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CNN NEWSROOM

Democrat and GOP Leaders Reach Power-Sharing Agreement; GOP Leaders Face Critical Test Over Fate of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY); Biden to Host Democratic Senators in Oval Office to Discuss $1.9 Trillion Relief Package. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Made an announcement that a power-sharing agreement between the two parties has been reached.

[10:00:05]

Here is what he said just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalize organizing resolution for the Senate. We will pass the resolution through the Senate today which means that committees can promptly set up and get to work with Democrats holding the gavels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Also today, critical moment for the Republican Party, the future of the GOP and really hanging on the fate of two congresswomen, both right now facing rebuke for strikingly different reasons. Liz Cheney because she voted her conscience in voting to impeach former President Trump, and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who has continued to push dangerous conspiracy theories.

Republicans are split over what should happen next with both of their roles. The decision really could change the direction of the party as we know it. We'll get to that in a moment.

Let's begin though with our Jessica Dean who joins us on the Hill with more on this power-sharing agreement. So what will it mean?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, guys, the big thing here is that Democrats will now take control of the Senate committees. When you're in control, you're setting the agenda. And that means that things in Joe Biden's agenda that they wanted to get ahead, that President Biden's agenda that they wanted to push ahead, like Merrick Garland's nomination for attorney general, can now move forward.

You'll remember there has been a holdup on some of these nominees including Merrick Garland, most notably, who was his nominee to be attorney general because Republicans maintained control of these committees, because they had to operate off the last Congress because they didn't have this agreement in place.

So now that Democrats will take over these committees, that means that Democrats are going to have a much easier time getting things on the table, getting things through. They're going to hold control. So we expect now that someone like Merrick Garland, who should get bipartisan support, will now get to go through the process much easier than when Republicans were holding control over the Senate Judiciary Committee, for example. So that's a big example of what this will mean.

It was also interesting, you heard the majority leader there, Chuck Schumer, talking a little bit about this, what this means. He also said that one of the key issues he is encouraging these committees to focus on is climate change. And he encouraged the committee chairman to begin holding hearings about climate change and how they can enact Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

So you're going to start to see things move. But, of course, Jim and Poppy, we've been following the negotiations about this power sharing agreement for weeks as he and Mitch McConnell worked to hammer this out. It kind of dragged on. But now that they've got this agreement, things can move forward. And that's the real key takeaway here.

SCIUTTO: The other big meeting today among Republicans, deciding the question including future of Congresswoman Liz Cheney as number three Republican. Based on your reporting, does she have the backing to keep that job?

DEAN: Well, she certainly has been reaching out. We do know that she's been reaching out to various Republicans to get their support. There is a meeting later today with the House Republican Caucus to really discuss both Liz Cheney who, remember, is the number three Republican in the House and who voted to impeach President Trump, voting her conscience, as she said, to talk about what they want to do, if anything. There have been calls to remove her from leadership for that vote.

So we know that she's been calling around trying to shore up support, listening to people, explaining herself in advance of this meeting later today.

And as you both talked about, it is diametrically opposed to the other side of this which is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is also being considered during this meeting as likely to be a topic as well, what to do with her.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy faces the decision of the he will strip her from her committee assignments. She is assigned to be both on the Budget Committee but also the House Education and Labor Committee. And, of course, she has talked about the Parkland High School shooting being a false flag. There are big concerns about her sitting on the Education Committee with these beliefs.

So, very much the future of the Republican Party is at stake here, which direction does it want to go in.

And, notably, Jim and Poppy, back to Liz Cheney, she has garnered support from a lot of Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who rarely speaks out in this. He didn't name her in this statement but said her beliefs are loony lies and a cancer on the party. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: I mean, they are lies. I mean, among them, that 9/11 was not actually a terrorist attack. I mean, it's an amazing list. Jessica Dean, thanks very much.

Let's bring in former Republican Congresswoman from Virginia Barbara Comstock and CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel. Thanks to both of you.

Barbara, if I could begin with you, you served in Congress as a Republican, you're one of the moderate Republicans who lost their seat in 2018 as the party moved to the right, Democrats during that wave.

[10:05:04]

I just wonder, does challenging Marjorie Taylor Greene, a first-term congresswoman, get to the core of the issue here, or must the party and will the party confront Donald Trump? I mean, after all, he's the former president who is still propagating a big lie about the election. Is the party willing to do that?

FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA): Exactly. Well, today, Officer Brian Sicknick is lying in honor because of protecting members of Congress from a mob that Donald Trump incited. So I think the choice for Republicans is really quite simple. Do they want to continue being defined by a president who lost the popular vote twice, impeached twice, cost his party the White House, Senate and the House in 2018, because it was a referendum on him, or do they want to turn the page?

And I certainly hope and think it would be the smart thing, the Republican Party is still hemorrhaging suburban voters as Donald Trump's own pollster told him in his explanation in his long (ph) paper on why Trump actually lost, not the big lie that Trump said he won by a landslide. But I think Republicans need to embrace the diversity of the party. Liz is a conservative as were eight of the ten people who voted for impeachment, come from very conservative districts. But we need to be a broad party without having kooks, conspiracy theorists and QAnon. We need to rid the party of that. I think Marjorie Greene should be taken off her committees. I think she also should be taken out of the party.

Now, if Georgia wants to somebody to Congress, they can pick whoever they want. But the other members of Congress, and Democrats make the rules, don't have to play with her. She's not going to be passing any bills. And I think they'll soon see how infective she is, that she is toxic for the party. She's a cancer, as Itch McConnell said, and she needs to be cut out and the other people who

promoted her, like Jim Cordon, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz. They are killing our party. HARLOW: Jamie, to build on Congresswoman Comstock's points there, I mean, the people, though, of her district elected her and they chose her in the primary over a literal brain surgeon who was, by the way, super conservative, pro-Trump, pro-life, pro-guns, part of his slogan when he was running. And I just wonder if you could encapsulate for us how much this moment means today.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So I think that this is a huge issue for the Republican Party. As Barbara said, it is a reckoning. Yes, she was elected and that is an issue. But the Republican House members have to make a decision about whether she gets to be part of their conference and represent them on committees.

One of the things we've seen for the last couple of days, Senate Republicans reaching out to say they support Liz Cheney and to say that they think that Marjorie Taylor Greene needs to be excised.

I think what you're hearing from those Senate Republicans is a very public, hey, Kevin McCarthy, you have got to be a leader here. Kevin McCarthy went running down to see Donald Trump and get in his good graces again because we know he wants to win the House back in 2022. He wants to be speaker. He is worried about fundraising.

But I think what we're going to see this afternoon at that 4:00 meeting is a real reckoning for Kevin McCarthy. Does he have the support to continue with letting people like Marjorie Taylor Greene be in the party and try to have other people in the freedom caucus kick Liz Cheney out of the leadership?

SCIUTTO: Barbara, to that point, who leads? Who is the alternative leader of the Republican Party given that Trump still commands such a big portion of the support of Republican voters? Who do you see emerging into that role and can take up the mantle, if it's possible?

COMSTOCK: Well, in the past, when Republicans have been in the minority, it's often our governors who lead. And I think if you look at a lot of our governors, we have very popular governors across the country in red and blue states who did much better than Donald Trump.

You look at somebody like Governor Sununu in New Hampshire, who ran about 15 or 20 points ahead of Donald Trump in a state that Trump lost. You also see Governor Hogan here in Maryland, in our area, who is very popular, twice elected.

[10:10:04]

And so I think we need to look for leaders who have been able to put together a coalition that gets you over 50 percent. I mean, Donald Trump only got 46 percent, and now he continues to lose many of the voters he had following -- you've seen people leaving the party, changing their party registration after January 6th. I do think that is why it's so important that the Senate convict Donald Trump and we turn the page, cut this cancer out.

And it's no not that we aren't concerned about the issue that were addressed, but the toxic personality of Donald Trump and his refusal, his unconstitutional refusal to listen to the courts, listen to his own Justice Department, to listen to his own White House counsel who told him he did not have a path. And as Bill Barr said, his theories were bleak (ph). We have to turn the page and get back to being a constitutional party, the rule of law.

And this is isn't conservative versus moderate, this is conservative versus crazy. This is conservative versus kooks. And we can be the center right party without having the Marjorie Greenes and these toxic personalities that are driving away the areas that grow (ph). When you look with redistricting, all of these districts are going to be -- most of them are going to become more purple.

And the Democrats are going to have to reckon with that too, because the growth is in the suburbs. And they didn't like the far-left wing either, which is why we did so well in Congress, have a 50/50 Senate because far-left politics doesn't work, it's just as toxic too.

HARLOW: I just think it's really interesting, Jamie, very quickly to you, that these are two women in the Republican Party who both said, I'm not going anywhere in a party that doesn't have enough women. It's just interesting.

GANGEL: Two women who could not be more different. And I think the votes we see this afternoon at 4:00 will say a lot about the future of the party.

HARLOW: so good to have you both. Thank you.

COMSTOCK: Thank you.

HARLOW: We turn now to a tribute happening soon for fallen Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died -- who was killed. He was killed when one of the rioters hit him with a fire extinguisher. It's tragic. His ashes right now are lying in honor inside the same building that he, Jim, died protecting.

SCIUTTO: It's an honor that's been reserved for only four other people, Rosa Parks, Reverend Billy Graham and two Capitol police officers killed in the Capitol in 1998.

CNN's Josh Campbell has more on the service about to happen as well as this officer's life and the investigation into his death. Josh, are we learning more about who is responsible?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The investigation remains under way at this hour. I'll talk a little bit about what authorities are doing. What we're going to see in about 15 minutes though is the ceremony, a final departure, a thank you, if you will, from congressional leaders.

We know that the remains of Officer Sicknick arrived last night where he was able to lie in honor throughout the evening, members of Congress coming and expressing their appreciation. That is about to culminate in this ceremony where we expect to hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also the chaplains for both the House and the Senate, to simply say thank you for his service. He obviously died during the Capitol insurrection.

Now, what we know about officer Sicknick is that he is a native of New Jersey, he was a former member of the New Jersey Air National Guard, obviously, after that Capitol riot, received those injuries that he then succumbed to. And prosecutors in D.C. have opened a federal investigation, to your point, about suspects. So far, they're not providing us information about where that stands. They say that that remains under investigation.

Now, after this ceremony today that's about to take place, which we'll be covering, he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. So, not only having the honor lie in honor there at the Capitol but he will also be spending his eternal rest in one of the most hallowed sites in the United States at Arlington.

HARLOW: He will indeed. Josh Campbell, thank you very, very much.

And in just a few minutes, we will take you back to the rotunda for that tribute when it begins a little bit later this hour.

Meantime, potentially good news in the fight against coronavirus, a new study finds the AstraZeneca vaccine not only protects people from serious illness but it may also drastically reduce transmission of the virus. That would be huge. We'll break it down ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

HARLOW: Well, next hour, President Biden will host a group of Democratic senators in the Oval Office. They're going to talk about the $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. Remember, he had Republican senators in there two days ago. I will say, moments ago, he told Democrats on a call, quote, we need to act fast.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Lauren Fox is following the latest on Capitol Hill.

Listen, clearly the Republican offer at $600 billion, one-third of his plan -- less than a third, is not going anywhere. I'm just curious, is Biden signaling to his party he's willing to come down a bit to get Republican votes, or is the focus on getting this passed fast?

[10:20:02]

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, clearly, we should look at where Biden is spending his time today. And he started at 9:45 appearing on this Democratic conference call, an effort to really shore up support for his plan.

Look, his plan, this $1.9 trillion plan, he's willing to taper around the edges. If there are things that Republicans view as problematic in this proposal on the fringes, he is willing to have those conversations. And he made that point to Democrats on this call. I'm told by multiple sources, one of the items that he's willing to talk about is not the amount of those $1,400 checks, but who could receive them. Essentially, in that meeting at the White House with Republicans, one senator, a Republican, Mike Brown, said he told the president, I got one of those checks the last time around. I think we need to taper this so that families who truly need this money are the ones to receive it. Biden signaling on that Democratic call that's potentially an area that he would be willing to negotiate, but he wants to stick to the underlying amount of money.

And I think one of the concerns and questions from moderate Democrats has been why does this have to be so large. And I think the answer has been from the Biden administration time and time again that the danger is not doing something that is too large. The problem is doing something that's too small, that hampers the recovery. I think a lot of Democrats are looking at what happened during the great recession just a few years ago. And I think that that's something that's really guiding Biden right now in his message to Democrats.

Look, he is asking them to stay unified. Because at the end of the day, it is going to take every Democratic senator voting for this package to get it through even with this budget process that allows them to pass it with just Democratic votes.

So, Biden making it very clear he needs their support. He wants them to stay united, telling them on this call, I will have your back. I need you to have mine. So that's where things stand this morning.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A lot of members of his administration, veterans of the Obama administration post-2008, and the feeling then was not enough money. Lauren Fox, we know you'll be following it. Thank you.

Dr. Fauci warns that the U.S. is not vaccinating people fast enough to get and stay ahead of the new variants we're seeing, but there is good news. The Biden administration is boosting the number of doses given to states by an additional 5 percent.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Kristen Holmes again. She joins us this hour from Washington.

Two questions, does that now mean that they get 21 percent more vaccine doses a week, because it was a 16 percent increase last week? And tell us what this means that CVS and Walgreens are going to start vaccinating people next week. Is that every single branch in every state?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Jim. That's a great question. And I want to start with the idea that all of this is meant to not only boost up the distribution of the vaccine but the administration, which is actually getting those shots into arms.

So take a look at where we stand right now. 52.7 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed and only about 32.8 million doses have actually been administered. That is a huge gap here. And they are really trying to close that up.

You talk about CVS and Walgreens. They're launching a new retail pharmacy program next week. And take a look at what that's going to look like. You have -- it's starting February 11th and 12th. It is not in every state. You see CVS will start in about 11 states and then expand, whereas Walgreens will start in about 15 jurisdictions.

But, again, all of this is meant to try and get those shots into people's arms. But the big question is whether or not the supply can actually meet the demand.

Take a listen to what Dr. Fauci said about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As we get into the middle of February, into March and April, the number of doses that are going to be available are going to be greatly accelerated.

The real compelling thing is that the supply does not meet the demand. So we've got to get more vaccine into people and we've got to make sure that we use every possibility of getting doses out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now, he also went on to say that the vaccine distribution and administration can be done, can be accelerated without risking the second dose. But I think the most important thing here to point out is what all of these experts are saying, which is that the best way to protect yourself and your family against, not just coronavirus, but any of the variants, is to look up when you can get the vaccine and then go get it. That is what these experts are saying over and over again. Yes, they're working on the supply side, but if you can, go out there and get that vaccine.

HARLOW: For sure. Kristen, thank you very much for the reporting in Washington.

Also, there's a new study that shows something that could be really good, and it suggests that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine substantially reduces your chance of spreading coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a lot cheaper, simpler option. CNN's Jacqueline Howard covering the latest.

So what more are we learning about the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine but also its other advantages?

[10:25:03]

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN MEDICAL REPORTER: Yes. This new study really is providing some interesting data. Number one, when it comes to the transmission rate, what really stands out here, researchers took a look at PCR positive test results coming from nasal swabs that were taken from some trial participants.

And here is what they found. From those nasal swabs, the researchers found that the percentage of PCR cases reduced by 67 percent after one dose and by half after two doses. So that's how they came to this finding that the vaccine could reduce transmission rates.

Now, of course, we do want to see more data, such as looking at transmission directly through contact tracing. This initial finding is interesting.

And then number two, when it comes to overall efficacy, the new study suggests that the vaccine has an overall efficacy of 66.7 percent. But when you look -- and that's after two doses. But when you look after just one dose, the studies suggest 67 percent efficacy up to three months following one dose.

So, again, transmission rate and then efficacy after one dose, those are the two main findings here when it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

SCIUTTO: All right, it's good to have options, and we are seeing more options. Jacqueline Howard, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you, Jacqueline.

Well, right now, we're taking you -- these are live pictures of the ceremony honoring fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. It is just about to begin.

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell is with us now. Josh, and this is an honor that not many Americans have been privileged to have. Billy Graham, 2018, Rosa Parks, 2005, the two Capitol police officers killed in a shooting inside that building in 1998. Quite an honor, but, of course, a difficult day for his family.

CAMPBELL: Yes, very much so, and the honor indeed. I mean, you think about lying either in state or in honor inside the Capitol, that's something that's typically afforded to government leaders, to presidents, to other members of the government. The congressional leaders decided this honor would also go to this Capitol police officer who died after this violent insurrection.

And I think it's just important to note that what we're seeing, what we're about to see just has so many layers of symbolism. This was a building that Officer Sicknick had protected for over a decade, it was also the building, as we mentioned, where he received those life- threatening injuries that he succumbed to after that domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol. And it's also the same building where former President Donald Trump will be judged for inciting the insurrection that ultimately led to this officer's death. So, just so many layers there of symbolism.

Of course, the focus right now for everyone in that room, and those officers that we see gathered, the members of Congress, is simply to say thank you.

And if I can just real quickly, I want to point out one thing. And I was an intern on Capitol Hill for a couple summers. I got to interact with the Capitol police. Later in law enforcement, I got to work with the Capitol police. I don't think people understand just how difficult a job that is. If you think about it, on one hand, they are charged with protecting a major target, the United States Capitol. They are charged with protecting 535 VIPs in government, often with large egos to come with it, but that's their job.

And unlike other federal facilities, they have to do their job, protect this facility, protect the members, protect the staff while understanding that this building is one that is supposed to be open to the public. It is the building where the members of the public and constituents want to come and interact with their representatives, a very hard job. Obviously, made much more difficult on that day on January 6th as we saw that violent insurrection.

SCIUTTO: The Capitol went through one metamorphosis after the shootings in 1998, building that Capitol visitor center, new security. We'll have to expect perhaps another change now.

We should note, just point of order, to lie in honor is an honor reserves for civilians, such as Officer Brian Sicknick. It is former members of government who get the honor of lying in state, awarded to presidents, former Supreme Court justices, et cetera. But still, Officer Brian Sicknick joining a very small group, Poppy, who has received this honor.

HARLOW: Josh, I think it's notable that this gathering, this solemn day is being held in the same building that was attacked and that Officer Sicknick lost his life protecting, and as you've putt it so well, 535 VIPs. It is such a hard job in a building open to the public. He was only 42 years old, josh. I mean, he was a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police and someone who it seems like for his entire life served. He served in the New Jersey National Air Guard as well.

[10:30:03]

He just gave everything, it seems, for his whole life.

CAMPBELL: He did, a public servant through and through.