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CNN NEWSROOM

Texas Democrats Stage Walkout, Blocking Restrictive Voting Bill for Now; Florida Police Searching for Three Who Opened Fire on Concert Crowd; White House Gives GOP One Week to Make Progress on Infrastructure. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Is going to have to clean up, because we've seen four such incidents in one round of the playoffs, which is unacceptable, to say the least.

[13:00:06]

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: It's good to see teams in arenas and other officials finally saying, enough is enough. Carolyn Manno, thank you.

Thanks so much for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. I want to thank you for joining us on this Memorial Day, a day we honor the ultimate sacrifices so many Americans and their families have made protecting this nation, protecting our freedom.

And hours ago, President Biden laying a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Biden then delivering his first Memorial Day remarks as president during a solemn ceremony, honoring fallen heroes, and remembering his late son, Beau, who served in Iraq and later died of cancer six years ago yesterday.

The holiday weekend also marking the busiest travel days in the U.S. since the pandemic began. Crowds packing beaches, and airports today, we'll have more on that just ahead.

But, first, we begin in Texas, where the war on voting is taking a surprising turn. Democrats staging a walkout during a legislative session last night that stopped a controversial GOP voting bill from becoming law, for now at least, known as Senate Bill 7. It would ban some mail-in applications, it would reduce voting hours, it would stop drive-through voting all together, among other things that it does.

Republicans are still going to press forward, they say, they can now have a special session that Governor Greg Abbott says will happen.

I asked a Democratic state senator, a lawmaker there last hour, why her party did this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH ECKHARDT (D), TEXAS STATE SENATE: We delayed a bullet train to suppression, to voter suppression, and it was important to delay it so that we can -- 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: With us now is CNN Political Analyst Laura Barron-Lopez and Rachel Bade.

Laura, Democrats won the day. That walkout did put a pause on this bill, but do you see any way this bill can be stopped in the long run?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's looking very likely that when the governor decides to bring back state lawmakers for their special session, that Republicans are going to be able to pass this bill, which is going to be a very restrictive voting rights bill, similar to Georgia.

One other thing it does, Ana, is that it makes it so voters can't vote on Sunday. And so that's partially why Democrats are saying that this is targeting black and brown voters because many black worship goers also vote on Sundays.

CABRERA: Also gives judges an easier opportunity to overturn elections. Rachel, what I don't understand is Texas is a Republican state, Republicans have been winning in Texas for decades. So why are Republicans trying to change the rules?

RACHEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's two things going on here, when it comes to politics in Texas. The first one obviously, you know, nationwide, Republicans, because of trump, are facing sort of pressure to act in statehouses across the country to crack down on voting, you know, Trump and his big lie, he claimed that he won the last election, that obviously is false, but this is, you know, part of that movement we're seeing nationwide in Texas, in particular, in Houston, they had, you know, 24-hour voting, they allowed people to drive in and vote. And because of the pandemic, and a lot of, again, minority voters took advantage of that and those are often Democratic voters. So they're cracking down there.

But I also think it can't be divorced from the politics of the governor, Governor Abbott. He's up for reelection in 2022, he's faced some criticism from Trump supporters in that state. Potentially primary challenger from Ken Paxton, who is a hard core Trump supporter in that state and obviously he's looking at his, you know, right flank and trying to protect himself. So those two political dynamics, you can see, have sort of led to where we are today.

CABRERA: And, Laura, as Rachel points out, it's not just Texas, there's a new report last week from the Brennan Center for Justice, which finds at least 14 states have already enacted more than 20 laws, making it harder for Americans to vote. And at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures.

Reminder, there was no widespread fraud in any state in the 2020 election. So what do you think this is really about? BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, a couple things, Ana. When you look at the January 6th insurrection, when you look at these restrictive voting bills that are passing in these primarily GOP-led state, and they're all -- it's connected, because the January 6th insurrection and these voting laws and voting bills are based on Trump's big lie, they're based on this idea that Biden's win was illegitimate, and that there was some widespread fraud, which we know there was not.

[13:05:04]

And so that's really the connective tissue for the GOP party right now across the country. And it's what their modern day party is based on, which is that the election system didn't work, that there are some grand conspiracies, and that Trump -- everyone should stand by Trump and follow Trump, even though he's out of office, and even though the -- while he was in office, Republicans lost the House, the Senate and the presidency.

So that is this big picture that we're seeing, and this connective tissue across everything that is happening, which is the GOP is basing their party on this lie, on loyalty to Trump, and it's what they think could potentially help them win in 2022 and again in 2024.

CABRERA: Rachel, President Biden called this Texas bill wrong, he called it un-American, but he could be shining an even bigger light on this, right? He could be screaming at the top of his lungs, using that bully pulpit about the potential threat that these bills pose to America's democracy. He could call on the Senate to blow up the filibuster, to pass the elections bill that has already passed the House, that would supersede these state bills. Why isn't this his top priority, or is it?

BADE: Well, look, I think Democrats in Washington are still trying to figure out exactly how to address that. I mean, clearly, there is more that Democrats can try to do right now, but due to the filibuster in the Senate, there are even -- even if they blew up the filibuster in the Senate, there are at least two Senate Democrats who have expressed concern about one of the top voting rights bills that has been a priority for Biden, and, of course, House Democrats, who have already passed this legislation.

There has, however, been talk about a second voting rights bill, a little bit of talk behind the scenes, it wouldn't be as expansive as the original that can't pass the Senate without, you know, blowing up the filibuster, and even then might not pass but, look, it's really -- it's been stalled. I mean, clearly, Biden has prioritized things like infrastructure, and trying to get that through Congress. And that sort of sucked up a lot of oxygen in Washington recently, but it will be interesting to see if this does anything to sort of pick up that talk.

Because as you said, and as, you know, your interview showed earlier, Texas Democrats, the reason they did this, was to spotlight this issue more for Biden and to put it more in front of him, to try to force his hand, to get his party to move.

CABRERA: Rachel Bade and Laura Barron-Lopez, , thank you both, ladies, I always appreciate your reporting.

And turning now to the pandemic, this is what a return to normal looks like, airports this weekend jammed with Americans coming and going for Memorial Day weekend. The TSA expects Monday, today, to be the busiest travel day of the pandemic, that after Friday already broke new pandemic travel records.

Let's get straight to CNN's Pete Muntean at Reagan National Airport. Break it all down for us, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this airport was a ghost town a year ago. Now the TSA has screened more than 1.6 million people at airports across the country, just yesterday, compare that to the same day back in 2020, when only 350,000 people flew nationwide.

The pandemic air travel records set only back on Friday won 1.96 million Americans flew. Maybe we could see the elusive 2 million mark. It's expected to be a very busy day. That is a number we have not seen since March of 2020.

But this story not just about air travel. AAA expects 37 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during this holiday weekend, 34 million of them by car. Those numbers not that far off from where we were in 2019, but those driving will face a bit of a rude awakening when it comes to gas prices, the highest they have been in seven years, the national average for a gallon of gas, $3.05, up a dollar from where we were a year ago.

Clearly, a lot of people trying to take advantage of this first, quote/unquote, mask-less holiday of the pandemic, but remember, masks still required on all forms of public transportation, planes, trains, buses, boats, also here in terminals. Ana?

CABRERA: And more people probably feel comfortable seeing people sitting next to them wearing their masks. I see you got yours on as well. Thank you, Pete Muntean.

The outrage is growing as police search for three people suspected of shooting into a crowd at a Florida club. The emotional cry for justice that erupted at a news conference this morning, just ahead.

Plus, the clock is ticking on lawmakers to reach a massive deal on fixing the nation's crumbling infrastructure, but will a new deadline change anything?

And losing his grip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the brink of being forced out. What could that mean for the U.S. relationship with Israel?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:10:00]

CABRERA: Right now, three shooters who police say opened fire on a concert crowd in Northwest Miami-Dade County are still on the run. Two people killed, more than 20 others hurt. Surveillance video shows the moment the shooters jumped out of an SUV near the club and took off seconds later.

The gunmen say -- the police say the gunmen were heavily armed and they rained gunfire on a crowd, and what they describe as a targeted attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. JORGE AGUILAR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE HOMICIDE BUREAU: The mother that yesterday fell down and broke down in front of me that I could hardly hold her up and we had to get a group of people to hold her up, when we have to tell her that her child is dead.

This violence is just senseless, okay? For you guys that are out there, if you're watching this, and you're responsible for this, look at those victims that you don't take into account.

[13:15:00]

Those victims are hurting. They're destroyed. Their lives are turned upside down this morning. It's despicable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN's Natasha Chen is live from Miami-Dade Police Headquarters in Florida. And, Natasha, what more are you learning?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. The police authorities spoke to us outside this building just a little while ago, shared the video that you saw of the white Nissan Pathfinder pulling up to the outside of that club lounge venue.

And I talked to public information officer here about the fact that this happened within about ten seconds. It was so fast. If we could show that again, you see these three people jumping out of the car, they are pulled up right next to the building, they jump out in front, started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd, police said, and were told that some of the people standing there actually shot back. That's why we saw so many shell casings on the ground yesterday.

Then you see the three people jump back into the car and the driver takes off, and they escape through an alley. So all of this happening very quickly, and there is a large crime stoppers reward out there, $130,000 in total, leading for information to the arrest of these people.

Now, as you heard from some of the people speaking at the podium, there are about two dozen families hurting here, because 23 people were shot, two of them killed. And here's what happened when one family member of one of those people killed came to the press conference today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all killed my kid. You must burn. You're going to burn. You hear me? You killed my kid for no reason. You must burn.

RAMIREZ: And that's the pain that you see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You killed my son.

RAMIREZ: That is the pain that affects our community right there, right before you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And the major did confirm with us that that is the father of one of the two people who were killed.

We received this photo that we can show you from the family members who identify their loved one as Clayton Dillard III. So that was Clayton Dillard III's father that you heard there shouting in such emotional distress and you can imagine there are a lot of unanswered questions here, especially as police tell us that this was the result of an ongoing rivalry between two groups, exacerbated by some social media posts that the director of the police here say was a factor leading up to all of this, Ana.

CABRERA: It is a tragic situation. Natasha Chen, thank you.

Joining us now, CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, he's a former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and D.C. Police Chief.

Commissioner, as we saw in that surveillance video, it happens in seconds, less than ten seconds from the moment these shooters exit the vehicle, to when they're jumping back in the car and fleeing the scene. Your reaction to that, and are you surprised they're still on the run?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, you're looking for at least four people, because if you notice the driver never got out, he was waiting in the car, he or she. You saw a couple of assault weapons, plus a handgun, looks like a semiautomatic. It doesn't take long. I mean, that just goes to show you how devastating these weapons are, and actually are fortunate that only two people were killed, which, I mean, it could easily have been much higher, with 23 people in total being shot.

So, you know, it did look like I saw license tags on there, now, the license plates or the car could be stolen, but at least it's a clue. It's a lead. But if there's been going back and forth on social media, and I'm telling you, a lot of these beefs start on social media, maybe they can start tracking that the participants in that to try to find out exactly what's going on because there will be retaliation. That's the biggest concern right now the police have, will be retaliation.

CABRERA: Yes, and there's $130,000 in reward money being offered for information that leads to the arrest of those involved. In your experience, how often does reward money make a difference? RAMSEY: It does make a difference. It depends on whether or not they, you know, will allow for people to anonymously -- anonymous in terms of not getting their names published, provide information. But we use reward money in Philly and in D.C., and it really does help. I mean, every little bit helps. And $130,000 is a significant sum when you're talking about reward money.

They will find out who's responsible, the key is to find out, and to arrest them before retaliation. You know, these things, one of the most sensitive day is going to be the day of the funerals. That's when emotions run the highest. And that's when you have to be on guard because that's usually around the time that some retaliation will take place.

[13:20:04]

CABRERA: So, there's the risk of retaliation. You also have these original suspects that haven't been caught, so there is an ongoing threat there, I imagine. Should law enforcement in that area be beefing up security at certain venues right now? How can they be proactive?

RAMSEY: Well, they'll be paying attention to social media to find out if there's any other large events. But I would imagine that whoever is responsible for this will avoid being part of a larger group but that doesn't mean that if the individuals who are suspects in minds of the people who were shot at, that there won't be some individual homicides or shootings that will take place as they begin to retaliate for the mass shooting.

CABRERA: Bigger picture, I want to ask you, just about what we're seeing across the country, because not only in Florida, where there were actually two mass shootings in South Florida, specifically, over the weekend, we heard the Miami-Dade Police director say he's worried about more violence heading into the summer and we've been seeing an increase this gun violence around the country, frankly. What do you think is behind the surge in gun violence?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, first of all, there will be more gun violence taking place, there will be more mass shootings taking place, there's no reason to think that it won't. I mean, it's complicated and there's a lot of issues that probably, you know, have an impact. One is the number of guns that are obviously out there, two, there are no real consequences for many of these guys that are out here shooting one another. They feel emboldened now. And they just go out, they carry guns, they use guns, it's gotten ridiculous.

CABRERA: What do you mean there's no consequences?

RAMSEY: Well, there are very little consequences. I mean, courts were shut down for the longest period of time. Depending on the jurisdiction you're in now, people aren't being held in custody for any length of time. They're put right back out on the street. And so that individual either commits another crime or because of retaliation and revenge, they become the next victim. And so it's kind of like a cycle that takes place and it just -- one right after the other. And it's going to be a very long summer and fall because this stuff is not going to stop. I mean, it's going to continue.

CABRERA: We are hearing from other law enforcement officials calling for federal changes to gun laws. Take a listen to the Miami Police chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: What do you see as the impact potentially of police officials like that chief, yourself and others in particular just being more vocal on these issues?

RAMSEY: Well, listen, Art was absolutely right. The problem is, when police chiefs speak out, elected officials don't pay attention. That's why he's saying the public at large has to speak out. Because these guys -- the members of Congress are not going to do anything. If they didn't do anything after Sandy Hook, there is no reason to believe that what happened a couple days ago, or any other mass shooting is going to make a difference, because it's not. I mean, you know, they're going to sit on their hands, hope people forget.

You know, I just hope these kinds of things just stay in the news, and we keep a body count, you know, just like with COVID, you know, the number of people murdered on the streets. I mean, we pay attention to mass shootings, but every single day, people are losing their lives to gun violence, every single day. And in many instances, it goes almost unnoticed.

And so unless we really pay attention and get the public interested in demanding change, nothing, absolutely nothing will happen. I have zero confidence in the United States Congress doing anything at the federal level.

CABRERA: Commissioner Charles Ramsey, I appreciate the conversation. Thank you so much for your time.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, talks drag on, hope dims, the time is running out for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. Will new pressure to make progress equal results?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:00]

CABRERA: President Biden is hitting a potential pivotal moment on infrastructure negotiations have now stretched past the White House's preferred Memorial Day deadline. Bipartisanship is the Biden preference but the administration made clear this weekend it won't wait on Republicans forever and imposed a new cutoff date.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: By the time that they return, which is June 7th, just a week from tomorrow, we need a clear direction. Certainly encouraging to see the healthy conversations that have happened over the last days and weeks, but the president keeps saying inaction is not an option, and time is not unlimited here.

I think we are getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now, the grandsons of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace, James Roosevelt Jr. and Scott Wallace. Gentlemen, thank you both for being with me.

Your grandfathers helped remake this country through investing billions of dollars in public works and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Americans. James, do you view the Biden agenda as something that has the potential to transform the country in the same way?

[13:30:02]

JAMES ROOSEVELT JR., GRANDSON OF FORMER PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: Ana, thank you for having us, and I do want to take a moment to just remember the sadness of what happened.