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Texas Democrats Stage Walkout, Blocking Restrictive Voting Bill; Biden Lays Wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; Florida Officials Give Update on Shooting that Killed Two, Injured 20-Plus. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 10:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And our descendents do not.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Again, 100 years ago, and President Biden will travel to Tulsa tomorrow and visit the survivors and others.

You can learn much more about this dark part of American history in a new CNN film, Dreamland, The Burning of Black Wall Street. It premieres tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you, Memorial Day. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

We are following three big stories this hour. First, of course, honoring the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Moments from now President Biden will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony is set to begin any moment, you will see it all live right here.

Also overnight, a dramatic and significant walkout by Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives blocking one of the most restrictive voting bills in the country in the last hours of the legislative session.

SCIUTTO: But as a practical matter, did the Democrats' effort just delay the inevitable there? Texas governor says that he will call a special session to take up that legislation again. We're going to have the latest from Texas as well as possible next steps in just a moment.

Also this morning, right now, Miami area manhunt under way, this after at least two people were shot and killed, more than 20 others injured at a shooting outside a Florida nightclub. The suspects getting out of an SUV early Sunday morning, firing assault rifles -- assault rifles -- into the club.

Let's begin there. CNN's Natasha Chen, she is in Doral, Florida. Natasha, we are expecting to hear from investigators shortly. Do they have leads on the gunmen in this case? NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, they have not shared with us any particular leads since this happened, only telling us that, you know, this white Nissan Pathfinder came up outside the venue, really early Sunday morning between 12:00 and 1:00 A.M., after this venue was hosting a private concert, private show, where the patrons were standing outside in the parking lot in essentially the strip mall.

So these three people essentially got out of the car, used assault rifles and handguns and started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd, which is why police are calling this a targeted attack. Those three people then got back in the car and fled the scene.

We are expecting them to walk up to this podium behind me at any moment now, hopefully, to give further details about what they're learning.

Investigators did spend all day yesterday on the scene outside of that club/lounge venue. We saw a lot of yellow markings on the ground for dozens and dozens of shell casings and, again, like you said, two people died, about 20 people injured. And we know that they were brought to several hospitals in the area and at least two of the wounded are still in critical condition today.

So, very serious event where a lot of families are grieving and worried right now and we will be standing by to see if there are any updates or if they can help identify those involved. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Natasha Chen on the ground for us in Florida, thank you for that reporting, please keep us posted.

Meantime, to Texas where the state's Republican governor, Greg Abbott, is now vowing to call a special session of the legislature there after House Democrats walked off the floor entirely late last night effectively for now blocking passage of the sweeping voting restrictions bill.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the question is for how long?

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us from Austin, Texas. Dianne, first of all, explain to our viewers what's in the bill. Because you have two pieces here, one, making it harder to vote, restricting hours, et cetera, but, two, making it easier to challenge the results of an election, even without proof of widespread fraud, of course, something we saw attempted in the most recent election cycle nationally.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, you know, I've covered this across the country kind of going state by state as these bills have been introduced in more than a dozen states, passed into law. And in Texas, we see some of those same elements. Texas already has the most restrictive voting laws in the country and this would have just made it more restrictive by adding new requirements and adding criminal and civil penalties to the voting process here, like, for example, making it a crime for a public official to send an unsolicited mail-in ballot application. It also banned drive-in voting and would bar voting past 9:00 P.M. as well as before 1:00 P.M. on Sundays, thus eliminating a large portion of Souls to the Polls.

You mentioned that allowing judges to basically void elections if the number of fraudulent votes cast could change the result. So it lowers that threshold on the burden of proof. It also, again, expands penalties and creates them for more than a dozen election-related crimes and it expands powers for those partisan poll watchers, something that we have seen across the board in these election bills, by also stripping local officials of some of their power.


Now, Democrats here in Texas have been trying to reduce the effect of SB-7 for more than a month at this point. It came down to the wire last night, and they chose to walk out, Democrats tell me, because they felt there was no other option they had anymore, basically go to the nuclear option to stop this because of the damage they felt it would do.


JOE MOODY (D), TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The franchise is something that was never taken for granted in communities like mine and we will never take it for granted. And so when people come to challenge that and when people come to take that away, we're going to do whatever it takes to maintain the (INAUDIBLE).

What's wrong is taking away the access to the ballot box and all of us on the Democratic side of the aisle that chose this path knew the consequences and we are willing to risk them.


GALLAGHER: Now, one of those consequences the Democrats are aware may happen from this is the fact that Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican governor, who listed this election bill as his legislative priority at the start of the session, tweeted almost immediately that he planned to call a special session and put what is in SB-7 on that session. We do not know when it will begin but it could begin as early as tomorrow, Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: We will see if the stand lasts. Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much.

HARLOW: So let's pick up where Dianne just left off. Our Republican Strategist Doug Heye is here.

So, Greg Abbott thinks this is important enough to call a special session, something one of the Democrats in the Texas house pointed out last night is something he chose not to do in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, following mass shootings like El Paso or a special session about COVID-19. What do you make of it?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, obviously we're seeing this, as Dianne pointed out earlier, she's going state to state because we're seeing these efforts happen from Republicans throughout the country. And I will say, you know, as a Republican, I don't support the Texas bill and I would urge Texas Republicans don't be like Arizona Republicans, which clearly they're trying to set the stage to do.

But we've seen these kinds of tactics before both from Republicans and Democrats. Democrats very famously fled the state of Texas, drove to Oklahoma to avoid voting. And here in Washington, as you know, Poppy, we are having a long conversation about the filibuster, what it means, should it exist, this is a de facto filibuster that Democrats are doing. And it's why I think Republicans have urged not to get rid of the filibuster here is because it's a bad thing when your opponents do it, it's a good thing when you are able to do it. Welcome to politics.

HARLOW: If SB-7 does make it through in this special session or what have you, one of the things that it would do, and Jim has been right in really highlighting this this morning, it would allow judges, basically courts, to essentially throw out results of an election, whether it be a local election or a more nationwide election in their state, if enough ballots were cast illegally that it could have made a difference without having to prove that fraud actually altered the outcome. They don't even have to show evidence of fraud. How is that something that any party wants? I mean, explain to me as a Republican in the state, how do you defend that?

HEYE: Well, I don't. I think we've gone down the road as Republicans of all accusations of fraud, where it exists or where it doesn't exist, to sort of prove our point that we won an election that we didn't actually win. I got a lot of heat, as you know, Poppy, five years ago when I said that Donald Trump won fair and square. I get a lot of heat from my Republican friends now when I say Joe Biden won fair and square, even Republicans who know that that's the case, a lot of them who, you know, work about a mile behind me in the Capitol who know that Joe Biden won fair and square often can't say it because of the heat that they're going to get from their voters. They know that's the case. This is the new kind of abnormal that Republicans are dealing with. And it's troubling to me.

HARLOW: Okay. Doug, I'm sorry, the control room is telling me we're seeing first images of President Biden arriving for Memorial Day at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Let's listen.



SCIUTTO: The president and vice president, defense secretary after taking a moment at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you haven't been there at Arlington National Cemetery, that spot will make your heart stop. It is actually today the tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, with remains of fallen service members from World War I, later added remains from victims -- fallen service members from World War II and the Korean War and in 1984 from the Vietnam War as well. So, a lot of history in that spot and a lot of loss.

HARLOW: We will be right back.


SCIUTTO: These are live pictures from Miami-Dade County, Florida, such a familiar scene, officials giving an update on another deadly shooting. This one this weekend outside a concert venue in Miami-Dade, two people were killed, more than 20 injured, a manhunt still under way for three gunmen.

That shooting was the 25th mass shooting in this country in just two weeks. The total for the year, 238.

Joining me now to discuss Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. Chief, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So we have two phenomena going on here, right? We have just an explosion in mass shootings, but you also have big increases in many cities in violent crime, including homicides and gun violence. You know, we tend to discuss those things separately, but I wonder if you think that's wrong because there is some overlap between the two. Are the causes, is there an overlap in causes in your view?

ACEVEDO: Absolutely. Look, it is a time in our country's nation where our courts have been shut down, courts are not holding people accountable. In Houston where I just left a few weeks ago, we are arresting the same individuals for committing violence and that has to change, it has to change soon.

SCIUTTO: I've spoken to a number of chiefs in a number of cities, including in New York and elsewhere who talk not just about a slowdown in the courts from COVID-related issues, which has had big effects throughout the course system but also policies. I mean, for instance, in New York State incarceration, in other words, folks that normally might have been held for periods of time while being adjudicated, they are out on the streets and they have had the same experience you have, where they pick up folks repeated times. Tell us, in your view, is that a contributor?

ACEVEDO: Well, that's a huge contributor. I mean, here in Harris County, where I just left, the position of the elected officials is that no one should be held, regardless of their criminal history and regardless of the crime they're committing and they are out one door in the other and shooting other people. And so unless the American people speak out, it's going to be a long, hot, bloody summer and we can thank a lot of elected officials for that.

SCIUTTO: I should note to folks if they are not aware, you came from Harris County around in Houston, you're now in Miami. So you've got enormous experience here, two different cities at this time.

I speak to a lot of cops and this is anecdotally but I also speak to their chiefs, and they often bring up officer morale right now. And some of this is in the data, right? You have big jumps in retirements in a number of departments, but you also hear anecdotally about police policing differently in the current environment. And I wonder if you have seen that yourself, as you have led officers in two major cities.

ACEVEDO: Well, actually it's been three major cities, I was in Austin for almost ten years, the capital of Texas.

SCIUTTO: I don't mean to sell you short.

ACEVEDO: No, yes. Well, police officers are -- they are disenchanted. When crooks are laughing at them on the way to the jail saying, I'll be in one door out the other before you can get back in your police car, and the fact is that's the truth. And so why should they put themselves at risk when our court system across the country and our D.A.s and our elected officials want to focus more on the criminal than they do the victims. And so it's a tough time to be a cop.

SCIUTTO: You know as well as I do that our discussion of an issue like this, like so many issues, is caricatured, right, to say the least, that you have one side who thinks there's only one solution and it's, you know -- it's all about policing or maybe more guns. You have others who look at it differently, right, and one extreme even defund the police. You have said, to your credit, that they need to come out of their own corners, the left and right, come to the middle, which is where most Americans are.

So tell us what steps, in your view, from your experience, would make the most positive difference right now.

ACEVEDO: Well, I think from the left, we need to stop talking about the militarization of police and defunding the police and start focusing on actually investing on better policing and better training. And to the right, it shouldn't be more guns for everyone. We need to toughen up the laws, how easy it is for crooks to get guns and then we need to hold criminals accountable. Those that would do harm to others need to be in prison, they need not to pass go or collect $200.


The only thing they fear is death. These young people fear prison and we need to deliver on security and safety for the American people.

SCIUTTO: So, what is your reaction when you see any effort at gun restrictions just fail? I mean, there was barely an effort in recent weeks because even Democrats know that they are not going to get there, right, on this. And then you see steps like in Texas, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he is going to sign that removes even requirements for a license to buy a handgun. I mean, remarkable in this environment.

As an officer of the law, what effect does that have on the work that you do?

ACEVEDO: It just makes it that much tougher. Look, in Texas, labor, police chiefs, sheriffs, we all came together and we have lifted our voices and say we do not support constitutional carry, as do most Americans, including gun owners don't support the notion that everyone should just carry a gun. It's time for Abbott to put the words in deed and veto that bill, which is the desire of most police officers in the state and in the country.

SCIUTTO: We will see if the cops win out for the politics there. Chief Art Acevedo, we appreciate the work that you do and the work that the officers working for you do.

ACEVEDO: Thank you. Have a great Memorial Day.

SCIUTTO: You too.

HARLOW: Well, minutes from now, President Biden will deliver his remarks this Memorial Day. He will make them from Arlington National Cemetery, where he's also laying that wreath. We are live there next.