YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Boosters, protests, and perilous times.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From video.)
Everybody will be ready - more ready for them.
ALCINDOR: Washington braces for a pro-Trump rally in support of people charged with
attacking the Capitol on January 6th.
A new book reveals that General Mark Milley took secret actions because he worried former
President Trump might start a war to hold onto power.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D): (From video.)
Science was on the ballot.
The pandemic was on the ballot.
ALCINDOR: And political fights over COVID disinformation and mandates deepen as an FDA
panel rejects Pfizer's plan for widespread booster shots but recommends them for
Americans 65 and older.
SENATOR JOSEPH MANCHIN (D-WV) : (From video.)
He will not have my vote on 3.5 (trillion
dollars), and Chuck knows that.
ALCINDOR: Democrats try to navigate internal divisions over their agenda, next.
ANNOUNCER: This is Washington Week.
Once again, from Washington, moderator Yamiche Alcindor.
ALCINDOR: Welcome to Washington Week.
I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
Pro-Trump supporters broke
into the U.S. Capitol and chanted about killing lawmakers 254 days ago.
Tonight in Washington, D.C., security is tight as supporters of those January 6th rioters
prepare to gather for a rally tomorrow.
Meanwhile, a new book contains explosive details about the fallout from the Capitol attack.
It says General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought former
President Donald Trump was crazy and made secret calls to assure people that the U.S.
was not going to war.
Now some Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio
of Florida, are demanding that Milley be fired.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): (From video.)
It is the essence of a military coup, for lack
of a better term.
That's what it would equate to.
I don't think there's any doubt that at a minimum he should be fired if this is true.
ALCINDOR: But President Biden is sticking by General Milley.
Here's Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday.
DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN: (From video.)
All of what's in that book happened before
I became secretary of defense, so I can't comment on that as well, and certainly I won't
comment on what's in the book.
I have confidence in General Milley.
ALCINDOR: And there is major news on COVID vaccine boosters that we'll talk about later in the show.
Joining us tonight to talk about another busy news week: Zolan Kanno-Youngs, White House
correspondent for The New York Times; Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent
for The New York Times; Sabrina Siddiqui, White House reporter for The Wall Street
Journal; and Kelsey Snell, congressional correspondent for NPR.
Thank you, all of you,
for being here.
Zolan, I want to start with you.
What are the security preparations
underway because of this rally, and how many people are expected to attend?
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS: So based off of the permit that was registered you can expect about
700 people, at least that was on the permit for these organizers.
Again, this rally is in an effort to support the defendants that were - participated in
the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Some of these organizers have been
very outspoken in their association and their support with the Trump campaign as well.
In terms of security you can expect to see a National Guard presence, unarmed National
Guard troops - about a hundred.
And, look, I've been talking to intelligence officials,
homeland security officials about this all week.
They have been trying to relay this message that the Biden administration's been putting
out really for these first seven or so months, and that's that, look, we are actually
taking this seriously based off bare minimum acknowledging that domestic extremism is a
lethal threat in the United States, not just that of Antifa or left-wing violence but
also militia groups such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and far-right groups, and you
could see some of those extremists here tomorrow.
I also obtained a document this morning that show - in which the Homeland Security
Department is now reporting that they are expecting potential violence.
There's no specific plot, however they have been tracking online chatter that shows
people talking about kidnapping a member of Congress, storming the Capitol tonight, but
based off the folks I'm talking to they aren't expecting another January 6th.
Then again, they weren't on January 5th either.
JONATHAN MARTIN: The biggest difference between now and then, of course, the Congress is
not in session.
This is a Friday night.
The House and Senate folks are back at home,
so they are not going to be physically in D.C.
But it is striking, though, like nine
months later the degree to which the specter of physical violence still looms over
American politics in a way that we haven't seen in this country since the 1970s.
It's very difficult to explain it if you don't work in politics or cover politics, but it
is such a part of our daily lives now, so much so that there are now members of Congress
- including one I spoke to this week, Anthony Gonzalez from Ohio - who just don't think
it's worth it to stay in politics anymore because you're dealing with these sort of, you
know, at a bare minimum hassles at best.
You're having to - thinking of your spouse and your kids - are they safe, are they
I'm flying, what's going to happen on the plane and in the airport?
And he is not running for reelection; he's only been the congressman two terms.
He's not quite 37 years old, he's calling it quits in part because of these security
threats, and I think that tells you a lot about politics today.
ALCINDOR: And Kelsey, Congressman Gonzalez, he says that he was using - or there was
reporting that he was using his personal money for security.
Now, President Trump has
put out - former President Trump has put out this statement saying one down, nine to go.
He's also saying that he is supporting the people who are being charged in this deadly
Capitol siege while also saying that the rally is a sort of trap, a sort of conspiracy
Talk to us about what all of this means in the context of the power
that President Trump still has in the GOP.
KELSEY SNELL: Well, certainly I think that one of the things that I'm watching is the
way that Republicans don't want to engage in the question.
They don't want to talk about what President Trump is saying.
They don't want to really even talk about that this rally is happening.
We've seen Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, says he doesn't expect any
Republicans to be there, but that is more or less the extent to which that Republican
leadership is even talking about how this is going to go down.
I think one of the things that is
really interesting to me is seeing the way the fencing around the Capitol is being received.
It is, for the people who live in that neighborhood and the people who work in that
building, a stark reminder of what happened, and is also a clear reminder that they are
not in the clear, that this isn't a safe place that used to be just an office.
This was an office where people went to work and a place where tourists came to see the
seat of government.
It was an open space where we were able to see, you know,
democracy in action.
That was part of the job of covering Congress.
It isn't that way anymore, and it's very difficult.
ALCINDOR: And it's a stark reminder of the idea that there is this danger that still
looms, and I want to turn now to the new book Peril by Bob Woodward and former Washington
Week moderator Robert Costa.
According to their reporting and to sources who confirmed this with me, General Mark
Milley and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke two days after the January 6 Capitol attack,
and Pelosi, talking about former President Trump, told General Milley, quote, "He's
crazy, and what he did yesterday, it's further evidence of his craziness."
responded by saying, quote, "I agree with you on everything."
Milley also assured Pelosi
that there were protections to prevent former President Trump from ordering a nuclear
Sabrina, you were going to jump in here.
I'm just wondering, what do you expect about how the Biden administration is handling
this, but also what does it tell you that President Trump is still having all this power
when so many people in his administration - an administration that we covered together -
were worried - legitimately worried that he was mentally unstable?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI: Well, the Biden administration is standing by General Milley, and I
think for the most part they want to put the Trump administration behind them and not
relitigate, you know, the chaos and the turmoil within the Trump administration.
They genuinely believe it distracts from their agenda and they're pleased that the
relevant law enforcement authorities are taking very seriously the threat of political
extremism and domestic terrorism.
But I think for Republicans - well, first and foremost, the book just reinforces the
extent to which there was genuine concern about then-President Trump's stability, his
state of mind, that he might take some kind of abrupt or rash action.
That's why General Milley said he was actually acting within his responsibilities, trying
to keep the normal channels of government working.
We're expecting to hear more from
him when he testifies on Capitol Hill later this month in what was supposed to be
about Afghanistan but is likely going to be also about the revelations in this book.
But just going back to the broader conversation we're having, I think all of this just
reinforces how, you know, when former President Trump animated supporters around this
idea that the election was stolen, it wasn't just hyperbole, it wasn't just political
rhetoric; you know it really did feed into the minds of a faction of the population that
the democratic process is broken, not believing that Joe Biden is a legitimate president,
and now you have polls showing that a majority of Republicans genuinely believe the
election was stolen despite all the evidence to the contrary.
And there's a very thin line between rhetoric that's animating a group of people and
calling those same people to political violence, and that is really why there is so much
concern about the lingering effects of all of the events that led up to the January 6th
insurrection and how we're still living within that context.
ALCINDOR: And Kelsey, talk a bit about what we expect to see on September 28th when
General Milley comes to Congress.
Just today the Pentagon says, yes, in fact, there was
a tragic mistake in which we killed civilians in Afghanistan.
There's also, of course, all of the things that we learned about in this book.
It seems like there are going to be fireworks here.
SNELL: Oh, absolutely, and a lot of this happened when Congress was not in Washington,
and when that happens there is this bottled-up energy where they want to come in and they
want to take charge of the moment to talk to the people who have been in the news.
And so it will very likely be, as you said, a lot of fireworks and a lot of people taking
that chance to kind of put down a stake on not just one issue - it's not going to be just
about Afghanistan; it will be about the entirety - for Republicans, I would imagine, the
entirety of the Biden administration's foreign policy and the way that they're approaching
So I would expect this to be far broader than any one individual conversation.
MARTIN: And one of the rare hearings on the Hill where right and left both are going to
coming at it pretty aggressively, right?
SNELL: Yeah, and particularly I think we will hear conversations - even if it doesn't
come up naturally - about what's happening with the Afghan interpreters and these people
who are eligible for special immigrant visas, and the people who are still in Afghanistan.
ALCINDOR: And Jonathan, today it seemed like there were just so many things going on,
talking to sources, when you think about the fact that there was sort of this possible
page turn on Afghanistan and then we're right back here talking about drones.
What are the political sort of benefits, if at all, that Republicans want to try to
extract from this conversation?
MARTIN: Well, look, I mean, every day that goes by that we're talking about the Biden
administration's missteps in Afghanistan is a day that the GOP is driving their message
going into the midterms.
And if you look at the polling data, I mean, you can track Biden's
sort of turn south, if you will - (laughs) - to what happened in Afghanistan last month.
So, look, obviously they want to keep the focus on what's happening in Afghanistan.
Typically foreign policy stories in this country don't last that long.
SNELL: Democrats have been saying that a lot, it's not a durable issue.
MARTIN: Yeah, exactly, so I think it remains to be seen when we're in October if it's
still in the headlines.
But look, I mean, I think Biden appears vulnerable politically
for the first time since he was sworn in.
ALCINDOR: And Zolan, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was made famous by
testifying before Congress about the issues that he had with the president's call, with
the president of Ukraine, where he was pushing him to get evidence or dig up dirt on
President Biden, he is calling for the resignation of General Milley.
I wonder what you're
hearing from your sources.
And apart from the back and forth in politics, is there real issues here?
KANNO-YOUNGS: There is a real concern that, you know, your top general, that, yes, the
White House is supporting verbally, but he's right back in the political kind of storm
that he sought to avoid going back to June when he had to walk in full uniform behind
President Trump when he took his photo op in front of a church.
At that moment, you saw in the weeks after that General Milley's - to really try to make
efforts to remove him and the military from politics.
Well, guess what.
Maybe he's saying he had the right intentions, based off of calling China to keep the
peace, to avoid any conflict, but through - you know, whether or not those were his
intentions, he's right back now in a political storm.
ALCINDOR: But I also want to say, meanwhile this week, the other thing, I think - you
know, as there's so much that happened this week - meanwhile this week, the U.S.
hit another tragic milestone: one in 500 Americans have now died from COVID.
And breaking tonight, an FDA panel rejected Pfizer's plan for booster shots for Americans
16 and older, but the panel endorsed boosters for Americans 65 and older and those at
high risk of severe disease.
Sabrina, I know you're going to jump in again.
this leave things with the Biden administration?
Because the president came out, along
with his top officials, saying yes, we need to get booster shots for all Americans that
This is a much narrower decision, a much narrower recommendation.
SIDDIQUI: It's a blow to the Biden administration because just weeks ago they had
announced plans to start giving out boosters to the American public in September, and
they had said that most Americans would be eligible for a booster eight months after they
got their second dose.
We are now talking about a much smaller subset of the population, although there was some
criticism from scientists within the government that the Biden administration was pushing
boosters; they felt like the process has been somewhat rushed, that the data isn't
necessarily there to demonstrate the need for boosters for all Americans.
They feel like it is more supportive of the idea that people who are immunocompromised,
you know, in nursing homes, there's more of a need - seniors - there's more of a need for
And of course, there's also been a lot of criticism that the U.S.
is giving out boosters at a time when the developing world still does not have access to
The U.S. is not alone in this.
Israel, Italy, other countries in Europe are also looking at booster shot plans.
But I think that, you know, this is certainly putting the brakes on what the Biden
administration was hoping to achieve, and it remains to be seen, you know, whether there
will be a new timeline for boosters.
For now, it looks like only seniors will be the ones to get a third dose of the vaccine.
ALCINDOR: And Jonathan, I didn't know if I was going to bring this topic up ever in the
history of Washington Week, but we are talking about Nicki Minaj -
ALCINDOR: - who is, for those at home, a famous rapper who this week tweeted about some
disinformation, which is she claimed that her friend - her cousin's friend became
impotent because he got the COVID vaccine.
Of course, scientists say that this is - that
the vaccine has nothing to do with impotence; it does not cause that; does not have
any issues with fertility as well.
They've said that over and over again.
But you also covered the California race where COVID disinformation was part of that.
It's California, it's a very blue state, but what does that state tell us about the game
plan for Democrats and Republicans?
MARTIN: Well, I think in blue and purple states it tells us that Democrats are going to
try to exhume the political ghost of Donald Trump, and he may be out of office, but
they're going to try and keep -
KANNO-YOUNGS: Put him back on the ballot.
MARTIN: - keep him on the ballot the best they can.
You saw Gavin Newsom do that.
Look, I think his challenge this summer was not that he was in real danger of being
recalled because the sort of moderates in the state turned on him, it was the fact that
the Democratic majority in the state was kind of still asleep.
Well, guess what.
He woke them up because he was able to put a face on the recall, Larry Elder, who was a
kind of - even a pre-Trumpian talk show radio host who had like a, you know, like
10-mile-wide oppo file of, like, comments he had made over 25 years on talk radio, like,
running in a deep blue state.
Like, if you can't beat him in California, like,
turn in your card as a Democrat, man.
But - you know?
ALCINDOR: Including the fact that Larry Elder at one point said that reparations should
go to slave owners.
So we don't have time for that because it's too much -
MARTIN: Yes, he did.
SNELL: The minimum wage should be zero.
ALCINDOR: You touched on it a bit, but Representative Gonzalez retiring says what about
the road ahead?
Are there really nine more to go because - and we're talking about
nine because they're the nine Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump.
MARTIN: Right, yes, so I think he is likely not going to be the last of those 10 to call
it a career.
It's not clear to me who or when the others who will step forward.
Keep in mind one other factor that's driving this: reapportionment.
A lot of these House members - not a lot; all of them, basically - don't know what their
seats are going to look like next year, and I think that's the kind of thing that can
solidify your decision to call it quits.
But I think this is an important moment politically.
I cannot recall a midterm in one party that was going to be more clarifying.
This puts the sort of Tea Party versus Establishment stuff from 10 years ago to shame.
I think next year the question of, can any of these anti-Trump folks in the GOP, can they
And if they can, it calls into question what kind of clout President Trump
still has in the primary of his own party.
If he's able to run the table and beat all
of them, where he's endorsing: clearly still his party.
SNELL: I think there's still a question of if they'll try.
I think that's the
question that comes first: Will they try to stay in or will they leave voluntarily?
MARTIN: Stay and fight, exactly.
ALCINDOR: Zolan, you were jumping in.
I'm wondering, and there are a lot of Democrats I've been talking to: Are Republicans
going too far not only when it comes to COVID and sort of the misinformation - five
conservative radio hosts have literally died after mocking the COVID vaccine - but
there's also the issue of abortion, there's voting rights.
Do you think that there's worry inside the GOP at all that they're going too far, and do
Democrats think that they can capitalize on this?
KANNO-YOUNGS: There may be worry, but I don't know about how widespread that concern is.
I mean, I look at somebody like Governor Greg Abbott who is, you know, a guy who's trying
to rise in the Republican Party.
That is somebody who you just talked about and - the abortion
You talk about him trying to replicate the Trump playbook by going to the border, by
seizing on immigration, by stoking fears around border crossings as well, just like
something that the former president did.
I mean, it's not just the House.
Let's be clear: It's just not House Republicans that are trying to replicate this kind of
Trump playbook here; it's going on throughout the country.
ALCINDOR: And in the meantime, President Biden is facing mounting challenges, including
on immigration, as you just noted.
The U.S. Border Patrol says that more than 10,000
migrants, most of them from Haiti, are being held near a bridge that connects Mexico to Texas.
Zolan, tell us a little bit about what's going on here, and what is the plan for these people?
KANNO-YOUNGS: Sure, sure, so what you have right now is yesterday it was about 9,000
people that were being kept under this bridge, which is on the U.S. side of the border.
Just to tell you, it's in Del Rio.
That area of the border is right next to the Rio Grande.
In order to cross over, you're going to have to take a dangerous trek in an area where
people - migrants, families - have died trying to cross.
Just to give you a glimpse of
how fast this is moving, when I talked to somebody today, they said that number had gone
up to 11,000 people under the bridge, and a government official told me that.
Now, these are people that have crossed and now what CBP says, Customs and Border
Protection, is that they are too overwhelmed, they don't have - they have a lack of
capacity, that they are struggling to process fast enough so that they are then going to
put these people under the bridge so that they are not subjected to the heat and what
Now, if you look back to 2019, we saw these conditions under Trump during
a similar surge and there were health incidents.
I mean, this is, make no mistake, a humanitarian crisis right now for President Biden,
and it will be interesting to see as well - this is a president that also has kept in two
- kept in one of the more restrictive Trump border policies of Trump's time, that being
Title 42, public health authority to rapidly turn away migrants.
So it will be interesting to see here whether or not and who gets to stay, who gets
processed and released into the U.S., as well as the political ramifications of that.
ALCINDOR: Kelsey, I want to bring you in because he's talking about the crisis at the
border but it seems that there mounting crises on the Democrat agenda.
I wonder what - where you think that this is going in terms of the way that Democrats are
going to prioritize what they have to do, especially when you have Senator Sinema and
I was talking to senators who seem pretty angry at these two.
The anger was palpable here.
SNELL: Oh, certainly, and you know, actually, immigration plays into this quite a bit
because they're trying to do some measure of immigration as a part of this broader
reconciliation package, and you know, the more that immigration is in the headlines, the
less likely it is that Democrats are going to be able to rally votes for that.
They may get a gift from the Senate parliamentarian in that it comes out of the bill
without them having to do anything at all, but that's - all of the controversial elements
of this bill cannot be stripped out by the parliamentarian.
They will have to deal with
the political dynamics of their own party, and they have problems on taxes, they have
problems on the drug pricing, they have problems on the overall cost of this bill.
So it's not just the big-picture issues of spending $3.5 trillion; it is the finer points
and the pieces that make it possible to pay for $3.5 trillion of spending.
So at this point they don't seem to be anywhere near a place where they're going to get
an agreement, let alone move forward with reconciliation before this, you know, vote
that's supposed to happen on, I guess, just a few days from now on the narrower
immigration - sorry, infrastructure bill.
So we're in this place where Democrats have
a lot of cards on the table and no clear way to kind of pull them back together.
ALCINDOR: Democrats have a lot of cards on the table and no clear way to pull them back
is the most eloquent way to say Democrats have a lot of problems.
They have a lot of issues, but it was a very eloquent way to put it.
Sabrina, apart from all of those challenges, tonight France literally said we are
pulling back, we are recalling our ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia because of
this new AUKUS - it's a mouthful, but it's Australia, U.S., and the U.K.
It's a new defense agreement that was - that was announced this week.
President Biden, of course, has said America's back, I'm the guy who's going to be very
stable, I'm going to get all our allies that were mad at us, but then the French minister
is now saying President Biden is acting like former President Trump.
was a word used this week by the French, also saying that he's unpredictable.
How does this - how does this impact all that he - that the president's trying to do?
SIDDIQUI: Well, you know, I think one of the big challenges for President Biden is he
came in and wanted to reset transatlantic relations, and now he is in the midst of a
major spat with one America's oldest allies.
And look, this was - this deal that President Biden has negotiated with the U.K.
and Australia is a major blow to, you know, a deal that the French and the Australians
already had been negotiating and was a major piece of France's own domestic ambitions,
and it also - you know, it does affect France's own regional influence in China.
And the thing that this all comes back to is that so much of Biden's own agenda comes
back to trying to counter Beijing, and so they have been willing to place a priority
perhaps even at the expense of U.S.
allies on almost this Trumpian policy where domestic policy comes back to countering the
threat from China, economic policy comes back to the threat of countering China, and so
now you have this deal that's been negotiated to try and counter Beijing's influence in
But you know, we'll have to see how the dynamics play out in the coming days.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was already trying to do some damage control, although
he did indicate that France was given very little notice of this agreement and that seems
to be where the challenge was, that they didn't give France sufficient notice in the
months that they were quietly negotiating this deal.
ALCINDOR: We only have about 10 seconds left, but Zolan, we were sitting in that news
conference where President Biden did not take questions.
Talk a little bit about your reporting there.
KANNO-YOUNGS: Well, yeah, just real quick, I mean, I know we have a short time, but we
did have an official tell us that the French were only told about this arrangement the
morning, you know, just hours before the President Biden would go out with the two
leaders announcement, so that definitely fueled some anger as well.
And the other takeaway that should - that we should have here as well is there are going
to be questions about a nonproliferation argument here.
President Biden has also
advocated throughout his career for nonproliferation, for denuclearizing.
Now, I am still looking for an answer as to if you're going to share materials to build
submarines, that's probably going to be highly-enriched uranium that could also go
towards building actually nuclear weapons, so.
ALCINDOR: And it's a key -
KANNO-YOUNGS: If it's not that, then what is it?
I don't know.
ALCINDOR: It's a key question, and thank you all for this sort of crazy week, summing it
all up for us.
We will have to leave it there tonight.
Thank you to Zolan, Jonathan,
Sabrina, and Kelsey for sharing your reporting, and thank you for joining us.
Don't forget to tune in to the show next Friday.
We'll have Bob Woodward and Robert
Costa joining us in studio to talk about their new book, Peril.
And tune in Monday to the
PBS NewsHour for our one-on-one interview with the president of Colombia as world leaders
gather for the U.N. General Assembly.
Our conversation will continue on the Washington
Week Extra and on our social media and website.
We'll talk about France's anger at the U.S.
over new - over a new international agreement and the FBI's mishandling of the Larry
Nassar sex abuse case.
I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
Good night from Washington.