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President Biden Criticizes Georgia Law as Restricting Voting Access for Minorities; Georgia State Representative Arrested after Knocking on Governor's Door to Witness Signing of Georgia Voting Law; Vaccinations for COVID-19 Continue in U.S. as Deaths Due to Coronavirus Plateau; Biden Administration Restricts Media Access to Border Patrol Facilities at U.S.-Mexico Border; Mayor of Brownsville, Texas, Juan Trey Mendez Interviewed on Current U.S. Immigration Policy and Its Effects; Myanmar's Military Cracks Down Violently on Protests against Military Coup. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 27, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Think about it. I'm going to have a scotch tonight. I may have two scotches tonight. And I can wake and serve in the NSA. But if I get high tonight in a state where it's legal, I'm precluded from government service? That's malarkey.
See you next week.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It's Saturday, March 27th. I'm Victor Blackwell.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. You are in the CNN Newsroom, and we are so grateful to have you. We're talking today and begin with this nationwide outrage we're seeing over new voting restrictions in Georgia.
BLACKWELL: President Biden has joined the response, saying that the Justice Department will look into what he called Jim Crow in the 21st century. Voting rights groups have filed a flurry of lawsuits challenging the law. They argue that it is designed to suppress voter turnout.
PAUL: The president, who won Georgia in November with a surge of minority support, didn't hold back as he slammed the new restrictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an atrocity. The idea, if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they passed a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they're waiting to vote? You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can't provide water for people about to vote -- give me a break.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Georgia's Republican-controlled legislature fast-tracked the measure to the governor's desk after Democrats won both the presidential race and two Senate special elections there.
BLACKWELL: Critics say the law targets minority voters, but supporters paint the bill as an effort to restore confidence in the state's electoral process, despite the fact that there's no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. Critics also say these pictures are symbolic of the problems with the law. The governor's office released the photo on the left, Governor Kemp signing the bill into law, surrounded by six white men with a painting of what appears to be a Georgia plantation in the background.
And that was going on inside the room. Outside of it, State Representative Park Cannon knocked on the door because she wanted to witness the signing. she said it would make it more difficult for constituents to vote. And then she was arrested and taken to jail, and according to her attorney, now faces up to eight years in prison.
Tamara Stevens was with State Representative Cannon and shot that video of her arrest. She's co-founder of the group No Safe Seats. Also with us, Georgia State Representative Donna McLeod. Welcome to both of you. And Tamara, I want to start with you. Again, you shot the video. You were there that night. I want you to listen to Governor Kemp's response after the arrest and the outrage from across the country because of that arrest and get your reaction. Here is Governor Kemp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): As far as Representative Cannon, you would have to question or ask the Georgia Department of Public Safety about what happened there. It's unfortunate that a sitting state representative would actually stomp and kick a Georgia state patrol officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Now, we saw her knock on the door, then she was taken into custody. In the arrest report, Representative Cannon is accused of stomping on the trooper's foot while she was being taken into custody out on the cruiser, although she's not been charged with assault. What's your reaction to what you heard from the governor?
TAMARA STEVENS, CO-FOUNDER, NO SAFE SEATS: It is absolutely not based in any kind of factual thing that occurred. The video is very clear. Representative Cannon probably weighs about 105 pounds soaking wet. There is no way she was going to cause any kind of injury to any of those officers. They were literally carrying her out, dragging her backwards.
BLACKWELL: What was the goal Thursday night? You were there with her. What did she want to say, did she want to express, did she want to do once she got on the other side of that door? What did she want to tell the governor and those members?
STEVENS: First of all, this was not planned. The coalition organizers that we have been regularly protesting out at the state capital, we were going to be at Delta trying to apply pressure. We were going to be protesting at 5:30 that evening. And the governor knew that, which is why he rushed in haste to sign it behind closed doors, because he knew that there wouldn't be any activists to hold him accountable.
So when we found out at 5:45 that he was planning on doing it at 6:30, we headed back to the capital, just a handful of us, and with signs, basically saying the GOP should be ashamed and this is Jim Crow 2.0. And we were just planning on standing there with hopes that whenever they left the room, because they were doing it behind locked, closed doors, that they would see us and know that they did not get to do this in secret, that we saw them and we were going to hold them accountable.
When Representative Cannon and Representative Erica Thomas came downstairs, they saw us, and they were like, oh, is that where he's signing it? And we said, yes. And so Representative Cannon decided, she's like, well, I would like to witness it. And so she walked over and she knocked on the door. And one of the state troopers came over and approached her, and that's when I started filming.
BLACKWELL: Representative McLeod, what's your reaction to what you saw in that video, how the representative was handled after knocking on the door?
DONNA MCLEOD, (D) GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: It was -- by the way, good morning. It was clear they were trying to send a message predominantly to black women that we're out of place and we shouldn't be there. A knock on a door, by the way, a taxpayer door that we pay for. And Representative Cannon is a duly elected official and has every right to go down to the governor's office at any time. And like you said that picture clearly states what they stand for. This was about white supremacy and sending a message that they're still in control. Instead of embracing diversity they have basically said they don't want it. And that is unacceptable to us, and that's why we are going to be pushing back and fighting back. Diversity should be a strength. It shouldn't be looked at as a weakness.
BLACKWELL: Representative McLeod, you told one of my producers that there have been some significant tensions as of late with the governor's office, with other members in the chamber. Tell me about that.
MCLEOD: So, from the beginning of the session, it was clear that there was something different in the air. So, we got several bills that were pointed at our counties. We have new D.A.s, new chairs, some new municipal members of the city councils. So, you can see that there was some diversity, especially I'm from Gwinnett County. And so, we started seeing some local control bills, which is something that was strange, because most of the time you talk to Republicans, it's state rights and local control.
So, we started seeing these bills, so we started objecting. We said, OK, what are these about? We've always had the impression that once it was local control, you allow the municipalities and the cities and the counties to do what they wanted to do. One, actually, representative, Republican representative stood up and said its local control until we get out of control, and the only out of control situation is that the counties are now more diverse.
And yes, so that tension has been going on. We even had issues with sexist mention, there was a bill on having plastic surgery. One of our colleagues got up and said, oh, does that mean that the rapper, Cardi B, can now go and get her buttocks done any time she wants?
MCLEOD: Those are the kinds of things that, yes, this has been going on. It's been horrible. We were dressed for Black History month, we put on attire to salute the motherland. And one of the state representatives actually, stood in front of us and said, are you going to sing and dance for me? That is the kind of stuff that has been going on.
BLACKWELL: That is atrocious and should not be happening in any building, much less one that the people of Georgia pay for.
Tamara, let me come to you and ask you, you said that you were actually going to Delta to put some pressure on them. Up until yesterday, we hadn't heard much from Delta at all, except for aligning themselves with the chamber. We've now got a statement from them about this, and they, in part, say the legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting, protects a voter's ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. Also, a statement from Coca-Cola. This is objectively different treatment than we saw in 2014 when the anti-LGBTQ laws were coming through Georgia and other states. They were publicly opposed to those. What do you make of the response we're seeing from the big corporations that are headquartered in Georgia as it relates to SB-202?
STEVENS: The business community has definitely let the voters of Georgia down. If you dig deeper into the bill, you will see one of the things that it does is it takes away control over the elections from the secretary of state, which is a duly elected official, and it puts it into the hands of a Georgia GOP legislature, it's taking that power away, which would then allow them to do what the former president was asking them to do, which is not certify Georgia's results.
And so that's one of the big things I know people have been focusing on, the inability to provide water and a snack to people in line. I'm more concerned -- because we'll fight that. I'm more concerned about the legislature being able to take over control and decide which elections are certified or not. That's a big issue because that's how you disenfranchise entire counties of voters, including majority- minority counties like Clayton and DeKalb and Fulton.
BLACKWELL: The legislation is sweeping, and we will continue to stay on top of it and some of those primary, secondary, tertiary impacts that we're just starting to learn the impacts of. State Representative Donna McLeod and Tamara Stevens, thank you both.
STEVENS: Thank you.
MCLEOD: Thank you.
PAUL: Let's talk about the coronavirus pandemic now, because the question we're all asking each other is, have you gotten your coronavirus shot yet, right? Well, if you have, your part of why the pace of vaccinations in the U.S. is breaking records right now. According to the White House COVID response team, more than 71 percent of the group most vulnerable to the coronavirus, people 65 and older, have received at least one shot. Still, the director of the CDC says she's, quote, deeply concerned about the uptick in new cases and hospitalizations. Now, the U.S. is stuck at an average of around 1,000 COVID deaths every day. Here is CNN's Polo Sandoval.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By now, over 137 million COVID vaccines have gone into arms, reports the CDC. That's a new record. With that, another promising stat from the White House Friday which shows vaccinations are being administered at a seven-day average rate of about 2.6 million shots a day. It's the highest we've seen. The White House's COVID-19 coordinator says there's a case for optimism but not for relaxation.
JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This is not time to let down our guard. We need to follow the public health guidance, wear a mask, socially distance, and get a vaccine when it's your turn.
SANDOVAL: About 27 percent of the country has done just that, receiving at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines so far. Nearly 15 percent of America's population is already fully vaccinated, a number likely to climb sharply as more states expand eligibility in the weeks ahead. You can see most of them have announced plans to make vaccinations available to everyone 16 and up no later than the beginning of May. North Carolina just one of the latest.
GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): So, we feel pretty good that by April 7th and the predictions of the supplies that we're going to get before then, that we'll be able to handle it and get people vaccinated. What I'm concerned about is when the demand falls below the supply and we're out working to try to get people vaccinated.
SANDOVAL: Pfizer is setting sights on testing their vaccine's safety and efficacy on five to 11-year-old children. Moderna continues similar trials in which two of its Arizona nurses' children are participating in.
RACHEL GUTHRIE, MOTHER OF KIDS ENROLLED IN MODERNA'S TRIAL: In my eyes, I'm doing this because I love them, and I want them to be safe. I want them to be able to go back to normal, and our kids to go back to normal at school.
SANDOVAL: Pfizer aiming to make their vaccine available for 12 to 15- year-olds by this fall. That's when Atlanta's public-school system plans to return to in-person learning five days a week. The focus remains on vaccinating as many eligible people as possible with new case positivity rates in much of the country remaining stubbornly high. Michigan seeing among the highest infection rates in the country after experiencing reprieve. And Vermont recorded 251 new infections yesterday, the highest single-day total in that state since the pandemic started.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SANDOVAL: Back out live here in Manhattan, that long line that you see behind me outside a mass vaccination site is a reminder that those numbers that we shared with you, those are constantly changing, especially when it comes do the number of vaccine doses. As you can see, those are quickly on the rise, those doses that have been administered.
As for Dr. Anthony Fauci, he announced yesterday the beginning of research said it's seeking to answer two key questions, Victor and Christi, especially when it comes to the roughly 50 million people now considered vaccinated. Those key questions, can they potentially be asymptomatically infected with the virus, and if so, can they then infect some of those who have not been vaccinated? The research there due in about five months. Guys?
PAUL: Looking for that. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
And listen, join us tonight for a new CNN special report. Ed Lavandera investigates one state's unemployment system and the devastating toll COVID-19 has taken. CNN's special report, "The Price We Paid, The Economic Cost of COVID," it airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern.
BLACKWELL: So, there's a pretty broad investigation that's happening right now into what police are calling a chaotic night in Virginia Beach. So, here's the list -- two people are dead and eight others are injured after three different shootings on the oceanfront.
So, eight people were hurt at the original crime scene, the injuries range from serious to life-threatening. A police officer then shot and killed an armed man a few blocks away in a related incident. It's not clear if the man killed was the suspect of the shooting of the eight victims. Then there was a woman who was shot later and killed in the area in what police believe was an unrelated incident. A Virginia Beach police officer was hit by a car at some point during this chaos. He is expected to be OK.
PAUL: The U.S. is seeing a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, and some lawmakers are calling it a crisis. What is the reality on the ground? We're going to speak to one mayor who is seeing all of it firsthand.
BLACKWELL: Plus, Georgia's sweeping new election law, President Biden is calling it Jim Crow in the 21st century. Now he wants Congress to do something about it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLACKWELL: The latest numbers from the government show that border crossings by migrant children are continuing to surge. There were about 18,000 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody on Thursday. That's 1,000 more than the day before.
PAUL: And we're now getting our first look at the conditions inside a crowded Border Patrol overflow facility. This is in south Texas. Republican Senator James Lankford shared this video. You see people crammed together there on the floor, covered with mylar blankets. This is at the facility in south Texas. CNN's Rosa Flores has more on the long journey that migrants are making before they arrive at these facilities.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what the Biden administration has not allowed America to see. To tell this story, we were escorted by Texas state troopers. Lines of migrants on Texas trails along the Rio Grande. Nancy (ph) is pregnant and cried, describing her painful journey from Honduras. Ronnie (ph) says his family fled Honduras due to devastation from two recent hurricanes. And under this bridge, even more lines of migrants. Their silhouettes beyond the trees, a sign America's immigration system is overwhelmed.
During his first formal press conference, President Biden said --
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will commit to transparency.
FLORES: And while one pool news camera was allowed inside an HHS facility for unaccompanied migrant children this week, it was a sanitized version of reality, far removed from the bottleneck of this border processing facility. U.S. Customs and Border Protection releasing their own video this week. CNN's repeated requests for access to immigration processing facilities have been denied. The day we captured this video, Texas state troopers were our guides.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as they make landfall that's considered the U.S. side for us.
FLORES: Sent here by Governor Greg Abbott earlier this month to thwart smugglers.
VICTOR ESCALON, DPS REGIONAL DIRECTOR: It's a way to suffocate and put a lot of pressure on the cartel.
FLORES: Victor Escalon is the top cop in charge of what Abbott calls Operation Lone Star.
ESCALON: As Border Patrol gets tied up with processing migrants that come across, they'll leave miles, at times, open on the river.
FLORES: That's where Texas steps in, by water, air, and by ground, says Escalon, to fill the gaps of security on the Rio Grande.
According to state troopers, if you look closely in between those trees, you'll see a camp, some sort of staging area on the Mexican side. I'm on the U.S. side and this is one of the hot spots they described, an area, a trail that is used by migrants. And you can clearly see the path. The landscape is peppered with evidence that it is used by migrants. We see clothes, documents, masks, all leading to these dirt trails with arrows pointing migrants to the immigration processing center under the bridge.
Nancy (ph) says feeling hungry for two was the worst part of the journey. While most of the migrants I met said they made the trek on the U.S. because they were poor, this little girl was rich in faith, ending our conversation by saying, thanks, and God bless you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
PAUL: Mayor Juan Trey Mendez, the mayor of Brownsville, Texas, with us now, a border town, of course, in southeast Texas. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Help us understand what the situation is there in Brownsville right now.
MAYOR JUAN "TREY" MENDEZ, BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS: Thank you, and good morning. I think when you think about it, every border city is going to be different. Brownsville's story is different than San Diego's, it's different in Laredo, it's different than Eagle Pass, certainly different from McAllen. But what we're seeing in Brownsville, we're seeing about from the MPP side, and remember that we had an MPP camp in Matamoros, our neighboring city here to the south in Mexico, that had about 700 people. That camp got cleared out about two, three weeks ago, but we're still seeing people that were part of the program that are coming over. There's probably still about 1,000 to 1,500 people left in Matamoros from that. So we're seeing about 75 to 100 a day coming for that. All of those people are being testing by the federal government or their partners in Mexico.
Then we've got the asylum seekers, the people that we're hearing about that are crossing and being apprehended by Border Patrol. They're releasing probably about 200 people per day from that group, and we are testing them here in Brownsville. They're arriving -- they're being transported by the federal government. We're receiving them and we were testing them up until yesterday, when the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, took over that testing, and it's going actually really well. We're seeing a pretty low positivity rate, and really our focus is trying to get them in and get them out to their sponsors or their family.
PAUL: What happens if somebody does test positive?
MENDEZ: OK, if somebody tests positive, then what we're doing is we're issuing them an order stating the CDC guidelines and letting them know that they should quarantine, and we are offering a hotel that's being paid by a third party provider here in town, free of charge to them, and then they are advised to go to that hotel. I will say not everybody chooses to go to the hotel, but some people do.
PAUL: OK, so I know you told local media your office is in constant communication with the Biden administration and with federal representatives. What kind of help are they giving you? And what is your most urgent need?
MENDEZ: Sure. At this point our most urgent need really is just to ensure that we're not overwhelmed, to have that conversation with the federal government. They've been very receptive and very good at listening to our concerns. Initially our concern was just not getting overwhelmed. We have very limited staff, very limited resources here in Brownsville. And they've been extremely cooperative in that regard. We've not been overwhelmed. It doesn't look like we're going to be overwhelmed at this point. But, really, now what we're looking at is just making sure we have that communication, that we continue to work with the administration on policy and letting them know what's happening on the ground and what we're seeing, so that they can be better prepared to handle this going forward.
PAUL: So Representative Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, who represents a border district, said this to "Politico," "There's no question Donald Trump's strategy was inhumane, brutal, and un-American. But what we're doing now is also a failure." I know you said things are going pretty well in Brownsville. Local media was reporting an average of about 150 migrants a day that are coming into the bus station, and last Sunday there was 234 people. At what point do you reach overcapacity and become overwhelmed and can't handle that? And do you agree that this, as Representative Gonzalez said, is in a sense, a failure?
MENDEZ: I don't think it's a failure at this point. When you have the opportunity to start putting families back together that were separated by the Trump administration, I think that's a very positive thing. Where the failures lie is in these other governments, these other countries, Central America, South America, that's where the real crisis is happening. And we have a humanitarian crisis, there's a lot of crime, a very large drug trade. And I'm happy, actually, that the administration is starting to focus on trying to address the issues in those countries and trying to process a lot of these people there. But we're not there yet.
So, at this point I don't see any failures yet. The failures I see, like I said, are in other countries, and partially due to some of the former administration's policies. But at this point, if you ask me when will we be overwhelmed, I've said consistently there's really two things that will really concern me. One of them is if we see the numbers start increasing probably to where they're double what they are now. And then if we start to see a positivity rate on the COVID side, higher than, let's say, 10 percent. We're still in the six percent, seven percent range, when it comes to positivity rates. And then on the numbers, we have seen the numbers increase, which is concerning, but we're still not where we're going to be overwhelmed. We probably still have about double our capacity, pretty close to that.
PAUL: Mayor Trey Mendez, I'm glad that you have a handle on what's happening down there in your area. Thank you so much for taking time for us today.
MENDEZ: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: We are seeing a violent and deadly crackdown on pro- democracy protesters in Myanmar. A security officer started shooting into a crowd that killed more than 90 people. Now the U.S. embassy is weighing in. We've got the very latest for you next.
BLACKWELL: The U.S. embassy in Myanmar is now condemning what it calls the murdering of unarmed civilians, including children. That condemnation comes after Myanmar's security forces reportedly started shooting into crowds of democracy protesters and killed what an independent news outlet reports was more than 90 people.
PAUL: This is part of the crackdown on dissent following a military coup that removed the country's elected leader back in early February. CNN's Ivan Watson is following this with us.
BLACKWELL: He joins from Hong Kong. Ivan, what are you learning?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, today was supposed to be Armed Forces Day, a holiday to celebrate the Myanmar military. Instead, it's become a bloodbath. We have reports from independent media, more than 90 people killed in 40 different cities and towns across the country, as demonstrators tried to come out against the military coup of February 1st that swept the civilian-elected government from power and were hit hard by the security forces.
Now, the military, it still threw itself a parade in the capital, and the general who declared himself ruler of the country on February 1st, he gave himself a speech. He said that there were going to be elections sometime in the future. He denounced some of the officials that are still in detention from the former government, accused them of crimes like corruption. He called Russia a true friend. The only foreign delegation that we could figure out was present at the parade was the Russian delegation.
Meanwhile, demonstrators that I spoke with said that they planned to be out in the streets of their cities and towns in the morning, and that's where some of the violence took place. And it was pretty brutal. In addition to these scores of people killed and wounded, the U.S. embassy tweeted that shots were fired at the American center down the road from the U.S. embassy. The embassy issued an additional statement saying, quote, "security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect. This bloodshed is horrifying." And if you want some more horror, on military television the night
before, there was a warning to protesters that they could get shot in the head or in the back if they dared to go out onto the streets. Victor and Christi, I was on the phone with a neighborhood protest leader last night, and while he was describing to me the situation, I could hear people banging pots and pans in his neighborhood at 8:00 p.m. as they've done every night for nearly two months, and then chanting anti-military slogans. He said one of his big challenges now is trying to keep hot heads from starting to carry out attacks against the military, to try to keep this protest movement unified. They've managed to paralyze the economy by simply not going to work for the past two months. Victor and Christi?
PAUL: Ivan Watson, thank you so much for the update.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause, even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the tailors and all of their armies come marching into this place, somebody will listen to me. Somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: That famous scene from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," that is the myth of the Senate filibuster. You speak until you collapse for that lost righteous cause. But over the last several years the last- ditch effort to stop legislation in the Senate has become less grueling for senators, and therefore a lot more common. Proponents of the 60-vote threshold to stop filibusters that rarely actually happen, argue it encourages cooperation and bipartisanship.
But our next guest writes, "As discussion of reforming the filibuster has picked up, a myth has sprouted up alongside it. This myth says the filibuster is the primary key to bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate. It's time to bust that myth. I know firsthand how bipartisanship actually works in the Senate, and I can attest that the filibuster is not an essential ingredient to bipartisanship."
Joining me now is former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, president of the American Constitution Society. He partnered with Senator John McCain for that famously bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. Senator, thank you so much for your time this morning, and I want to start where you started in your piece for "Politico," that it's not an essential agreement for bipartisanship. You've heard so many people make that argument. Make the counter.
RUSS FEINGOLD, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Good morning. This is really an important moment. We at the American Constitution Society want to make it very clear to everybody that this idea of the filibuster isn't in the Constitution, it isn't even specifically mentioned in the Senate rules, and of course when you see the image of Jimmy Stewart fighting against corruption on the floor of the Senate like that until he collapses, you sort of fall in love with the filibuster.
When you look at what's really happening with the filibuster over the last 30 or 40 years, including the use of the filibuster to prevent civil rights and voting rights legislation, you have to examine it again. And what's even worse, as you've pointed out, it's gotten to the point where senators don't have to really exert any energy at all. They just have to say, well, we're going to filibuster.
And the result is that instead of it promoting bipartisanship, this is one of the keys to partisanship, because people aren't using it for the courageous moment or to stand up for the genocide treaty or, as Senator Reid did in Nevada, to stand up against a nuclear depository being put in his state. It's being used for nothing but partisanship and, in this case, to destroy the critical need to do something about voting rights in this country. So I think and we think at the American Constitution Society we ought to look at at least reforms to the filibuster, or exceptions, to allow something like new voting rights legislation to be passed.
BLACKWELL: So what reforms do you support? And which are plausible that could get through when you have senators, including Jeanne Shaheen, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, who are not supportive of getting rid of the filibuster, and even the president, who is, I guess, getting closer to reforms, what do you think would work?
FEINGOLD: I think there are a lot of ways this could be done. We don't support specific changes in the Senate rules.
But you can make an exception for voting rights because it's so foundational to our democracy. You already have a budget act where a number of things are done through what's called budget reconciliation. That's just a majority vote. A lot of aspects of trade agreements are exceptions to this. So it is possible to make an exception. You also can eliminate the filibuster temporarily. You can do it for a few months if you want and bring it back in.
So it isn't a choice of between completely eliminating it or not doing anything about it. There can be modifications to deal with a crisis. And if this Georgia situation, voting rights situation, isn't a crisis for our democracy, I don't know what is. The word Jim Crow does fit here. This is an attack on everything. And I'll tell you something, protecting voting rights is a lot more important to our democracy than somehow protecting the filibuster in its current form.
BLACKWELL: You wrote that you didn't think that McCain-Feingold could pass today. Is that because of the use of the filibuster? Because I went back and matched a 1997 floor speech, and the filibuster was being invoked already at that point. Or is it because of the climate, where bipartisanship, where getting five votes from the other party is pie in the sky?
FEINGOLD: Yes, it's because partisanship has gotten so much worse. Look, It took us eight years even in those days when McCain and I started this whole bill on a bipartisan basis. And then we would bring in one more Republican and we bring in another Democrat. We had a rule, you had to match it up. We called it animals go two by two, and we couldn't have an imbalance. So the thing that slowed us down was the fact that we needed to get 60
votes, but we accepted that. The problem now is that people get punished if they cooperate with the other side. There were Republican senators that were defeated, good people like Richard Lugar who were defeated because they actually cooperated with the other side. That's a huge change, and the partisanship of the filibuster contributes to that. So something has to give.
BLACKWELL: Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, thank you for your time, this morning, sir.
FEINGOLD: Thank you.
PAUL: So the investigation into the deadly rampage in Boulder, Colorado, is intensifying. What authorities are saying now about how the suspect got the gun he used, and why he could face more charges.
PAUL: In Colorado, funerals for the victims of the mass shooting at a Boulder grocery store will begin next week.
BLACKWELL: Police are still trying to figure out the motive for the shooting that left 10 people dead, but they're discovering more about the weapon used that he attacked, along with where and when it was purchased. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Boulder. Shimon, what have they learned?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Simply put, he walked into a gun shop not far from this location, about 30 minutes or so, in Arvada, a town he is familiar with because he lived in that town, and just simply bought the weapon after passing a background check.
As we've reported and police have confirmed, he used an AR-556 during the shooting. The police yesterday said that there was significant gunfire that police who entered the grocery store, that they interacted with him, they shot at him, he shot back at them, and there was a significant amount of gunfire. They also said that there was a second weapon he had, a 9-millimeter. That they don't believe he used.
I spoke to a witness here yesterday, someone who works at the grocery store who was outside at the time of the shooting, and she described seeing him as he entered the grocery store. She said that he was crouching, using tactical moves, almost like as if he knew what he was doing. She said that the way he was shooting the weapon, he was aiming to kill people. We know that 10 people have died. And what is usually very rare in these kinds of mass shootings, sometimes, usually you get wounded survivors. There were no wounded survivors in this instance, which indicates to investigators that this guy was on a mission. He was on a mission to kill people.
PAUL: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: Coming up, crews are working to free that massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal. Billions of dollars in goods are backed up behind it. We have a live report from Egypt.
PAUL: Egyptian authorities say this afternoon they're going to make another attempt to dislodge that massive ship blocking the Suez Canal, and a team of U.S. Navy experts are on hand to assist with moving the vessel that has been stuck for five days now.
BLACKWELL: This blockage is starting to affect shipments of consumer goods from Asia headed to the U.S., agricultural products headed in the other direction. Hundreds of ships carrying billions of dollars' worth of cargo are at a standstill in the canal, and the longer this goes on, that means the highest prices could be for you.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is live in Suez, Egypt, near where the ship is grounded. Ben, how long are they expecting it could take to move this thing?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're being very cautious, Victor, about giving a precise time or even a rough time of when they think this job will be done. We just got out of a press conference with the chairman of the Suez Canal authority who says they have made progress, that the propellers and the rudders of the ship have been freed. He did, interestingly enough, say that even though on last Tuesday when the ship got stuck, that there were high winds and a sandstorm, he didn't rule out the possibility that there was human or technical error involved.
Now, at the moment they're focusing on dredging and, if that doesn't work, it's going to become much more complicated because they're going to have to remove the containers from this ship. And that can only be done with some heavy cranes. There are no heavy cranes in Egypt, so they'll have to be brought in from abroad. And keep in mind, there are 18,300 containers on that ship, and, therefore, removing them is going to take an awful lot of time, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Wow. Ben Wedeman there in Suez, Egypt, just showing us, the pictures are remarkable, how high those containers are stacked. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.
PAUL: Thank you, Ben.
And thank you so much for spending some time with us this morning. We hope you make good memories today.
BLACKWELL: Much more ahead in the next hour of CNN's newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up after the break.