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House Dems Push For Committee After GOP Blocks Jan. 6 Probe; San Jose Shooter Had Multiple Weapons, Stockpile Of Ammo at Home; America Must Look To Its Past To End The War With Itself; Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) Discusses GOP Senators Voting No On Bipartisan 1/6 Commission, Possibly Doing Away With Filibuster; Biden Weighs In On Restrictive Voting Bill In Texas. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired May 29, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
Democrats are plotting their next move after Republicans refused to create a bipartisan commission exactly like they supported after 9/11 to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Their options so far less than thrilling. House Democrats are thinking about launching their own investigation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, won't say if he will do the same but he is blasting Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This vote has made it official. Donald Trump's big lie has now fully enveloped the Republican Party. 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)
ACOSTA: Most of those Republican senators who were not just witnesses to the attack but victims of it are now choosing to look to the next election instead of taking an honest and thorough look at what went wrong in the aftermath of the one we just had, like how the losing party convinced its angry supporters there was fraud, or maybe that's exactly why Republicans don't want this investigated.
CNN's national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins me now from Capitol Hill.
Suzanne, what do Democrats do next?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, quite a number of lawmakers, Democrats feel like they really underestimated the partisan nature of this. They really thought that after months and months of negotiations, they really could actually come up with this commission, a bipartisan, independent commission similar to that of 9/11. But having covered the 9/11 Commission, there were a number of things
that were very different. First, there was not even an agreement on a common enemy, if you will, of this attack and, secondly, not the appetite certainly for the time or even the resources for such an independent commission. So Democrats now looking to their next option, that is on the House side to actually set up a select committee.
It would be Democrats essentially, not looking for Republican support. They have tried that already. If there is some, fine. They would move ahead. Speaker Pelosi would be ahead of this select committee if you will. They would have subpoena power. They'd be able to hold hearings if they like, and essentially run an investigation on their own.
Jim, as you can imagine, of course, they feel like very justified in doing this but at the same time realize they will come up against criticism and some will argue rightly so that it is a partisan exercise because they won't have Republican participation and support in that effort despite the fact that it was the Republicans who decided that they did not want a bipartisan group independent to actually run such an investigation, Jim.
ACOSTA: Yeah, Suzanne, let me ask you. There is one Republican lawmaker who is quoting U2's the iconic song "Pride" about Martin Luther King to remember one of the insurrectionists. What is going on there?
MALVEAUX: Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona, he is somebody who has called the insurrectionists heroes and has really kind of tried to downplay and whitewash some of the violence that occurred here is tweeting and tweeting this song that, of course, U2 was talking about Martin Luther King. But instead, he is talking about Ashli Babbitt, she was the Trump supporter inside the Capitol who breached the Capitol, was banging down trying to get inside, break into the doors on the House side to get to lawmakers and who was fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police.
He tweets: They took her life. They could not take her pride. #onemoreinthenameoflove.
There are a lot of people who are reacting to this very strongly, Jim. One of them, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, saying here: Paul, you've lost your mind. Side note to anyone watching, don't breach the House floor illegally especially after warned there are a number of tweets saying that if he was on the other side, Gosar, that he might have been somebody whose life essentially was in danger.
And, finally, Jim, you should note the U.S. Capitol police officer who in fact did shoot Babbitt fatally has been cleared of any criminal charges or any wrongdoing justified in trying to protect these lawmakers -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Just unbelievable.
All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much.
Not even the mother and partner of fallen Officer Brian Sicknick could change the minds of Republican senators.
They tried. They went to Capitol Hill and met with them.
Here is what Officer Sicknick's mother Gladys told CNN about her meetings with Republican lawmakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF FALLEN OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: We knew they weren't sincere. They weren't sincere.
TAPPER: And they didn't want to get to the bottom of what happened.
SICKNICK: No, no. And I don't understand it. We -- they are elected for us, the people. And they don't care about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock was with the Sicknick family. There she is as they tried to convince Republicans to support this commission. She joins us now.
Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.
Did you get that sense as well --
BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Good to be with you, Jim.
ACOSTA: Yeah, did you get -- and happy Memorial Day weekend.
Did you get that sense as well that they were not sincere as Gladys just said a few moments ago?
COMSTOCK: Well, it was clear with a number of the senators we met with, and they made it clear they were not going to be supporting the commission. Fortunately, and we certainly do want to thank the six members who did vote in favor of it. We started the day with Senator Romney, met with Susan Collins and then met with Lisa Murkowski who I think very beautifully talked about why this was so important to do this.
But it was a tough day for the family and I was honored to be with them and they were very strong in their conversations with the senators. In fact, Sandra Gomez (ph) who was there, you know, pointed out to these senators, you know, Brian was a Republican. Brian was a Trump supporter. He loved you guys.
And this is in their honor, you know, to back the blue and be there to have the back of these police officers who saved their lives. And Officer Fanone and Officer Dunn pointed out to them it was only because they were so successful fighting on the front lines, you know, really kind of hand-to-hand combat, brutal combat that Officer Fanone dealt with and you all have shown that. Other networks have not. But he was tased 12 times in the back of his neck and I don't think a
lot of members are aware of that. And he is a Republican, Officer Fanone. He's a self-described red neck Virginian.
So, I worked with these Capitol Police, you know, first as a staffer then as a member of Congress and also on the House admin committee. I know these officers are hurting and the Sicknick family was there to stand with those officers and they are standing by the Sicknick family in honor all of these Capitol police who need to know not just about what happened at the Capitol but all of the events leading to it. That holistic picture of how this insurrection came to be.
ACOSTA: But a lot -- you know, Barbara, a lot of the Republicans up there and you're right there were some that voted for this commission but a lot of Republicans say they backed the blue. Can they say that after what happened yesterday, that vote yesterday?
COMSTOCK: Well, I think certainly if they -- one of the things we asked them is as you go in to vote, you know, ask some of the Capitol Police here. Whenever I ask them, because I do still see many of them, they certainly tell me that they have strong support for that. So, I certainly think it's a hard case to make for it.
But I would point out to my Republican friends, this investigation is going to happen one way or the other. You know, it's not just enough that we have something about how to harden the Capitol to make sure things don't happen there again and the individual criminal investigations will go on. But like 9/11, we need to have the holistic approach.
So, if they don't do it in an independent way with outside experts, I trust it will be done anyway. I would prefer it to be outside and more nonpartisan but when you need to go subpoena those documents, subpoena the records, think about, you know, who was texting back and forth --
COMSTOCK: -- on January 6th or before as they were planning those events?
We know who was on the stage that day whether it was Trump Jr. making those threats to anyone who didn't vote or Mark Meadows in the back at the tent, there were all kinds of messages going back and forth that will be able to be subpoenaed. So, whether they are subpoenaed --
COMSTOCK: -- by an independent commission or Democrat committee, it is going to be factual and the truth will eventually come out.
ACOSTA: Yeah, we don't have that information.
ACOSTA: Yeah, you'll eventually get it. Exactly.
ACOSTA: The question I have, though, is because you spent some time up there on the Hill with the Sicknicks and Brian's partner for so many years, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Republicans voted against this commission out of fear of Trump.
Your observation, is that true?
COMSTOCK: Well, I certainly do think the Republicans, my party, I still am a Republican, have allowed him to dominate in a way that to me is ridiculous given he is twice impeached, twice did not get the popular vote, and he divided the country and now he's dividing our party.
So, now, there is no path forward politically with Donald Trump at the head of the party. Because when you've got 47 -- only 46.9 percent and then you start subtracting people, I mean, I didn't vote for him in 2016 or 2010, but Adam Kinzinger did, Liz Cheney did. Many of those --
ACOSTA: But if that's the case, you lay it out so logically and we talked about this before. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and so many others have taken the opposite approach which is if you don't have Donald Trump around, the Republican Party can't win elections.
COMSTOCK: I think we're going to see that going forward and unfortunately because he divides the party he makes it tougher for Republicans no matter what type of Republican you are. That's why I think it is important to turn the page. But this whole commission and investigation, this is nonpartisan.
This is about as the officers and the Sicknick family explained, this is about, you know, the country and about our democracy. It isn't right versus left or Democrat versus Republican. It really is about getting to the truth so this can't happen again.
We know there are increased threats. You know, 200 percent -- 100 percent, 200 percent increase on members of Congress. And you have state officials now threatened in Arizona and Georgia and you're seeing this. This is a very dangerous, volatile situation. And that's why it needs that sort of dispassionate investigation.
So I hope if Nancy Pelosi does do this, you know, congressional select committee, that she will go ahead and pick those members and do it just the way the Katko bill was set up. Make it ten people, make it 5- 5, the chairman and vice chairman work together.
If she has to pick those ten, I think Adam Kinzinger has already indicated he'd be happy to do it and among the 35 House members that voted for it you could find five and I hope they will have sort of nonpartisan or bipartisan staff who will look at that and do it in a public and honorable way. And I think obviously picking chairmen and vice chairmen who are, you know, more nonpartisan members. Maybe people who fall in the Problem Solvers Caucus type group so it will be credible. ACOSTA: Right.
COMSTOCK: I certainly hope if they go forward, they don't take some of the past more partisan Democrats and certainly we don't want to see the sort of the truth denying Republicans. Certainly, Paul Gosar would not be a good person to be on this committee.
ACOSTA: That would make the process extremely complicated and difficult to get to the truth if it just turns into a food fight and partisan circus.
That's all the time we have. I just want to say to you, Congresswoman, I thought it was very nice of you to be there with Mrs. Sicknick and helping her around on Capitol Hill. That must have been a difficult experience for her and the others there.
So, kudos to you for doing that and thanks for coming on.
COMSTOCK: She is a very -- she and Sandra were very powerful witnesses, and I know they still want to fight for the Capitol Hill police and our country. I am very proud of them.
ACOSTA: All right. Thank you so much, Congresswoman. We appreciate you being here on Memorial Day weekend and we'll have you back. Thanks so much.
COMSTOCK: Thank you.
ACOSTA: We are learning disturbing new details about the gunman behind the attack at a San Jose rail yard this week. What investigators are finding in his burned and booby-trapped home.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: And disturbing new details emerging about the man who shot to death nine co-workers at a light rail yard in San Jose, California. Authorities say the suspect was heavily armed the day of the attack and a search of his home uncovered a shocking arsenal of guns, ammunition, and explosives.
And joining us now to talk about this is the father of Joaquin Oliver. His son was one of the 17 students and staff shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, back in 2018, just a terrible event that will -- we'll never forget.
In his son's honor, he and his wife made it their mission to end gun violence through the organization Change the Ref.
Manuel Oliver, thank you so much for joining us today. It's an honor to talk to you. I'm so sorry, again, we have to talk under these circumstances. You have been very generous with your time on CNN talking with us about this issue.
When you heard the news on Wednesday that there was another mass shooting in America, what went through your mind?
MANUEL OLIVER, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM JOAQUIN OLIVER: Thank you for having me here again.
I just heard from another mass shooting five minutes ago and it was 20 minutes from home, in Wynwood. One person is dead and another six injured.
So if you ask me about what I felt on Wednesday, it is something I feel every single day. Not to mention what I felt three years ago when I lost my son which is exactly what some families are feeling right now while you're asking me that question. This is a terrible situation. It's a terrible feeling.
ACOSTA: And there have been at least 16 mass shootings here in the U.S. since last week, 234 this year. It's a 40 percent increase from 2019.
It does seem like things are just getting worse and nothing is being done about it.
OLIVER: Not only nothing has been done about it.
I mean, it was pretty predictable when we were the only nation that during COVID decided to call guns an essential. Like now we have more guns out there than before COVID and now we have more people going through crises and financial problems and no jobs.
So this is a lethal combination that our system has allowed. And it's endorsing in a way. The easy access to guns is just making no sense for anyone but from some legislators and of course the gun industry and the NRA.
ACOSTA: And what do you think it is going to do, you know, in terms of the debate here in Washington? We see these mass shootings here in the U.S. They seem to have little or no effect on the dialogue here in Washington, the political dialogue here in Washington.
What is it going to take to change things at the national level do you think?
OLIVER: Well, I don't think things will change soon. You see this debate going on. I'm afraid that maybe they lose their kids from a shooting. Maybe they will change their mind. I do know that there is a lot happening outside of Capitol Hill.
People like my wife, myself, my daughter, like the kids from March for Life, we are doing a lot.
I spoke to President Biden before he was elected president. He promised me we will work together. We were going to fix this. We were going to fight the NRA and the gun industry.
And I'm ready for that. I am ready for that. Do we get together at my house or do we get together in the White House?
We are telling the story the way it is supposed to be told. We are creating campaigns and we haven't stopped since I lost my son. But guess what? Since the day I lost my son, more than 120,000 people have lost their lives because of gun violence. Who is actually putting attention into this?
I'm not so concerned about the shootings that already happened. I'm more concerned about the shooting that is going to happen tomorrow and we cannot prevent it, because we are afraid or because our hands are tied.
There is too much money inside Capitol Hill. There is too much intervention from the NRA inside Capitol Hill. We can decide outside. The people will decide not them.
ACOSTA: And what laws or actions do you think would immediately curb gun violence now if you could just get one thing done what would that be?
OLIVER: Well, pay attention to the president. Come on. Mr. Biden told you, give me answers about guns and red flag laws, 30 days on one, 60 days on the other. These members of Congress and Senate after they ask us for help to get them elected, now they're wasting time debating from one side to the other.
It's unbelievable. People are dying here. The answer is --
ACOSTA: You want to see action and you're not seeing enough action.
ACOSTA: It sounds like you're unhappy
OLIVER: I am very unhappy. Not only because I lost my son. I have friends that lose loved ones every single day. Of course, I'm not happy and you shouldn't be happy and no one is happy with what's going on because it's a genocide.
We are fighting an inside war and we are our own enemy. Americans are killing each other and the administration, any administration decades ago have been approving that war. So, of course I'm not happy.
We're going to fight it back. We're going to give them the same treatment that was given to the tobacco industry 20 or 25 years ago. This is about telling the story, telling the truth the right way with the right courage.
Nothing is going to stop me from doing that because I'm not asking for votes. I won't be elected for anything else than being a victim's dad.
ACOSTA: Manuel, it means so much that you came on to talk with us this afternoon. I think having you on, other families who have been through something like this is part of the process of getting this country, getting the leaders of this country to pay attention to this issue. And we are honored that you came on this afternoon.
And thank you so much. Our hearts are with you and your family as you're still grappling with this, struggling with this, because you're right. When these mass shootings happen, it affects you and hurts your heart every single time.
Manuel, great talking to you. Thanks so much. We'll have you on again real soon.
OLIVER: Thank you, Jim. Have a great day.
ACOSTA: All right. You, too.
And coming up, America is winning the war on COVID, but this Memorial Day weekend, the mass shootings we were just discussing, the insurrection, and the cowardice of Senate Republicans has me worried we may be losing the war with ourselves. Can America unite?
That's live next in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: This week, the U.S. hit an important mile stone. Half of the adult population in this country is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Yes, we are beating the virus but on this Memorial Day weekend, the country is far from healthy.
Throughout the pandemic, we've suffered from a serious case of herd stupidity as the far right waged a war against science and in some cases against the scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci who put his finger on a big part of the problem we're seeing right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: This is a war. So if you're going to fight a war you better start shooting at the enemy instead of at each other. I'm nervous about the intensity of the divisiveness in the country right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Nervous about the intensity of the divisiveness.
Dr. Anthony Fauci battled a pandemic that's killed nearly 600,000 Americans. And in return, he has received death threats so severe he required security for himself and his family.
Thanks to people like Fauci, it is safer to go outside. But hold on. Nine people were killed in San Jose, California, this past week. The 232nd mass shooting in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Sometimes children are the victims. Other times, it's co-workers. People shot in classrooms, at birthday parties.
We can't fix the problem because the U.S. appears to be hopelessly divided on the issue.
The president called this embarrassing and it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single day, every single day, there's a mass shooting in the United States, if you count all of those killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas. It's a national embarrassment and must come to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: We also face an outbreak of hatred. Reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans are up in the largest U.S. cities. The Anti- Defamation League has received reports of hundreds of incidents of anti-Semitism this month alone.
Consider what one rabbi told me last weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI JOSHUA STANSON, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL JEWISH CENTER FOR LEARNING & LEADERSHIP: This is not simply an era of polarization. This is an era of fanaticism. And the right wing has moved to the point, the extreme right, that it now is akin to Fascism.
We need to do more and it is time to act not just speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Memorial Day should be a time to come together, to remember those who died fighting for this nation's ideals. Yet, American democracy is at risk as the big lie is still dividing the country.
According to some recent polling, a majority of Republicans believed Donald Trump is the true president right now.
A separate poll found that one-quarter of Republicans, 23 percent, agree with the conspiracy theories linked to the QAnon movement.
The man who unleashed this era of unhinged thinking, former President Donald Trump, is now being shielded by his party.
The Senate GOP blocked an independent commission that would have investigated the insurrection at the capitol and his role in stoking it.
Some in the GOP sound as if the rebellion hasn't ended. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We have a Second Amendment in this country. And I think we have an obligation to use it.
GAETZ: The Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.
GAETZ: I hope it never does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: He hopes it never does. Armed rebellion. Yes, he said armed rebellion.
Matt Gaetz and his partner in slime, Marjorie Taylor Greene, have been traveling the country and inciting their crowds.
Green compared mask wearing requirements to the holocaust and likened Democrats to Nazis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party just like the Democrats are now a National Socialist Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: That doesn't make any sense. Shameful.
But there was a time when the world called on America to fight the real Nazis.
And I can't help but think about one of the most memorable places I visited as a White House reporter -- Normandy, France.
Those are my pictures you're looking at, where you can see row after row of American graves marking the nearly 10,000 brave heroes who are buried there.
I'll never forget what I witnessed one evening in Normandy. I was at a restaurant and I came across this veteran of the war.
Gathered around him were all of these folks listening to his stories, about the war, about what he and his friends went through on the beaches of Normandy to defeat the Nazis.
And I can't help but think what would that gentleman and his friends think of us right now? Would they be proud of us? What would the Greatest Generation that defeated the Nazis think of
seeing swarms of domestic terrorists invading our capitol to overturn the results of an election?
What would think they think of the cowardice on display this week in the Senate?
On this Memorial Day, what would the Greatest Generation think of us? Are we the worst generation?
What would the Greatest Generation tell us about the peril, the danger, in looking the other way when the forces of fanaticism are on the rise? And they are on the rise in America.
So, yes, it looks like we are well on our way to beating COVID. But my fear this Memorial Day weekend is that we just might beat ourselves.
I'll continue this conversation in just a moment.
Be right back.
ACOSTA: Profiles in cowardice. A majority of Republican Senators voted no on an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the attack at their workplace, the U.S. capitol, on January 6th.
Joining me now to talk about this is Democratic Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania.
Senator, today is John F. Kennedy's birthday. I can't help but think about his book, "Profiles in Courage," and how that is lacking so much today.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Jim, I just think we saw an example yesterday of the opposite with that vote in the Senate.
I know six Republicans voted with us. Maybe a few of the rest would have but it doesn't seem the votes were there for passage of the legislation.
I have to ask myself, I think a lot of Americans are, what would it take?
When you have the vice president of the United States, Republican vice president, whose life was threatened, whose life would have ended if they got their hands on him, as well as so many members of Congress who would have been killed themselves.
I don't know why that doesn't call for an investigation so the American people know exactly what happened here.
(INAUDIBLE) -- learning lessons, yes. But it's not as if the threat, the domestic terrorist threat was extinguished on that day.
That threat remains. It remains to the capitol. It remains regarding our democracy and even in this case the power of an election.
If that is not worthy of investigation, I don't know why one party would not want that kind of investigation done.
Again, what I said before, this genuflecting the will of one man -- (INAUDIBLE).
ACOSTA: Let me ask you this. It seems you were also done in by the filibuster. If there were not a filibuster rule in the Senate, this would have passed yesterday.
Let's listen to Senator Joe Manchin, your colleague on the Democratic side, talking about the filibuster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you be willing to break the filibuster in order to get this passed?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not ready to destroy my government, no. I think this will come together. You have to have faith there are ten good people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Do you think it's time to take away the filibuster? Is it done in your mind?
CASEY: Yes, Jim, I said a number of times I think at this point in our history we've seen the major agenda items for the American people, whether a January 6th Commission.
Or whether it's voting rights, the provisions of the Senate Bill One on voting rights and getting -- finally dealing with dark money, the influence of billionaires on our elections. You can basically buy any election now, legally.
If that's not enough to change the rules, or at least change the rule for one vote, or several votes on such consequential matters, then I don't know why -- look, I used to believe --
ACOSTA: You think it is time to lean on Joe Manchin, Senator Sinema, is it time to lean on those colleagues a little more on this issue?
CASEY: I think that has to come from their constituents. I don't know if -- (INAUDIBLE).
But I do think yesterday was one example where a number of Senators who might have thought about changing the rules might be posed so far.
(INAUDIBLE) -- where, you know, the tyranny of the minority, able to stop action on major issues.
I hope that yesterday's post was further evidence for Senators.
Look, I used to believe the same thing --
ACOSTA: Senator, there are also some no shows yesterday, too. There were some Senators that didn't even show up to vote. That is the other thing. On both sides of the aisle.
CASEY: Well, look, on a matter like this, it was a consequential enough and grave enough that it should have been.
ACOSTA: All right. Senator Bob Casey, we'll continue this conversation. Thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. Happy Memorial Day weekend. We appreciate you coming out.
CASEY: Jim, to you, too. Thank you.
ACOSTA: Up next, a new bill in Texas is part of the wave of restrictive voting measures making their way through state legislatures. President Biden has just weighed in. We'll talk about that next.
ACOSTA: Just in, President Biden is now weighing in on a restrictive Texas voting bill, calling it part of an assault on democracy.
With me now is CNN's Dianne Gallagher and Arlette Saenz.
Dianne, let's go to you first.
Tell us what's in this bill? You've been watching this closely down in Texas.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, look, we have a draft that we obtained that is believed to be the final language of this bill. Because while the bill report for Senate Bill Seven was filed, the actual language has still not been distributed.
But this draft essentially changes elections from top to bottom here in Texas by adding new requirements, new restrictions, and new criminal and civil penalties to the voting process that will have some sort of impact on voters, election officials, and voting rights groups who work to get out the vote.
[15:50:17] Now, some of the more controversial measures that have made headlines that are included in this are elements that would limit those voting creative methods that were used in places like Houston, in Harris County, during the pandemic that saw their turnout go up by so much, like 24-hour and drive-thru voting. Those are gone.
It would also codify the hours of early voting from 6:00 to 9:00 maximum and on Sundays it could start at 1:00 p.m. and go to 9:00 p.m. That is a change.
And something that people here in Austin, Democrats and voting rights activists, have said targets the souls to the polls and the Latino and African-American community here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE BONNER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MOVE, TEXAS: Texas has a long, ugly and racist history of voters suppression. This version of Senate bill, S.B.-7, fits squarely into that.
It limits access to many of the pro-voter policies we saw utilized in the 2020 election to make sure that we hold safe and secure elections in the middle of a pandemic. Those are the first things on the chopping block in this piece of legislation.
We know they were disproportionately used by communities of color. This is a clear attack on voters of color in Texas right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Look, there's a lot in this bill. There are still several steps left. Both the chambers have to do an up/down approval vote. And then it would go to the governor, Jim, who has indicated he would sign this.
The Democrats here in Texas tell me, look, in the Long Star state, it ain't over until it's over. And they plan to fight until the very last minute.
ACOSTA: And, Arlette, what is President Biden saying about this? He released a statement and it's pretty scathing.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, President Biden was pretty forceful in denouncing this restrictive Texas voting bill.
A short while ago, the president released a statement that said, "It's part of an assault on democracy that we have seen far too often this year and often disproportionately targeting black and brown Americans. It's wrong and un-American."
He added, "In the 21st century, we should be making is easier, not harder for every eligible voter to vote."
This language echoes the sentiments that the president expressed when you restrictive voting laws placed down in the state of Georgia. And in his statement, he went on to encourage Congress to pass the For
the People Act. That is a sweeping voting rights bill up on Capitol Hill that is really facing an uphill climb.
Democrats say it's a top legislative priority. But there are some obstacles to getting that bill passed.
Now, White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said the president would be talking about voting rights in his upcoming speech in Tulsa on Tuesday, where he will travel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the race massacre there.
But the president has been quite forceful, since taking office, in pushing back on these restrictive voting laws in the states.
As for what the president can do, there's very little he can do by himself. He issued some executive orders that were pretty limited in scope earlier in the year.
But right now, what he really needs is for Congress to act in order for any meaningful federal voting rights legislation to get passed.
ACOSTA: All right, Arlette Saenz, Dianne Gallagher, thank you very much for that report on that important issue.
One year ago, the murder of George Floyd sparked global protests against police brutality. Yet, even those who didn't take part in the demonstrations were profoundly impacted by them.
This week's "CNN Heroes" salutes Washington, D.C.,-based health care consultant, Rahul Dubey.
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RAHUL DUBEY, CNN HERO: That night of June 1st, what I saw we are people confused.
DUBEY: I saw fear. They were trapped on the street trying to get home.
DUBEY: You hear this loud bang, and I saw clubs coming out and pepper spray flying everywhere. All I could do is fling in the door and like, get in the house.
They were getting pepper sprayed as they were running up. It was pure chaos. They were washing their eyes out with milk, baking soda. Everyone was attending to each other.
Protesting in an organized way was not my thing. I would hear of these verdicts and, yes, I would say to myself, oh, my god, that's terrible. And then I would still go to dinner. But to see the atrocity show up on your front door, if people don't open the door, then really who will?
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ACOSTA: And go to CNNheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."