himself as a broker for that. I mean, that's who Joe Manchin is. He's a moderate.

And let's put this in context. Joe Biden (sic) comes from a state that voted for Donald Trump by 39 points in 2020. Manchin won his race in 2018 by three points in West Virginia. He comes from a very conservative state, very Trump-oriented state, and he's walking that line.

It was interesting to me that this op-ed that he wrote over the weekend saying he wouldn't support the For the People Act and wouldn't support ending the filibuster appeared not in "The Washington Post," not in "The New York Times," but in his hometown paper in West Virginia.

And I think he was sending a signal to his constituents that he's not going Washington and he's still with them, but he's also buying himself some room, because Biden is going to need Manchin if he's going to pass on a party-line vote through reconciliation the major pieces of his economic platform.

And so I think he's going to try and do what Manchin wants and strike a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. But, if they can't, he needs to have made a good-faith effort. And Manchin needs to say, OK, we tried, we're going to go through this other path.

But I -- having been through this in Washington, I have to laugh when I hear people say, well, forget about the Republicans, let's just go it alone. You can't go it alone if you don't have the votes. And if Manchin is not that with you, you can't go it alone. If Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona is not with you, you can't go it alone.

And there are other moderates in the Senate. So just because they have a D next to their name doesn't mean they're going to vote for every piece of legislation that Joe Biden or the progressive wing of the party puts in front of them.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk, aside from the infrastructure bill, the other major legislative elements


You, of course, know Mitch McConnell and a commitment to stopping a Democratic president's legislative agenda.


BLACKWELL: What does this then mean for the other elements, aside from those things that can be passed via reconciliation? Is that it for the big Biden legislative elements?

AXELROD: Very tough, Victor.

And let me just say one thing about what Senator Manchin is saying. When you say that bipartisanship is your sine qua non, you're basically handing the other side a veto power over what you do. And Mitch McConnell has proven himself very willing to use that veto power time and time and time again. He has made clear that he wants to thwart the Biden agenda, not assist or participate in any aspect of it.

And so that is something that Senator Manchin has to consider. Are you, in a sense, empowering gridlock by taking the position you're taking?

I don't think that the major social -- the pieces of social legislation are likely to pass because I don't think you're going to get 10 Republicans to pass them. And without an end to the filibuster, which Manchin says he will not support, I think a lot of those bills are going to go down.

I do -- Manu referenced the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is the strengthening of the Voting Rights Act that has passed the House. Manchin suggested in his op-ed that he supports that. And my guess is that negotiations will focus on that down the line, which would put some of the teeth back in the Voting Rights Act, as you know.

And that may be the best that they can do. But, Victor, the reality is that, in a 50/50, Senate, your options are limited. And that's the world that President Biden is living in right now.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about your latest podcast.

AXELROD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: You sat down with Liz Cheney.

And Liz Cheney, of course, has not pulled any punches for the past many months, even losing her leadership position as a result. And this time, she told you what she says her Republican colleagues are telling her in private about the vote to impeach and about what happened during the insurrection on January 6. So let's listen to a clip.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): What Donald Trump did is the most dangerous thing, the most egregious violation of an oath of office of any president in our history.

And so the idea that, a few weeks after he did that, the leader of the Republicans in the House would be at Mar-a-Lago essentially pleading with him to somehow come back into the fold, or whatever it was he was doing, to me, was inexcusable.

And I have had a number of members say things to me like, we would have voted to impeach, but we were concerned about our security. And I think that, in some ways, people have sort of glossed over that. But I think that's a very important point to pause and contemplate, that you have members of the United States House of Representatives for whom security, their personal security or their family's security, their concerns about that affected the way that they felt they could vote.

That's a really significant thing to say about the current state of our politics.


CAMEROTA: It's so interesting, Axe.

This is not cautious political-speak that she's engaging in.


CAMEROTA: I mean, no, it's just spelling it out. And so what was your impression of what she thinks all of this means and for her future?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, we should point out that she, herself, has security concerns. She didn't want to talk about it much.

But she's had to add security. She's become a target because of all this. She's got five children. She has concerns herself. So she's put herself out there.

But she's right. This is -- these are existential issues for a democracy. She also said that Trump's comments about the election and his continued provocations sound like the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party, which I think will not sit very well with the president, the former president, but she's right.

The running down of confidence in our democracy fits the project of those who would like to see the country fail. So she's on a mission out there. There's no doubt about it. And anybody who thought she was going to sort of pull her horns in should listen to this podcast. She is not.

She sees her race next year in Wyoming as a referendum on the direction of the Republican Party and, in some ways, the direction of our democracy. So stay tuned.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she says that she will do anything she has to, to keep the former president away from the Oval Office. We will see what that means over the next few years.

David Axelrod, thank you.

AXELROD: OK. Great to be with you.


BLACKWELL: And be sure to join CNN tonight, as former President Barack Obama joins Anderson Cooper for a rare one-on-one interview, his thoughts on the state of democracy in America, the Republican Party, and the racial divide that exists in this country.

An "ANDERSON COOPER 360" special, "Barack Obama on Fatherhood, Leadership and Legacy," tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

CAMEROTA: OK, so President Biden takes to the world stage, while grappling with a grave new national security crisis. And that is these ransomware attacks -- the White House's plan to address the threats at every stop of his upcoming trip.

BLACKWELL: And gun violence in America, the heartbreaking toll it is taking on our nation's children.



BLACKWELL: Ransomware and cyberattacks are a growing national security challenge for the Biden administration.

CAMEROTA: Hackers, many of whom were believed to be part of criminal gangs in Russia, have already struck sectors that impact our everyday lives here in the U.S., like gas, food, health care. And there's a possibility they literally could plunge the nation into darkness.

Here is what Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think that adversaries of the United States have the capability right now to shut down the power grid?


I mean, I think that there are very malign actors who are trying. Even as we speak, there are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally, I mean, the meat plant, for example.

We -- it's happening all the time.


CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. He is a CNN senior law enforcement analyst.

Well, that's sobering, Andy, I mean, the idea that, yes, they have the power right now to shut down our power grid. I don't understand, Andy. Are we just sitting ducks? Or is there something we could proactively be doing?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, there's certainly a lot more we could be doing.

And I think it is a sobering message. But it's also, unfortunately, an absolutely essential one. I mean, look, we have known for years that our nation-state adversaries, Russia, China, Iran, have been targeting the energy sector with cyberattacks here in this country. As far back as 2013, an Iranian group successfully hit a dam in Rye Brook, New York, and were able to get into the control system there.

So this is a -- this has been a hot target for them. But what we now know from the Colonial Pipeline hack is that criminal groups have incredible ability as well. If they can deny a provider's access to their own data and to their own systems, then very likely that provider, whether it's a fuel or energy, or whatever that might be, may have to shut down until they can recover their system.

So this is happening around us. And there's a lot more we need to do about it.

BLACKWELL: So, we spoke with a former FBI special agent last week, who said that it's not that these hackers are just advanced. It's that the FBI is late to this game and so far behind.

Can you -- I mean, I hear from your comments that's a fair assessment. But how far behind is the FBI on this?

MCCABE: Well I don't know, Victor, that it's -- I don't know that it's that helpful to put it entirely in the context of what the FBI can do, because this is...


MCCABE: This is an issue well beyond the FBI's capability.

The FBI comes in to investigate when there's been an attack to try to figure out who did it, to see if we can attribute that activity to a specific bad actor or a nation-state, what have you, hold people accountable if we can.

But what we need to be doing here is getting especially these critical infrastructure sectors, most of which are owned by private companies -- they're not government entities -- but getting them to do the work necessary to harden these systems, to make them as impervious as possible to attacks.

And that's -- that goes -- the FBI has a role there and needs to do much more. But you can say the same about DHS and DOD and NSA and all the community members that are engaged in this fight.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about something that former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to Donald Trump was apparently doing at the end of the Trump administration.

He was lobbying the Department of Justice to look into some of the dubious claims of vast election fraud during the 2020 election. And I'm just wondering, Andy, do you know, what does the DOJ do when a request from the White House comes that is clearly not rooted in reality or suspect?

I mean, how do they navigate that, that the White House wanted them to look into this?

MCCABE: Well, Alisyn, it is yet another appalling abuse of power, abuse of the office of the presidency.

Historically, this was not an issue. And having worked under many administrations, Republican and Democrat, this is not something that happened. People didn't -- I had never experienced this, until, of course, Donald Trump began asking us to stop investigating Michael Flynn. So this is something that I think we need to recognize is endemic in

the last administration, the Trump administration. It puts the department and the FBI in a terrible position. These are clearly -- you're requesting investigative action or the ceasing of investigative action simply for the president's political benefit, which is the very definition of abusing the office of the presidency.

It risks undermining our investigative and judicial process. It undermines people's confidence and faith in what we do. But it's not surprising, because they did it a lot. So...


BLACKWELL: All right, Andrew McCabe, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Andy.

MCCABE: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: So, two people are under arrest in the shooting death of a 6-year-old in a car on his way to kindergarten.

New details next.


CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news right now, first on CNN.