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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Biden Answers Questions On COVID, Infrastructure, The Economy, Policing And More At CNN Town Hall; Rep. McCarthy Abandons Insurrection Probe After House Speaker Pelosi Blocks Two GOP Members. Aired 9:20-10p ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 21:20   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: "AC360" starts right now. Good night.

[21:20:00]

(AUDIENCE CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening.

President Biden came in to tonight's CNN Town Hall, with just six months in office behind him, all the same, he's pressing forward on his agenda, as someone who knows how little time he might have, to get it done.

It was clear from the questions tonight, at Cincinnati's Mount St. Joseph University, job one remains COVID with the virus taking a greater and greater toll every day on the unvaccinated.

The economy was also a big part of the conversation, both at the Town Hall, and back in Washington, with the President defending his infrastructure plan, but also the goal of doing it with bipartisan support.

There was more, of course. But want to get some first reaction from our panel here, starting with CNN's Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod.

David, you worked with President - with Vice President Biden, obviously during the Obama administration. How do you think he did tonight?

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he did fine.

If the presidency were a decathlon, this is sort of his event, right? He gets to talk to people. He gets to emote. He doesn't have to kind of color within the lines, in terms of time. But I think he did fine.

It also underscores there are very challenging questions. I thought the most interesting thing, and you touched on it was his insistence on his belief in the fact that Republicans and Democrats can actually get things done. He ran on that. I think he fundamentally believes it. He seems confident that this infrastructure bill will happen. And,

even on the voting rights question, I mean, it was - I thought it was really revealing when he said, "I do not want to throw this Congress into chaos, so we don't get anything done," I thought he was very honest about that.

Not going to please everybody, on the Left, in his own party, clearly. But I think it probably resonated with a lot of Americans.

COOPER: Dana, I mean it was - it was interesting, though. He did say, "The well has been so poisoned," but clearly does still talk about bipartisanship, and believes in trying to get - have that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Exactly. And he's working on maybe the one issue, I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but let's be realistic, the one issue, where that is really achievable, and, at his fingertips, which is infrastructure.

Yes, they had a failed procedural vote today. But that kind of masks real progress that is still going on behind-the-scenes. And that's according to not just Democrats, but Republicans, who I'm talking to, about this bipartisan bill.

That would be a huge win, not just on the substance, but on keeping the campaign promise that he talked, again, about, today that you were referring to, actually doing something that is - that people will be able to feel.

Talked about the bridge that they want to fix, there in Cincinnati, in their communities, and infrastructure is one of them.

Voting rights, all those other things, which are as much as he wants to get it done, in a bipartisan way, they historically have been done, in a bipartisan way, very much so. Right now, those issues have been poisoned in a partisan way.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: I do think it was also, to your point, so notable, he called out, he's in the State of Ohio, once a swing state, we'll see if that remains true, but called out the two Republicans, in that state, Senator Rob Portman, and Governor Mike DeWine, and made a very clear point that he believes that they are people of integrity.

He believes that they believe that he can come to the table in a good- faith way. He says that Republicans know that he keeps his word, he doesn't lie to them. And that's the Joe Biden in terms of the kind of atmospherics of it all. He's governing in this sort of moderate way, in an atmospheric way.

But then, on the flip side of that, the policy is very progressive. The policy is not moderate. This is someone, who was proposing $3.5 trillion in spending, and a reconciliation bill, on top of over $1 trillion, in spending, on an infrastructure bill.

So, you have both Joe Biden showing up there, saying, "I'm going to fight for liberal priorities. But I'm going to do it in a way, where I think I can still reach across the aisle." And he is steadfast in that.

It is very unusual, I think, balancing act that he is trying to do here, and not very many politicians can actually accomplish that.

COOPER: He actually - he makes it hard, though, for Republicans to attack him, for that very reason.

PHILLIP: Right.

COOPER: I mean, though, he's proposing all these things, he's sort of selling it in a folksy, in a very Joe Biden kind of way.

PHILLIP: Exactly. I mean, Republicans are having a hard time. They actually say, pretty straightforwardly, "We know you like the guy. But just keep in mind that his policies are X, Y, and Z."

[21:25:00]

And it's a reflection of the fact that Biden comes across in a way that I think is difficult to demonize, but at the same time, is pushing forward with these very aggressive policies, and doing so, as you just said, as if the clock is ticking, because it very much is.

I do want to play something that he said about bipartisanship, in response to the infrastructure bill. Let's play.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: --Republicans who try to paint you and your party as anti- police?

BIDEN: They're lying.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: No. Look, never once we have to change police conduct. We have to have rules, where things--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was obviously the wrong clip. We'll talk about policing a little bit later on.

But he, I mean, he defends himself Scott, on bipartisanship.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, look, he talks like a moderate. He talks like someone that you would expect to be like a reasonable, from a governing perspective.

But as was said, he governs like a progressive. I mean, he is - he has produced a lot of progressive policies that I would have expected made a lot of people, on the far-Left pretty happy, and may be surprised at how progressive he has been. I think his best traits were on display tonight, from a just purely political perspective, and reminded me of why he beat Donald Trump, last year.

On the pandemic, he appears to be sincere about giving a damn about the American people, and what we've been through, on this pandemic. It's what Donald Trump could never get right. And it's what he got right. It was on display tonight.

He was sharp on the vaccines, and honest about the vaccines. It was wise for him to bring up that they've been in development for 20 years--

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

JENNINGS: --to try to negate the argument that "Well, they just got developed over a period of months." I thought that was his strongest moment.

Look, I don't agree with a lot of his policies. I was very unimpressed with him on inflation. He obviously didn't give a satisfactory answer, to the guy, who owns the restaurants, about "I can't find people to hire." So, he clearly still is tripping over, I think, some of these economic issues.

But where he is very difficult to beat, we saw it last time around, he's still got it is just on this issue of "Look, we may not all agree. And we may have our differences. But I do sincerely care about what you've been through, and about what we need to do to get out of it."

And it's frankly, why, if you look at all these opinion polls, his highest job approval number is on handling COVID. It gets worse, you go down the list. But that's - I think that's why he's above water, because of that trait right there.

AXELROD: He made a little news on it, too, I thought, by saying that he thought that there would be an answer from the CDC, on vaccines for children, by the fall.

JENNINGS: Yes.

AXELROD: Which I think was probably welcome news for a lot of parents out there.

JENNINGS: That was newsworthy. And the fact that he said he thought kids, under 12, would be wearing masks in schools, I think, was newsworthy. The bright side of that is he expects the schools to be open.

JONES: Open, right.

JENNINGS: Which I think will also land, you know, I mean, I don't like it, frankly that well, four of my poor kids are going to be running around with masks, but at least they're going to school. Because I can tell you, having four at home, who needed to be in

school, I was pretty unhappy that the schools were closed. And I think a lot of parents were in that boat.

COOPER: Van?

JONES: Look, I think Don Lemon spoke for a lot of people, when he said, "Are you for - are you going to protect the voting rights or the filibuster?"

The Joe Biden bipartisanship is probably at its best on infrastructure. It's unbelievable - if he can pull this off, if he can be as progressive as he is, but also bring on Republicans, that is a vindication of Joe Biden's bipartisanship. And I think it's going to happen.

But when you're talking about voting rights, you have pain and panic at the base of this party, about what's going to happen, if all of these attacks, on voting rights stand, and go unanswered by a Democratic administration.

And I thought Don Lemon was speaking for 40 million people, when he looked the President in the eye, and said, "Are you going to protect voting rights, or you're going to protect the filibuster?"

And I thought that the President's answer, saying "I'm not going to - I don't want to eliminate it. But I do want this talking filibuster," I think that's the right answer. I think that would actually satisfy people. But how are we going to get there? I think that's - you can't get away from the fact that democracy is under some threat here.

But the other three challenges, I think, Joe Biden has, and the Democrats have, inflation, crime, and COVID. Those are the three big threats. Those are the marbles on the stairs, for Democrats, going forward.

I thought, on inflation, I thought he gave a pretty decent answer. He said, "Listen, we've got some good people saying it's temporary. I hope it's simpler."

But, on the crime question, he went into the gun control argument, which nobody believes we're going to get anything done about.

And, on the COVID question, I think - I think he's relatively strong.

But for me, I just don't want us to get away from the fact that there is pain and panic, at the base of this party, over voting, and I don't think he got great answers.

COOPER: I do want to play something he said about COVID, because he was actually just factually wrong. And I think it's important to point that - point that out.

Let's hear what he said.

[21:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: One last thing that's really important is we're not in a position, where we think that any virus, including the Delta virus, which is much more transmissible, and more deadly, in terms of non - unvaccinated people, the various shots that people are getting now cover that. You're OK. You're not going to - you're not going to get COVID, if you have these vaccinations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Which is obviously just not the case.

PHILLIP: No.

COOPER: Obviously, Dr. Leana Wen is also joining us.

Dr. Wen, that's something you picked up on clearly.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, VISITING PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Right. I mean, I was actually disappointed by President Biden's speech tonight, or his answers tonight, because I actually thought that he was answering questions, as if it were a month ago.

He's not really meeting the realities, what that's - of what's happening on the ground. And we now have triple, the number of infections, in the U.S., versus a month ago. We have escalation in cases, all over the country, because of the Delta variant. And we actually don't know the answers to a lot of questions.

He was talking about how if you get the vaccine, you're well-protected from having severe disease. That's true. But we actually don't know how well you're protected from mild illness, and whether with the Delta variant, if you're vaccinated, could you still be contagious to other people?

COOPER: We don't know - we don't know - we don't know the answer to that.

WEN: We don't know the answer to that. And I actually thought it was irresponsible.

COOPER: Because I mean, that's a crucial question.

WEN: That's right.

COOPER: Can you pass it on to your loved ones? Can you pass it on to your children?

WEN: That's right. Here's what we do know. We know that the vaccine reduces your likelihood of carrying the virus, and the amount of virus that you would carry.

But with the Delta variant, a person infected with a Delta variant carries a 1,000 times the amount of virus compared to previous variants. And so, that's the problem. We don't actually know about this transmission question.

And I think that President Biden actually led people astray, when he said, "If you're vaccinated, you can take off your mask." We don't know that. I think he let go of a really important opportunity tonight.

I think he could have said to the audience, "You all are protected, because everybody here is vaccinated. You're safe, if you're vaccinated, and everybody around you is vaccinated. But if you are vaccinated, and are around people who are unvaccinated, you should be keeping a mask on."

Getting the vaccine can save your life. But I actually think that President Biden's message could have led people astray.

COOPER: Scott?

JENNINGS: I mean I'll be honest. I think, from a political perspective, he was as sharp on COVID, and on the vaccines, as he was on anything, because his job is to get people to get the vaccine, you know?

They don't expect him, walking around in a lab coat, or whatever, but they - but his job is to express optimism about the vaccines being effective, and I--

COOPER: The vaccine is the only answer, at this point.

JENNINGS: I believe it's true that if you get the vaccine, you are highly unlikely to die, or be in the ICU, which is what he said. And that's, I mean, honestly--

COOPER: I think--

JENNINGS: --that is what he needs people to do. Not--

AXELROD: Well that was clearly his goal.

JENNINGS: Yes.

AXELROD: That was clearly his goal

JONES: But he--

AXELROD: To try and calm.

JONES: He oversold it. Yes, he--

AXELROD: Yes. He--

JONES: He oversold it.

AXELROD: --he did oversell it. But he also has this, you know, he wants to get people vaccinated.

I think there's a real recognition, as he kind of articulated that hearing from him isn't necessarily the way to get those people, who need to get vaccinated, vaccinated. They have to hear it from people they trust, who are closer to the ground, their minister, their doctors, their neighbor. And that's what they're working.

But I think he had a strategy tonight. I take Dr. Wen's point, and she's certainly right, about the dangers associated with this variant. But his strategy was to go, in there and try and calm the country down a little, and say, "There's an answer. The answer is to get vaccinated."

COOPER: There--

BASH: And I get that.

COOPER: There was - sorry. There was also another moment, and we have the bite, which we'll queue up in a second, after - after you say something.

The - which was about, he sort of made fun of folks on Fox, and elsewhere, who are now giving advice that people should go out, and be vaccinated, and then corrected himself saying, "You know what? Actually, I shouldn't be making fun of this. This is good."

And it certainly is. I mean, you certainly want that message, because it's fact.

BASH: Yes.

COOPER: Actually.

BASH: That's what the White House wanted.

COOPER: Right.

BASH: And they are starting to get what they wanted. I just will say that I was watching with another network on, next to our television, and the exact opposite message was being sent, as the President was speaking, on CNN, giving that - making that plea.

But I wonder what Dr. Wen would think of this. Just anecdotally, I know, we all know people, who are vaccinated, and feel safe, who have gotten COVID--

JONES: Yes.

BASH: --and haven't ended up hospitalized. But have ended up pretty sick compared to how we thought we would be, when we're vaccinated.

So, what I wonder, just from a public health perspective, and frankly, a political perspective, because it's about expectations, is whether you say "If you, the unvaccinated, don't get your vaccines, you're going to continue to allow this virus to mutate, and for variants to be as infectious as they are, and it will make it impossible for all of us, to be - to be safe."

Maybe it's more nuanced than he could be. But that is the reality of what's happening right now.

COOPER: Yes. Let's play that, what he said about sort of the altar call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: One of those other networks is not a big fan of mine.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

[21:35:00]

BIDEN: One you talk about a lot. But if you notice, as they say in, in the most southern part of my state, they've had an altar call, some of those guys.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: All of a sudden, they're out there saying, "Let's get vaccinated. Let's get vaccinated." The very people before this, were saying - so that but that's - I shouldn't make fun of them. That's good. It's good. It's good. We just have to keep telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JENNINGS: I mean it is good.

COOPER: It is good.

JENNINGS: And you shouldn't make fun of it.

COOPER: Yes.

JENNINGS: And the fact that I mean, look, it's - there's no - it's no coincidence here. Sean Hannity, I saw Tommy Tuberville tweeting about it today. Scalise got his shot.

COOPER: Steve Scalise.

BASH: Scalise.

JENNINGS: I mean, obviously, the Republican hierarchy has seen something that tells them, "We can't keep going down this road." I mean, at a minimum, as a political matter, but hopefully, they got it as a moral and healthcare matter.

There's - but there's no coincidence here. And so, the fact that they are coming on board is a good thing.

COOPER: Yes.

JENNINGS: Too late? Yes. Good thing today? Yes. I was glad that he acknowledged that.

COOPER: Half the country has not been fully vaccinated. I mean, it's--

JENNINGS: And, by the way, we're never going to get to 100 percent on this.

JONES: Right, yes.

JENNINGS: We have to get - and we won't get to a 100 percent on anything. 36 percent of the people get a flu shot, which is crazy to me, too. But we have to get as many as we can.

And so, if these Republicans come on board, and these media types come on board, that is a good thing. And he ought to celebrate it. And I think Democrats ought not take the opportunity to make fun of it.

PHILLIP: I mean, in Florida, Ron DeSantis was speaking up this week, about the vaccination issue, in his state, trying to get people to get vaccinated. But one thing that he did talk about was feeling like there's a risk here, in telling people that there are not enough benefits to vaccination.

Saying to them, "Well, if you're vaccinated, you still have to wear your mask all the time," he believes that that actually discourages people from getting vaccinated. So, this is what the White House is trying to balance.

I think that in an ideal world, sure, they would probably like for more people, especially in high-transmission states, whether they are vaccinated or not, to wear a mask.

But recognizing that in some places, in parts of the country, the places where Biden's words, are the least effective that kind of message could end up backfiring, at a critical time, when they need people to just understand something that's pretty black and white, "If you get the vaccine, you are probably not going to die, or be hospitalized, as a result of this virus."

COOPER: The President was also asked tonight about the January 6 committee, the back-and-forth between Speaker Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You know the Republicans removed all their picks today for the January 6 committee, the select committee. Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them.

The first thing I want to ask is what's your reaction to that?

But number two, if Republicans and Democrats can't come together, right, to investigate the biggest attack on our Capitol, in 200 years, what makes you think that they can come together on anything?

BIDEN: These people!

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: No, I mean it.

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE) BIDEN: I'm not being facetious.

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Democrats and Republicans. I don't care, if you think I'm Satan reincarnated.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: The fact is you can't look at that television, and say, "Nothing happened on the 6th." You can't listen to people, who say "This was a peaceful march."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And Kaitlan Collins is our Chief White House Correspondent. She was in the hall tonight.

Kaitlan, what do you make of - what do you make of what you heard?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's notable because this is really the first time he has weighed on what's - weighed in on what's happening with this commission.

Given all of the developments we saw today, where Pelosi rejected two of those members that, of course, Kevin McCarthy wanted to put on that panel, two of those Republicans, who had voted to overturn the results of the election, he responded by withdrawing all of the Republicans that he had submitted to be on that panel.

And President Biden was saying, essentially, we have to view this from a perspective of reality of what actually happened that day, because what he was alluding to there, by saying it doesn't matter what your opinion, is of him, and whether or not you'd like his politics, you can't ignore the reality of what happened that day.

It's not a two-sided argument, like some of the other topics that he addressed tonight, what his politics are, what Republicans' politics are. He was saying you have to have a clear-eyed view of what actually happened on January the 6th.

And, as we know, some of the Republicans who wanted to, or that Kevin McCarthy wanted to put on that panel, were ones, who have denied reality, some of them, who have tried to whitewash or downplay the riot that happened on the Capitol that day.

And so, he seemed to be supportive of Speaker Pelosi's moves. We know that our sources have told us they are very deferential to whatever it is the House Speaker wants to see on that panel, how that's ultimately going to look like, and how that investigation is going to end up, Anderson.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to talk more about the panel right here with our panel as well. Be right back.

[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We discussed this before the break.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's decision to pull five of his members, from the select committee, on January 6, after House Speaker Pelosi vetoed two of his choices, Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Both voted in the same chamber that was barricaded against a violent mob, just before, to overturn election results.

Congressman McCarthy had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): House Democrats must answer this question. Why are you allowing a lame-duck Speaker to destroy this institution? This is the People's House, not Pelosi's house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, Congressman McCarthy, who accused the Speaker of destroying the institution, voted to overturn election results, just hours after the attack ended. And, in the wake of it, he drummed Congresswoman Liz Cheney, out of the Republican leadership.

She's still on the select committee, and said this about the Speaker - about Speaker Pelosi's decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I agree with what the Speaker has done.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And also, McCarthy, of course, wants to become Speaker, next year. Do you think that he deserves to be Speaker, in the aftermath of his actions here?

[21:45:00]

CHENEY: I think that any person, who would be third, in line to the presidency, must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution, and a commitment to the rule of law. And Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, let's talk about it with our team.

David, was it a mistake for Pelosi to do this?

AXELROD: No, listen, I think you got to go back to the Rubicon that was crossed.

When there was an opportunity to create a 9/11-styled commission, five Republicans, five Democrats, each with the ability to veto subpoenas, and so on, a real fact-finding commission, the Republicans opposed it.

And they opposed it, and it was very clear, and it was reported at the time, because they felt like the results of it would be an embarrassment, and it would be a particular embarrassment to the former president of the United States. And so, they couldn't countenance that, especially going into the midterm elections.

So, once that happened, they adopted a strategy, which is "Anything they do, we're going to call partisan." And they sort of - by putting Jordan and Banks, on this committee, guys who were January 6 deniers, they essentially really were baiting Pelosi, and they're finding - they're doing what you know, they would do.

They said, "This is going to be a partisan some exercise." But it would be an empty exercise, if you have people on the committee who are there simply to blow the thing up. And that's what those guys were there to do.

BASH: And the Speaker knew very well that they were doing exactly what David said, baiting her, into saying "No way. Those two, have no business being on this committee, because they don't agree on the basic set of facts that you need to agree on, to set out on a mission to find facts."

COOPER: So, she's faced with the does she take the bait?

BASH: Exactly.

COOPER: She knows it's bait or not.

BASH: Exactly. And so, what she settled on, at the end, was that no matter what she does, politically, they're going to attack her. And if they're on the committee, they're going to attack her, from within. If they're not, they're going to say that this is just a political farce.

So, she did what she knew was right, which is how can you have a committee with people on it, who don't believe in the basic idea that this is even necessary that even what we saw, like the President said, happen before our eyes?

COOPER: Yes.

PHILLIP: And I think we often forget, I mean, Kevin McCarthy has had so many transformations in the - in the six months, or so, since January 6th. But that day, he said that Donald Trump was responsible for what happened on that day. And yet, he stands here, with the outrage that you saw in that clip--

COOPER: Which was more outrage than he actually expressed about the attack, I mean, I got to say it.

PHILLIP: Exactly. I mean, and the point is, I think McCarthy is not - he has been trying to navigate this himself. And the objective really is just to try to get out of the situation.

He doesn't want to talk about it, doesn't want to investigate it. He didn't even, I don't think, really want to have Jim Jordan and Jim Banks on that committee, investigating Speaker Pelosi.

I think that he believes the best thing for Republicans is just to not be there at all. And that is ultimately where we are in this situation.

COOPER: I just want to play what Speaker Pelosi told our Manu Raju today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

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

RAJU: Yes, what was the criteria?

PELOSI: Read my statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What do you make of the calculus?

JONES: Well, look, I think she was put in a no-win situation.

It's not just that they voted against the thing. It's that they have been out there, deliberately undermining the process, before it even started, and they're going to have access to sensitive documents. I think, at the end of the day that becomes very scary that you're going to - you're going to have a process that needs to have some integrity.

There are really bad and dangerous people, who were involved, in attacking America's government, during a joint session of Congress, these people are very, very dangerous. Information may be shared inside that committee, and you don't want it to end up in the wrong hands.

So, I think she was put in a very bad situation. She could have rolled the dice. And then if the thing becomes a clown show, internal, they could also become very dangerous, external.

I think she had to put together a bipartisan group that could work and could function. She was not allowed to do that by Kevin McCarthy. And I think she took the better road.

COOPER: Scott, you want to?

JONES: You see it differently?

JENNINGS: Yes, I do. I think she should have left them on. I mean, these are elected members of Congress. She may not like them. She may not like them. She clearly doesn't like them. But they are elected. They represent their districts. They're members in good-standing inside the Republican Conference. JONES: But--

JENNINGS: And it was Kevin McCarthy's decision.

JONES: I have a question for you though, honestly. So many more Republicans though, besides those two, don't you think it's a little bit poking the bear? No?

[21:50:00]

JENNINGS: Well, I will - my second point was going to be, think about the internal conference politics of this. Kevin McCarthy's dream is to be Speaker of the House. And so, when he gets to that point, I think the Republicans are going to win the House. That's my view.

But when he gets to that point of trying to become the Speaker, he's got to have all corners of that Conference aligned. And the idea that you weren't going to put somebody, from the Jordan wing of the conference, on a big high profile deal like this, of course, he was going to do it.

If you think that those two guys are a clown-show, your words, or that they're going to turn it into a farce, then wouldn't it have been better to let them make fools of themselves, in the eyes of the American people, if that's how you feel about what their performance would be?

To me, what Pelosi did was give ammunition to the Republican argument that "This was always partisan from the beginning. All they want to do is embarrass Trump, and keep this in the news, and make it real political."

Well the fact that she won't let McCarthy's designees onto the committee, I think, it gives ammunition to that. So, I think it was a misstep. She should have let the Republicans operate.

AXELROD: Well, you know?

JENNINGS: And they're going to do what they do, whether they're on the committee or not.

AXELROD: But Scott, we should get to the bottom line purpose of all this. There actually was a catastrophic event on January 6th that threatened our democracy.

There should be an honest effort to get to the core of what happened, and why. You have two people there, who were there - you know they're there for the expressed purpose of being an opposition, not in fact- finding, but to blow up the process.

So, if you're going to - even if it is six Democrats, whatever is in, one Republican, if there - if it is a legitimate process, orderly process, you have a chance to at least have surfacing some information that is worthwhile.

By the way, we should point out that Kevin McCarthy may have made all that calculus, and he may have discussed it with President Trump, when he sat down with him, just a few days ago, as this whole thing was coming to the fore.

So, I mean, he has - you're right, he wants to be Speaker of the House, and that is his sine qua non. That is all he is about.

And all of these considerations about the well-being of our democracy, and what happened on January 6, those are secondary condition - those are secondary issues for Kevin McCarthy.

The question is should it be for the United States Congress? Is that healthy for the country?

JENNINGS: I disagree that they would have been able to wreck or derail this commission.

Would they have asked questions that folks didn't like? Maybe. Would they have brought up information that people don't think is germane? Maybe. But ultimately, this commission, to have public legitimacy, needs to have bipartisan buy-in.

You're correct, whoever said earlier that they had a chance to do this five and five, and they passed on that.

But if what you want to happen is some public legitimacy, about getting to the bottom of this, how can - how can you throw off the Republicans that the Republican leader wants to have, and then try to go out, and get that legitimacy, even if you don't like the Republicans she nominated - or that Kevin McCarthy nominates? I just--

AXELROD: Even when she announced the thing, McCarthy said this was going to be a partisan exercise. It was pre-branded. So, it doesn't matter what she did. They were going to say the same thing.

And I disagree with you. You're not giving Jordan the credit he deserves. He's an anarchist within the - within the legislative process. And a lot - I think a lot of the Republicans you hang around with would acknowledge that as well.

JENNINGS: I think that - I think there are a lot of Republicans who believe that, look, Jordan is representative of more than just Jim Jordan, in this Conference. There's a lot of people that believe what he does, on a number of different issues. I think Pelosi should have left him in.

I just - I'm just telling you, to take away the legitimacy, to give Kevin McCarthy the argument that she gave him today, which is to say, "Look at this! These partisans, you can't trust these folks. We tried to give them some Republicans, they wouldn't take it," I think she made a mistake.

And now this commission is always going to be argued to be political, by Republicans, whereas if you had some Republicans on there, at least she could have said, "Look, I gave Jim Jordan his say, and here was the report anyway."

COOPER: And what about Liz Cheney? I mean is she not?

JENNINGS: I say Jim Jordan was a Republican in good-standing. And I will say she is not, presently, in that Conference, a Republican in good-standing. So for the argument of this panel, about who should be on it, she doesn't count, because the Republicans have already decided--

AXELROD: Well if that's the--

JENNINGS: --she doesn't represent their view.

AXELROD: --if that's the barometer though, I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a Republican of good-standing. I mean, so if he had put her on the committee, would that have been OK, all right, as well?

JENNINGS: Look, she's a pretty junior member of the Conference. He picked - he picked two--

JONES: That's one deficiency.

JENNINGS: --he picked two people, who are representative of a good chunk of the Conference, who were very prominent, during impeachment, by the way, which a lot of Republicans view this as "Well, we participated in that. So, why wouldn't we participate in this?" And I think it was pretty apparent he was going to go down this road to begin with, so.

AXELROD: You think he discuss--

JENNINGS: My look--

AXELROD: Do you think he discussed this with Trump?

JENNINGS: I don't know. But I will tell you this.

AXELROD: I do. I do.

JENNINGS: You know my views on January 6th. It was heinous. It was awful.

AXELROD: I know. I know you feel that way.

[21:55:00]

JENNINGS: And I'm still vibratingly angry about it today. I think we ought to get to the bottom of it. I think Pelosi ought to let this go forth.

And I ultimately believe the most important review is what's being done at the Justice Department. I hope all of these people go to jail for violating the sanctity of our democracy.

COOPER: It is still remarkable to me Liz Cheney is no longer a Republican in good-standing--

PHILLIP: Yes. BASH: Well--

COOPER: --according to the Republican Party.

BASH: That's exactly what I was just thinking, and based, especially knowing you, Scott, and especially based on what you just said, about January 6th.

What does it say about the GOP, that somebody who stands up, and says, "I think that what happened was wrong. I think that the lies that were being perpetuated by the then-president, and all of the people," who according to this latest book, including Jim Jordan, who she claimed, was responsible, in part, for January 6th, what does it say about the party that she is not in good-standing because she wants to get to the bottom of it, and those like Jim Jordan, are in good-standing with the GOP leadership?

COOPER: Yes.

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, it says we're wrestling with this issue internally.

And right now, people with her view, and the way she's gone about it, has angered not just the Jim Jordans of the world, but there are even more moderate rank-and-file members, who don't think she handled herself properly. The Conference has spoken on that.

COOPER: Abby, you want to give your final thought?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I just think that we have to keep in mind here that Kevin McCarthy decided to take his balls, and go home, that he could have had three members on that committee, one of whom did vote, to not certify the election, Congressman Nehls, and two others who didn't, but he chose not to do that, for a reason.

And it's because there's greater political benefit for Republicans in not playing ball at all. I don't necessarily buy the argument that he really wanted to have some veneer of legitimacy by putting Jim Jordan on this committee. I think he wanted to not participate altogether.

And Pelosi was put in a tough spot. She had no choice but to do what she did. But it just happens to also be the outcome that I think McCarthy thinks is most advantageous to Republicans.

COOPER: Yes. I want to - thanks, everybody.

A second hour of 360 is just ahead. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is going to join us to talk about what is next, for the January 6 House select committee, now that the Republican leadership is boycotting the investigation. Schiff is obviously Democratic member of the panel.

We'll be right back.

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