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Naomi Osaka Fined $15,000 For Avoiding Media at French Open; Texas Democrats Stage Walkout, Blocking Restrictive Voting Bill For Now; Texas State Democrat Senator Rips GOP Bill 2020 Had "Next to no Fraud"; Police: Some in Crowd Fired Back at Shooters Outside Miami- Dade Club; Former FDA Chief: Lab Leaks Happen All the Time, Even in the U.S. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 12:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: --health charity the French Open warning that repeated violations could result in tougher sanctions including being disqualified from the tour. Thanks so much for joining us on this Memorial Day. I'm Erica Hill. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for joining me on this Memorial Day a day where we pause and remember sacrifices made for freedom a special thank you to our fallen heroes and their families mourning today.

President Joe Biden a short time ago attending a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a poignant moment as the president honored service members lost both on and off the battlefield, including his late son Beau.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our son Beau's service in the Delaware Army National Guard Unit, years spent deployed in Iraq was one of the things that he was most proud of in life. Yesterday marked the anniversary of his death. And it's a hard time; I always feel Beau close to me on Memorial Day.

I know exactly where I need to be right here, honoring our fallen heroes. Because through pain and anguish of his loss, I remember the pride on his face that can those bars on his shoulders.


CABRERA: And just feeding in right now moments ago in Arlington National Cemetery. This is not the right video, but I do want to at least make mention that the president did just visit section 60 of Arlington National Ceremony which is significant because that is where veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. So that just is happening a few moments ago.

Memorial Day is also summers unofficial start. And this year an unofficial glimpse at a post COVID holiday record pandemic travel numbers as millions of vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans hit the road, hit the skies pack the beaches will COVID cases stay down?

But first when we get in Texas in a dramatic turn of events overnight as Republican House members there tried passing some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation. Their Democratic colleagues blocked that attempt at the 11th hour by walking out of a late night session that left Republicans without enough lawmakers present to hold the vote.

They'll now have a special session to restart the process. And Republican Governor Greg Abbott is vowing to do just that. But Texas Democrats also promised to keep fighting, comparing the GOP backed bill to Jim Crow laws. A state lawmaker will join us in just a moment.

But first let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera live in Dallas, what is in this bill? And how quickly could Republicans hold this special session?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Ana, well, as you mentioned here, this is a bill that Democrats here in Texas are describing as one of the most restrictive in the country.

You can imagine the drama last night, essentially all bills had to be passed by midnight, and around 10 just after 10:30, the Head of the Democratic Caucus in the House Chris Turner sends a text message according to a source to all the members that says take your key and leave the chamber discreetly leave the building.

They just had to kill an hour to reach that midnight deadline to kill this voting bill in its entirety, at least for this session. But that's how it all went down in dramatic fashion last night. And they say this bill contains things are just far too reaching too restrictive for voting rights across the State of Texas.

Some of the things include a ban on unsolicited mailing applications, mail-in ballot applications, it prohibits overnight and Sunday morning voting expands access for partisan poll watchers. It stops drive thru voting, and also allows judges to more easily overturn election results.

All of these highly controversial measures that were taken up in this bill and Democrats say that they had no option but to leave the chamber.


REP. CHRIS TURNER (D-TX): Some Republican Leader in this country is going to have to say you know what, enough is enough. This is nonsense. This is based on a lie. Maybe Governor Abbott will reach that realization here in Texas, but if he doesn't and he calls a special session to pass those depression legislation.

We're going to fight him every step of the way. We're going to fight Republicans every step of the way. And we're going to do whatever it takes to continue to stop, slow down and mitigate this legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: Republicans in the State House very critical of Democrats for, "Choosing to vacate their constitutional duties in all of this". And Ana it isn't the first time that Democrats here in Texas they have been in the minority for almost three decades here in Texas. So this isn't the first time this has happened.


LAVANDERA: It actually happened in 2003 during the fight over redistricting. Democrats left the state and went to Oklahoma so that there couldn't be a quorum. The Governor of Texas is now vowing that this issue will come up again, in a special legislative session that will probably be scheduled for later this year, when the State House has to debate redistricting.

So imagine that scenario here in the coming months, redistricting and this voting bill in the same special session, the fireworks will be uncanny.

CABRERA: And you point out how Republicans have been winning in Texas for decades? It makes you wonder why they need to change the rules at this point; especially given there has been no evidence of any voter fraud that would suggest that this is a necessary change? Ed Lavandera, thank you for staying on top of that. My next guest is a Texas State Senator who has been fighting against this bill, listen.


STATE SEN. SARAH ECKHARDT (D-TX): We had next to no fraud. And that's been documented at the federal level and the state level. If anything, we should be building on that innovation that made the 2020 election cycle so incredibly successful, but instead you're rewriting the election code.


CABRERA: That is Texas State Democratic Senator Sarah Eckhardt, who joins us now. Your party's walkout killed this bill for now. But we know the Governor has already added this to a special session agenda. So what is next? Did you just essentially delay the inevitable?

ECKHARDT: We delayed a bullet train to suppression to voter suppression, and it was important to delay it so that we can shine some light on what this leadership is doing. So yes, inevitably we are going into a special suppression session. But everyone will see them do this in the daylight Democratic voters and Republican voters.

CABRERA: But I wonder if this legislation does become part of a special session, my understanding is that Republican lawmakers would have to start from scratch. It is possible that they could simply use the same language as this past bill or its possible Republicans could come back with even stricter provisions, right? So could this end up backfiring on Democrats?

ECKHARDT: It comes back with stricter provisions, the responsibility and the accountability will be on this leadership on Governor Abbott and on Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. We have been the Democrats in both the Senate and the House have done everything we can to prevent the suppression of both Democrat and Republican votes.

And I keep the faith that some of our Republican colleagues will eventually join us because their voters are being suppressed as well. One of the Republican sponsors of this bill, State Senator, his name is Brian Hughes. He recently said this about the bill.

This isn't about who won or who lost. It's really to make the process better. We want to make the elections more accessible and more secure. Make them smoother. Have you been in conversations across the aisle? What are you hearing from Republicans or what are you trying to tell them?

ECKHARDT: We were in a conversation across the aisle for eight hours over Saturday night and into Sunday morning. We didn't leave the chamber until 6:30 am after an eight hour conversation with our Republican colleagues on the Senate floor. They remained unmoved.

But the evidence is clear that this bill does not add integrity. It actually adds more than 10 criminal penalties and criminal enhancements. They are criminalizing people who are seeking to vote.

CABRERA: Why? Why are they doing this?

ECKHARDT: They are doing this. It's no surprise that Republican leadership doesn't want Democrats winning but Republican leadership also doesn't want to let in certain kinds of Republicans. The current Republican leadership only wants extreme culture war advocates who will take orders only from them.

They do not want more people voting Republican or Democrat. They only want their specific type of voter making it to the polls without intimidation.

CABRERA: You've said that Democrats in the state have done everything they can everything you can to prevent this from happening and including what happened last night, which now delays this bill from being passed.

Texas Democratic Congressman Collin Allred says every American needs to be watching what's happening in Texas right now. And we have to have a federal response to this because this has gone way too far.

We know the House of Representatives did pass legislation that would counter what is happening in Texas and other states like Georgia and Florida, for example, that bill is stalled in the Senate right now. So what more can be done on a federal level?

ECKHARDT: Well, I think it's very important to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and I think that the tactics of the House Democrats last night installing this and bringing sunshine to this.


ECKHARDT: And you were putting this on the national stage is so incredibly important to getting that federal legislation passed so that states like mine can't suppress mostly black and brown voters, but frankly, they're suppressing all voters.

CABRERA: Texas State Senator Sarah Eckhardt, thank you for your time today.

ECKHARDT: Thank you.

CABRERA: To the pandemic now and a clear sign normal life is coming back. Long, winding lines for security checkpoints inside America's airports this weekend 37 million of you went somewhere for Memorial Day weekend. Just how different is that from this time last year?

Well, last year on the Friday before Memorial Day, just over 250,000 Americans got on a plane, this past Friday, nearly 2 million Americans piled into those passenger jets. Let's get straight to CNN's Pete Muntean at Reagan National Airport.

Pete what a difference a year and working vaccines make now at least two airplanes - airlines I should say have postponed their plans to restart selling alcohol. Tell us more about that.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right on a you known there have been a huge uptick in these ugly incidents on board commercial flights as more people come back to traveling. An American Airlines thinks that alcohol only makes it worse. That's why it just announced that it is not resuming alcohol service like it had planned to do starting in June.

Southwest Airlines was the first airline to make an announcement like this and it all comes after an incident where a Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant was seen on video getting punched by a passenger the union that represents that flight attendant says she lost two of her teeth.

You know its flight attendants who are on the front lines enforcing this federal transportation wide mask mandate and federal officials say now is not the time to put them in jeopardy as they are just trying to do their job.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: They're doing their job. They're following regulations and they're there to keep you safe. It is absolutely unacceptable to ever mistreat a transportation worker and of course, there's very serious fines and enforcement around that. It's a matter of safety but it's also a matter of respect.


MUNTEAN: And the majority of passengers have been peaceful on this big weekend for air travel. The TSA screened 1.9 million people in airports across the country on Friday. That is a new record of the pandemic. The big question on this big day where everybody is going home is will we see the elusive 2 million mark a number we've not seen since March of 2020, Ana. CABRERA: Pete Muntean, thank you for that latest information. They are still out there. Florida police are searching for three suspects who opened fire on a concert crowd killing at least two people outrage erupting at a news conference moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harming mothers who are here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've killed my kid.


CABRERA: Plus lab leaks happen all the time. That is a quote from the Former Head of the FDA says what? And backlash erupts after a store starts selling not vaccinated patches similar to what Jews had to wear during the Holocaust?



CABRERA: More than 24 hours later three shooters who police say opened fire on a concert crowd in Northwest Miami Dade County are still on the run. Two people were killed more than 20 others were hurt. We now have this surveillance video showing an SUV pulling up to this club early Sunday morning.

Three people who police say we're armed with assault rifles and handguns jumped out. They ran gunfire on people outside and then took off in seconds. As you can see this club shooting is one of two mass shootings over the weekend in Florida.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: Let me be very clear, we will do everything, everything we can and use every resource available to bring these people to justice. We must get these killers off the streets. We can only do it with your help, and we must break the cycle of violence. There is a cycle. Gun Violence is an epidemic. And the pandemic has intensified it.


CABRERA: CNN's Natasha Chen is live from Miami-Dade Police Headquarters. And I still can't get over how quick it all happen when we see that video you realize how much carnage was created damage was done in such a short amount of time Natasha? And I imagine there's so much pain and anger in that community today.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, there are many families suffering right now. Imagine with 23 people shot two of them dead. You know, that's about two dozen families we're talking about who are hurting right now.

I want to go back to that video you just showed the new surveillance video that was released just today as the press conference was happening. I happened to get further clarification just now from law enforcement officials after the release of this.

If you take a close look, we are talking about a white Nissan Pathfinder that pulled up in an alley right next to where this club lounge venue was in what is essentially a strip mall. So they're pulling up in this space between buildings there.

And if you notice, three people get out of it. And as you mentioned, with assault rifles, with handguns, they start shooting at the people standing outside. Police say that those standing outside actually shot back and then the three people within less than 10 seconds get back in the car and they flee.

There is a driver in that car that never gets out of it. So they're looking for the three people who obviously got out of the car, potentially more people than that. So right now, this is a difficult investigation. They're really asking the public for help in the middle of their discussion of all this. The father of one of the two people who were killed at interrupted the press conference obviously expressing a lot of pain. Here's what happens.



ALFREDO RAMIREZ III, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: Ruining families harming mothers who are here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all killed my kid, your mother.

RAMIREZ III: And that's the pain that you see. That is the pain that affects our community right there right before you.


CHAN: We saw him yesterday approached the scene as well, just trying to see his son. Police say this is the result of an ongoing rivalry between two groups that they believe whoever was the intended target was standing outside at the time because that car had been waiting in the area.

It didn't just roll up at that moment had been waiting between 20 to 40 minutes before this shooting happened Ana.

CABRERA: It's horrific thank you Natasha Chen for your reporting. Up next, this holiday weekend may be feeling more and more normal but is the pandemic really behind us? Our next guest warns about moving on before finding out the true origin of COVID-19.



CABRERA: The U.S. is closer than ever to turning a corner on COVID. But experts say we still need answers about where it came from? There is renewed intrigue about one theory now that the virus may have accidentally leaked from a lab.

And Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says we may never know for sure, but he says lab leaks are actually more common than you might think.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: These kinds of lab leaks happen all the time actually. Even here in the United States we've had mishaps and in China the last six known outbreaks of SARS one has been out of labs including the last known outbreak which was a pretty extensive outbreak.


CABRERA: Joining us now to share his expertise is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's a Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Hotez all the time, really how common is a lab leak that turns into a major outbreak?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, I certainly would not say all the time, I think, you know, maybe what Dr. Gottlieb was referring to when the Chinese were first trying to understand the original SARS.

SARS-1, there was one outbreak, small outbreak, I think, from the Chinese CDC, and then there was an infected individual in Singapore and, one in Taiwan. But I would not say all the time, and we fact we put a lot of emphasis here in the United States, because we have several bio-safety level four facilities, including one in Boston, one here in Galveston, Texas, near Ross and a couple of others where we provide a lot of assurances to the public that these are carefully controlled.

So they do happen, but they're overall fairly uncommon. I think the big issue for China right now, is the fact that we don't understand the origins of COVID-19. And that's really important to figure out because now this is our third major Coronavirus epidemic/pandemic of the 21st century.

We had SARS in 2002/2003. We had MERS in 2012 that's why we started making Coronavirus vaccines because we knew it was inevitable there was going to be a third one and then what right on cue there was, and some not strong evidence, but some evidence that may be this even began over the summer of 2019.

So investigating the origins of COVID-19 is absolutely critical. The problem is we're not going to get there through intelligence we need on the ground, boots and leather epidemiology, as they call it, where you're doing investigations. We need to bring virologists. This is painstaking work, it will take six months to a year to collect a virus samples--

CABRERA: I hear you doctor.

DR. HOTEZ: --and everything else. CABRERA: But if China doesn't give the green light for those independent investigators to come in and have the boots on the ground as you say that is necessary. What else can be done to get to the origins if China doesn't allow people to come in?

DR. HOTEZ: Yes, so this is going to be the most pressing question. I'm not optimistic that intelligence is going to get us there. So I think doing a lot of back channel diplomacy with China is really important and it's in their own enlightened self interest.

Because now two of the three major Coronavirus epidemics have originated out of China and we have some idea because parts of Hubei Province and the agriculturally rich areas this perfect mixing bowl of water of birds and domestic livestock.

This is why a lot of the influenza strains arise out of China. We need to do this and we have to work out a way to create an international team of scientists to go into China. It can include Chinese scientists, certainly and to do this in the spirit of genuinely trying to understand the origins.

It's a national urgency because otherwise it's inevitable. We're going to have a fourth major Coronavirus epidemic and a fifth one it's going to be a regular occurrence unless we fully understand all the transmission dynamics and the zoonotic animal hosts involved in creating Coronavirus epidemics.

CABRERA: Dr. Peter Hotez it is always good to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise.