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Task Force Says, Capitol Police Understaffed, Insufficiently Equipped and Inadequately Trained to Protect from Mob; GOP Ramps Up Effort to Suppress Voting after Trump's Defeat; Record Number of Unaccompanied Kids Now in Border Patrol Facilities. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 9, 2021 - 11:30   ET

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


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Have to say something.

[11:30:01]

But what I'm hearing from the palace, Kate, is they don't want to be rushed. They're rising above this. They don't want to respond probably to Harry and Meghan, but particularly though you don't want to respond to the media either. And there are massive calls in the papers today, at least, for the palace to something about what they are calling a crisis for the monarchy.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWSROOM: Good to see you, Max, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, understaffed and inadequately trained. Now, a task force is recommending a major overhaul of security to prevent another Capitol attack.

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[11:35:00]

BOLDUAN: In the wake of the dead the insurrection on Capitol, well- known retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore was tasked with the first security review, what went wrong and what needs to be change. Members of Congress were briefed on the findings last night.

In the report, Honore and his team state, Capitol security was understaffed, insufficiently equipped and inadequately trained to protect lawmakers and the Capitol against the attack. The task force recommended a series of security changes in light of this, including almost a thousand additional Capitol police officers, creating a quick reaction force replacing temporary fencing that we've seen on the Capitol grounds with a retractable fence and also overhauling the current security measures as lawmakers know as they head back home to their districts.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Jason Crow. It is good to see you. Thanks for coming in again.

What is your big takeaway from the Honore report and also the briefing that you all received on the report yesterday? REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes. The report started with the shocking conclusion that we're ill-equipped and not capable of responding to a January 6th-style attack, which, of course, anybody that was watching what happened two months ago could tell you.

So we understand and we accept the fact that the current iteration of security forces in the complex as it stands right now is not capable of securing the Capitol and members of Congress and something has to change. They outlined in great detail actually both the strategic and the tactical changes that need to happen.

The strategic is the operational relationship to the Capitol Police, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Metropolitan Police Force, the rule of the force, the lines of authority and communication and the intelligence threat assessment. And then the tactical is the fencing, the cameras, the things that you think about when you think about physical security.

So I was actually pleased by the report. The question is how we actually are going to respond to that and make the changes that they recommend.

BOLDUAN: Right. Of course, that is the key question once you get the recommendations. But also from this briefing, CNN is reporting that there was a Republican member who asked the briefers if there is any evidence that they came up with that has materialized showing Republican members were involved in the planning of the attack. We're told that the answer from the briefers was no.

Can you talk to me about that moment and what exactly was said, because I know that this has been a real concern of yours? You and I have discussed this. And I'm curious if you think this settles the lingering question in your mind?

CROW: Yes, I want to clear that up. The scope of this review, of the January 6th task force, was to look at the security infrastructure and recommendations for making improvements and making sure that either a January 6th-style attack or even lesser attack won't happen again. It had nothing to do with criminal investigations. It had nothing to do with conduct of individual members, nothing to do with the conduct of individual insurrectionists or rioters at all.

So that member asked a question that was completely outside of the scope of this review and the reviewer said that that was outside of the scope of review. The FBI and the DOJ are doing their criminal investigation, they're doing that investigation without regard for the status of the individuals involved. So whether you're a member of Congress or not a member of Congress, if you violated the law, you will be held accountable. That is a completely separate process that we were talking (ph).

BOLDUAN: And so, Congressman, that is still a real question and concern in your mind?

CROW: The conduct of members of Congress?

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CROW: Yes, of course it is. We, unfortunately, are in a situation where we have members of Congress that helped incite the insurrection. That continued to this day, to perpetuate the big lie that sow conspiracy theories, that threaten other members of Congress. That is a terrible situation. That is what we've -- what we're dealing with every day.

Now, just think about this for a minute, for the viewers at home. Think about a situation where your place of work came under violent attack, people were killed, over 100 people were brutally beaten, your entire place of work was compromised, and then just weeks later, your co-workers are actually encouraging that violence again, are trying to bring guns into the place of work. There is no private employer in the country that would tolerate that and put up that with.

And, unfortunately, we're not able to fire folks that are involved in doing that so we have a very challenging situation of how to deal with that with a member of Congress (ph).

BOLDUAN: I would say, I have never thought about it that way, and that does put a very different spin on it. I have not thought about it in that context.

[11:40:00]

Republicans are complaining that the security review is not bipartisan. They are calling it just Nancy Pelosi's investigation. Is this a problem? Do you think that means that the recommendations coming from Honore and his team are just, I don't know, going to go by the way side?

CROW: There is nothing partisan about this review in any manner. I think we need to be completely clear about that. These are security professionals. These are retired general officers. These are folks who have spent their lives dedicated to their country, fulfilling their oaths and conducting comprehensive security reviews. This review was very complete, was rigorous and there should be no politics at play here.

But let's be honest, what is really going on is that there are members of Congress that don't want to acknowledge that January 6th occurred, they want to sweep it under the rug because they don't want to have to hold Donald Trump accountable because it makes them look bad. So they will undermine anything that has to do with addressing that attack and that assault on our democracy, whether (INAUDIBLE), whether it's the impeachment of the president or the attack itself. That is really what is going on here.

BOLDUAN: If I could switch gears really quickly, because we've got the COVID relief bill. It's likely to pass probably tomorrow and head to the president. What is really striking about is not just its sheer side but how widely supported it is across the country. It has bipartisan support among Americans.

In fact, the polling average for this bill is 71 percent approval. It is one of the most popular major pieces of legislation in like the last 30 years. But not a single Republican has voted for it. Is this what bipartisanship looks like in the Biden administration if you have support from the general public, you don't need bipartisan support in Congress?

CROW: Well, it is really hard to explain the lack of GOP support for this bill. Because, as you mentioned, not only is it overwhelmingly supported by the American public, three quarters of nearly Americans support it. Listen, apple pie doesn't poll that well in the United States right now. So it's hard to find things that are more popular than this bill. Even 60 percent of Republicans support this.

So, look, at democratic caucus and say, we need to be bipartisan, well, that goes both ways. If we're supporting an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill to open schools safely, to keep our businesses afloat, to deliver life-saving aid really to people throughout the country, to get shots in the arms to get through this pandemic, we would expect some good faith effort on the other side to join us in that. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.

But President Biden is going to continue to do what he's doing. He's not out playing golf. He's not tweeting attacks. He's keeping his head down. He's doing the work. And come July and August, when people start to go back to school, when our businesses start to open up, people are not going to be concerned about whether we have reconciliation, how we got this bill done. They want it done, they want to get back to normal and that is what we're doing.

BOLDUAN: I'll tell you one of the first things when we're allowed, when it's okay, I'm coming to your state. I've got family there and, man, do I miss Colorado. Thank you for coming in.

CROW: Yes, thank you.

Coming up, voter integrity and election security or barely veiled voter suppression? More states are making big changes in how you could vote and we're going to the epicenter of this fight, Georgia.

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[11:45:00]

BOLDUAN: Voter security or voter suppression? That question is in the spotlight now more than ever as GOP-led state legislatures across the country are moving on new voting measures that after Democrats won the White House and the Senate in the last election. More than 250 bills introduced in more than 40 states in just the last two months focusing on restricting voter access, that is according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The latest move is in Iowa. Yesterday, the Republican governor signed into law a bill limiting the number of early voting days, restricting absentee ballots and even reducing Election Day voting by one hour. Georgia though remains the epicenter of the fight after the state went for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in three decades and both Senate seats are now held by Democrats, state Republicans are now pushing sweeping voting changes. The state senate just passed a bill on Monday that would limit early voting opportunities and it would also eliminate no excuse absentee voting altogether.

Joining me right now is the president of the Georgia NAACP, James Woodall. Thanks for being here.

I want to ask you about the no excuse absentee voting element of this specifically, because this was first approved by Republicans back in 2005. They wanted it back then, and now say it's a bad idea. What do you think changed?

REV. JAMES WOODALL, PRESIDENT, GEORGIA NAACP: Well, first, thanks for having me, Kate. And when we look at Senate Bill 241 yesterday, and as you mentioned, the most harming provision of the bill would be to repeal the no excuse. We saw millions of Georgians, both Republican and Democrat, black and white, Latino, Asian, rural, metro, use this because we were in a public health pandemic. We were fighting the coronavirus.

And so this was an attempt by the state election board to be able to resolve some of the challenges that we saw during that pandemic and, quite frankly, it is one of the reasons why we've also were able to go back several years prior and see that that increase in number of how many people actually used this particular element of voting, it increased across the board.

And so this is an attempt to roll back how people participate in the easy accessibility of elections here in state and so it is going to be one that we continue to fight against every single day.

BOLDUAN: After the 2016 election when Trump won the state and the Republican won the one Senate seat up for election at that point, there was no movement for sweeping changes in the way that you vote in Georgia, just notably.

[11:50:08]

So when the Republican Senate majority leader said that is all about now is managing the cost of running elections and helping the burden, lift the burden on election staff, is he lying?

WOODALL: Well, what I'll tell you is, in fact, Georgia, two years prior, spent almost $500 million on a new electoral machine system in the Georgia NAACP and some of our organizing friends and counterparts. We fought against that, because we knew that elections would not be the best that they could be using the software that they purchased. Republicans did that.

And so now they're coming back and saying, well, now elections are insecure, they're not accessible, voters do not have confidence, and they did not try to do these kinds of sweeping changes when we were lifting up these same issues. In fact, they fought against it and saying that we just were simply partisan activists who wanted to see Stacey Abrams win. And that just simply was not the case. We stand here today, as we did two, three years ago, and saying that we need to address our election process here in the state, but this legislation does not do that. In fact, it parades very dangerous lies that continue to put people in harm's way.

BOLDUAN: I've heard you say that these changes could actually be a violation of existing federal law. All signs do point to these changes becoming law though. If it does, is the NAACP going to sue?

WOODALL: We definitely want to use every resource at our disposal to ensure that the right to vote is maintained and upheld in this state and across this nation. And I'll also say that this is also a great opportunity for us to be able to lift up that HR-1 and HR-4 that's needed now more than ever. John Lewis literally almost died trying to fight for the right for us to vote, and for us to be able stand here on this day when hold the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives and the presidency, there is no excuse why we cannot reinstitute the Voting Rights Act so that all Georgians, all Americans can be able to vote in a free, accessible, in a secure manner.

BOLDUAN: The Senate rules that are -- there's one thing that is in its way, as well as these tight majorities that you see right now in the Senate and the House. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.

WOODALL: Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a surge of children at the U.S.-Mexico border now a record of unaccompanied children are in U.S. custody.

We'll be right back.

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[11:55:00]

BOLDUAN: We're just seven weeks into the Biden presidency and already he is facing a growing humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Border crossings by migrants are sharply on the rise. Shelters are overcrowded. And among them, thousands of unaccompanied children are now in border patrol custody with no place to go.

Joining me right now is CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, who has been looking into this and tracking this closely.

Priscilla, what is going on here? How bad -- can you put this into a context or perspective of how bad this is already?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: So what's happening is that the Biden administration has said it wants to take a more humane approach on the U.S.-Mexico border, that means allowing children to come into the United States versus turning them away, as was done during the Trump administration, but the reality on the ground here, Kate, is that there are more children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone than the U.S. government is prepared to take on.

So we see this in the border patrol facility. So we are learning only moments ago that there are now more than 3,400 unaccompanied migrant children in border custody. That already surpasses the numbers from yesterday, which were already record highs.

Now, these facilities are not intended for children. They are intended to process adults. Now, the facilities that are intended for them, the shelters run by the Health and Human Services Department, are also under strain. So there is a scramble behind the scenes to try to accommodate these children as they comply with the health guidelines.

So, again, a number of challenges here, Kate, and all of them urgent and pressing for this administration.

BOLDUAN: It's hard to see that this isn't a crisis right now at the border. How old are these children that they're seeing right now?

ALVAREZ: So, the data we reviewed shows that the majority of them are 13 years old and up. Again, these are not children that should be in border facilities. They should be in shelters, where case managers will work with them to locate them with family in the United States. But for now, with limited space, they continue in those facilities.

BOLDUAN: They absolutely do. Priscilla, thank you very much. We'll stay closely watching this.

An update now on the investigation into New York Governor Cuomo. The New York attorney general has appointed a former federal prosecutor and also an employment discrimination attorney to lead the investigation. The attorneys are promising, in their words, exhaustive and rigorous investigations into Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls, as we know, from state lawmakers to resign now.

Cuomo has said that he will not be stepping down and is asking the public to reserve judgment until the investigation is complete, a process that could take months.

Multiple women have come forward in the past two weeks to accuse the governor of sexual harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace and also other inappropriate behavior.

[12:00:05]

Thank you so much for joining us this hour and joining us today. I'm Kate Bolduan.