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Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) Discusses 17 House Democrats Urging Schumer To Hold "For The People Act" Vote & Pelosi Offering Options To Investigate January 6 Insurrection; Mayor Kathy Sheehan (D) Of Albany, NY Discusses Asking Federal Government For Help On Gun Violence; American Imprisoned In Russia Talks To CNN From Labor Camp; Results In From Kentucky Derby Winner's Second Drug Test. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 2, 2021 - 14:30   ET



REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): The fact is this is coming from the far right, which know that it cannot win elections on its policies. So instead, they seek to disenfranchise a large number of the American electorate.

As a Congress, it's why we must ask for the We the People Act and it's why I wrote a letter with the rest of the New York Democratic delegation commending Chuck Schumer for his commitment to hold a vote on the Senate floor on the For the People Act, also known as Senate Bill 1, by the end of this month.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's going to fail without 60 votes. You don't have the 10 Democrats. We know that Senator Manchin says he'll supports it if it's a bipartisan effort.

I know that it means abolishes the filibuster. Not everyone agrees.

Are the people also standing in the way of the filibuster standing in the way, from your perspective, of protecting democracy?

JONES: They are standing in the way of American democracy. We must at least, at a minimum, make an exception to the filibuster for the purpose of saving our democracy.

I've been distressed to see apparently one or two Senators would be comfortable with their legacy being that of the Senators who block voting rights in this country.

The fact is, as we go into this redistricting year, where there will be partisan gerrymandering on steroids, so more districts drawn to elect QAnon conspiracy theorists, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who then go on to win civil wars within the House Republican caucus.

We have to do what we can over the next few months to save our democracy. That means we have to expose this lie that somehow there will be 10 Republican Senators who engage in good faith and who are committed to American ideals like the right to vote.

That means we have to build momentum and show the American people this is something that is not going to happen and we must abolish the filibuster.

I was pleased to see yesterday the president of the United States finally rise to the occasion on the question of the For the People Act and designate Kamala Harris as the lead on our voting rights effort.

He needs to continue to use the stature of his office, his bully pulpit.

BLACKWELL: She's now designated to lead the effort. What can she do?

JONES: She can start by using her platform to talk to the American people about the foundational importance of this. This bill is more important than literally anything else we on do over the year and a half.

If we do not secure of right to vote in this country, we'll could be ruled by a minority of people who don't want to certify free and fair elections, who don't want to investigate the attempted coup of our federal government on January 6th.


JONES: And do not believe in science and who peddle the myth that, you know, somehow the coronavirus is not real.

And who, in the case of Michael Flynn a few days ago, are still encouraging the overthrow of the federal government.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the investigation. Speaker Pelosi, on the caucus call, offered four options on how the caucus could move forward, the House could move forward on investigating the insurrection.

The options are to push for another Senate vote, create a select committee, allow several existing committees to investigate or designate a single committee to lead.

In your opinion, what is the right past forward here?

JONES: Let me say the way we even got here is, despite the concessions we made, Republicans still did not want the truth to be exposed about their role in inciting the violent insurrection.

It was a bipartisan bill. And so in the alternative I think we need to choose a select committee to investigate.

We cannot just move past January 6th as if it didn't happen. We came close to an overflow of the federal government.

And still, a few hours later, my colleagues on the other side, Republicans, voted overwhelmingly not to certify the presidential election last year, despite nearly dying alongside me earlier that day. We have to do something about this. Its starts with a bipartisan

select committee, and that means Republicans should serve on it as well, for the purpose of investigating the events leading up to the date.

BLACKWELL: Congressman Mondaire Jones, of from New York, thank you so much, sir.

JONES: Thank you.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The mayor of Albany, New York, is asking the federal government for help with the gun violence in her city. She says the levels of violence, quote, "shock the conscience." She joins us live, next.


CAMEROTA: An epidemic of gun violence is sweeping the U.S. Here's some footage from the Miami area.

And we warn you, it's disturbing.

This is brand-new surveillance video. It shows scores of people fleeing a nightclub after a gunman opened fire, killing two, and injuring at least 22 others.

Authorities are still searching for these three gunmen, seen getting off this white Nissan, and then fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Call your local police if you know anything about it.

Also in Florida, a 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy had a shootout with sheriff's deputies. Officials say both children ran away from their juvenile homes, broke into a home that contained multiple guns, and then opened fire.

In Las Angeles County, an off-duty firefighter fatally gunned down one of his colleagues and wounded another at their fire station. Officials say the shooter then returned to his home nearby, set it on fire and reportedly killed himself.

This crisis is plaguing Albany, New York, so much so that the mayor is asking for help from the feds. She says the surge in illegal guns is outpacing their efforts to curb the violence.

Albany's mayor, Kathy Sheehan, joins us now.

Mayor, thank you very much for being here.

Just give us a sense of what it's like in Albany. Is the violence worse now than before the pandemic?


MAYOR KATHY SHEEHAN (D), ALBANY, NEW YORK: Certainly. We had an uptick in violence in 2018 of gun violence, but that was then reduced by a significant amount in 2019.

And then we saw the surge that we've really seen across the country in the number of guns in our community and the number of gun incidents, the number of gun shootings in our community. It's heartbreaking.

CAMEROTA: I read you said you're really worried about this summer. What do you think will happen?

SHEEHAN: I think we have seen a huge increase in gun violence just over the last few weeks.

I attended a funeral today for a 15-year-old girl who was killed respect sitting in a car. It appears it was some sort of Facebook transaction gone bad. And she just happened to be in the backseat of the car.

Seeing her family today, her mother, her father, her grandparents, an entire community devastated, it's heartbreaking.

I don't want to have to attend another funeral. I don't want another family to experience what her family is experiencing right now.

CAMEROTA: What is causing this spike in violence?

SHEEHAN: You know, I think that ultimately, we have a lot of systems that, you know, were frayed because of COVID.

We hear people talk about the need for more services, the more things for our young people to do. We know how to reduce gun violence.

We went for a period of time where we didn't have a single gun homicide in more than a year. We have great commune service and providers. A lot of that was frayed during COVID.

Violence interrupters couldn't go into hospitals to interrupt violence. People have been isolated. People have, I think, really lost a lot of their support systems their out there.

But we have to talk about the proliferation of guns. This proliferation of guns into our community is what is making this gun violence possible.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like, as you say, you had the programs in place. Some at the local grassroots level, most of them.

But now you're asking for federal help. What can they do?

SHEEHAN: We have to have a candid conversation in this country about how gun violence is becoming normalized. Picking up a gun to settle a dispute that would be unimaginable to most of us is becoming the norm.

We also have to talk about how the guns are getting into people's hands. We took two guns off the street, one stolen from Alabama, the other from South Carolina. They're making our way into our community.

We need national federal legislation to make sure we're closing the loopholes. We need national red flag laws. We had need to be serious about ensuring we are protecting or residents. A 15-year-old child lost her life.

So I think we need a national conversation. We need to pass legislation that's currently pending.

And then we also need to have, I believe, a task force on gun trafficking and the underlying causes of gun violence that are happening in our communities across the country.

CAMEROTA: Look, you know how reluctant Republicans primarily in Congress have been to take this issue on. Who are you asking for help?

SHEEHAN: The U.S. Conference of Mayors had a summit, our president, the mayor of Louisville called for a summit of mayors across the country.

I was able to interview Representative Lucy McBath, who tragically lost her son for gun violence.

We are working collectively, Democratic mayors, Republican mayors, to say that we have to have a national conversation, a national action around guns that are literally devastating or communities.

For every victim of gun violence, you have trauma upon trauma that's happening in the community. So we have to be willing to talk about that.

You know, I think this idea that the proliferation of guns is not the problem is a myth. We have to be willing to talk about it.

You know, I support the Second Amendment. But this is about illegal guns getting into our communities. And they're getting into our communities because of loopholes that exist in others state allowing those guns to get here.

CAMEROTA: Are you getting any response from the federal level?

SHEEHAN: I think President Biden and his administration take this very seriously. I think we have to work together.

You know, as I said, the funeral I attended today, anybody seeing that, anybody seeing the pain that this young girl's family is experiencing, I think they would have to think differently about a stance where we continue to ignore the proliferation of against in our country.


CAMEROTA: That pain is lifelong. It's not just one violent incident. It is lifelong for the survivors and their families.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, thank you very much. We appreciate talking with you about what's going on in Albany and beyond.

SHEEHAN: Thank you so much. BLACKWELL: A former Marine held in a Russian labor camp is making a

personal plea to President Biden ahead of his summit with Vladimir Putin. What he wants the president to do, next.



BLACKWELL: An American in a Russian prison on spy charges is calling on President Biden to aggressively take up the issue of Russia detaining U.S. citizens when he meets with Vladimir Putin this month.

CAMEROTA: Paul Whelan is serving a sentence on charges he says is fabricated.

In an interview exclusive to CNN from a Russian labor camp, he calls on President Biden to release hostages imprisoned by Russia.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow now.

Matthew, can this be resolved when President Biden meets with Putin?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's one of the many issues on the list of fraught matters that have to be discussed between President Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, when the meeting about 14 days from now, 16th of June in Geneva, Switzerland.

They'll be talking about hacking, crackdown on Ukraine, the crackdown on Russian dissidents.

But also the Americans held in Russian jails. One of them is Paul Whelan, and another guy, Trevor Reed, who is also serving a long sentence on assault charges. They want them swapped.

Paul Whelan spoke to CNN, spoke to us from his labor camp in the region called Mordovia, very remote, in the middle of Russia. And he says he's looking to President Biden and that summit in Geneva for hopes of a negotiated release.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): And if you could get a message to President Biden ahead of this meeting, what would it be?

PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA (voice-over): Decisive action is needed immediately. The abduction of American citizens cannot stand in where in the world.

This is not an issue of Russia against me. It's an issue of Russia against the United States.

And the United States needs to answer this hostage diplomacy situation and resolve it as quickly as possible. So, I would ask President Biden to productively discuss and resolve

this issue with his Russian counterparts.


CHANCE: Yes, I think that Paul Whelan believes he's very much a sort of negotiating chip for the Russians to return back some Russian prisoners that are in American jails.

The problem has always been that the Russians in American jails are really high-level criminals.

One of them is a convicted cocaine smuggler, conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. The other within is the world's most notorious arms traffickers.

U.S. officials I've spoken to say there's no correlation. Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, the other U.S. citizen in a Russian jail, are in a different category than the serious criminals Russians want exchanged.

BLACKWELL: Not a one for one.

Matthew Chance, thank you so much.

Matthew mentioned Trevor Reed. I spoke to his parents. He's a former U.S. Marine. They say the assault charges on which he's been convicted are also fabricated.

Reed's mother told me last week why she hopes that President Biden will take up her son's case with Putin.


PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED: When Trevor was serving in the Marine Corps, he had to sign extra time on his term to do presidential guard.

And he served during the Obama administration when President Obama and then vice President Biden were at Camp David. Trevor was there, helping to protect them.

We are begging and hoping and praying that President Biden will do his best to bring our son home, because he protected him at Camp David.


BLACKWELL: Reed's parents recently learned that he tested positive for COVID-19. Is now in isolation in prison. He's serving a nine-year sentence.


CAMEROTA: Up next, was the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, cheating? His second drug test just came back. The results don't look good.



BLACKWELL: Two to four things we're talking about this afternoon. First, the Kentucky winner, Medina Spirit has failed a second drug test according to a lawyer for the horse's trainers.

CAMEROTA: The lab testing's second post-race sample confirms Medina Spirit had a prohibited amount of an anti-inflammatory drug in its system.

The trainer claims the drug was present to treat a skin rash.

In a statement to CNN, the attorney, Craig Robertson, said, "We expect this additional testing to confirm the presence of Betamethasone was from the topical ointment Otomax and not an injection."

Medina Spirit has become only the second horse in derby history to have its win rescinded over a failed drug test.

Here are my thoughts, Victor.


CAMEROTA: Any time you're using the word ointment in your explanation, you're losing.

BLACKWELL: It's a very dangerous word to be using.


BLACKWELL: Lay off the ointment, Medina Spirit. Is there nothing else to treat this rash? Is there not a nice salve? I'm partial to a salve over an ointment.


CAMEROTA: First of all, rash, too, forbidden.


CAMEROTA: Next, COVID cases are way down. Of course, it's time to get back to normal. Or not.