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Prominent GOP Lawmakers Under Fire; Candice Pierucci is Interviewed about Romney and Republicans; Biden Hits the Road to Sell Agenda; Cases and Deaths down in U.S.; India Struggling with COVID Outbreak. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2021 - 07:00   ET



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The terror groups and we could begin to see the rise of the Taliban across the country again. A dire warning from so many places.



Barbara Starr live for us at the Pentagon. Thank you.

NEW DAY continues right now.

Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington, alongside John Berman in New York.

On this NEW DAY, two of the most prominent Republican lawmakers are under fire in their own party for speaking out against Donald Trump.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden hitting the road to sell his huge spending plan, but what's his negotiation strategy with a potentially skeptical Congress?

KEILAR: Plus, a man who went to the Capitol during the insurrection is reportedly seen counting ballots in Arizona's big lie audit.

BERMAN: And Mitch McConnell demanding that the 1619 Project, which puts a new spotlight on slavery's impact in the U.S. be stripped of federal funds. The creator of the project joins us live.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, May 3rd.

And this morning, the takeover of the Republican Party by its big lie way (ph) appears to be pretty much complete. It's not even a hostile takeover. It' seems to be more of a willing surrender.

A senior House Republican tells CNN that Congresswoman Liz Cheney is in, quote, very big trouble and could be jettisoned from her leadership role by the end of this month. Of course, she voted to impeach the former president and now she's facing criticism for this, greeting President Biden as he made his way down the aisle before his big speech before congress last week.

KEILAR: And Mitt Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee, is also in the grips of the Trump effect. The Utah senator narrowly avoiding a censure vote this weekend and he was roundly booed by members of his hometown party.

CNN's Lauren Fox is with me now.

OK, let's begin here with Liz Cheney. What are you hearing from other House Republicans because, you know, months back she appeared safe. And now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right. Remember, the House Republican conference took a vote in February to keep her in her leadership slot. Of course, that was the secret ballot. This time around, my colleague, Manu Raju, and I are talking to Republicans who say she is in trouble. And while it's unclear whether or not the conference will take another vote on whether or not she should remain in that leadership slot, it's important to give you a sense of just how frustrated Republican lawmakers are.

One Republican told me, quote, it's real and much more widespread than before and completely of her own making. This, of course, talking about the tensions within the Republican Party because of Cheney.

They went on to say, at this point it has zero to do with her vote and everything do with her words and actions. And, of course, we just played that scene of her reaching out to the president as he walked down the aisle for his address to Congress last week. That, of course, she said, is something that lawmakers do all of the time. This is something that, you know, happens at a joint address of Congress. This is not something that is unusual or out of the ordinary. And yet this shows you just how far Republicans are going, that they are basically going after their own leadership because of what was a polite gesture really, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, kindness and courtesy maybe not allowed. It's pretty ridiculous, you know, when you think of, this is sort of what Washington is built on at its best.

Let's talk about senator Mitt Romney. This was quite the scene over the weekend. He really got an earful from members of the state Republican Party.

Let's listen to part of this.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): And you know me as a person who -- who says what he thinks. And I don't hide the fact that I wasn't a fan of our last president's character issues, and I'm also no fan --

CROWD: (Booing)

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: And that has got to be tough, right? He's enduring that. And then you think, oh, my goodness, eight years ago, nine years ago, he was the nominee for the party and he picked up three out of four votes in Utah.

FOX: That's right. And you can hear him saying in that clip, aren't you embarrassed, right, to this Republican audience. There is a sense that when it comes to the base -- and that is who attends these kinds of conferences. When it comes to the base, people like Mitt Romney have lost, right? They are no longer the direction of the Republican Party. They are no longer the future of the Republican Party.

But you saw from Jeff Flake over the weekend tweeting, you know, Mitt, people will catch up to where you are. I think that's really an open question at this point, whether or not Republicans turn back around to people like Mitt Romney or whether or not people like Romney are in the rearview mirror of the Republican Party.

But, look, he doesn't seem like he has any apologies when it comes to the positions he's taken. He's voted for impeachment, not once, but twice.


That is something that he believes was the right thing to do. He was critical of the president when Trump was in office at every turn that he thought he needed to. That is a very different position than most Republicans who are in the United States Senate right now. He really is a man who stands kind of on an island in the Republican Party in the Senate.

KEILAR: Yes, and can he be relevant in the future or has the party made this chemical change that cannot be reversed? I think that's the question. I think maybe I'm leaning towards one answer, but we'll see. We'll see.

Lauren, thank you so much. It's great to see you.

Joining me now is -- or, actually, sorry, John, take it away.

BERMAN: Joining me now -- one -- one trivia point here. Lauren said no apologies from Mitt Romney. "No apologies" was actually the title of his campaign book in 2012.

KEILAR: That's a very good point.

BERMAN: All right, so it's his thing going forward.

All right, so joining me now, Utah State Representative Candice Pierucci. She was at the Republican convention this weekend, voted against censuring Mitt Romney.

Representative, thank you so much for being with us.

What was it like to be in that room and hear the boos for Mitt Romney? CANDICE PIERUCCI (R), UTAH STATE REPRESENTATIVE, VOTED AGAINST ROMNEY

CENSURE: Well, it was incredibly appalling and frustrating and I want to just make it clear, though, that as you listen to that playback, you know, there are almost 2,000 people in that audience, and not everyone was booing. I mean it was -- it was maybe a quarter on the high end, a third of the people there. There was a lot of us standing up, showing our support and giving our applause to the good senator. And it's really, really incredibly unfortunate the way those delegates behaved.

BERMAN: I get that it wasn't everybody, but we're talking about Utah and we're talking about Mitt Romney, right? I mean he won, you know, his election in 2018 by a lot. We're talking 31 percent he won by. This is a state that wasn't always as pro-Donald Trump. So what does it say that in Utah at this point that Mitt Romney is barely surviving a censure vote?

PIERUCCI: You know, I think it's important on that vote to also note, though, it was at the end of the day where all the diehards stay through. We weren't allowed to eat at the convention.

But to your point, I think, obviously, our party is going through an identity struggle in finding where we are and where we need go as a party. And I was incredibly proud of Senator Romney and how he handled that. And I just want to say, though, our party is big enough in Utah to have both Senator Mike Lee and Senator Mitt Romney representing us as Republicans for the state. And it needs to stay that way.

We -- we, in Utah, have, obviously, a strong red state history and Republican leadership, but it's such a diverse range of Republicans. We have our governor, Spencer Cox, who is leading the charge on compassionate conservatism, Congressman Curtis, to Congressman Owens and Congressman Stewart. So we've always had this broad scope of conservatism in our state. And I think it needs to be clear to those people, there's room for both.

BERMAN: You say it's big enough. Maybe in Utah, but what about nationally when we see Liz Cheney, whose leadership position in Congress might very well be in jeopardy because she voted to impeach the former president and continues to speak out against. You see the censures going on all over the country, all over the country for people who are standing up to the big lie, to the idea that the last election was somehow stolen.

So are you really convinced the party's big enough at this point or has the party chosen?

PIERUCCI: Listen, as the youngest member of our state legislature in Utah, and probably one of the youngest in the country, and as a millennial, I have hoped that we absolutely will continue to maintain relevancy.

However, I think what's critical is that we, as a party, recognize we're not a party of a person. We're a party of principles. And that we need to get back to the idea of opportunity, individual liberties, entrepreneurship, upward social mobility, that's what we need to be running on and that's the messaging we need to have. And the different solutions that come from that, fantastic.

So I am -- I am hopeful that we are just going through some growing pains right now, but that, at the end of the day, people vote with their heart. And I think you'll see if Senator Mitt Romney chooses to run for re-election, that he'll be re-elected in Utah.

BERMAN: You know, you mentioned your age. And it's terrific, I think, when younger people get involved in public service. So congratulations to you.

But what's interesting -- was interesting about this convention in Utah was that the party leadership is now filled with very young people. We're talking about people who are younger than 35. It looks like the future of the Republican Party, that party that was booing Mitt Romney, is younger, that that's the future. Am I wrong?

PIERUCCI: I would disagree. I would. As someone who was there listening to those booing, I can tell you the people on the stage who ended up being in party leadership were not the ones booing.


And the overall attitude was absolute surprise of people who were just totally floored by the behavior of some delegates. But when I looked across to see those booing, there was a specific demographic, and it certainly wasn't millennials who were doing that.

BERMAN: What was the demographic?

PIERUCCI: I -- I mean, from where I was sitting, it was older male individuals who were -- who were booing. And, you know, they can boo. That's their way of showing their displeasure in his vote. However, I would say the more civil approach would have been to just show their frustration at the ballot box.

And my problem with this is booing and screaming are not tools for change. And we're seeing this across the spectrum where for whatever reason we as humans and people and Americans can't engage in civil dialogue anymore. And we have got to get better at it because that's the only way you find common ground and solutions.

BERMAN: Representative Candice Pierucci, we thank you for your civil dialogue this morning. Really appreciate you coming on.

PIERUCCI: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

BERMAN: So, we were just talking about Liz Cheney, among other things. When recently asked about her fate in the Republican caucus, the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, gave this deliberately cold response, choosing not to defend her.

KEILAR: And the Trump stronghold on the party is no more evident than with someone like McCarthy, from a pusher of the big lie, to a denouncer of the insurrection, to a downplayer of the insurrection.

Here's how the head-spinning, bumper car evolution as played out since the election.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (November 5, 2020): They didn't defeat one Republican incumbent, and they lost 15. And President Trump won this election. So everyone who's listening, do not be quiet.

MCCARTHY (November 12, 2020): He's not president right now. Don't know if he'll be president January 20th. But whoever is, he'll get the information.

MCCARTHY (December 10, 2020): The president, he has to make sure that every legal vote is counted, every recount is done, and make sure every complaint are being able to heard inside court. Once that's done, I think the election will be over and the electors will make their decision.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (December 16, 2020): Now that Joe Biden won the election, and he's President-elect --

MCCARTHY (January 2, 2021): If you want to unite this nation, you've got to start with having integrity in your elections. There is questions out here. What would be wrong with an audit? What would be wrong with bringing the information back so people have all the information to make those decisions?

MCCARTHY (January 6, 2021): People came here to do some damage. I don't know who they're with, but they came here to do some damage.

MCCARTHY (January 13, 2021): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (January 21, 2021): Leader McConnell has said that President -- former President Trump and other important people provoked those -- those folks to come to the Capitol. Do you believe that President -- former President Trump provoked?

MCCARTHY (January 21, 2021): I don't believe he provoked if you listen to what he said at the rally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (February 24, 2021): De you believe President Trump should be speaking -- or former President Trump should be speaking at CPAC this weekend?

MCCARTHY (February 24, 2021): Yes, he should.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (February 24, 2021): Congresswoman Cheney?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY) (February 24, 2021): Yes, that's up to CPAC. I've -- I've been clear on my views about President Trump. I don't -- I don't believe that she should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.

MCCARTHY (March 18, 2021): If you challenged Arizona and Pennsylvania, would that have changed and lowered President Biden's numbers below 270?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (March 18, 2021): He supported the Texas lawsuit that was a challenge (ph) to millions of votes.

MCCARTHY: But, no -- but, wait, wait, wait, I asked you -- I -- you ask me questions every week. I just asked you a question. If you removed Arizona -- but you weren't removing it, you were just asking the question about it. If Arizona and Pennsylvania were removed in the Electoral College, would President Biden's number lower between -- lower -- be below 270?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but Donald Trump said that the House could vote -- the Congress could have overturned the election (INAUDIBLE) there.

MCCARTHY: OK, the answer is no. Well, wait, wait, wait, I'm not Donald Trump.

MCCARTHY (April 25, 2021): I was the first person to contact him when the riot was going on. He didn't see it. But he ended the call with saying -- telling me, he'll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that's what he did, he put a video out later.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR (April 25, 2021): Quite a lot later. And it was a pretty weak video. But I'm asking you specifically, did he say to you --


WALLACE: I guess some people are more concerned about the election than you are?.

MCCARTHY: No, listen, my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president. I engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time. The president said he would help.


BERMAN: That was all one guy. That was all the same Kevin McCarthy, by the way. And it's noteworthy that that Kevin McCarthy dodged that last particular answer since one of his Republican colleagues, Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler, released a statement saying that Trump seemed unconcerned by the riot and refused help in his conversation with McCarthy. Quote, when McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6th and asked him to publically and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that has breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said, well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.


KEILAR: And fast forward to now. Democrats and some Republicans, like Liz Cheney, want the January 6th commission to narrowly focus on the events of that day. Well, Kevin McCarthy, in what may be an attempt to take the focus off on Donald Trump's actions and McCarthy's own role, says what he wants is to broaden the scope of the commission to other protests that had turned violent involving Black Lives Matter and also Antifa.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think if you're going to have a commission, you should look at the whole, broad spectrum. We -- we just went through a whole summer of riots throughout this city.


KEILAR: It is worth noting that this was McCarthy back in January.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Some say the riots were caused by Antifa. There's absolutely no evidence of that. And conservatives should be the first to say so.


BERMAN: Again, the very same Kevin McCarthy.

So whether his revisionist history is because he wants to be speaker and needs Trump's blessing to do it, it's clear that the current Republican Party seems to have no room at this point for anyone who speaks out, anyone.

KEILAR: Today, President Biden is hitting the road to sell his $4 trillion economic plan. He and the first lady will be traveling to Virginia today. They're seeking to build support for the two-part boost to push the economy.

And, meanwhile, key administration officials are trying to court a bipartisan group in Congress to back the legislation.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is joining me now to talk about this.

OK, so he's looking to negotiate. Here is the wiggle room here? How is this going to go?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's going to be the big question. And the White House says they do want this to be bipartisan. They do want to try to find some common ground. But what you're also seeing by President Biden going on the road this week and the vice president and other top cabinet officials is, they're trying to sell this not to Republicans in Washington necessarily but to Republicans and other voters out there to build support for it throughout the country. So if they don't get Republican support, they can rely on that.

And I think one interesting thing that we are seeing with President Biden here is, for so long you've seen officials really shy away from anything that's big government. They never use that to try to sell something to people. But President Biden isn't shying away from that. They're try to really change the way people think about big government and the role here. And I think it will be interesting to see, you know, how do they build support for universal pre-k and how do Republicans really mount opposition to that? What does that look like? Because so far we've seen the Republicans really struggle to coalesce around a substantive criticism of Biden's proposals. And so how that plays out, I think, will be really interesting and how he sells it to voters on the road because he's doing it by not saying this isn't big government, he's saying, look at what happened over the last year of the pandemic and what followed that. And we saw just how fragile some people's financial state can be. And so we're trying to change that with this proposal. That's really been the way that he and his top aides have been trying to be -- to sell it to voters.

KEILAR: Yes, he's looking in his party and this idea of a social safety net that will allow people to feel certainly less anxiety than they have during this pandemic is something that's very popular.

One of the issues he has to contend with is the price tag here. Last hour Sunlen Serfaty shared with us her report where she went down to Virginia, the Virginia area where he's going to be, and there were a lot of people who, even though they were maybe supportive of some of the certain ideas, were afraid they are going to end up paying for it when they look at that big price tag.

How does he deal with that?

COLLINS: Well, that's the big question for them because when you -- it's not just this proposal either. I think people are also looking at all three of these plans that he's laid out within his first 100 days, which is the COVID relief bill, the infrastructure bill, and now this. It's $6 trillion in spending. It's a lot of money. And it's something that you have -- you know, a trillion is something that people -- you don't often see something like that in such a short period.

So I do think that's the concern that is facing the White House and that's why when you heard President Biden, in his address las week to Congress, what he pushed was, when he was talking about raising corporate taxes and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, which is his proposal to pay for this, he talked about fairness a lot. That's the message he keeps hammering home and that they're hoping will be what builds a lot of support among middle class and low income voters is that they say, OK, look what you're paying and look what this person who makes xyz is paying. How is that fair that you're paying just as much of a tax rate as they are, or they're paying just as much as you are. So that is what you should expect to see President Biden and the Treasury secretary and other officials, they're saying it's not fair, and that's the doctrine they're really -- really using to try to sell this to people.


BERMAN: Before the NFL draft. And I -- and I appreciate it. You're the biggest Alabama Crimson Tide fan that I know.

The New England Patriots with their first two picks selected quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama and then defensive tackle Christian Barmore out of Alabama.

How would you assess these picks, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: I think they're going to be great. I think Mac Jones is, obviously, pretty well known.


I think everyone is laughing at the photo when he got drafted of him compared to when the Patriots drafted Tom Brady and comparing the two of them. I think he's going to be really talented.

And Christian Barmore is also really impressive. He was key to Alabama's amazing defense this year and for our national championship, which, of course, if you missed that, Alabama did win the national championship this year.

And I think that you just really see in the draft how impressive Alabama's field can really be. I -- someone joked that Alabama's like a breeding ground for the NFL. But you always see this pipeline to your team, the Patriots, and it's this relationship with Nick Saban and Bill Belichick that is -- it's just so interesting to see how he really does rely on Saban, who, of course, you know, has experience with the NFL, to talk about what these players would be like and how he thinks they would be if they -- going from the college level to the professional level. And I think it's really -- it's awesome to watch, to see them go from one coach that has, you know, the stoic mind-set to another coach that has a similar one. And so I'm excited to watch them play. Not just those, but all of the Alabama players who went into the draft this week. I think it's ten total, which is pretty amazing.

BERMAN: The most important analysis you will give.

Kaitlan Collins, my favorite segment of the show, I appreciate the help and guidance you gave me last week and I look forward to your guidance going forward.

COLLINS: Yes. Roll, Patriots.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: That's the thing, John, I -- I have her on here to talk negotiations, to talk, you know, tax hikes and how people are receiving that, and you are all about the sports with Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Just as important.

KEILAR: These are -- these are the priorities today, I think.

BERMAN: Yes. To that I say, yes, and?

KEILAR: What is your point?


Thank you very much. And thank you for those two picks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Always happy to be here.

BERMAN: So, coming up, a believer of the big lie who attended the Capitol rally shows up to count ballots in Arizona's controversy audit.

KEILAR: And India hits another grim coronavirus death toll with many hospitals, they're just running out of oxygen. And we are live there with how doctors are coping with what is really a growing catastrophe.



BERMAN: Signs of progress in the battle against coronavirus here in the United States. The country's average number of daily cases has now dipped below 50,000. Look at that trend line going downward. The daily death rate is also down to its lowest point since last summer.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

Elizabeth, we're going to have Dr. Ashish Jha on later in the show. He says that it seems that this fourth wave that we were worried about here in the United States is over.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, I've got to tell you, I don't love talking about waves. I think what we need to think about where we are now and what we should be doing.

So let's take a look at what these numbers show.

So, first of all, last week there were about 52,000 cases -- new cases every day. That's down 16 percent over the previous week and down 79 percent since the peak of new cases January 8th. So, clearly, going in the right direction in a really significant way.

Now let's take a look at what's happening in individual states. If you look at this map, the yellow states are holding heavy. That's half the states. Half the states, the number of cases are holding steady. The green states are going up. That's bad news. Eighteen states the -- are going down. I'm sorry, that's good news, 18 states, sorry.

For our end, those are going up in that seven states. That's bad news.

Now, let's take a look at deaths, which always trail the cases. Holding steady, 17, green going down, which is good, 15, red, going up, 18. So it's about one third, one third, one third.

And so this is what I think we've got to keep in mind. Things are heading in the right direction, and that is good. But, still, 600 -- about 600 people a day in the United States are dying from COVID-19. Let's keep that in perspective. Six hundred dead Americans by definition is a bad thing.

So we do need to keep vigilant. We need to keep getting vaccinated. About a third of the country fully vaccinated. That's great. Hopefully this will keeps going.


BERMAN: That's right. Those trends lines, just want to see them moving in the direction they are right now to be sure.

COHEN: Right.

BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

KEILAR: In the meantime, India is in the grips of the world's worst COVID outbreak. On Sunday, the country reported 3,689 coronavirus deaths. That is the highest daily rise so far. As essential medical supplies run low, countries and corporations around the world are coming to India's aid.

Sam Kiley is live for us in Delhi this morning.

Sam, tell us what you are seeing.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I'm at a roadside charity effectively where they're using what small amounts of oxygen they can find by going sometimes 1,200 miles, as far as Mumbai some deliveries are coming into, because the capital city of Delhi is running out of oxygen, and that is killing people.

And this is my report from one of the more sophisticated hospitals here.


KILEY (voice over): Tears for a much loved colleague, Dr. Arki Hitani (ph), killed by COVID-19 in the same hospital where he'd spent a year treating other victims of the coronavirus. Grief and the inevitable silent question, who's next? He died here in this intensive care unit because the Batra hospital where he worked ran out of the most basic necessity, oxygen.

He was not alone. The medical director of the hospital, SCL Gupta, gave the mid-afternoon casualty figures in this war against the virus.


KILEY (on camera): Eight?

GUPTA: Died just now. And five patients, they are under resuscitation, may or may not survive.

Just because in the capital city of Delhi and because of want of oxygen, which is the lifeline.


KILEY (voice over): He knew the chances of reviving the five were slim. KILEY (on camera): When you heard this morning.