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San Jose Mass Shooting Investigation; COVID's Origins; Republicans Set to Block Bipartisan Insurrection Commission; President Biden in Ohio. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 15:00   ET


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one, no one no one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty, live below the poverty level.


And we ought to pass to protect the right to organize, the PRO Act, supported by union workers.

Look, let me close with this.


BIDEN: You know, it's an overused phrase these days, but it's still accurate.

We're at an inflection point in American history. It happens every several generations. We have a chance to seize the economic momentum of the first months of my administration, not just to build back, but to build back better.

And, this time, we're going to deal everyone in, everyone who has been left out, and breathe new life into the middle class and new hope into those struggling to break into the middle class. We have a chance to make investments that Moody's, not a liberal think tank, Wall Street, Moody's, says my plan will increase the size of our economy by $4.5 trillion, Moody's, $4.5 trillion over the next decade and create well over 16 million new good-paying jobs.

If we make these investments now, in 50 years, people are going to look back, and not even that long. Your children and grandchildren are going to look back and say, this was the moment when America won the future, won the future.

Folks, I have said it 1,000 times. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. There's not a single thing America can't do when we do it together, never. We're the only country in the world that, when we set our mind to something, that never, ever, ever failed.

This is an opportunity for the wealthy to stay wealthy, the poor to have a shot at the middle class, and the middle class able to breathe more easily. That's what this is about, but this time bring everybody along, everybody. Thank you, and God bless you, and may God protect our troops. Thank



BIDEN: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: All right, we have been listening to President Biden there in Cleveland, Ohio, talking about the economy. He says America is back. He is talking about jobs. He is talking about infrastructure. He is talking about how to raise up the middle and lower classes.

It seemed, Victor, as we listened to him, this was more than a policy speech. This was sort of a philosophy speech of his, talking about how the values that his parents and grandmother imbued had in him.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, he often adds in these folksy references to his childhood.

There are some common refrains. But I think what I took away from this was the large section dedicated to taxes and tax policy, because that still is the point of contention with the GOP senators. They brought up their offer today, trying to get closer with the top-line number.

And, as we bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly -- he's in Cleveland -- Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst as well.

Phil, to you first.

They're getting closer with the top-line number. But that pay-for, as we heard from the president, he hit it over and over again, that's what I think he was selling today. What did you hear?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I don't think there is any question about it.

I think Alisyn's right too. This was the theory of the case speech, right? This wasn't, I want to go piece by piece of the $4 trillion in proposals that I have laid out. He wants to tell the story, give the narrative as to why he has put those proposals on the table, particularly, guys, in the wake of the last several weeks.

The administration has been focused on foreign policy issues, particularly in the Middle East, has taken some negative economic data that has kind of bolstered Republican criticism of these proposals that are now on the table, and the president trying to kind of wrest the narrative back and lay out why exactly he's doing this.

Now, of course, Victor, you hit at the key point. There is a very intense bipartisan negotiation going on right now about one piece of that $4 trillion proposal, his infrastructure plan, the Republican counterproposal that was put on the table today, more than $900 billion total, about $257 billion in new money. So, they're still getting closer on the top line. But I think you hit

at a key point here. The president repeatedly talks about the rationale for why he wants to finance his proposals on the infrastructure side with corporate tax increases, on the Families Plan side with individual tax increases on the wealthy.

He wants to do that. He's not walking away from those tax increases, like Republicans want him to. Until they figure out a way to kind of bridge the gap on the pay-fors, on how to pay for those proposals, it's hard to see how they're going to be able to figure out a pathway forward, but still talking and still trading proposals, guys.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, Margaret, the GOP counterproposal for the infrastructure is $928 billion. The president's first offer, what he wanted was $1.7 trillion, but there were backroom deals that maybe he would be open to less.


It seems like this is a divide they should be able to reach. It seems like they could meet somewhere in the middle. Or am I being hopelessly naive?


MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Alisyn, of course, you're never hopelessly naive.

But I actually think the deal is quite farther apart than it seems. And that's because, even though they're inching closer to $1 trillion, most of that money is not actually new money. The Republican counteroffer is saying, let's take that from unspent COVID money. And Biden is saying that's it's just unspent because it hasn't been spent yet.

That's money for rural hospitals, right? That's money for small businesses and restaurants and that sort of thing. You have quite a large divide. And then there's another camp inside the Republican Party that is saying, you know what, it's too hard to figure out how to raise taxes. Maybe we should just do more deficit spending.

So, Biden is really coming up on a choice, which is, can he get enough of a bipartisan deal from enough Republicans for it to be worthwhile, or does he have the support inside his own party, particularly from senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to just break with Republicans and say, you're not giving me enough, I'm going to go on my own?

And it's that second case that we're hearing much more about today. We're going to see a full budget proposal come out officially tomorrow, but we have seen some pretty substantial leaks about it in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" today. We know that looks like $6 trillion. It looks like years and years, a full two terms, if he were reelected, of deficit spending, plus tax increases, to pay for the sort of infrastructure and modernization of America. It's hard to see how you get from less than trillion on the Republican side to what he's going to be talking about in this budget tomorrow, and what he talked about in the speech today, this very populist speech, lines like, this time, we're going to deal everyone in, right, or take back some of that 1 percent money.

That's not real -- that's not really the kind of thing that you say when you're trying to cut a scaled-back deal with Republicans that protects corporations from tax increases.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's not just the how, Phil, of how do you pay for it. It's the what and the definition of infrastructure as it gets to that question of dealing everybody in.

This was the week when, if there was going to be some bipartisanship, we would see it. Where's this going?

MATTINGLY: Look, it's a great question.

The negotiations are going to continue, right? The president put out a Memorial Day deadline. It has been made very clear that he's at least seen enough progress to keep conversations going for another week. But you hit at a really key point, Victor. There are so many cross-cutting dynamics in the actual negotiations right now, from where the White House sits, from where Republicans sits -- if you're -- sit.

If you're the White House, you -- the president has made clear he's willing to strike a scaled-back deal because he thinks bipartisanship is important. He's told advisers he believes it'd be good for the country to see that.

But the risk of striking a bipartisan deal, where you cast aside some of those key elements that Republicans have made clear they don't view as infrastructure, when you cast aside things like the care economy piece, more than $400 million for eldercare, for people with disabilities, there's a very real possibility that you don't get it later on.

I think some people just assume, well, OK, you do something with Republicans, and then you just do everything else Democrat-only through budget rules later on. That's not a given.

And so all of these dynamics are playing out right now with a compressed timetable. Everybody's trying to figure out, how do we get this done before we get into an election year? If we need to get it done before we get into an election year, when does that mean we need to actually start moving on something?

The answer to the latter question is very, very soon. So, talks will continue. Don't expect them to go much longer than a week. The president, though, making clear he still wants to have more discussions directly with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican in the group that put the counterproposal out today.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they're getting closer to one another, but still very far apart. Phil Mattingly, Margaret Talev, thank you both.

Now to Capitol Hill, where the Senate is expected to vote on an independent commission to investigate the deadly insurrection. And this may seem like an obvious opportunity for bipartisanship. And that's how it started, given the attack that resulted in five deaths, the injuries to 160 Capitol Police officers.

Senate Republicans, most of them, are expected to work to block this bill.

CAMEROTA: One of the lives lost was Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. And his mother met with GOP senators this morning and made an emotional, personal appeal for them to support this bill.


GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF BRIAN SICKNICK: They listen very well. They do.

And -- but at -- the bottom line is, we don't know.

QUESTION: What are you hoping will be on their minds when they vote on this commission?

SICKNICK: The country. They're supposed to uphold the Constitution. And, right now, I don't think they're doing it.


BLACKWELL: The country, she says.

Let's go now to CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju there on Capitol Hill.

Timing, Manu, and the count. How many Republicans will side with Democrats to move forward with this commission?



That is what Republican leaders are telling me this afternoon. They are confident that they will not allow this bill to go forward. It's going to be a procedural vote to open debate. And they need 60 votes to go ahead. This is a 50/50 Senate. That means 10 Republicans would need to break ranks.

But the expectation right now is that anywhere from five to seven may break ranks, and probably maybe six of those seven or were ones who voted to convict Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

Another senator, Rob Portman, who didn't vote to convict Donald Trump, told me that he is probably going to vote to advance it. But getting to 10 seems very, very, very unlikely, including -- that was the assessment from the top Republican vote-counter, John Thune, who told me about an hour ago, he just says there is no path to 60 votes at the moment.

The argument that they have been making privately, Mitch McConnell has, as well as other Republican leaders, that their concern is this could become a political issue, hurting them in the midterm elections come 2022. They'd rather be done with talking about January 6, and focus instead on the economic agenda of the Biden administration.

And that argument has really taken hold, including from one Republican senator, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who's actually leading the infrastructure talks. She told me, though, she will vote no today because of her concern that this is all becoming a political issue, in her words.

Now, there are questions about whether Brian Sicknick's mother, who has been meeting with these Republican senators, whether it will change any minds. But, at the moment, it does not seem to be the case. Senator Tim Scott, who did meet with Sicknick's mother, the late officer's other, came out afterwards and said the commission really was not a focus of their discussion.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Interestingly enough, the commission was a part of the topic, but what they -- what they said they wanted to me was more of understanding what happened with or without a commission.


RAJU: So, other Republicans made clear that, despite their meeting with -- some of them are going to vote no regardless, including Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said that he will try to figure out other ways to get to the answers about what happened on January 6, but would vote no today.

So, despite this late lobbying push, the lobbying of Republican leaders more -- having more of an effect on Republicans who want to -- want this issue to essentially go away and will vote this afternoon. We will see. The time has not been set yet. But we do still expect that vote to happen today, and it will fail -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu Raju, thank you very much for the reporting from Capitol Hill.

OK, now to the origin of COVID-19. President Biden has given the intelligence community 90 days to report their findings. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement today, saying the intelligence community does not know how COVID-19 originated and repeated two working theories, writing, in part: "Either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident," but reiterated it is not clear at this point which theory proves true.

BLACKWELL: So, today, President Biden vowed that, when the findings come in, the public will know. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Will you pledge to release the report in full after 90 days?

BIDEN: Yes, that's -- unless there's something I'm not aware of.


BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee.

Dr. Offit, what does an investigation that has international confidence look like?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, I think what would China need to do is open themselves up to a team of investigators who are going to look at the early origins of this virus, meaning look at if any of the laboratories there were working on bat coronavirus to look at the sequences of those strains, to look very carefully at the wet markets in terms of people who worked in the wet markets or people who ate, for example, fried bats or drank bat soup or drank bat tea or people who cleaned out the wet markets.

I'd like to say this. So, I think, far and away, the most likely is either direct or indirect direct contact with a bat, either through those wet markets or otherwise. Very, very, very unlikely, I think, is that it was a lab accident, meaning that someone was working in a lab with a bat coronavirus and then, due to either poor technique or poor isolation of that virus, got infected.

And then I think the...


CAMEROTA: But why do you think that?

But, Dr. Offit, let me just interrupt you for one second. Why do you think that, I mean, now that we know from the intel community that several researchers at that Wuhan lab got sick with COVID-like symptoms two months before any of the rest of us knew about the symptoms or what COVID-19 was?

I mean, doesn't that change your thinking about the origin?

OFFIT: It doesn't.

First of all, we need to know what exactly they were sick with. We still don't really know for sure that it was COVID-19 that they -- that was that infection.

Secondly, you really -- you really have to mess up badly in a laboratory to get infected with a virus you're working with.

I can think of really one example in the late 1970s when, in Birmingham, England, there was a lab accident that resulted in a smallpox death actually in that city.


But you can really count on pretty much one finger how often this happens.

And I think then the third possibility -- and this is brought up all the time also -- is that there was an intentional manipulation by the laboratory worker to make this virus more likely to be able to replicate in people, which has this kind of evil scientific genius, kind of Lex Luthor, Marvel Comics appeal, but I think that the chances of that are also about zero.

So, I do think, when we look closely at this, we're going to find out what we normally find out with these things...


OFFIT: ... which is that this was a bat virus that ultimately introduced itself into the human population.

I mean, flu is a bird virus that ultimately mutated to be able to infect humans. Human immunodeficiency virus is a simian virus that ultimately mutated to be able to infect people. And I think that's what's going to happen here.

BLACKWELL: But, Dr. Offit, you started this by saying that China needs to open up and tell essentially the world what happened.

But why would they do it now, with the 90-day deadline that the president has given the intelligence community, when they haven't done it over the last 16 months?

OFFIT: Don't know. I mean, I'm not -- I don't have any expertise in that area.

But they certainly -- they certainly should do it. I mean, I think they likely are innocent here, in terms of -- in terms of the creation of this strand. I think where they're guilty is that we shouldn't have had to have depended on a whistle-blower in Wuhan to tell us that there was a virus that was killing people in that city. That shouldn't happen.

And we do need to find out the origins of this virus. This is now -- we are currently experiencing the third pandemic strain in the last 20 years. I think it's -- we can assume there will be another pandemic strain, and we need to be able to figure out its origins and how to quickly get on top of it.

So, they need to open up. I agree. Why they don't open up, I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Well, they don't seem inclined to do -- to be transparent, I mean, based -- thus far.

And so do you think that we will know something definitive in 90 days? OFFIT: It's a short timeline. I think it's possible.

I do think, if you can get to those early sequences, you can find this out. That's how we found out that HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, arose through simian immunodeficiency virus, probably when a hunter killed a champ in Cameroon in the 1930s.

I mean, you can figure that out, although it usually takes a while to figure those things out. Thirty -- or at least 90 days is a fairly short period. But they should open themselves up and let us sequence all those -- all the early viruses that we have and look at those people who were hospitalized and see, if they were infected and what was the nature of the strains that infected them.

You're right.

BLACKWELL: Well, we -- they haven't done it yet. And the president has given the intelligence community 90 days. We will see if it happens.

Dr. Paul Offit, thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Doc.

OFFIT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so moments ago, the family of Ronald Greene met with the district attorney about possible charges against police officers. Greene, you will remember, died after being kicked and beaten and Tased by police.

It was a drastically different version of events than the officers put in their official report. So, we will take you live to Baton Rouge with the latest.

BLACKWELL: But first: San Jose California, mourning the loss of nine public transit employees in that mass shooting.

The victims' co-workers, they are now talking about their friends, their colleagues, and honoring their memories.


EVELYNN TRAN, VTA GENERAL COUNSEL: We get up every morning safe in the belief that, when we go to work, that we would come home to our family and our loved ones.

That did not happen for Abdolvahab, Adrian, Alex, Jose, Lars, Michael, Paul, Taptejdeep, and Timothy.



[15:23:10] CAMEROTA: We're hearing for the first time from the co-workers of the nine victims killed in Wednesday's mass shooting in San Jose, California, nine people who went to work yesterday expecting to return home to their families.

They will be honored later this evening during a vigil at City Hall.


NAUNIHAL SINGH, SUPERINTENDENT, VTA LIGHT RAIL YARD: When I went home at 7:00 p.m. last night, I saw my family running towards the car when I parked.

When they hugged me, they were happy that I was able to make home. But I was sad inside that some of my family members could not feel the wound that I was able to feel yesterday. That's going to be missed forever.


CAMEROTA: Just devastating, what's happened.

Joining us now is Dave Cortese. He's the state senator who represents that district. He also is on the -- or was on the Valley Transportation Authority Board. And Cindy Chavez, a Santa Clara County supervisor.

Folks, thanks so much for joining us. I'm so sorry about what's happening in your community and the grief that everybody there is feeling.

Dave, I just want to start with you. When we spoke to you yesterday in just the hours right after this, I know you were quite concerned about your friends and colleagues. You, in fact, were -- had been trying to reach one of them, the head of the union. And I know that his name's John Courtney. And he survived. Eventually, I guess you were able to make contact.

Did you lose people who were close to?

STATE SEN. DAVE CORTESE (D-CA): No, in a sense -- and I know this is probably the same for Supervisor Chavez. I served with her side by side for a number of years.

It feels like we lost family in each and every case. And I don't say that just in some sort of esoteric way. These are people who we gave awards to for...


CORTESE: Excuse me.

People that we gave awards to for employee of the month, people that we gave awards to for a number of things.

[15:25:03] In local government, you're in direct contact with the personnel and the employees and workers who serve for many years like this.

So, they sit down with you. They bargain with you. They talk to you about issues directly.



CORTESE: So, yes, it's -- John Courtney is one of those people.


CORTESE: I was relieved when he was one of the folks of the 40 that were there that...




Senator, I can hear that the phone tree is lighting up, where people are still trying to all connect and contact each other.

Ms. Chavez, tell us your experience of yesterday and what was lost.

CINDY CHAVEZ, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, SUPERVISOR: Well, first of all, I know our hearts are broken really across the nation, as we are victims, like so many other places have been of these mass shootings.

And I think what was most profound, both yesterday in meeting with the families and colleagues of so many, was just the real heartbreak and the shock of something like this happening in our community.


Senator, is there anything that could have been done differently to stop the tragedy from yesterday?

CORTESE: You know what? We heard our district attorney in our county, Jeff Rosen, speak very pointedly yesterday about the red flag laws and the fact that we need to advance those laws in California.

Those are -- those are fairly recent laws, which essentially encourage co-workers, family members, and others to come forward when they see a pattern of mental instability that may lead to something like this.

And it wasn't, unfortunately -- and, sadly, it was predictable that, once we learned a little bit more about the perpetrator in this case, that there would be some mental instability in his past.

I mean, anybody who turns a weapon on themselves, I think, by definition, is suffering a mental health crisis. And the red flag laws haven't really been utilized to the extent they could.

We respect privacy. We have (AUDIO GAP) those who are mentally ill. We're doing everything in our state, and even in that particular county, to use crisis intervention to get to people early. But we have got a long way to go. And people like me, like my colleagues in the Senate, like Supervisor Chavez, I know, are going to work very, very hard to try to take that kind of work to the next level, so we're catching these mental health issues early on.

Somebody who has that sort of instability just can't be walking around with a gun.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we have to find a way to be proactive, to be able to spot it before it happens. And then we invariably find out, oh, there were all sorts of signs.

And so, Supervisor Chavez, I know that you say that there had been an active shooting training. I mean, this is what, of course, are all of our lives have come to, is that we have to engage in these because we -- any of us could be victims at any time.

But you do credit that with saving lives.

CHAVEZ: Yes, I do, and also that the sheriffs were able to get on site so quickly, in part because of their proximity, that the sheriff's headquarters is right next to the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard, where this occurred.

And they were so quick, they were there so fast that they heard shooting when they got on scene. The perpetrator actually took his own life when two sheriffs came into view of him.

And so I do think that the speed of the response and the training saved lives.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, thank God that the authorities were right next door, basically, or it could even have been worse.

Well, Senator Dave Cortese and Supervisor Cindy Chavez, thank you both very much. Again, our thoughts are with your community.

CORTESE: Thank you.

CHAVEZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, breaking news in the death of Ronald Greene two years after his death.

Greene's family has met with the district attorney to discuss potential charges against police.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years is too long, but never too late for justice.