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Federal Judge Rules California Ban on Assault Weapons Unconstitutional; Interview with Father of Parkland Shooting Victim on Overturning of California Assault Weapons Ban; Senior Trump Organization Financial Official Testifies Before Grand Jury; Justice Department to Offer Plea Deals to three Capitol Rioters Accused of Assaulting D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone; Department of Justice Ramping Up Investigations into Ransomware and Other Cyberattacks on U.S. Infrastructure; U.S. Economy Increases Job Gains in May but Also Experiencing Inflation; NFL State It Will End Controversial Policy of Race-Norming which Assumes Black Players have Lower Cognitive Brain Function. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired June 5, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the Newsroom.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to be clear, when it comes to things like Constitutional rights, they are subject to limitations.

SANCHEZ: A federal judge striking down California's decades old ban on assault weapons, comparing an AR-15 assault rifle to a Swiss army knife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are worried that some people will get hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's critical that people understand how far reaching this risk really is.

SANCHEZ: The White House and cyber security experts warning of a growing threat of cyberattacks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly, this is a priority to him.

SANCHEZ: Nearly five months after a mob stormed the U.S. capitol, there are new developments in the case against at least one of the rioters.

And a big change coming to the NFL as the league announces it will end the controversial practice of race-norming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does not belong in this particular practice. Black and white brains aren't any different.

SANCHEZ: What sparked the change and what it means going forward. Newsroom starts right now.

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SANCHEZ (on camera): Good morning. We're so glad to have you with us this Saturday, June 5th. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

SANCHEZ: We begin this hour with what the governor of California is calling a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. A federal judge in San Diego likening an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss army knife in his decision to overturn the state's long time ban on assault weapons.

WALKER: Now California and gun control advocates are vowing to fight back. CNN's Polo Sandoval is following this story. And Polo, this assault weapons ban has been on the books in California for decades, nearly 30 years. What happens now?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, since 1989 to be exact, and then fast forward to 2019 when a lawsuit was filed essentially challenging that. And then here we are just yesterday when a federal judge in San Diego declared that unconstitutional, overturned it. And that's really where this controversy is right now, specifically when it comes to Judge Roger Benitez's comments as he declared that law unconstitutional. I want to read you a portion of that ruling, at least what the judge wrote just yesterday here as he wrote that that "Like the Swiss army knife the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Firearms deemed as, quote, "assault weapons" are fairly ordinary, popular, and modern rifles."

That specifically referring to the judge's argument here, or at least his ruling, rather, that found that this law that had been in place, as you mentioned, for decades deprived law-abiding citizens in the state of California from possessing a weapon that was widely available in other parts of the country. The judge giving 30 days for state officials to actually appeal this ruling, and that's exactly what California's attorney general plans to do, and he also responded just yesterday to this ruling, calling this, in his own words, fundamentally flawed.

I'll read you a little bit more about what A.G. Rob Bonta wrote. He says, "There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss army knives, especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day, and after the recent shootings in our own California communities." The attorney general there obviously referring to recent shoots here where many people have lost loved ones, and also to Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is an annual project that was established by groups that would like to see stricter gun laws.

So, again, that's really what the controversy that's taking place here in California. As for the attorney general, as we mentioned, he does plan to appeal that, and the judge giving him 30 days to do so.

WALKER: OK, Polo Sandoval, thank you for your reporting.

Let's get some more perspective now from a legal expert. Ross Garber is a political investigations and impeachment lawyer and professor at Tulane Law School. I want to first get your reaction, Ross, to the judge's ruling and how it was issued. The judge was comparing the AR- 15 to a Swiss army knife.

ROSS GARBER, IMPEACHMENT LAW PROFESSOR, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Yes. And there's actually a very good article about this on CNN.com that links to the full opinion. This is a 90-plus page opinion, and this a judge who did not shy away from controversy. You're exactly right. He compared it to a Swiss army knife. And there is a lot of about this opinion that is very interesting.

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This is a judge who clearly is very, very pro-gun rights, and he walked through a lot of his opinions in this decision.

SANCHEZ: Ross, how likely is this to hold up on appeal? Obviously, the attorney general of California intent on appealing this. What happens in the meantime?

GARBER: Yes, I think that's a very important point for everybody to keep in mind. This is the first step in this process. This is a district court decision. It's a trial court. It's going to then go to the appeals court, the Ninth Circuit, where a panel of three judges is going to hear the case. And even then the full Ninth Circuit, the whole court may then hear the case, and then it may eventually wind up at the Supreme Court. This is going to be a relatively long process. This is the first step.

And interestingly, this is the same judge who recently issued another pro-gun rights opinion related to high-capacity magazines. That decision went up to the Ninth Circuit where a panel upheld it, and then that decision is now before the full Ninth Circuit. This is the first step in a long process.

WALKER: Yes, you talked about the judge having taken controversial stances. He's obviously not shy about saying his opinion. He also wrote in this ruling, quote, "This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned assault weapons are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed assault weapons are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes." Judicial activism here?

GARBER: Well, this judge is very much a fan of this weapon. He talks about how great the weapon is for home defense, and that's a key element of the Supreme Court jurisprudence on guns issues. And then the judge talks about how many of these guns. And honestly, I was even surprised by the number of these guns, these assault weapons in circulation right now. So yes, the judge is a big fan of the weapon. He talks about how many of them are being used by Americans, and then he casts his doubt on whether a ban on these assault weapons even has any rational effect at all, whether it actually does anything to limit gun violence.

SANCHEZ: Yes, typically you hear complaints about activist judges from originalists, not exactly on this side of the argument. Ross Garber, we have to leave the legal side of things there.

Let's get to personal side now. Joining us is Fred Guttenberg. He lost his daughter Jaime in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He's now an activist against gun violence. Fred, I just want to read some numbers to you because this is really a very important distinction to make. In Las Vegas there were 58, at Pulse nightclub, 49, Sandy Hook, 27, Aurora, 12, the Tree of Life Synagogue, 11, Sutherland Spring, Texas, 25, including an unborn child, and Parkland, Florida, which you know well, 17. All of these incidents assault weapons were used to take life. This judge comparing assault weapons to a Swiss army knife. Your reaction?

FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM JAIME GUTTENBERG: This very minute while we're doing this interview there's a parade happening in Parkland for all the graduating seniors that my daughter is supposed to be a part of, right now as we're doing this interview. I'm not there. My daughter is in a cemetery -- excuse me -- because a Swiss army knife was not used. Because it was an AR-15. My daughter was on the third floor. If a Swiss army knife were used, my daughter and most of those other kids and adults would be alive today.

So let me deliver a message to this activist judge who's been at this now for a while. You are a liar. And your opinion is written utilizing the exact language of the gun lobby. These are not new words. These are not new phrases. They are not new expressions. You took the language from the gun lobby to write this opinion.

My daughter was born in 2003 when there was a federal assault weapons ban. OK, following the ending of that ban in 2004, these weapons were not common. They were not typical. And what the gun industry did is they said these are for hunting and sport while overproducing in quantities every year, and doing things like marketing these weapons to kids and for other uses.

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And now they say it's common, it's typical. No, you're full of crap, judge, and you are going to lose.

WALKER: I can feel your anger. We obviously hear it and see it, and the pain also in your voice, Fred. You have this judge who is using words like "ordinary" and "average" to describe an AR-15-style weapon. You also talked about him using language that you say was taken from the gun lobby. And case in point, in the ruling he talks about guns and ammunition in the hands of criminals, tyrants, and terrorists are dangerous. Guns in the hands of law-abiding, responsible citizens are better. So again, there's that argument that it's not the guns, it's the people. Reading through this, how are you feeling? GUTTENBERG: Listen, my daughter was supposed to graduate this week,

and I should be at a parade right now, not doing an interview like this. So I'm upset. I'm angry. And I'm also fearful for the next shooting, and the one after that, and the one after that, because of this judge, because of this ruling, because of the inability of people to say we can support the Second Amendment, but we can also do more for gun safety. People are going to die because of this ruling. And so I'm upset for the loss of my daughter and for all the other victims, but I am fearful because I know there's someone out there right now who will go out and buy an AR-15 because of this judge, and use it.

SANCHEZ: Fred, for the sake of argument, let's present the counterpoint here. And I'll give you an example. I believe it was the end of 2015, close to 2015 there was a shooting in San Bernardino, California, where a couple, a husband and wife, using legally purchased weapons converted them into weapons that would have been illegal under this assault weapons ban that the judge is attempting to overturn. They were able to get their hands on those weapons and convert them to make them assault weapons anyway. What would a law actually do to stop gun violence if they were able to inflict so much damage back in 2015?

GUTTENBERG: Well, listen, you raise a great question, because we live now in a patchwork of loosened gun laws. Again, I talk about my daughter being born in 2003. And we've watched the gun lobby work through legislators and judges to loosen gun laws over the years that have brought us to this place that we're at now. They used to like to talk about the slippery slope. We've been on a slippery slope, and you raised a perfect example. California, another example was the Saugus High School shooting, where you can make ghost guns online.

What will legislation do? We would start closing these loopholes step by step, one by one. Legal, lawful gun owners would still have their weapons, they would still be able to get their weapons, get their ammunition. But we would be closing these loopholes and make it harder for those who intend harm to themselves or others to have the means to do so.

Listen, I wish I could tell you legislation just will stop all gun violence. It won't. But we need to pass legislation so we can start reducing the gun violence death rate, so we can start reducing these instances of gun violence, and so that we can reduce the severity of these injuries and instances when they happen because, unfortunately, with 400 million weapons on the streets today, this is where we're at. But to say we should do nothing, or to have a judge like this who literally is -- that decision had to have been written by the gun lobby, it is their language, that's not OK.

WALKER: Fred, you've channeled your grief into action and being an activist against gun violence. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the headway you've been making or progress as you've been pushing for gun safety? Have you been in touch, or do you plan to be in touch with Governor Gavin Newsom of California as a result of the overturning of this assault weapons ban?

GUTTENBERG: So I've not been in touch with Governor Newsom since this was overturned. We have been in touch in the past, and I would hope we will again in the future. But to answer your question, listen, states across this country are passing gun safety legislation, and Governor Newsom has been a leader on this. So have other states. You can look, and it's not just democratic governors like my friend Phil Murphy in New Jersey or New York. But you have Republican governors like Charlie Baker in Massachusetts or Larry Hogan in Maryland who are also doing the work of gun safety to save lives.

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The past two elections, to answer your question, have turned on the desire of Americans to be safe. In 2018 we flipped the House. In 2020 we elected Joe Biden president and Kamala Harris vice president and we flipped the Senate. Americans overwhelmingly support gun safety. They want this done. The roadblock right now is the Senate. They are standing firm and standing still. The Democrats should move on without the nongoverning party to get this done. Ninety percent of Americans want gun safety legislation. It doesn't mean we want to take away everyone's guns. It means we want to start saving lives. The time is now.

WALKER: Fred Guttenberg, sorry that we had to meet again under these circumstances, but as you said, your daughter Jaime should be celebrating with these children graduating high school --

GUTTENBERG: Right now.

WALKER: -- right now, and our heart is with you. And thank you again, and all the best to you in your efforts.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, some major developments in the criminal investigation into former President Trump and his company. One of the Trump Organization's most senior officials, the money man, has now testified before a special grand jury. Details ahead.

WALKER: Plus, the new cyberattack warning as more of the nation's critical systems come under attack. Why the FBI director is comparing the ransomware attacks to 9/11.

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SANCHEZ: "The New York Times" reports the Manhattan District Attorney's Office brought a senior Trump Organization financial official before a grand jury as it ramps up the investigation into the former president and his company. Jeffrey McConney is long serving financial executive at the Trump Organization and has worked at the company for nearly 35 years.

WALKER: "The Times" reported that the order for McConney to testify before a grand jury relates to the offices ongoing probe into top Trump Organization officer Allen Weisselberg. CNN reporter Erica Orden is joining us live now from Washington. Good morning, Erica. So how crucial is this for the district attorney's investigation?

ERICA ORDEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, as you mentioned, it's likely that McConney's testimony is linked to office's interest in Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer. Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, has long been interested in trying to pressure pressuring Allen Weisselberg to cooperate with his investigation in hopes of potentially making a case against other Trump Organization executives, possibly Donald Trump, or possibly even the company itself as an institution.

The other sort of thing going on here is that Vance's office has been examining perks and benefits that were given to Trump Organization employees, including Allen Weisselberg, and whether taxes were paid on those benefits. And as controller McConney likely would have been in a position to know something about that. So that is also likely part of why Vance is interested in McConney.

SANCHEZ: And Erica, what do we know about others that may have already testified before a grand jury?

ORDEN: Well, McConney is the first name we know about who has testified. It is likely there will be many, many witnesses called before this special grand jury. "The New York Times" has reported that others are being asked to testify. CNN reported, I believe a week ago, that at least one other witness had been asked to prepare testimony. And so we're likely to see many, many come before this special grand jury in coming weeks and months.

WALKER: All right, Erica Orden, appreciate your reporting, thanks so much.

ORDEN: Thank you.

WALKER: Now the Justice Department is preparing to offer plea deals to the three Capitol rioters accused of brutally assaulting D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone. Thomas Sibick, Kyle Young, and Albuquerque Head are all accused of beating Officer Fanone on the Capitol steps. They have pleaded not guilty.

SANCHEZ: Watching body camera footage of the incident shows just how gruesome the attack was. Officer Fanone was pulled into the crowd, beaten with a flagpole, and repeatedly tased.

We're joined now by CNN's Marshall Cohen. He's here in Washington, D.C. Marshall, what do we know about these plea deals that are being offered?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Boris and Amara, it's one of the most important cases to come from the insurrection, the assault on officer Fanone. We've been keeping an eye on it from the very beginning. Yesterday in court, those three defendants that you mentioned, they were there for a check in with the judge. Prosecutors said that they have already started some preliminary discussions with the defense attorneys to talk about what a plea deal might look like. They also said that they're hoping to bring a formal offer of a plea bargain by the end of the month. That means that really this just could be a few weeks away.

Now, of course, the big question is, what are they going to plead to and how much time might they spend in prison? We don't know that yet. But if you do look at the cases that have come all the way to a plea bargain, two other cases in the Capitol insurrection have ended in a guilty plea. Those people are probably facing about a year. But those guys weren't charged with violently attacking a police officer. So these three suspects probably will face more time than that. That's a bit down the road. We're not quite there yet.

But the bottom line here is for Officer Fanone, that case might start reaching a resolution. Of course, he has been very outspoken. He has said that what happened on the Capitol was terrible, was disgusting, and that Republicans who have sort of whitewashed it are just fueling the fire. So in that case for Officer Fanone, some resolution might be coming soon. Plea deals within the next few weeks most likely.

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SANCHEZ: Not sure how you can watch that footage and hear from Officer Fanone and then later say January 6th was like a visit by some tourists to the U.S. Capitol. It is confounding. Marshall Cohen, thank you so much.

Up next, the FBI director giving a warning to the United States to wake up to the cyber threat the country is currently facing, comparing it to the challenge the United States faced on 9/11.

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WALKER: The White House is taking a more aggressive approach to the cyberattacks that have targeted key American infrastructure and businesses.

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SANCHEZ: Yes, this week the Department of Justice directed U.S. prosecutors to report all ransomware investigations that they might be working on. The issue is expected to dominate conversations between President Biden and European leaders later this month when they're scheduled to meet, especially during his first face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House is blaming Russian backed hackers for an attack this week on JBS, the world's largest meat supplier. And of course, last month's Colonial pipeline attack sent gas prices across the eastern United States soaring.

WALKER: Joining me now to discuss this is Mark Sangster, vice president of eSentire, a cyber computer company, and author of "No Safe Harbor, The Inside Truth about Cybercrime and How to Protect Your Business." You're the perfect person to be talking to this morning. Thanks for joining us. First off, the reports show that there's been a spike in ransomware attacks. In fact, the first half of 2021 has seen a 102 percent increase in these kinds of cyberattacks, compared to the same period last year, and that is according to a report from cyber security firm checkpoint software. Talk to me, what's going on here, and how alarming is this? MARK SANGSTER, VICE PRESIDENT, ESENTIRE: No, absolutely. This year has

seen a record number of attacks. And frankly, the ransomware attacks that we have seen that shut down these kind of organizations like colonial pipeline, for example, and JBS, demonstrate the power that these criminal gangs and state sponsored actors actually have to effectively sabotage our way of living and our infrastructure.

Because of that, it's incredibly profitable, right? They can hold us to ransom. They can extort us to keep it public -- or keep it private, I should say. And at the same time, of course, they could resell the information they steal.

WALKER: When I think of hackers, I would always associate with, oh, well, they're trying to get into my computer to steal my identity, get my information. But that's not really their objective anymore, right? It seems it's more about disrupting our daily lives just like we saw at the Colonial pipeline. Here in the southeast, there was panic buying and gas shortages. So how vulnerable are we?

SANGSTER: We are extremely vulnerable. And you're right. It has shifted from very opportunistic and simplistic kind of attacks that we saw years ago to very sophisticated targeted attacks where they know exactly who their prey is. They know who they're going after, they can socially engineer them, which means they collect information about them that helps them infiltrate their organization. And at that point, they're not going for a sort of a quick smash and grab type of attack. They are looking for a very pervasive attack where they can operationally disrupt that business and shut it down. And when they do that, they know in that chokehold they have that opportunity to extort that organization to get funds of cash.

WALKER: I was just curious to know how vulnerable we are. And I was going through the U.S. government's website where they're talking about 16 critical infrastructure sectors. This is what they say on the website. They're considered so vital to U.S. that their incapacitation would have a debilitating effect on our security and our economy. And we're just scrolling through some of these infrastructure sectors. They include all kinds of industries, energy, emergency, buildings, government buildings, and also hospitals and amusement parks, water, our drinking water. Can you talk us through some of these potential targets and what your biggest concerns are?

SANGSTER: Yes. So for our organization, what we see are absolutely these types of ideological attacks on infrastructure facilities, right, because they cause panic, they sow mistrust. They get us to a point where we don't know if our grocery shelves are going to be full the next day. And that's why we see the kind of panic buying that we saw at the pumps and other places.

But the reality is that's just part of the story, because they're going after organizations. They go after law firms and accounting firms. They go after health care institutions, financial institutions, manufacturing facilities across all sorts of different sectors.

And all too often these organizations suffer in silence. They don't necessarily report it. Perhaps they pay the ransom or they figure out how they're going to recover. And because of this we're never really, truly aware of just how bad the picture really is.

WALKER: I was reading also that we're more vulnerable now because of the pandemic, since so many of us are now working from home and logging onto our work systems remotely. Can you just give us some advice on what we individuals can do to protect ourselves along with the government and private sector working together?

SANGSTER: Yes, definitely. When we moved to the work from home model that we saw over last year and still continuing into this year, the real challenge is that we left the kind of the secure environment of our offices where we have commercial grade and hardened security technology and policies and processes into our home environment.

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And for many of us, we have no idea how the Internet goes from out in the world and comes to our laptop or our computers or our TVs. And the reality is, it's going through consumer grade technology, which comes with very default settings. And they are open and they're exposed unless you as the user know what to do. And often the ISP isn't going to provide that information to you.

So basic things here, change the password on that device, on the Internet router. Make sure it's not the default that someone can easily search. Make sure that you name your wi-fi network in a way that doesn't give away who you are. So don't use your surname or your family name. Don't use your street address because that's easy to reverse engineer. And make sure you password protect and encrypt those. These are effectively check boxes on those devices that are relatively simple to do, and the information is readily available. It's just that most people don't understand that that risk exists in their home.

WALKER: I'm on it. Got my phone here, going to get ready to do that. Mark Sangster, appreciate the advice. Thank you so much.

SANGSTER: You're very welcome.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, America is on the move again. Those words from President Biden as he touts the latest jobs report. What the latest numbers tell us about how real this recovery is.

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SANCHEZ: The U.S. economy picked up some steam in May. The latest jobs report showing the labor force added nearly 560,000 jobs last month, a major improvement from April, more than double, but still lower than economists expected as the country continues to recover post-pandemic. The economy is still down more than 7 million jobs since last year's lockdowns began. But President Biden said on Friday that the economy has momentum, the kind of momentum he thinks he needs to pass a large scale, potentially multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.

Here with us now to discuss the state of the economy and parts of that infrastructure plan, Harvard University Professor of Economics and Public Policy Ken Rogoff. Ken, we appreciate you sharing part of your weekend with us. Let's get right to that jobs report that dropped yesterday. Roughly 560,000 new jobs in May, still lower than predicted. Some businesses still struggling to fill openings. In your eyes, how closely are these lower than anticipated numbers tied to expanded employment benefits?

KEN ROGOFF, FORMER IMF CHIEF ECONOMIST: Well, I wouldn't want to overstate it. I think I actually give President Biden a lot of credit for sort of addressing the issue with a lot of candor, as he did. But we don't know. I think the main thing has to be that there are a lot of people, especially lower wage workers, who are taking time to reconnect with the labor market and probably would in any event. It might be a little faster without that. They probably wouldn't have extended it so long if they could do a do-over.

But fundamentally the economy is growing at a phenomenal clip, unimaginable a year ago, just far better than I certainly guessed. And employment is lagging. And that's sort of the last piece. And I think the Federal Reserve is going to watch closely until that really comes into line also before they really start to think about raising interest rates.

SANCHEZ: The concern, of course, is inflation. The Biden administration says essentially that it's transitory. There are some inefficiencies as we have an enormous rise in demand with re-openings. Some have argued that excessive stimulus, and you sort of alluded to this a little bit in suggesting that these unemployment benefits went on for perhaps longer than they should have, that excessive stimulus is to blame and potentially going to wreak havoc long-term on the economy. What are your thoughts?

ROGOFF: Well, we're coming out of a once in a century pandemic. It's very hard to predict ahead. And of course, it's possible we'll get inflation not just from the stimulus, but from all the global supply chains were messed up. A lot of firms take time to restart. We mentioned workers take time to reconnect with jobs. So it's absolutely possible, I would say likely we will get significant inflation over the next 12 months, maybe even two years. But if it gets really bad the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates.

I think the real concern that investors have is not about the inflation but that interest rates might go up, and that could pull back the stock market and such. But I do think the Federal Reserve is going to be very patient. We don't know, but they have the tools to act.

So it's very good that President Biden's thinking about it. I am pleased that he's listening to all sides of the debate. But I think for the moment, the bigger concern is to keep this recovery going as it's been doing so well.

SANCHEZ: The smoke signals coming from there Fed indicate interest rates likely will not be touched until potentially 2024. The Biden administration, meantime, has made clear it is pushing forward with this hefty new infrastructure bill, potentially trillions of dollars. Between that and other bills Joe Biden has pitched more than $6 trillion in spending in his first 100 days in office. He says that robust federal spending is necessary to keep up with China. Are you concerned at all about ballooning national debt and maybe some of that spending being inefficient and ultimately not really getting the United States economy where it needs to be to compete with China?

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ROGOFF: Well, first of all, he's not just trying to compete with China. He's really trying to expand our social safety net, which was laid bare as being so inadequate during the pandemic. But of course, we have infrastructure needs. The program was talked about cyber security earlier. That's a big concern I imagine that they're working on. We do need to compete with China.

And by and large these infrastructure projects are dribbling out over many, many years. I think actually some of those who are worried about inflation were arguing we should have done them first because they build up growth. Eventually, if the deficits stay high for a long time, we have to raise taxes. That's the end game of this. That's OK. If you want a bigger social safety net like Denmark, you need to raise taxes to pay for it. I personally think there are ideas we could consider for taxes we haven't done yet. But President Biden is starting out by trying to raise more from corporations and wealthy individuals.

SANCHEZ: That is going to be an uphill battle when it comes to getting something passed with Republicans and members of his own party who think that perhaps by offering concessions to Republican he's not going for enough. Ken Rogoff, we have to leave the conversation there. We appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

ROGOFF: Thank you.

WALKER: Up next, the NFL says that it will end its controversial policy of race-norming, which assumes black players have a lower cognitive brain function. But is it too little, too late?

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WALKER: Major news this week from the NFL, the league announcing its pledge to end the controversial practice known as race-norming. The testing method used for assessing brain injuries assumed black players had lower level of cognitive function to start with. Well, the scoring made it harder for black retirees to qualify and claim settlement money after suffering traumatic brain injuries and even dementia. The decision comes after two black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the use of race-based benchmarks. The league now committing to stop the controversial practice.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and they say in part, quote, "We are committed to eliminating race-based norms in the program and more broadly in the neuropsychological community," I should say. Joining us now to discuss is Dave Zirin. He's the sports editor of

"The Nation' magazine. Dave, when you read this, it sounds like something out of a phrenology textbook from 200 years ago. What is the NFL going to do to right this?

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION": I don't think they're going to do much of anything. That statement that they're now going to be on the frontlines to stop race-norming is like Jesse James saying he's going to stop train robberies. The problem with the NFL is that they have no credibility to speak about being now this force against what is a very institutionalized practice of racism in the neuropsychological community, precisely because the NFL is the NFL. The NFL, we could count the number of black head coaches and executives on one hand. We could count the number of black owners of NFL teams on zero hands. I did a book with a former player named Michael Bennett who said to me there's a myth the league is integrated, but it's actually segregated between those who play and those who manage. And that perception is very deep-rooted among NFL players, and this decision isn't going to change any minds about that.

SANCHEZ: Are you surprised this was going on for as long as it was and that it was sort of kept a secret.

ZIRIN: Yes, I'm completely shocked. Let's do a little history. Race- norming was actually started in the 1970s by the Department of Education as a way to confront cultural biases and standardized testing. So it was Department of Ed policy in terms of how standardized tests were judged under Jimmy Carter, and then all through the Reagan years as well. And it was only stopped after rightwing outrage saying that it was unfair to white teenagers taking these same standardized tests. And then it got adopted by the neurological community as a way to apply prejudice against black NFL players seeking concussion payouts.

So, yes, the practice itself has been so distorted and warped to be a cudgel against these black athletes looking for compensation. And the only reason the NFL is coming out against this, let's be clear, is because e-mails by doctors administering the tests were uncomfortable with the racism of what they were doing. Those e-mails were leaked to ABC News, and then Roger Goodell was confronted about it at the Super Bowl. And the judge overseeing this, Judge Anita Brody, was so shocked. Literally, she didn't know that this was going on in term of it, and she's been overseeing this billion-dollar settlement. She was so shocked she did the very unusual act of appointing a special mediator to get it out of the settlement protocol.

SANCHEZ: Dave, very quickly I want to turn to the Tokyo Olympics. They're coming up in about a month-and-a-half. COVID cases in Japan are surging. There's a lot of hesitation about hosting them. Your thoughts, should they just postpone or cancel the games altogether?

ZIRIN: Well, they also just had 10,000 volunteers quit en masse, three percent of the population, and that's a high number, is said to be vaccinated. I visited Tokyo in 2019, and the Olympics were not popular then, and that was before COVID. At this point it's difficult to see how they go forward without a hitch. SANCHEZ: Dave Zirin, sports editor for "The Nation," thank you so

much.

ZIRIN: Thank you.

WALKER: Interesting conversation there. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much for hanging in with us, Amara. We always appreciate having you.

WALKER: Enjoyed it.

[10:55:00]

SANCHEZ: There's still much more ahead in the next hour of the CNN Newsroom, so stay tuned. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with a major court ruling that affects one of the largest states in the country. As our nation struggles with an epidemic of gun violence, last night a judge in California overturned a more than 30- year ban on assault weapons in that state.