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Senate Works To Pass $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill; CNN Analysis: U.S. Could Reach Herd Immunity By Summer; Some States Roll Back Restrictions Despite Experts' Warnings; Investigation Into Sexual Harassment Allegations Against NY Governor; Georgia Election Interference Case To Go To Grand Jury; NBA Stars Plan Political Message For All-Star Game. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 6, 2021 - 11:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures here from Baghdad, Iraq as this historic trip continues from the Pope. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.

And that's our time. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Amara Walker.


NEWSROOM continues with Fredericka Whitfield right now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me.

I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

All right. This breaking news right now on Capitol Hill.

After pulling an all-nighter, the Senate appears to be closing in on passage of President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package. Majority leader Chuck Schumer saying he expects that only a handful of Republican amendments remain in the so-called vote-a-rama.

Working through those would clear a path for a full vote on the massive stimulus bill as soon as today and if passed, the plan would impact just about every part of the U.S. economy.

Senators had been working feverishly overnight and this morning to hammer out the final details. And now it appears we actually may be closing in on a final vote today.

CNN's Manu Raju is following the developments from Capitol Hill. So Manu, what might this final bill look like and how close are they to a vote?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty close. I mean they're moving pretty rapidly right now after this marathon voting session, all-night voting session. They've been voting for 12 straight hours. And that came after the Senate Democrats left open for 12 hours one single vote. And they did that because behind the scenes they were working feverishly to lock down the backing of one of their members, Joe Manchin, who had concerns about a key amendment dealing with jobless benefits. They were worried he would split and vote with Republicans, change one key aspect of the bill, potentially upset that delicate compromise between progressives and moderate Democrats to try to get this bill through.

Ultimately with the White House's push as well as some back door deal making, they got Joe Manchin on board and now Democrats are confident that they're moving to the finish line here.

The votes have happened throughout the course of the night. Republicans have tried to change various aspects of the bill. For the most part they've gotten nothing in it. There have been some very modest changes to the bill but Democrats have united to fend off some of the key changes that could threaten that delicate Democratic balance.

The question will be whether any Republicans ultimately vote when it comes time for final passage. One Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, is someone to look out for. She has an amendment that's going to be considered here in a matter of minutes. We do expect her amendment to actually be included as part of the bill.

So will that change it. Will they get to get her to back this, ultimately? That is still a question. But even without her support Democrats do have enough support to move forward because they're using a fast-track process that allows them to essentially pass this bill with only 50 votes and they have 50 seats in the chamber. One Republican is missing right now.

So Kamala Harris as the vice president does not need to come in to break the tie. The final vote could be 50 to 49. And when this bill passes, $1.9 trillion, impacting so much of the U.S. economy, whether it's direct payments to individuals and families, money for schools, money for cities and states, money for vaccine, food and nutrition assistance -- so many different people affected by this bill.

Ultimately it would go back to the House for final passage. We do expect House Democrats to mostly stick together, push this bill through and try to get it onto Joe Biden's desk.

The goal among Democrats all along has to get it passed by March 14 because that's when jobless benefits for millions of Americans expire. This bill would extend jobless benefits including to the tune of $300 a week in enhanced benefits through the end of August up until September 6th. That was part of the deal that Joe Manchin negotiated. Ultimately that will be in this final product.

We do expect final passage, but again, on Democratic support alone, Fred. Republicans, by and large are against this, believe it's too much, too costly, but they have been unable to affect the outcome here as it appears to be, at the moment, on the glide path for passage, Fred. WHITFIELD: But again, ok, it looks like much closer now than ever

before, just a few more amendments that have to be considered.

Manu Raju, keep us posted.

Let's go to the White House and see what kind of reaction is already preemptively, perhaps coming from the president.

Joe Johns is there for us. Joe, how hopeful is the White House that indeed a deal will be reached today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Clearly very hopeful, and in fact we are hoping at least to hear from the president who is still here at the White House this morning after final passage of that bill whenever it occurs.

Also probably need to say that the president we're told did speak with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin sometime last night. Manchin, of course, being the individual who was holding up the bill, while they're working on those unemployment benefits.


JOHNS: The White House also put out a statement through Jen Psaki, the press secretary, essentially saying that the president supports this compromise they came up with and is grateful to all the senators who participated in working on the thing. Also saying this agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American rescue plan, the $1,400 relief checks, the funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open schools, and end the suffering from the pandemic.

Now, apparently there was some grumbling up on Capitol Hill especially about Senator Manchin. But the White House has simply not wanted to participate in that. In fact it's pretty clear according to the reporting from colleagues here at the White House that the president has held a series of telephone conversations with Senator Manchin as well as Kyrsten Sinema, the moderate Democrat from Arizona.

And Jen Psaki has said before that the president essentially understands the power of one senator to hold up the process. And Joe Biden himself is very familiar with that, he was in a 50/50 Senate that flipped back in 2001, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So he also understood the power of making that phone call, having that conversation with Senator Manchin as you said.

Joe Johns, thank you so much, at the White House.

All right. Let's talk more about all this with political analyst Karoun Demirjian. She is also a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post".

All right. Karoun, good to see you.

Wow, does this underscore the --


WHITFIELD: -- you know, the prominence of this moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin. His strategy clearly worked. He is happy with getting a little bit more in that bill. But what does this say about his continued prominence and power moving forward?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, this really is kind of the opening act of proof of how much power Joe Manchin really is going to will wield in this 50/50 Senate. People have been talking about this ever since it was clear that it would be a dividing line of a Democratic majority basically on a razor's edge.

But now we really saw in this massive bill -- this massively important bill to President Biden how much Joe Manchin can kind of flick his finger and have everything come to a total stand still for hours on end. They set a record yesterday with how long they left a vote open because they were trying to have these negotiations. And that people will respond to what Joe Manchin says he needs.

And so we saw, this is the proof, basically, that he is going to have to be the person that kind of blesses these deals that the Democrats are going to keep their majority together and actually move these things forward, otherwise they're going to be in jeopardy.

WHITFIELD: And what did this vote-a-rama tell you about the dozens of amendments that, you know, the GOP wanted considered, wanted to be tucked into this bill that had already been passed by the house?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean look, it tells you that the GOP is skittish about spending all this money. There were quite a few amendments that were trying either to supplant the entire bill or limit the funding or tie certain aspects of funding to policy measures like that Rubio amendment of schools having to reopen to actually receive those funds.

And it also tells you the GOP is going to continue to try to fight out their policy arguments whenever budget bills come up.

Look, in a Senate that's effectively deadlocked, it's been true before this particular 50/50 split that when you've got trouble-making bipartisan compromise, the money bills are the place to find your niche, to put your really important measure in, try to get that policy issue and then ride it all the way.

The GOP demonstrated overnight that they're going to do this on a number of measures, everything from trains to schools to mask mandates, et cetera. So that is also a sign that that is likely going to continue down the line as we consider these really, really huge spending packages that have to do with either reviving the economy or down the line, potentially keeping the government afloat.

WHITFIELD: As it pertains to this bill, the polls show a large majority of Americans do support this COVID rescue package. A recent Monmouth poll showed that 62 percent support the $1.9 trillion bill. So why are Republicans digging in and voting against this if the majority of Americans really do want it, embrace it? DEMIRJIAN: I mean look, you know, you've got a country that is really,

really hurting right now. And so I think the majority of Americans are seeing that and saying, let's just do this. But you've got -- this is an issue on which, because it's so large, the GOP feels like it has some leverage and some ability to be able to at least make a statement of yes, we should be spending money but maybe not this way.

This push and pull between the Republicans and the Democrats though isn't really new. I mean as much as Congress did come together last year to approve these record-setting bills to put stimulus into the economy because of the COVID slowdown, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth along the way. You had a lack of a second bill for many, many months because Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi could not agree on the number and McConnell wanted to see less than Pelosi did.


DEMIRJIAN: And so this is just kind of the standard operating procedure now that we're going to be in of the majority wants to do things a certain way, at a certain spending level. The Republicans are in a position to say no, and to try to pull back, and arguing that, well, the long-term health of the economy is going to be compromised if we just keep, you know, writing checks and don't put limits on it.

And some place in the middle is going to have to be where that compromise is because, and this goes back to the first thing we were talking about, because you have in the middle those figures like Joe Manchin who are not from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, who are skittish about just kind of, you know, putting the government's larger checks, fuller leaning in from the federal government side, and so you do end up with these slightly thinned-down financial proposals that end up winning the day and that's what we saw happen in the last 24 hours.

WHITFIELD: So the minimum wage increase is not in this package. What is the road ahead for it?

DEMIRJIAN: This is going to be a really interesting thing to discuss going forward, because look, this is clearly a must-pass measure, clearly Senator Sanders was leading the charge here, trying to get that $15 federal minimum wage included.

And there were a lot of Democrats who said no. You had eight Democrats say no, we're not comfortable with this and vote against it. This is going to continue to be a matter of debate. Some of those Democrats have said yes, we should discuss the minimum wage but not in this context.

But then this kind of goes back to what I was referring to a second ago, which is that in a 50/50 Senate, and frankly in anything less than a Senate where you have a super majority, over 60 members of one party, it's really tough to get bipartisan compromise on anything that isn't a must-pass piece of funding legislation.

So there will probably be further continued, repeated discussions about approving a $15 minimum wage. But if the idea is that we're supposed to this as a standalone thing that is debated, run through committees, et cetera, the road ahead for that sort of thing is extremely difficult in a normal Senate, and this is a very, very close majority 50/50 split Senate.

So I think that we will continue to hear the debate but I can't tell you right now how it gets resolved because you have eight Democrats saying no on a must-pass piece of legislation, that's not the greatest -- that's not the greatest platform to be working from if you want -- if you're on the side of wanting to get this approved done.

WHITFIELD: All right. So it may just be the beginning for the minimum wage increase but then it looks like we're coming to an end as it pertains to this bill right now in the Senate today.

All right. Karoun Demirjian, thank you so much.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, when will the United States reach herd immunity? A new CNN projection finds it could happen this summer as vaccination rates increase across the country. But some states like Texas, Mississippi, and Connecticut, are loosening coronavirus restriction. Some even ignoring new research that finds mask mandates are effective. Is it too much, too soon?



WHITFIELD: All right. There could be light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. New CNN analysis shows the U.S. could reach herd immunity by late July just with an increase in vaccinations. On top of that, it could be even sooner, more like June, when we count all the people who already have some immunity.

Right now, according to the CDC, more than 8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. That's roughly 28 million people.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live for us in Atlanta at Mercedes Benz Stadium which is being used as a mass vaccination site. So Natasha, the state of Georgia is lagging in vaccinations. What's being done to pick up the pace?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, right here this site at Mercedes Benz is expected to vaccinate 1,200 today and that's been sort of the pace they've been going at here. Across the county, there will be more than 2,400 people vaccinated today.

But there was an announcement by the Biden administration that this will become a FEMA-supported site. And we don't have exact details on when that transition will happen yet, but the expectation is that at that point there will be 6,000 shots administered a day. So really picking up that pace.

And right now, to give you a look at what's happening around us, there are people lining up behind us here. They're getting signed up doing paperwork behind us at these tables. And then they will go on to a waiting area for their names to be called.

Right now, Georgia is still in its phase 1-A plus, they call it, so 65 and older, first responders, health care workers. And then starting Monday they'll actually add teachers and more people with underlying health conditions.

Georgia, if we can take a look at the statistics that you mentioned, it is lagging behind in terms of the percentage of doses that are being administered compared to what's being received here. About 7.6 percent of Georgia residents are fully vaccinated at this point and 2.1 million doses out of the more than 3 million received are being put into arms.

And we will be asking the Fulton County director of health here in a little bit what she feels some of the challenges may be. Of course, she can only speak to this area in Fulton County and not the state in general.

But there has been a lot of effort to make sure, for example, that there aren't any new appointments booked for people until they really verify the shipment of new vaccines that have come in to make sure that they're not giving people the expectation to show up for an appointment without a dose actually being there for them.

So a lot of really tricky logistics at play as I'm sure many health departments across the country are dealing with, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much, in Atlanta.

Dr. Craig Spencer is the director of global health in ER medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. He joins us now from New York. Dr. Spencer, good to see you.



WHITFIELD: So herd immunity, you know, define it for us and if your expectations are high that it's soon on the horizon.

DR. SPENCER: Herd immunity is basically having enough protection in the population, either through infection or through vaccination, that the virus really doesn't have anywhere else to go or to spread. Now, it's hard to say whether we're going to get herd immunity at 70 or 80 or 90 percent.

We know that a quarter of the population in the U.S. is under 18. Many are not eligible for a vaccine. We know that there are still many Americans who have expressed concern or aren't going to be vaccinated.

So getting to that level may be difficult. But what is important is that it's not a magical threshold. Every single person who gets vaccinated is one less person who can be infected, who can transmit the virus, who will be hospitalized and potentially die from it. So it doesn't have to be 70 percent or 80 percent exactly. Every single person that gets us closer to that goal gives the virus fewer opportunities to spread.

WHITFIELD: And then after the announcement of a third vaccine being made available in this country, some states have decided to speed up their reopening plans, you know, despite still dire warnings coming from experts about the concerns of variants. Is it premature in your view that some states are easing some of their restrictions?

DR. SPENCER: I understand that some states are going to ease restrictions. We have economic realities as well after a year of this pandemic. The important thing is that we need to keep in place the things that work. We know masks are important. The CDC has proven time and time again that they help slow the spread.

What we're at right now is we're at this delicate balance of vaccines and variants and variable adherence to public health measures. We're vaccinating, you know, almost two million people a day. That's great. There are concerning variants on the horizon like B-1177 that we know is going to make up the majority of infections in this country.

But the one thing that we can control the most is doing the things that protect us, continuing to wear masks which are scientifically proven to reduce the spread, to lower infections, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths. And I am concerned that for places that are, you know, rolling back restrictions, those that are rolling back restrictions and ending mask mandates are putting themselves and their citizens at greater risk.

WHITFIELD: Well, listen to what one top infectious disease expert told CNN's Jake Tapper yesterday.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: We're walking into the mouth of the monster. We simply are. The virus that we're really concerned about and have been for recent weeks, this B-117 variant from the United Kingdom.


WHITFIELD: Do you concur?

DR. SPENCER: Absolutely. Dr. Osterholm is a very well-renowned expert on this, much more than I am. But what we've seen over the past few months has been an increase, and not just B117, but others that were first identified in South Africa, that have some concerning ability to perhaps undermine the protective effect of our vaccines.

We have to be careful right now. We have to continue doing the things we've been doing for the past year, because even if we're past the worst of December and January, right now the case levels that we're seeing are just as high as they were last summer. You know, 60,000 cases per day. And this was an emergency then. There's no reason that we shouldn't treat it with the same caution now.

WHITFIELD: More than a dozen states don't even have mask mandates right now. And a new CDC study shows a clear improvement in cases and deaths where mask mandates are in force. So why is that data being ignored in some corners?

DR. SPENCER: Look, in the past year we've come a long way. A year ago, we didn't even have, you know, this guidance that everyone should be wearing a mask. And now we know a year later that people should be wearing them as much as they can, outdoors, when they're interacting with others, to slow the spread.

In that time, as you and everyone else knows, masks have become politicized. Masks are important, even if your governor says you don't need to wear one. I urge every single person listening to this program to continue wearing one.

I'm concerned about people who are working in restaurants, for example, who don't have the ability to really require their patrons to wear a mask in places where mask mandates are being rolled back.

Putting them and other essential workers who have already unduly beared (ph) the burden of this since day one at greater risk yet again.

WHITFIELD: And you've written about what the next phase of this pandemic looks like, a delicate balance of several factors. Tell us what you foresee potentially happening.

DR. SPENCER: Look, I do think in many respects the worst is behind us. We're not going to get to 250,000 or 300,000 cases per day. I don't think we're going to have as many deaths as we did previously.

We've gotten the overwhelming majority of people in long term care facilities, people over 75, and now over 65, vaccinated. That is the greatest thing that we can do to drive down deaths. But it doesn't mean that we're out of the woods. You know, we're at the end of the third quarter and we're pulling our starting lineup by, you know, opening back up and by, you know, taking back these mask mandates that we know have been helpful.


DR. SPENCER: Again, we need to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. If you have an opportunity to get vaccinated with any of the three great vaccines we have, please jump on it.

We need to continue to watch these variants of concern. It may be that they're leading to some of the plateauing of the cases we're seeing now. But most importantly, we need everyone to continue doing what we've been asking for the past year. Wear your masks, you know, distance when you can, try to reduce the spread as much as possible and just be safe, because we know that this -- we see the end of this, we just need to get there safely. WHITFIELD: All right. We just can't let our guard down just yet.

DR. SPENCER: No need.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Craig Spencer, thank you so much.

DR. SPENCER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. One of Governor Cuomo's accusers is now sharing her story in a new interview. Charlotte Bennett calls Cuomo a, quote, "textbook abuser", and says she was terrified during a second meeting with him. Find out what she says happened when she reported the alleged sexual harassment.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

The investigation into sexual harassment claims against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is heating up. A spokesperson for the New York attorney general's office confirming it has asked the governor's office to preserve all evidence related to the allegations. This comes as one of the accusers, Charlotte Bennett, shares more of her story.

For the very latest let's bring in Alexandra Field. Alexandra, Bennett says she reported sexual harassment and was told no investigation was necessary. What more is she saying?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. She is the second woman who came forward with these sexual harassment allegations against the governor, a 25-year-old former aide to the governor. She sat down this week on camera, really detailing these allegations and speaking without mincing any words.

Let's listen to it first.


CHARLOTTE BENNETT, CUOMO ACCUSER: He is a textbook abuser. He lets his temper and his anger rule the office. But he was very sweet to me for a year in the hopes that maybe one day when he came on to me, I would think we were friends, or that it was appropriate, or that it was ok.


FIELD: An attorney representing Charlotte Bennett, Deborah Katz, has requested to the state's attorney general, Letitia James, that the Cuomo administration be required to preserve any documents concerning the allegations that Bennett is making and also any notes about conversations that Bennett had with senior members of the Cuomo administration.

The letter from the attorney detailed two such conversations that both occurred in June. During those conversation, Bennett told those top aides that Cuomo was grooming her for sex, that he had sexually propositioned her, that she felt terrified.

At the time she said that she was too fearful to have an investigation. Apparently senior aides agreed that no investigation was necessary. They apologized to her and agreed that the behavior was inappropriate.

The governor's special counsel -- general counsel rather has responded to that, Beth Garvey saying that Bennett was treated with respect and sensitivity. They say that she was transferred to another job that she had requested. They say that she was consulted on the resolution of the matter and that she expressed satisfaction.

Garvey is also responding this morning, Fred, to another allegation made by Bennett. Bennett said that the governor did not personally complete the state's required sexual harassment training, that he had an aide do it on his behalf. Cuomo was asked in a press conference earlier this week if he had in fact completed that training, he said that he did.

Garvey is now saying unequivocally that the governor did do the training that was mandatory and required himself, that it was not done for him -- flatly denying those claims from Bennett, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then New York lawmakers voted to curb Governor Cuomo's expanded emergency powers during this pandemic because of these harassment allegations and a scandal over the nursing home deaths. That bill now goes to Cuomo's desk for his signature. Is the governor expected to sign that?

FIELD: Yes, certainly more fallout from both of these evolving controversies that have been surrounding the governor. He did signal on Wednesday at that same press conference that he would be supporting that bill that would strip him of the expanded powers that he was granted by the legislature back in the spring really at the beginning of the crisis concerning COVID-19 that New York was facing.

All of this, again, coming as there is this intensifying scrutiny about the state's reporting of the number of deaths that happened in nursing homes. Garvey, counsel for the governor, says that the administration is participating with a current DOJ inquiry.

She has also been responding to reports that were filed by "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" earlier this week alleging that top aides in the Cuomo administration had altered the number of nursing home deaths in a state health report that was written over the summer, lowering the number of deaths by about half.

Garvey has responded by saying that actually data was eventually omitted from the report because it couldn't be verified by the Department of Health. She says the numbers were not changed overall, the number of nursing home deaths were not undercounted, instead a decision was made to count nursing home deaths as the number of people who actually died in nursing homes and the deaths of nursing home residents who died in hospitals as deaths that occurred in hospitals.

A lot that the administration is taking on right now, Fred. WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right. Alexandra Field, thanks so much.

All right. Still to come, former President Donald Trump facing more lawsuits and growing legal threats. We'll have a closer look at the cases against him in New York, Georgia and Washington, D.C.



WHITFIELD: Former president Donald Trump was hit with a lawsuit Friday brought by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. Swalwell accusing Trump, in the filing of inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January. This adds to the former president's growing legal issues including an investigation into his finances by the Manhattan district attorney. And in Georgia, where prosecutors this week gave their election interference case to a grand jury.

Michael Moore is a former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia and partner at Pope McGlamry Law Firm. And Renato Mariotti is a CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor and host of the "On the Topic" podcast.

All right. Good to see both of you.



WHITFIELD: All right. So Michael, you first. You know, this case in Georgia is looking into Trump's phone call to Georgia's secretary of state Brad Raffensperger where he asked him about finding, you know, thousands of votes. What do you expect from this grand jury process?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGIA: You know, she will -- basically D.A. Willis will ask the grand jury to get a lot of records. So that will be telephone, calendar records, emails, texts -- those types of things -- to show how the call was set up, who else was involved in it.

And she'll follow those leads along, I mean. And I expect that that will take a month or so to get those things. She'll subpoena records from the secretary of state. She'll get into public statements that have been made by the secretary.

She'll catalogue those and use those essentially to show how he felt about the call and sort of what his understanding of what he was being asked to do was.

And that's --


WHITFIELD: And a lot of that we've already heard publicly. I mean we've heard --

MOORE: We have. We have.

WHITFIELD: -- that recording so what else needs to be, I guess, in this package of details that the grand jury needs to hear and see?

MOORE: Well, she's got to put the evidence together in a way that she can prosecute a case if that's what she's going to decide to do. Georgia has a different grand jury system than the federal system. And that is that the process is secret. The grand jury does not typically investigate on their own a case. They take a case that an investigator presents to them or a D.A. presents to them.

She's got to package it in a way that she can move forward. The moment (ph) that the grand jury just going to decide if there is probable cause to move the case to trial. And her risk is really in overblowing this.

And so hopefully what she'll do is she'll take a rifle shot approach. She'll look at the most easily and readily provable offense that she can make and she'll treat this like any other case. I mean she ought to pack him in between, pack his case in between a couple of drug dealers and some car thieves and just present them in the normal course of business.

I mean for -- when it comes for all intents and purposes, I mean she has to decide is it going to be worth a drawn-out, lengthy process and a huge investigation to look into the conduct of now the loser of an election who essentially will become irrelevant. Is she going to give him oxygen?

And so I think that if she will look at the case, keep it simple, move the case forward in the normal process that she'll be in better shape. And not elevate the expectations of those people who simply want to see him, you know, tarred and feathered, because the likelihood of a former president being an inmate in the Georgia Department of Corrections facilities is probably pretty slim. I mean just from a security and logistical nightmare, I just don't see that really as being something that's out there.

So I think she's got him on the election fraud. She's got him on the interference with Secretary Raffensperger's official duties. She's got a confession essentially on tape to those things.

Keep the case simple, move it on forward in the normal course of business and treat him like any other criminal.

WHITFIELD: All right. Separate case, Renato. Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance has kept his cards somewhat close to this chest in his investigation except we have heard reportedly he's brought in some outside, you know, kind of bigwigs including a former federal prosecutor to his team.

So what kind of case do you believe he is building against Trump and possibly the Trump organization?

MARIOTTI: Well Fred, I think he is committed to see this to the finish line. Not only did he bring in that former federal prosecutor, as you mentioned, he also brought in a very expensive consulting firm that I've hired in private practice myself. It costs a lot of money.

You're not going to outlay the kind of money that they cost unless you're pretty serious.

WHITFIELD: This is -- this is a finance-based case. I mean this is about the money.

MARIOTTI: Exactly right, Fred. Yes, exactly right. It's going to be -- it's going to probably be a tax case. It's going to be focused on false statements that are made in tax returns. And the challenge is going to be proving that Trump knowingly submitted those returns knowing that they were false.

And so you see, for example, some recent reports about a focus on the consulting fees paid to his daughter Ivanka which may not have been legitimate. And then you also, of course, see some pressure being put on Allen Weisselberg, obviously a high ranking Trump Organization official who might be able to provide information regarding what Trump knew and what his state of mind was.

WHITFIELD: And then Michael, how difficult is it to build a case around fraud in particular?

MOORE: You can build it. You just have to be specific in your claims and in your allegations. You want to show that somebody had an intent to do something wrong and that they tried to influence somebody else to participate in it or to turn things in a way that made it more favorable to the defendant.

So fraud is a tough case on its own. But again, in these cases, you either trace the money, you trace the phone call, you trace the emails. And what you find is that these fraudsters and these folks that are out they get caught by their own tongue.

They just are unable to keep their mouths shut. And what's why we've got an hour-long essential confession from the president in Georgia on the case. He is soliciting somebody, that being the secretary of state, to commit election fraud. And so when you have a confession, the case gets a lot simpler.


WHITFIELD: Ok. So you've got bullying, election fraud, financial fraud, and now the issue of inciting a riot, Renato.

The former president facing two different lawsuits over the Capitol riots, both from Democratic lawmakers. This is unusual, but a pretty powerful inference being made.

MARIOTTI: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think what they're hoping to do is get to discovery and be able to take some depositions and issue some subpoenas. And really the question is going to be will they survive a motion to dismiss. I'm sure there will be arguments about something called standing, whether or not they're the right people to be bring this case. But these are civil cases, be reminded, so that's under a lower burden of proof. It's called preponderance to the evidence, 51 percent. It's not beyond a reasonable doubt. And really the question there is (INAUDIBLE) -- you know, those cases are going to take some time to proceed. And the question is will they can get past the motion dismiss and get to discovery so they can take some depositions and get some documents.

WHITFIELD: All right. This is going to be a fascinating next few months.

Renato Mariotti, Michael Moore -- thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

MOORE: Glad to be with you.



WHITFIELD: All right.

It's NBA all-star weekend in Atlanta but this year's celebration of the best in basketball looks far different than any before as the city is trying to discourage visitors from convening around the arena.

In fact there will be no fans in the stands. So this pandemic makes it unique plus this is a post-election year and that's inspired L.A. Lakers Lebron James to use Sunday's game to draw attention to a new political cause, the nationwide rise in laws or bills encouraging restriction of voting access.

CNN's Coy Wire joining me right now. So Coy, what does James have planned for this weekend?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, big things, good to see you.

Yet another passion project, right for Lebron James, one of the most recognized sports figures in the world. But he's on a mission off the court yet again. His More Than a Vote Initiative now focusing on the wave of Republican-backed legislation to end up restricts voter access.

Lebron's new campaign called "Protect Our Power" will air during the all-star game in Atlanta tomorrow. It draws attention to the Republican led legislature here in Georgia that passed House Bill 531.

Supporters say it would help prevent voter fraud. Critics say it makes it even more difficult to vote. So NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told CNN that he is proud of Lebron and the other players who are getting involved in taking a stand for change that they believe in.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: I think it's fantastic that players are engaging in our democracy. I mean that's what it's all about. And I've made this point to many who have asked me about it. It doesn't mean you necessarily have to agree with our players but I think you should applaud their engagement in our system.


WIRE: Fred, one more thing the commissioner stressed that because of the pandemic the All-Star Game tomorrow is a made for TV event. And he urged people who haven't been invited to the game, please do not show up for it.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. And then, you know, Coy, let's talk about, you know, the precautions that are being put in place particularly because of this pandemic.

WIRE: Yes. The commissioner just said that it will be a bubble of sorts for the players and staff. They're only allowed to go to their hotel and to the arena, Fred.

And as for fans the NBA is discouraging any sort of gathering. Typically All-Star Weekend packs city streets with events and parties spanning several days.

This year all of the events on the court are going to take place just on one night, tomorrow. But Atlanta police say they're still not taking any chances, coordinating longer shifts for officers and some businesses in the surrounding areas are going to stay open later this weekend in anticipation of some large crowds.

Listen to this.


DEPUTY SHERIFF CHARLES HAMPTON JR., ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have our men and women on 12-hour shifts, off days cancelled as well as selected members of other units and divisions also on 12 hours and off days cancelled.


WIRE: Now, as for the game, no packed house, no celebs stacked in courtside seats, Fred. Approximately 1,500 people, though, will be there in State Farm Arena, some family and guests of players, frontline health care workers and HBCU students have been invited to game as well.

Why? The league not just helping to raise more than $3 million for HBCUs but using the stage to shine light on the rich history and traditions of historically black colleges and universities.

The court that you'll see -- you're seeing there is designed by alums, artists from HBCUs have works on display tonight during the broadcast. And the games' three officials are alums as well.

On top of all that, Fred, Team Lebron is playing for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Team Durant for the United Negro College Fund. So the teams are playing for parts of a $1.75 million pot that will be split between the two organizations.

So the All-Star game this year, Fred, playing under protocol and playing for purpose.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And playing with heart.

All right. Thank you so much. Coy Wire, appreciate it.

WIRE: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right. Stanley Tucci eats and drinks his way through the second biggest city in Italy. explore Milan on the new "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES: STANLEY TUCCI SEARCHING FOR ITALY". That's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.



WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Breaking news. Right now, on Capitol Hill the U.S. Senate appears to be nearing a final vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package which will affect millions of Americans.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying he expects only a handful of Republican amendments to remain in the so-called vote-a-rama. That's happening right now.


WHITFIELD: That means we could have a final vote within the next hour. And this comes after the Senate worked all night and through the morning to address several Republican amendments, virtually all of which have failed.

CNN's Manu Raju is following the developments from Capitol Hill. So Manu, where do things stand?

RAJU: Well, the end is near.