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Biden's Steps to Reduce Racial Wealth Gap; Texas Lawmakers Want Federal Response for Voting; Surveillance Video of Florida Club Suspects; Regina Goodwin is Interviewed about the Tulsa Race Massacre. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

BRAD GILBERT, ESPN TENNIS ANALYST: You know, you just expect them to be able to handle this.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

GILBERT: And she's told us very clearly that I can't handle facing the media, facing this negativity that creates doubt for me and makes me very uptight.

KEILAR: Yes.

GILBERT: That's why I felt like the WTA tour, the Women Tennis Association, should have been helping behind the scenes. Her agency should have been helping. Let's figure out how to get her playing and figure out behind the scenes what we can do to make this better for Naomi and she can play. It's such a sad ending that this had to happen --

KEILAR: Brad -- Brad, I am so -- I am so -- I think -- I am so sorry that I have to cut you off. I'm like half a minute into my pal's show always, but, Brad, it is so important -- this is such an important issue and, Brad Gilbert, I thank you so much for discussing it with us.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

GILBERT: Good morning. Sorry we ran over.

KEILAR: No worries.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Just hours from now, President Biden will leave the White House for Oklahoma to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is just a horrific and, sadly, a long ignored chapter in this nation's history.

On May 31, 1921, a white mob descended on what was a thriving black neighborhood, Greenwood, in Tulsa. Angry crowds went block to block. They looted. They killed. Eyewitnesses reported planes, a relatively new invention at the time, took part in the attacks. Attacks from the air. The destruction and the devastation lasted until the next day. And the scenes afterwards, just horrendous.

HARLOW: So not just homes and businesses, but schools and churches also destroyed. The very heart of that community burned to the ground. Thousands were left homeless. As many as 300 black Americans were killed.

Reflecting on that horror today, the president will meet with three survivors of the massacre, the oldest, 107 years old. He is also expected to announce new steps to try to bridge the racial wealth gap in this country.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: So that is where we begin this hour with our colleague, Jeremy Diamond. He joins us at the White House.

Good morning, Jeremy. It is so significant that the president is going, having these meetings. Can you talk about the action, what the administration actually plans to do in terms of trying to bridge those wealth gaps that have been so persistent for so long?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's going to be a big focus of what the president is doing there today. And it is remarkable to think that President Biden will be the first American president in the 100 years since this massacre to actually participate in a commemoration of what has been a really dark part of American history and an important part of American history to recognize.

What President Biden's going to do is he's not only going to commemorate the massacre that took place, the victims of the massacre, meet with some of the survivors, but he's also going to be connecting what happened then to what happened after that massacre in the 100 years since, the policies that have really hurt black Americans and affected this country's movement towards racial equity. And that is where President Biden is going to focus his attention is on taking some actions to try and address the wealth gap between black and white Americans.

We're going to see him pledge to increase federal contracting money for small, disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent. The administration is projecting that that could be an increase of $10 billion over the next five years. You're going to see this -- some proposals that are in his American Jobs Plan, $10 billion community revitalization fund, $31 billion in programs to help small businesses, minority owned small businesses in particular. Those two aspects, of course, are contingent on action from Congress. And then you're also going to see the president announce some steps to address discrimination in the housing market, including one issue that's been in the news recently which is this issue of appraisals for white-owned homes or black-owned homes, tens of thousands of dollars of differences there and the president announcing interagency efforts to tackle that very issue. But, again, the focus today is on connecting not only what happened

then but what is still happening in this country in terms of the struggle for racial justice and racial equity.

Poppy. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks very much.

Well, we have history that happened 100 years ago and then we have what's happening today that has enormous consequences for people of color and their votes. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is threatening to withhold state lawmakers salaries after House Democrats walked out on a bill pushing for a whole host of new voting restrictions. Abbott said that he would do that by vetoing part of the state budget that funds those lawmakers' paychecks.

HARLOW: So not paying them.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: On Sunday night, a large group of Texas Democrats walked out of the house chamber to prevent a quorum. That stopped a final vote on the bill.

Our Ed Lavandera joins us from Dallas this morning.

Good morning, Ed.

It got them a lot of attention for sure and it elevated the issue of voting rights in this country and the national debate.

[09:05:01]

Jim and I, the question we've been talking about this morning is, so now what, right? Can the -- can Democrats keep walking out or are they postponing the inevitable, which is passage of SB-7?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, just looking at it initially here, there is some real question as to whether or not they will be stopping -- they'll be able to stop what Republicans here in the state want to do. But having said that, you can really get a sense from Democrats here that they were -- are planning on making -- making it as difficult as possible. And all of this will depend how the next few months play out here in Texas.

I also want to mention real quick, you mentioned the threat -- the veto threat that Governor Abbott is talking about. It's not just eliminating the pay for state lawmakers. That would affect hundreds of staffers that work in the legislative budget office of state government. So this isn't just something that would punish the lawmakers, but hundreds of staffers, if not several, you know, thousands of people who work in state government. So that threat is real and very concerning.

But, you know, right now, Democrats are trying to figure out exactly what the governor's next move is going to be as they all wait to see when this special election is going to be called. I mean it's important to kind of go over some of the measures that were in this voting bill that Democrats were successfully able to stall for now, but this bill, as it was last written, would ban voting past 9:00 in the morning, it would end drive-through voting. It would also end mass mailing of voting by mail applications being sent out. It would expand the penalty for more than a dozen election related crimes. It would also give partisan poll watchers more protections.

It continues. It would ban polling before 1:00 on Sunday. It would require special permission for people to drive groups of voters to the polls that aren't their relatives. And it would also leave and lower the standard for judges to be able to overturn elections where there is -- are allegations of election fraud.

So you can imagine a whole host of issues here that Democrats say would make this one of the most restrictive voting bills in the country.

HARLOW: Ed, thank you very much. We'll watch it closely.

SCIUTTO: Let's discuss further with CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.

You know, you look at this Texas case and the implications far beyond Texas, right, because we're seeing similar restrictions in other states. But also, the representatives behind this blockage here really issued a clarion call to the president for federal action.

Listen to what Texas Representative Trey Martinez Fischer told CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Walking out last night is the equivalent to us being on our knees begging the president and the United States government to come up with a federal response. Please give us a For the People Act. Please give us the John Lewis Act. Please give us a federal response when it comes to elections in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So referring to VRA (ph) Act and also HR-1, which faced that old obstacle of a filibuster in the Senate.

Is that -- are those measures DOA in the Senate as a practical matter or can Biden and Democrats make a turn here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Biden certainly can't do it unilaterally and Democrats have a fundamental problem with the filibuster, as you say. But after the filibuster killed a bipartisan commission to investigate the attacks of January 6th on our Capitol and our democracy, you've got to wonder what are -- why any reasonable person would believe that there's room to reason together in good faith on issues like voting rights.

And that raises the question of filibuster reform. Not ending it, but mending it and whether Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin in particular might be persuaded that filibuster reform is appropriate because whether it's -- you know, HR-1, the For the People Act, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is more targeted and tailored. There's no question, we are witnessing a sustained assault on our democracy, on voting rights in several -- in many states. Texas just being the latest example.

You're seeing right here the efforts. And they're Republican states. This Texas bill was crafted in secret. In Iowa, conservative outside groups bragged about effectively writing the legislation.

So this is a sustained assault on our democracy that's going on right now and it demands defense of our democracy at this time. So Democrats have got to figure a way to get this through. They're not going to be able to jam it through by executive order. But this is an urgent crisis for our country right now.

HARLOW: John, I keep thinking about this fight in Texas happening on, you know, the same day that we, as a nation, mark and recognize the massacre in Tulsa. And all of the civil rights and constitutional rights that the people of Tula -- of Greenwood were stripped of over that two days and what is happening now in terms of access to the ballot. And I just -- I just wonder how you think about that, 100 years later.

[09:10:01]

SCIUTTO: Yes.

AVLON: A hundred years later, the fact this bill was -- was -- tried to be jammed through over Memorial Day as well, it is rich with symbolism. In terms of the higher -- the better angels of our nature we should be listening to and the recognition of our history that has been hidden. Massacres of prosperous communities in Tulsa that were effectively written out of our history show that structural -- structural racism is real, that we need to deal with it, we need a broader reckoning of our history that is fundamentally more inclusive and that when there are attempts to shut down voting rights, we need to understand it, not just in terms of the partisan politics of the moment, but the larger themes of American political history and how that is intersected with race throughout our history.

We cannot hide from that. We need to confront it wide-eyed and ideally together, finally.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. Can't forget history.

John Avlon, thanks so much.

AVLON: Thank you, guys.

SCIUTTO: Well, police in south Florida may be one step closer to finding the three suspects accused of shooting into a crowd at a Miami area banquet hall that killed two people, they wounded 21 others. I mean the surveillance video helps tell the story here. This is not the surveillance video of the shooting, but this is the

police discovering the vehicle used in that shooting, later dumped in a canal.

Here's the shooting itself. I mean, just alarming. They hop out of the car. You see the weapons. Appear to be semiautomatic, long rifle and we now know, Poppy, what they were able to do in just seconds.

HARLOW: Right. Ten seconds. That's it. That's how long it took for those masked gunmen to kill two people and to wound 20 others. Three who remain in critical condition.

Our Natasha Chen is on this story again for us this morning in Doral, Florida.

Natasha, what can you tell us?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, we're outside the Miami- Dade Police headquarters. The investigators have really been working on this around the clock. And as you mentioned, yesterday afternoon, they found that white Nissan Pathfinder that you saw in that surveillance video. They found that SUV in a canal, submerged. And it had been reported stolen on May 15th.

Just to remind folks, this shooting happened just after midnight Sunday, early Sunday morning, about 12:30. And so that surveillance video that you're seeing, three masked gunmen getting out of the car with assault rifles and handguns. Police say they opened fire on a group standing outside this lounge venue that was hosting a scheduled concert. And within ten seconds, they jump back in the car, they escape through an alley.

Here is the police director talking about where they stand in this investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALFREDO "FREDDY" RAMIREZ, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE: At this time we have various people that are being pointed at. Our detectives are validating those tips as they come in so that we can build a strong case, so the day we take these individuals into custody, we're able to have a, you know, a prosecution process that we make sure they stay in jail for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Police Director Ramirez says this was the result of an ongoing rivalry between two groups. And just to kind of give you the main points of what happened here. This surveillance video, as you mentioned, shows those people getting out, firing on the crowd. Police say the crowd, actually, some of them fired back. Two 26-year-old men were killed in this shooting, 21 others wounded. And of those wounded, three of them, as of yesterday, still in critical condition. A few of them released. And among those released, Poppy and Jim, was a 17-year- old. So we're talking about very young victims here.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you for that reporting. Hope they have answers very soon.

We have a lot ahead this hour. Still to come, as President Biden heads to Oklahoma to mark a century since the Tulsa Race Massacre, a descendant of those who survived that violent, tragic event joins us ahead.

And new CNN reporting this morning, Vice President Kamala Harris' team seeking to distance the VP from the crisis at the border. Details ahead.

SCIUTTO: Plus, tennis star Naomi Osaka makes the stunning decision to drop out of The French Open. Why did she make that very personal call, and reaction from others, including Serena Williams.

Stay with us.

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[09:18:45]

SCIUTTO: When President Biden goes to Tulsa, Oklahoma, today, remarkably he will be the very first president to commemorate the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The first. Last night, people gathered in Tulsa in the rain to hold a vigil marking the moment the very first shots were fired on that night 100 years ago.

HARLOW: Well, today, the president will outline a plan to revitalize communities like Greenwood where this massacre took place, but he will also acknowledge the human and the economic loss and he will meet with our next guest.

Joining us now is Oklahoma State Representative Regina Goodwin. Her great-grandparents and grandparents survived the two days of murder and devastation that has now become known as the Tulsa Massacre.

Thank you so much, Representative Goodwin, for being with us this morning.

REGINA GOODWIN (D), OKLAHOMA STATE HOUSE: Poppy and Jim, thank you so much for having me.

HARLOW: I read about you as a little girl and when you would go to visit your grandmother in Tulsa, you would ask to see this book that she kept under lock and key. What did that book tell you about what we mark 100 years since today?

GOODWIN: Well, first of all, it tells me that at their time there was a black woman reporter, which is important to me that we be able to tell our story.

[09:20:02]

And Mary Elizabeth Jones Parish (ph) had a book called "The Events of the Tulsa Disaster." My grandmother had the original copy. She had the original copy. She would literally keep it under lock and key because that history is precious. And I would be allowed to read it, read portions of it, and I would read of eyewitness accounts of what had happened during the race massacre. I would read of her own daughter, Mary Florence, who saw the white mobs outside the window, and her mother was working on a report and she was like, hey, don't bother me right now. What are you talking (ph). She's like, mommy, mommy, mama, mama, come to the window. And that is how Miss Parish learned of the massacre, her daughter, five-year-old daughter was watching what was happening on the streets. So these eyewitness accounts, she would talk about having to flee through the streets, dodging bullets with her daughter in tow and she knew either she would die inside by fire or she would have to take the chance of running through the streets.

So it's those kinds of eyewitness accounts that we hold dear and we remember here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

SCIUTTO: Representative Goodwin, one thing that has amazed and alarmed me in learning about this is that this was an event almost erased from history for a number of years, for a decade (ph) not even taught in schools in Oklahoma, right, for so many years. And I wonder if you could explain to folks how that -- how that happened, right? I mean there's been a reawakening, you might say, of awareness of this event today, but for so many years it was swept under the rug.

GOODWIN: So I just want to add layers to what you've said, which is absolutely true. There is absolutely a conspiracy of silence because murderers, looters and arsonists were still walking the streets. Crimes had been committed. No one was charged.

But I will say this. I know that Representative Don Ross (ph), Senator Maxine Horner (ph), he learned of it in high school at Booker T. Washington. And it was his teacher that conveyed that information to me. I learned it through my family history, oral history, reading about it. For so many, though, for so many it was an issue that was not to be discussed and, one, some people did it to survive because they knew, who are we going to talk to about the injustices because for now, a century now, there's been no repair. There's been no one charged for the crime.

So we do sit on sacred land. There's blood in the soil. And I tell you, even today, there are those that don't want to speak of it. I will tell you this. I got to let you know this. We had a house resolution 1040 that we barely got passed. I had authored the language. And it simply spoke of the work that Representative Don Ross had. We had -- it's factual. It's history that a commission was convened in 2000. That there was a 200-page report and in that 200- page report reparations were recommended. They did not want that language in 2021 in the Oklahoma state legislature. And it wasn't until I said, if you choose not to do that, then we will have to let the world know where we are in terms of trying to continue to hide history in Oklahoma.

We did not even get a joint resolution passed which this 100 years is deserving of. The senate chose not to have my language in the resolution. So, right now, history, the omission of history, the attempt to rewrite history is ongoing in Oklahoma today.

HARLOW: So can we take that a step further, Representative Goodwin, because Jim makes an excellent point about so -- so many people not learning about this in school. And to the point you just made, you now have what was a bill that now has been signed into law by the governor of Oklahoma. It goes into effect next month. And part of it, I read it this morning, it's, you know, only four pages long. It says -- it bans state schools from teaching lessons that cause someone to, quote, feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender. My question to you is, how do you teach about the truths of the Tulsa Massacre and avoid discussions of discomfort or anguish? The governor says, you know, this does not preclude teaching about what happened, but many critics on the other side say, yes, it does in totality.

GOODWIN: Absolutely. It's a stupid bill. It's House Bill 1775. I believe we've got to have truth tellers. We also have to have truth listeners. And it absolutely would prevent the clear teaching of what we know to be fact.

When folks are discomforted, you can't legislate discomfort. We were discomforted in slavery. We were discomforted still today when we are targeted by bad officers and arrested and beaten and killed. There's discomfort there. I don't see many folks moving in the Oklahoma state legislature to provide law and policy that would move us forward. So you're absolutely right.

This whole notion of, if someone is discomforted, if someone is made to feel guilty, look, there is blame to be had because there are benefactors of the past injustices even today.

[09:25:09]

So there's blame there and there's also -- there are also benefactors.

HARLOW: Representative Regina Goodwin, we wish we could go on and on with you. I know today's meaningful. You're meeting with the president.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Please, come back soon. Thanks very much.

GOODWIN: Thank you all so much for having me. We are certainly going to remember -- let me say this, we're going to remember Miss Lessie Benningfield Randle at 106, we're going to remember Miss Viola Fletcher at 107, Mr. Hughes Van Ellis, who served his country and said, even though he's not seeing reparations, he still loves his country. He still wants justice. He wants reparations. We all do.

Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And it's amazing, as you say, how many survivors are still alive today, more than a century old themselves, to tell the story. Thank you, Representative Goodwin.

GOODWIN: God is good. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, another story we're following this morning, packed airports, a booming sin city. Things are quickly returning to normal as more people get vaccinated. We're going to have live updates, next.

HARLOW: Moments away here from the opening bell on Wall Street. Take a look at futures, all pointing higher this morning. Investors growing more confident or maybe less concerned about rising inflation.

We're also waiting on manufacturing data that could give fresh insight into the state of this economic recovery. We're on top of all of it.

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