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Blinken Meets with NATO Allies Amid Tensions with Russia And China; Rep. Tom Reed on Sexual Misconduct, I'm Sorry; Cuomo Resists Calls to Resign; Rallies Held Across Country in Support of Asian- Americans; Atlanta Spa Shootings May Be First Case Tried Under New Georgia Hate Crime Law; Buckingham Palace Considers Appointing Diversity Chief. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 22, 2021 - 15:30   ET



BILL BROWDER, LED GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST PUTIN: And the whole story with Vladimir Putin stems from the murder of my lawyer. They murdered my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky 11 years ago. And I made a vow, to his memory, to his family, to myself that I was going go after the people that killed him. And make sure they face justice. And I'm not going to back down because they make these threats.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So then what about President Biden, you know, you talk about you and your rhetoric. And tensions are becoming very public as you've been watching with the rest of us between President Biden and Vladimir Putin. Biden in that interview with George Stephanopoulos called him a killer. Putin obviously heard it then challenged him back to a debate.

But still says he wants to work with the U.S. How Bill, how should the Biden administration deal with Vladimir Putin?

BROWDER: Well, I think that that's a good start, calling a spade a spade. Remember, Donald Trump said Putin wasn't a killer and Putin is a killer. And so first thing you need to do is say what he is. And we shouldn't be tiptoeing around this and we shouldn't be trying to appease or please Vladimir Putin. In the world, Putin is a junior varsity player. The United States is a superpower.

Russia basically has got an economy the size of New York. Their military budget is 80 percent smaller than the U.S. military budget. And they should be treated accordingly. And if Vladimir Putin is going around doing mafia-style stuff they should be called out for that. And I praise President Biden for doing that. And there should be consequences in addition to his killing, and that should be in the form of sanctions.

BALDWIN: Yes, I talked to James Clapper on Friday precisely about this and he echoes what you're saying. Saying Vladimir Putin has blood on his hands and that was President Biden being honest. I have a question for you just about China now, Bill. The U.S. is also

getting ready to sanction China for their treatment of Uyghur Muslims using sanctions that, as you've been discussing put in place, the Magnitsky sanctions. Just tell us a little bit more about how you developed those sanctions and why they are so important to use here against China.

BROWDER: Well so first of all, as we all know now, there is a holocaust going on in China against the Uyghur minority. The Chinese have set up concentration camps. And we all have said, after the holocaust in Europe, never again, and it's happening right under our noses right now. And so, we have to do something.

And so the beauty of the Magnitsky Act is that it freezes the assets -- first of all, names the names, freezes the assets and bans the visas of people who commit gross human rights abuses.

And so we can go after the people running the concentration camps, ordering the genocide, and at the same time, we don't have to say, we're going to stop having all conversations, communications and trade with China. It's a way of walking and chewing gum at the same time. And so in a world where there's bad things going on, we absolutely have to call them out and we have to do something. We have to do something which causes pain to the people doing them, which is what the Magnitsky Act does.

And at the same time, we have to be realistic that China is a major superpower and we have to deal with them. And so this is a way of saying, OK, we'll continue to do diplomacy with you, we'll continue to trade with you, but we're not going to stand by and watch this genocide take place without doing something.

BALDWIN: You're right. It is happening under our noses and we do need to do something about it. Bill Browder come back any time. Thank you so much.

BROWDER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: The investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is only heating up with so many calls for his resignations, what is keeping him in office?

Also, another New York politician has been accused of misconduct. He takes responsibility. He won't step down just yet. Two very different cases. Let's discuss, next.



BALDWIN: Well, here's something you don't hear very much from politicians -- I'm sorry. I was wrong. I take full responsibility.

Maybe politicians in another universe say that all the time, but not in this one. But that is what Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York is now saying about an encounter from four years ago. "The Washington Post" first reporting the allegations from a former

lobbyist. Nicolette Davis claimed the Congressman was drunk, touched her thigh and unhooked her bra at a pub in Minneapolis. Reed at first denied the young woman's claims but then did a 180, admitting -- did a 180, admitting he was struggling with alcohol abuse at the time.

So now he's saying he will not be running for re-election next year. Reed had been among those calling for Governor Cuomo to resign over the sexual harassment allegations against him. Cuomo has thus far refused to do so.

So let's talk this all out with CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and CNN political analyst Laura Barron-Lopez. She also covers the White House for "Politico." So welcome to both of you.

And Laura, this one is for you first. So, you know, despite all these allegations, Governor Cuomo says he's not going anywhere. And when you look at the poll numbers, right, the poll numbers show that most New Yorkers don't want Cuomo to resign, even in a Quinnipiac University Poll out just this week, you see it here, which was among Cuomo's worst. More New Yorkers want him to stay in office, 49 percent there, than resign.

My question to you is, you know, have the people spoken? It seems almost half of New Yorkers are OK with this.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well there's still the investigation, Brooke, which we have yet to see the results of that investigation that is ongoing.


And so, if there is a determination that these allegations are founded and it could potentially also lead to prosecution, which is something that President Joe Biden said. That if that investigation finds that these are legitimate accusations, that it could eventually result in prosecution.

But Cuomo is pretty much invoking a strategy that was invoked by Donald Trump. He's also using one that was used by Governor Ralph Northam in Virginia, which is that if he feels he has the support of the public -- and right now Cuomo feels he does -- that he pretty much is resisting all calls for his resignation and saying that he's staying put and he's not moving anywhere.

BALDWIN: And did Ralph Northam stay in office? Yes, he did. Charlie, we'll come back to Cuomo in a second, but to Tom Reed. You know, the details, I mentioned them off the top, reportedly putting his hand outside this woman's blouse, unhooking her bra, moving his hand, you know, up her thigh. She has accepted the Congressman's apology, but do you think he should still have a job?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, let me say, I know Tom Reed well. He's a friend, I served with him. He acknowledged a drinking problem. He accepted responsibility for his actions. I suspect what will happen is that he will be entitled to due process. There could be some type of an investigation, perhaps by the ethics committee or some other group within the House to investigate exactly what happened. So I think we should let that play out.

But the fact that he has accepted responsibility and has apologized should carry some weight. And he's also ending his own political career, acknowledging that he will not seek other office. This office or any other office in the next cycle. So, it's a very different case than Governor Cuomo, as far as I'm concerned.

BALDWIN: There is, just Charlie staying with you, you know, a huge number of both Democrats and Republicans who are calling for Governor Cuomo to resign. and agree, these are two very different cases.

But we are not hearing from any notable Republicans calling for Reed to step down. Do you think that the reason why is they agree with you and they believe he's just said he won't run again, he's mea culpa and that's the end of the story?

DENT: Well, I would say that the -- well let me say, Brooke, I think most members -- I was chair of the ethics committee. And I always said, look, we have to investigate before we ask people to step down. That was always my view. That he was entitled to due process.

I said the same thing about Al Franken at the time. He was entitled to due process. We needed to hear his side of the story.Obviously, a resignation will prevent that from happening. Sometimes if a member does resign prematurely, you really never find out what actually happened because once they leave, then in the case of the ethics committee, they no longer have jurisdiction over the matter.

BALDWIN: But where are the calls then from, let's say, members of his own party calling for that ethics investigation? Have they been? I haven't seen anything.

DENT: I have not up to this point. Then again, we just learned about this I think on Saturday -- Friday or Saturday. So -- but I do believe, knowing how that process works, there will be some kind of a complaint filed and there will be an investigation.

BALDWIN: Got it.

DENT: I haven't heard Democrats say much either, by the way.

BALDWIN: But Democrats are speaking up about Andrew Cuomo and so are Republicans as well, so I thought it would be fair to ask the same of a Republican.

You know, and Laura back over to you. There is the question of whether Cuomo will run for re-election if he is not forced from office -- again, as you point out -- you know, pending the result of this independent investigation. As we pointed out off the top, you know, most voters say they don't want that to happen. Again, this is prior to the investigation. If Cuomo announced today that he wouldn't run for re-election, do you think some of the calls for him to step down would go away?

LOPEZ: I don't think so. I think that they might just reiterate the fact that they think that he should step down. I mean, if he were to say he's not going to run again, you already have the vast majority of New York Democrats saying that they think that he should step down. And that may just encourage them more to say that, well, if you think that you don't have the backing to be able to win re-election again, then you should heed the calls to step down from office.

BALDWIN: OK. Charlie Dent, Laura Barron-Lopez, thank you both so much.

DENT: Thanks.

BALDWIN: We'll watch and see what happens with the investigation there on the governor of New York.

New developments today in the Atlanta spa shootings. Could the case be the first to be tried under Georgia's new hate crimes law? Stay here.



BALDWIN: Dozens of protesters around the country rallied over the weekend to show solidarity and support for Asian-American communities following last week's deadly spa shootings in the Atlanta area. Thousands of protesters demanded justice for the eight victims, six of whom were women of Asian descent. During a visit with leaders in Atlanta Friday, President Biden and Vice President Harris decried racism, sexism and xenophobia.

The daughter of the victim who owned one of the targeted massage parlors spoke to CNN and says she is still in shock over what happened.


JAMI WEBB, DAUGHTER OF XIAOJIE TAN: I was just hoping that it was not my mom. It was not my mom, so I was having this hope that maybe my mom got shot and somewhere else -- like maybe on the arm or somewhere but that it wouldn't be like, take her life away.



BALDWIN: CNN is also learning that the case against this accused shooter may be the first to be tried under Georgia's new hate crime law.

Evan Perez is our CNN senior justice correspondent. And Evan, this new statute, it's only been in effect since last summer so it hasn't even been a year. Prosecutors still haven't officially labeled this a suspected hate crime. How might the new law apply here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, look, I think Asian-Americans understandably reacted very negatively when they heard police initially say that these were not racially motivated shootings, that these were killings that were not racially motivated.

The alleged killer Robert Long has said that he was motivated by sexual addiction and denied that there was any racial motivation, and that's where this new Georgia law that was put on the books by legislators just last year comes into play.

It mentions specifically gender and race obviously as factors that could be charged, and people, advocates there in Georgia believe that there is a way for this law to come in to be used. It essentially adds a two-year enhancement for the -- for these charges that he's already facing, eight counts of murder.

The issue here is that on the Justice Department side, on the federal side, the -- you've heard from the -- from the FBI director and from other officials that they don't have enough evidence to use the federal hate crime statute, that's partly because of the way the law is structured which says essentially that but for these factors, these crimes would not have happened.


PEREZ: And so there's a lot of hope that because this law is new on the books that it could be used, and then we'll see -- we haven't heard yet whether they are going to use it but it would make a difference, at least for the -- for the Asian community down there.

BALDWIN: What about, another question for you just on the process on the justice system. We know the jury trials in Georgia have been suspended because of COVID. What does that mean for the case going forward?

PEREZ: Well, it means there might be some delays. I mean, the fact that the jury trials are only now getting started. That means it may be some time before this case comes to trial. Of course, the fact that the defendant has already according to the police pleaded guilty could make a difference to that.

BALDWIN: Evan Perez, thank you.

A new response to the latest backlash against British royals after allegations of racism. The family is considering something it has never done before. Hiring what they are calling a "diversity chief."



BALDWIN: The British royal family is still dealing with the aftermath of that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The allegations of racial insensitivity within Buckingham Palace could lead to the hiring of a Royal Diversity Chief. A Royal source tells CNN the palace is considering someone who can spearhead efforts to address diversity issues.

Max Foster is our CNN royal correspondent, he's live there in England. And so Max, I remember that the Queen in her initial statement after that Oprah interview said that she wanted to handle this privately with the family. How does this news of this diversity chief change that, and what would this person actually do?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were so many accusations, weren't there, in that interview. Particularly from Meghan in relation to race and that was the one issue that really could have caused damage to the British monarchy. I think that they are aware of that.

Some debate about whether or not the family is racist. Obviously, Prince William denies that, he said that on camera. In terms of diversity, there's very little that they can do in terms of the family.

The one element of diversity which was the Duchess of Sussex is no longer part of the working monarchy so they can't do much about that. But what they can do something about is diversity in the wider palace system, the courtiers and the upper staff there is a lack of diversity there, it's an overwhelmingly white institution if you go in there and you have a look around, and this something that the palace is acknowledging.

They say they have been working on this issue for some time. But this is what the source told us.

We have the policies, the procedures and programs in place but we haven't seen the progress we would like in terms of representation and more needs to be done. We can always improve.

So that comes to your point, Brooke, which is about appointing someone to oversee these diversity issues. Would that mean appointing someone from outside or will that mean appointing someone within the palace system already to take charge of this, that is real progress off the back of this interview, frankly.

We'll have to see how it goes and this isn't an official statement but clearly there is some progress there.

BALDWIN: I hear you in terms of the broader look at the palace and you're saying it's really not diverse. They know now that that needs to change. Max Foster for us in England tonight on this potential royal diversity chief post. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's send things to New York in Washington. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper and we begin today with the NATIONAL LEAD.