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Senate Republicans Kill Bipartisan January 6 Commission; Microsoft Says, Russia Hackers Strike Again, Target U.S. Government Agencies; New York Times Reports, Intel Officials Said to have Unexamined Evidence of COVID Origins. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 28, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Extremist groups.
Just ahead, more of our breaking news this hour, Senate Republicans vote down the January 6th commission. Our Ana Cabrera picks up that coverage right now. Have a great, safe Memorial Day weekend.
ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, and thanks for being with me on this Friday, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
The push for truth did not prevail. Senate Republicans just blocked a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol attack. Just six republicans voted in favor of this effort to get the real answers on what happened on that dark day, just six.
Keep in mind, Seven Republican senators voted to convict Donald Trump for inciting that insurrection. But, apparently, an even smaller number want to get answers about that attack on American democracy.
Here is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about January 6th. The Republican minority just prevented the Senate from even debating the bill.
Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they're afraid of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's get you right to the Hill with CNN's Ryan Nobles. Ryan, the final vote was 54-35. How is it that the 35 win?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does probably make a lot of people watching at home scratch their heads that the overwhelming majority of senators voted to move this commission forward, but it's just not enough. And that's the way the United States Senate works because it requires a supermajority if the minority party intends to filibuster something, and that's exactly what we saw here today, this vote falling short, only 54 voting yes.
And it did include a collection of Republicans, six Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting yes, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Now, there was another senator, Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, I should say, who was not here today. He was among a collection of Republicans that just didn't vote at all. Now, Toomey did release a statement this afternoon saying that he would have voted yes had he been in attendance but he had a family commitment. But pointing out that had he been here, it wouldn't have mattered because this collection of Republicans that we are showing you here that were not here to vote would have -- aside from Toomey, all voted no. And it would have required ten Republicans to push the bill forward.
So, Ana, there is a lot of frustration among Democrats right now, some suggesting that this is another example of why they need to blow up the filibuster because it's just so difficult to get anything accomplished. And this was something that just a couple of weeks ago, Ana, both Republicans and Democrats were calling for. Democrats made a number of concessions to Republicans to get them on board, it just wasn't enough.
CABRERA: So what do you think this means, Ryan, for those six Republicans who voted in favor of the commission? Is this fight within the GOP over?
NOBLES: You know, it's hard to forecast, Ana, because among this group, you have a number of Republicans that just won reelection, so they're not going to be in a position where they're going to be forced to face voters in the near future. There's also some that have just decided not to run for reelection, so they're also not going to face the wrath of Trump supporters in an election.
But I want to just read for you a bit of what Bill Cassidy, the senator of Louisiana said, after this vote. He put out a statement and he said, quote, the investigations will happen with or without Republicans. To ensure that investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on the facts, Republicans need to be involved.
And this kind of gets to the point of what you're talking about here, Ana, that Republicans, to a certain extent, are hurting themselves by not allowing this commission to go forward, because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put just out a statement saying that Democrats are not giving up on this, that they are going to don't continue to seek the truth. Instead of this being an independent bipartisan commission, we're now likely looking at a partisan commission run by Democrats where they'll get to call the shots, and so, therefore, that's going to mean a good portion of Americans are going to question the final outcome.
CABRERA: That's unfortunate. Ryan Nobles, thank you for your reporting.
Republicans apparently didn't see the need to investigate this riot. But here are the facts. No, January 6th was not a normal tourist visit, as Georgia Republican Lawmakers Andrew Clyde falsely claims. He knows this. He knows better because we have images of him from that very day helping to barricade the doors of the House gallery to keep out the violent mob.
No, January 6th was not normal. It was the single worst attack on our nation's Capitol since the war of 1812. The January 6th attack left five people dead. It left more than 140 others injured.
An attack that said lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence running for their lives, an attack carried out largely by Trump supporters and encouraged by Trump and his allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Let's have trial by combat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: And it's important to remember that this was all because they did not like the result of a free and fair election that was not impacted by widespread voter fraud, no facts, no evidence supporting otherwise, nothing. And that has been backed up by multiple recounts and audits and court rulings, and yet even today 56 percent of Republicans believe the election was rigged. Why? Because of lies. The mob was fed lies.
And police officers were savagely beaten, sprayed with chemicals, dragged down concrete steps, trampled, hit with fire extinguishers, crushed with riot shields and attacked with stun guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, DEFENDED THE CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: Yes, I mean, I experienced the most brutal, savage, hand-to-hand combat of my entire life, let alone my policing career, which spans almost two decades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died suffering two strokes on the day after he confronted the mob. Lawmakers came together to celebrate Officer Sicknick's sacrifice by giving him the rare distinction of lying in honor in the Capitol that he bravely defended.
Now, Officer Sicknick's mother says the lawmaker standing in the way of that bipartisan commission are failing her son and the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF FALLEN U.S. CAPITOL OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: This was to uphold Constitution. And right now I don't think they're doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Chief, thanks for being with us.
What is your message to Republicans who just voted against this commission?
TERRANCE GAINER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Ana, I, like a lot of others, are disappointed in this. But, ironically, earlier this morning, I was at a V.A. clinic on the south side of Chicago. And in the lobby, there's a photo of Abraham Lincoln with the words, to care for those who borne the battle. I think today's vote showed that they do not care for those who borne the battle and to help prevent something like that from happening again. It needs a comprehensive, real investigation, not these stove pipe things that are going on in multiple branches of the government.
This is not a good moment for our Congress and it's certainly not what we expected. I think they've let the Capitol Police and others down severely.
CABRERA: Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with the mother of fallen Police Officer Brian Sicknick yesterday, who then voted no today, he released a statement suggesting the officers that he also met with, including Officer Fanone, who we just played a clip of, that they testified before the Senate Rules Committee. Graham saying this, I will suggest that the testimony of the two officers and others be captured to dispel any notion that what happened on January 6th was anything other than a violent, vicious attack on the Capitol.
Is a committee hearing enough?
GAINER: No, absolutely, it is not, and Senator Graham ought to know better. So many of the members of that Senate are either lawyers, litigators, former prosecutors, even some U.S. attorneys. They know that you have to have full-time investigation, not just ask questions where there's so much rancor in those very committee hearings.
So, some of the words that are being said now portray them as sunshine soldiers, as they are anything else. And I don't think the men and women of the Capitol Police need the fair weather friends that so many of these members are talking about now. We need a detailed, honest investigation. And it's very difficult to do if it's not independent with professional people doing this full-time.
CABRERA: So, should Democrats move forward with their own investigation?
Oh, no, I think we might have got disconnected from the chief there. Again, our thanks to Chief Terrance Gainer, he's the former U.S. Capitol Police chief. Let me talk about this other big story today, this breaking news, as the Russian hackers behind one of the worst data breaches to ever hit the U.S. government have struck again. And Microsoft believes the hackers are part of the same group involved in the SolarWinds hack last year.
This time, though, they have hit 150 government agencies, think tanks and other organizations, most of which are here in the U.S., and this latest hack comes after the Biden administration punished Russia for the earlier attack with sanctions and expelled personnel and it's weeks before President Biden is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CNN's Matthew Chance joins us live from Moscow.
Matthew, what is Russia saying?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, whenever Russia, Ana, is confronted with these kinds of allegations, you get a standard response, and it's been no different this time. We spoke to the Kremlin spokesperson earlier on Today and put these allegations to him that Russia was once again behind a significant hack in the United States.
And he threw all sorts of questions back at us saying, look, we don't know where this comes from, we don't know what evidence Microsoft have, how they've linked Russia to this, and, anyway, it's not going to -- and I'm paraphrasing him here, it's not going to have an impact on the meeting, the summit between President Biden and President Putin, which is being planned in Geneva, Switzerland, next month.
But, as you mentioned, the timing of this is really significant, not just because of that summit that's upcoming in a couple of weeks from now, where there's a list as long as your arm, frankly, Ana, of issues between the two presidents, between the two countries that have to be discussed. This further adds to the list of fraught issues that are likely to be discussed at those face-to-face meetings in Switzerland.
But it also comes just a few weeks, maybe a month, after the United States, after President Biden imposed stringent sanctions on Russia for precisely this issue, the SolarWinds hack, which Microsoft says was carried out by the same hacking group backed by the SVR, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, as this latest hack. There were sanctions, there were expulsions of diplomats, there were sanctions against individuals as well, as well as economic sanctions, and it seems to make no difference whatsoever to the behavior of the Russian side. Ana?
CABRERA: Right. It almost seems like it's an escalation then in that regard. Thank you, Matthew Chance, for that update.
A trove of evidence, but will it give us an answer to this question? Did the coronavirus leak from a Chinese lab? A new report says officials still have a lot of intelligence already collected to analyze.
And an update to a story we brought to you this week, Southwest dropping the hammer on a passenger who knocked out a flight attendant's teeth.
CABRERA: The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 3.5 million lives worldwide. We still don't know where this virus came from exactly. But according to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials told the White House there is still a trove of unexamined evidence that could possibly help answer that question.
CNN White House Reporter Natasha Bertrand is following this for us. Natasha, what is this evidence?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the short answer, Ana, is that we don't know because officials actually declined to describe this intelligence. And what we do know though is that the signals intelligence that the U.S. Intelligence Community has been collecting over the last year or so on this question has not proven definitive one way or another on how this virus actually began, whether it began via animals and spread to humans or whether it was the result of a lab leak that was accidental.
So, what we're learning now is that the Intel Community is essentially redoubling its efforts and going over everything that it's already collected to make sure that it didn't miss anything. Because what our sources tell us is that a perennial challenge for the Intelligence Community is that they collect a lot more intelligence than analysts -- than they have analysts to actually analyze it.
So, what the Biden administration has tasked or what Biden White House has tasked the Intelligence Community to do now is to go back over everything with the help of the national labs, which have a very large capacity for number crunching, for data crunching, these computers that could really help the Intelligence Community speed up and redouble its efforts and see if there was anything that they missed.
Of course, with also the help from the five I's, which are intelligence partnerships around the world that the United States has, that could further this investigation and help the United States and the world, frankly, answer this question of how this pandemic started because, of course, it is a very important question to answer if we're going to try to prevent yet another pandemic from beginning.
CABRERA: And, of course, it was this week, the Biden administration gave the Intel Community just 90 days to report back, trying to get to the bottom of this question and get an answer. Thank you, Natasha, for that reporting.
I want to bring in Dr. Saju Matthew, he's a primary care physician and a public health specialist. And in the middle of this investigation into COVID's origins, there are some other key headlines we need to get to that I want to go over with you today. A new Kaiser study shows four in ten parents say their child has or will receive a vaccine, four in ten. Your reaction to that figure, Doctor?
DR. SAJU MATTHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: I'm discouraged, Ana. I'd love to see it up in the 70th percentile. We've been dealing with this pandemic for a year, so, surely, adults know the effects of the virus.
And I was just talking to an E.R. doc in Chicago who said that once a week in his ICU, you've got 9 to 12-year-old healthy kids that are coming in with stroke-like symptoms and we think that these are kids who probably had COVID a few months ago, didn't know they had it, we're not testing kids as frequently as we're testing adults, and then a few months later, they throw a stroke to the brain.
So if you talk to that ICU doctor, COVID in kids is a real concern. Let's not forget that 3 million cases in the U.S. of COVID cases in children have been diagnosed. And also, over 200 kids have died. So I would love for our parents to realize this is a safe vaccine, kids are not immune, and we also have to get our kids back to a normal life by vaccinating them.
CABRERA: And I know you weren't trying to scare parents when you throw out that antidote from your doctor that you've been in contact with but that is scary when you hear that.
And it just goes to remind all of us that we've got to be careful, we've got to do what's best for our children.
The same study showed that the full FDA approval of one of these available COVID vaccines that are currently authorized for emergency use, full approval may motivate those who are vaccine hesitant to get vaccinated. How far off are we from full approval, do you think?
MATTHEW: I don't think we're too far off. The good news is we have plenty of data, we have real world studies to confirm that these vaccines are safe and effective. You know, really, there's just a semantic difference between emergency use. That means you need two months of safety data. And then to get full licensure, Ana, you need at least six months. It doesn't mean that the full licensure says that the vaccine is any more safe or less safe. We just have more data and more information.
Also, I think that this is really going to encourage schools, companies and even hospitals to actually require vaccination of their employees. So, really, a win-win situation for employers, but also for people that I call fence sitters who may not get the vaccine but now would consider getting it if it is fully licensed.
CABRERA: Right. And we know Pfizer has already begun that application process to get full approval. Travel is picking up, obviously, especially this weekend. It's a holiday weekend. We can expect to see, you know, even bigger crowds. What's your advice for people flying or hitting the road?
MNATTHEW: Listen, Ana, we've had such a difficult year. I remember being on your show last weekend talking about Memorial Day weekend then. It's a completely different world for us in the U.S. I think if you're fully vaccinated, go out there, hang out with other fully vaccinated people, and have a pre-pandemic, wonderful Memorial weekend.
If you're unvaccinated, nothing has changed, you still should mask, if you're on planes, congested areas, tight spaces. I think that everybody should mask up. And especially if you're vaccinated and you're hanging around with other people who are unvaccinated, bottom line is, if it's
in a close quarter, you should wear a mask, and just be safe, but outdoors, outdoors, outdoors, barbecues, the water is safe, the sun is safe, enjoy Memorial Day weekend, but still be on guard. This pandemic is not over.
CABRERA: If only mother nature would cooperate for those of us in the northeast this weekend, expecting rain and colder weather so we could get outside. That's what we all want to do, of course.
As we start to see things get back to normal here in the U.S., it's a different picture right now in Japan, which is seeing a major surge in cases, and, of course, the pressure to cancel the Olympics just weeks away now is mounting. A Japanese doctors union even raising fears this week about a possible, quote, Olympic variant if the games go on. What do you think?
MATTHEW: You know, I think that this could potentially be a super- spreader event. Yes, I said that on national T.V. And the reason that I say that is, number one, I'm really concerned that the Japanese government did not undertake a mass vaccination program to get at least 70 percent of their people vaccinated.
They've known for years that Tokyo was going to be the Olympic site. We're going to have over 200 countries and their delegations coming into one tight space, a bubble. They could be bringing in the variants. And as people interact with each other, athletes and other people, there is a potential for an in-grown Olympic strain that possibly could develop.
So, I'm definitely concerned, and I am not in favor of the Olympics moving forward for that reason.
CABRERA: In fact, they just extended. Japan just extended states of emergency in several places in that country this week.
Thank you, Dr. Saju Matthew, it's nice to see you, happy Friday, I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.
MATTHEW: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: Up next, new details about the weapons used by the San Jose shooter, and we're starting to hear from witnesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a couple people, as I walked in, and then I just saw a mass of bodies, and I went to check to see if anybody was alive, if I could do anything for anybody and watched people take their last breath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN is learning disturbing new details about the guns and ammunition used in killing of nine co-workers at a light rail yard in San Jose, California, while the shooter's three, yes, three semiautomatic guns were legally obtained and registered, the 11 high capacity magazines he carried on his belt and the 21 others he had at the scene are outlawed in California.
CNN's Josh Campbell is in San Jose. Josh, you spoke with the lead FBI agent overseeing that agency's response to this massacre. What is he saying about these weapons, these magazines apparently used by the shooter?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, we're learning new details behind the scenes what investigators have been uncovering. As you mentioned, we got new details. I spoke yesterday with the top FBI agent here in the Bay Area who says the three handguns that were used by the shooter were obtained lawfully.
They were obtained legally. We also are getting information on the amount of fire power that he brought, the amount of ammunition he had on his body whenever.