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House Speaker Rejects Two GOP 1/6 Committee Picks; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will Pull All His Picks to 1/6 Committee; GOP Expected to Block Vote on Infrastructure Debate. Aired 1-1:30p ET.

Aired July 21, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:02]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But certainly, I mean, you can go back, you can find a lot of pretty dramatic photographs of Congressman Nehls and a blue shirt helping the Capitol Police to keep the rioters out.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And Pelosi not explaining explicitly what's going on there, but saying, we can just forward. We don't really have to even play this games.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has the numbers. She designed the committee. They have quorum. They can just go.

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, thanks for joining us on Inside Politics with the breaking news today. Erica Hill is going to pick up our coverage right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Thanks for joining us. I'm Erica Hill in today for Ana Cabrera. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

And we begin this hour with breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just rejected two Republicans from serving on the House select committee to investigate the deadly January 6th insurrection. Speaker Pelosi noting Congressmen Jim Banks and Jim Jordan are no-goes.

She did approve the other Republican appointments. In a statement, the speaker saying, with respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth, and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the select committee.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joining us live from the Hill. Manu, what more are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She makes it very clear, the speaker does, that this is an unprecedented decision. She says, the unprecedented nature of January 6 demands this decision. This does not happen on Capitol Hill, a speaker rejecting an appointment of a minority leader's decision. And in select committees, typically, this is a process that is done. The speaker essentially says, okay, to whatever the Republican leader or the minority leader at that time suggest, but not this time.

Jim Banks, Jim Jordan, Jordan in particular, one of the staunchest Trump defenders, he has rejected this investigation all together, telling me in the last several days here, that he believes this is all an effort to go after Donald Trump. He said that Speaker Pelosi herself should be investigated about why the Capitol was not secured that day.

Jim Banks put out a statement almost immediately after he was named by Kevin McCarthy as the top Republican, criticizing Pelosi's decision, saying this investigation was an effort to push forward an agenda, socialist agenda, and didn't, in Pelosi's view, seem to be taking this investigation seriously. So, we're waiting to see what the Republican leader ultimately decides here and whether he will pull the picks.

We're getting indication that he, in fact, will pull the picks. And assuming he does do that, Pelosi, just moments ago, told me that she is still prepared to move ahead. She said we have a bipartisan quorum to move ahead. That means the eight members that she selected, they include One Republican, Liz Cheney, who, of course, was pushed out of her leadership position after she challenged Donald Trump in the aftermath of January 6th.

But we are just getting word that Kevin McCarthy is going to pull all of his picks. That means that the eight Democrats will move forward, and eight members, including Liz Cheney.

And I want you to take a listen, Erica, to what I just asked Nancy Pelosi directly about whether or not she's prepared to move ahead if Kevin McCarthy goes ahead and pulls out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: -- pull out, the Republicans may pull out entirely?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have a bipartisan quorum. We can proceed.

REPORTER: Have you spoken to McCarthy about this decision? When can he expect him to --

PELOSI: You'll have to ask him.

REPORTER: But you've spoken to the leader about these decisions?

PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE).

RAJU: What was it about Jordan and Banks in particular, because Nehls also voted to overturn the election?

PELOSI: That was not the criteria, and as I told you yesterday.

RAJU: Yes. What was the criteria?

PELOSI: Read my statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So, she had concerns about the statements that were made by Banks and by Jordan. She made clear there that the fact that they voted to overturn the electoral results in Arizona and Pennsylvania was not alone enough to get them booted from the committee, because Troy Nehls also voted to overturn those results. And the speaker said that she would be okay if he were to serve.

But in the aftermath, Banks made very clear where he viewed this investigation. She had concerns about that, clearly had concerns about Jordan and his role in defending Donald Trump.

And Jordan himself, also, Erica, could be a witness in this investigation. He had conversations with Donald Trump in the run-up to January 6th. And Jordan told me he's willing to testify before the committee.

But this investigation is now going to go on Democrats alone with Liz Cheney. McCarthy's picks will not be part of it, now that we're getting word that McCarthy will pull out but the investigation, Erica, will move ahead.

HILL: Manu, do you have a sense -- I mean, is this -- at the end of the day, is this a real surprise that this is where we have now ended up?

[13:05:03]

RAJU: In some ways it is. Because in the beginning of -- in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, Republicans themselves suggested an openness to coming forward with an outside commission to investigate what happened here, something designed after the 9/11 commission after the attack on the United States. Even senators, like John Cornyn, the Republican whip -- one of the Republican leaders, a former whip, said that he'd support an outside commission. Some House Republicans said so as well. But then it devolved into partisan back and forth about what that would look like.

Pelosi ultimately agreed to a lot of what the Republicans wanted and the structure of that outside commission. But then the Republicans made clear they viewed any investigation going forward as hurting their chances politically. They wanted to -- made this to look like -- they want to focus on going after Joe Biden, Joe Biden's agenda, spending, deficit spending, the border as their fight to take back the House majority and Senate majority. They did not want to make it an investigation about January 6th, so they blocked that outside commission in the Senate.

But then that forced Nancy Pelosi's hand to move forward with the select committee. And ever since she moved forward with this select committee, which will, by its nature, be more partisan than an outside commission because it will be led by Democrats, have eight Democrats, five Republican appointees, that Republicans had no interest in that investigation. So, in some ways, we saw how this has been a trajectory where this started. But at the moment, at the beginning of this, it sounded like this will be to be a bipartisan look into what happened here. But now there's going to be a Democratic-led look with one Republican, Liz Cheney, participating.

HILL: And so what's the impact then, Manu, on any potential findings?

RAJU: The impact is going to be -- it could be significant. Because regardless of what happens here -- regardless of what happens in -- come November -- it really depends on what they ultimately find out here. Because even if the Democrats say that Donald Trump is culpable in some way here, the Republicans will say this is just a partisan exercise, just a partisan effort to go after the president.

In a lot of ways, that was why they criticized and went after the outside commission, because the outside commission investigation would be, in a lot of ways, unassailable. This would have been divided up between five Democrats, five Republicans, trying to figure out how to -- what happened on January 6th. They would look at Donald Trump's role, look at his effort to prop up his supporters, to rally on that day on January 6th, but a select committee would have looked more partisan.

And now that it's going to be led by Democrats, Republicans will say this is just a partisan, Democratic-led investigation, ignoring what exactly happened that led to this being a Pelosi-selected committee going forward, their decision to block that outside commission. So, in a lot of ways, Republicans say the findings here will be tainted.

HILL: Right. And important to remember too that it was Republicans who blocked this after basically everything that McCarthy wanted was agreed to. It's interesting.

I know Jim Jordan told you the other day, and I think I'm quoting him here, if they call me, I got nothing to hide, is what he told you when you asked him if he would testify if he was called. How do you think this decision now for McCarthy to pull everyone after Speaker Pelosi rejected both Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, how do you think that could potentially impact the willingness of those to testify who may be called?

RAJU: Yes. I think that is still an open question. And speaking to the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, yesterday, he made clear to me that talking to these Republicans who interacted with Donald Trump in the run-up to January 6th and on January 6th, that includes, as you said, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, that remains on the table.

But that is not the first thing they wanted to look at. They wanted to look at that first hearing next week, hearing testimony from Capitol Police officers, talk about the intelligence failures that happened that day, investigate all the communication that happened between Capitol Police, FBI, everything that went wrong, look and build upon other investigations and also look at what Donald Trump did and also look at his interactions. So, that could still be months in the making before we really get into what could be a fight, getting Republicans to testify about what happened here. But McCarthy, I had asked directly, Erica, about whether or not he would be willing to talk to the select committee about what has been reported, a very tense conversation he had with Donald Trump on January 6th. And said, I'm willing to talk anyone. He's made clear he's going to do it. Jim Jordan yesterday said, I've got nothing to hide, I'm willing to talk to anybody here.

Also another senator, Tommy Tuberville, who interacted briefly with Donald Trump on January 6th, I asked him if he would be willing to talk to the committee. He said it's not a secret what happened to me, my interaction, I can talk to them too. So we will see because it will be much different when Democrats send a letter, potentially, to one of these Republicans and ask them to talk under oath or write, to have written testimony versus reporter asking him a question in the hallway.

[13:10:03]

But, nevertheless, at least they're suggesting some openness to talk. Will this decision by Pelosi today and the subsequent decision by McCarthy change that calculation? We'll have to see. But this is where this investigation is going to go, look at everything, including Donald Trump's role in those reactions with the Republican lawmakers.

HILL: Manu, stay with us. I just want to bring in our colleague, Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona. And, Melanie, as you are learning more, and even the reactions are filtering out here, what are you hearing at this moment in terms of reaction to both Speaker Pelosi and to what we saw from Leader McCarthy?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. I actually I just checked in with some Republican sources, and they're calling this a, quote, big mistake by Pelosi. They're saying this is going to feed into their own narrative that they were trying to push, which is that this is a partisan investigation and that they don't want Republican input, and that Democrats are more concerned with hammering Donald Trump than they are at getting to the truth of what happened on January 6th.

But Democrats say, listen, some of these members that McCarthy tried to appoint to the committee were the ones leading the charge trying to overturn the election. And that is one of the motivating factors that led rioters to storm the building on January 6th. And they said it's inappropriate even though Pelosi acknowledged it's an unprecedented decision to veto these members. This is absolutely inappropriate and they also feel confident because they do have a Republican on their side, and that is Liz Cheney.

So this isn't going to be a completely partisan. They have Republican buy-in. They have Liz Cheney. And now, for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with McCarthy deciding to pull out of this, they're not going to have the distractions on the other side of the dais, which are Republicans trying to muddy the waters, trying to derail the investigation, trying to push their own message. And so Speaker Pelosi feels absolutely confident with her decision here.

She has made clear to Manu and our colleagues that they have a quorum, they can proceed. They don't need McCarthy to play along.

HILL: Melanie Zanona and Manu Raju, thank you both.

Stay with us, everyone, we're going to take a short break, again, at the breaking news at this hour after Speaker Pelosi rejected two of the Republican recommendations to serve on this select committee. McCarthy has now pulled all five picks for that committee.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

HILL: Breaking news, we just want to get you of some reaction we're just getting from Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy releasing a statement about Speaker Pelosi's decision to reject Representatives Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, two of the Republicans that McCarthy had recommended for this select committee.

In his statement, he calls this, quote, an egregious abuse of power, says it will irreparably damage this institution, saying that Speaker Pelosi is, in his words, denying the voices of these members. And goes on to say that unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, the men you see on your screen there, Republicans will not be party to their sham process, in McCarthy's words, and says, they will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.

Things heating up clearly on Capitol Hill this afternoon, this at a critical time as the administration is facing, of course, an uphill battle when it comes to not only what's happening on Capitol Hill but what is happening across the country, the battle with COVID, vaccinating Americans essentially hitting a wall at this point. We've stalled with less than half the country fully vaccinated, President Biden facing those serious hurdles on Capitol Hill as well when it comes to key pieces of his agenda.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live in Ohio, where, of course, we'll be hearing from the president later tonight in a CNN town hall. So, Jeff, what is at stake for the president tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, that all certainly sets the table for the challenges facing the Biden administration. And we talked about that House committee investigating the insurrection on January 6th. Perhaps all of this really could have been foreseen. Kevin McCarthy certainly appointed these members for reasons. Speaker Pelosi responded in kind. This probably was all fairly predictable.

But the reason it matters for the Biden agenda is this, he really has a limited time period to get a lot of his issues through. So this simply gums up the works, in some respects and really makes it even more difficult to do any type of bipartisan work.

First and foremost, though, that infrastructure plan and jobs plan, there's going to be a test vote in the Senate this afternoon. It is going to fail. And Republicans are saying, look, they simply have not had enough time to find out how to pay for this bill. So, the challenge now for the White House is how much time are they going to give them to try and find a deal before they go it alone and try and unify Democrats and do this through what's called reconciliation, Democrats only voting on this.

All of these issues and many more, rising cases of COVID, Erica, I can tell you talking to people here in Ohio and elsewhere, COVID cases, the economy are of much higher concern than bickering in Washington about who's going to sit on what commission.

So, when President Biden takes the stage behind me at Mount St. Joseph University later this evening, he will be taking those questions from Ohio voters. Infrastructure is really a chief concern of voters, of course, of both sides. They've long been promised to fix roads and bridges and broadband. We will see if that deal with get through.

So, the president, when he flies here to Cincinnati later today, he'll be talking to union workers to sell his jobs and infrastructure plan and, again, taking questions here tonight.

But, Erica, one thing is clear, the first summer of a new president always presents a variety of challenges, but time is of the essence.

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Yes, you may say he has 3.5 years left to go, but the reality is they know that politics is already seeping into everything. So if they want to pass agenda items this summer, in the next coming weeks are the time to do it. Erica?

HILL: Jeff Zeleny, I appreciate it. Thank you.

And a reminder, you can watch CNN's exclusive town hall with President Joe Biden. That happens tonight. It's hosted by CNN's Don Lemon right here on CNN beginning at 8:00 Eastern.

Back on the Hill, Senate Republicans are expected to block a vote to start debate on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal. So, what do Republicans want? They say they want more time to strike a deal. They want to know what's in the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer though is pushing forward, as you just heard from Jeff Zeleny, with today's vote.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator from Maryland Chris Van Hollen, who sits on both the Appropriations and Budget Committee. Senator Van Hollen, good to have you with us.

I do want to talk about all of that in a moment, but I just wonder if we could first just get your reaction to the news that we are seeing both from Speaker Pelosi and also, of course, this reaction that we just got from Kevin McCarthy threatening that there will be an investigation by Republicans.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, Erica, it's good to be with you. Speaker Pelosi made exactly the right call. This is a special committee that's designed to get at the truth and the facts about what happened during the attack on the Capitol on January 6th and all the events leading up to it. And you can't get to the truth when you have people on the committee who are just spreading the big lie and who have demonstrated time and again that they're only interested in spreading false information.

So she made the right call. She tried, of course, to establish a bipartisan commission. That was shot down here in the Senate by Senator Mitch McConnell and others. So, I'm glad she's proceeding as she says.

HILL: All right. We're going to turn now to the other news of the day, because we do have a lot to get with -- get to with you. I know we have a limited time.

When we look at what is coming up later this afternoon, are you concerned at all that this is going to backfire on Senator Schumer?

VAN HOLLEN: I don't think so. Time is of the essence. And what Senator Schumer is saying is that we need to move this process forward. We're all pleased that this bipartisan group has made progress, but they do need to wrap it up. President Biden has made the same point. And so this is a way of keeping pressure on the group. And just a little while ago, 11 Senate Republicans said that they were going to wrap this all up by early next week.

So, this is a way of keeping the pressure onto get to an agreement on the bipartisan bill. We also need to move forward on that budget resolution that contains the other parts of President Biden's build back better agenda, the American families plan and the parts of the American jobs plan that are not included in this bipartisan bill.

HILL: So, to be clear, you're not concerned that this could jeopardize not just infrastructure but future efforts? And so then I'm taking that to mean to you, do you believe that Republicans are negotiating here in good faith?

VAN HOLLEN: I do believe for the most part, the ones I've talked to are negotiating in good faith. But, Erica, the bottom line is, at the end of the day, we have to get this done. And if Republicans won't move forward on the bipartisan approach, we'll have to look at including those provisions in the larger package.

But I do believe people are proceeding right now, at least, in good faith and that we can move forward on all parts of President Biden's agenda.

HILL: Let's talk about COVID for a moment. As you know, the numbers are getting worse. All of the numbers are moving in the wrong direction, including vaccinations, which have hit a wall at this point. The Capitol attending physician suggesting last night that members may want to consider masking up even if fully vaccinated for further protection.

So, first of all, quickly, do you plan to start masking up again on the Hill?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we're obviously going to listen to attending physician. He has been very clear in the same letter that the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, is not, at this point, recommending any kind of mask mandate. So we'll continue to monitor the CDC advice as well as the attending physician's advice.

But this does go to the larger point, this is the very dangerous consequence of members of Congress, Republican House and Senate members, talk show hosts on the right and others spreading lies and misinformation. If you look at the states where we're seeing the highest rate of increase, they are governed by people who have not been focused on spreading factual information and getting to the bottom of this.

So, it's very important that we move forward here, focus on the truth, listen to people like Dr. Fauci and not listen to those who are spreading misinformation.

[13:25:02]

HILL: There are some of your Republican colleagues who have come out in the last 24-48 hours. They are much more vocal now in terms of support for the vaccine. Where do you think that change has come from?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I do think people have finally woken up to the fact that we're seeing this spike in COVID cases because of the delta variant. And so, finally, late but good that they're doing it now, we have people sounding the alarm and urging people to get vaccinated.

Look, we've seen a good percentage, a good share of the country vaccinated. We have not hit our goals yet largely because of people spreading false information. So I am glad to see people who had not been urging people to get vaccinated to begin to sound the alarm.

HILL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, I appreciate you spending some time with us this afternoon. Thank you.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

HILL: Stay with us. A short break, and then on the side, more on this breaking news as Speaker Pelosi rejects two of the Republican recommendations for this January 6th committee, Kevin McCarthy hitting back. More after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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