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NYT: Meadows Pressed DOJ To Investigate Election Fraud Claims; Judge Overturns California's Ban On Assault Weapons; Passenger Tries To Breach Cockpit Of Delta Flight; Putin Laughs Off Ransomware Accusations As Biden Plans To Press Him On String Of Cyberattacks; Olympic Organizers Double Down Despite Calls To Cancel; Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open, Citing Mental Health; Sen. Joe Manchin's Constituents Weigh In On His Bipartisanship. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 5, 2021 - 15:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are alive in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Tonight, prepare to witness a metaphorical hostage situation unfold as Donald Trump returns to the rally stage in North Carolina. The midterms-obsessed GOP held captive by the former president has invited him to speak at a state convention. Former advisers and allies say he can't let go of his 2020 election loss and pushing the big lie. A well-placed source familiar with his conversations tells me he has been asking advisers if he could somehow reassume the presidency this year.

And this just in: "The New York Times" is reporting that during Trump's final weeks in office, his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly pushed the Justice Department to investigate unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including this doozy, that people in Italy had used military technology and satellites -- I'm not making this up -- to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States and switch votes for Trump to votes for Biden. That is a lie. Yes, indeed.

The president is also said to be clinging to the bogus audit of ballots in Maricopa, Arizona, and whether it can be duplicated in other states and magically change the outcome of the election. Spoiler alert, it will not.

And as Trump resides in the state of delusion, growing desperate for attention, he's just learned that he won't be allowed back on Facebook for at least the next two years. His blog that was first touted as a major social platform couldn't even come close to filling the void. It was shut down after just 29 days.

So, that is the man Republicans welcome back to the stage, a man who incited a mob, lost the White House, and end of social media and joining me now to talk about this, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood, and CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "TheGrio", April Ryan.

John, Trump has been given a stage and microphone by Republicans who can't recognize for what he really is. He is a loser. And when you couple that with "The New York Times" report that Mark Meadows wanted the DOJ to investigate all these outlandish claims about Italian satellites, it just seems like there is no bottom. You think Trump is going away, his crew would go away, but we're hearing more and more of this crazy stuff it seems almost every day.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are and there is a reason for that. At its core it is not about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a symptom not the cause of a disease that's been spreading within the Republican Party for a long time.

At its root is a segment of the white population in this country that is terrified that the country is moving away from them, demographically, economically, culturally. The country is becoming less white, less Christian, requiring higher education to get ahead.

So, a lot of the blue collar, white Republicans rallied to Donald Trump because he told them he could turn back the clock. Of course, he can't. But nevertheless, he captured that feeling within them, that desire and they're riding it to incredible extremes as we saw through his presidency and now in his post presidency.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

And, April, I want to talk about what Mike Pence had to say the other night about all of this. It was very Pencian if that's the term. Let's watch.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times, since we left office. I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.



ACOSTA: We'll never see eye to eye on an insurrection.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's Pencian, as you said.

It befuddles me. You almost died that day. The Trump followers, the insurrectionists, the 40,000 who converged on Capitol Hill, erected a gallows with a noose saying, "hang Mike Pence" because the president was what? Upset with him. We might not see eye to eye.

ACOSTA: Here is a video of him being evacuated.

RYAN: He didn't run but he and his wife and family were escorted to safety. Other Republicans which we forget and Republicans want to rewrite history, revisionist history, they were also escorted out by Capitol police and those who were plain clothed to help them get to safety. That's what people forget.

But what this is in my opinion is a deadly codependence on President Trump and those who follow him, because in a way he has to say this so he can stay alive, literally, and stay alive politically. Because if you are against Donald Trump, what happens to you?

We've seen people go against Donald Trump and then come back and bow for his forgiveness literally. Can we say Mitch McConnell?


Can we say Mitch McConnell? And others.

So at the end of the day, Mike Pence is trying to stay alive and be relevant in the party. He is a young man. I mean, the question is, what does he want to do in the future? But also, let's see what Donald Trump says tonight about Mike Pence.

You know, when you grovel to Donald Trump, and he knows he's got you, you are begging for that loyalty, he kicks you in the teeth. He kicks you -- I mean, he kicks you --

ACOSTA: He doesn't respect that.

RYAN: He kicks you when you're down and he does not give a hand to lift you up.

ACOSTA: And, John, he's not listening to Mike Pence. He is listening to people at OAN. He's listening to Mike Lindell.

Here is a sample of who Donald Trump has been listening to.


MIKE LINDELL, FOUNDER AND CEO, MY PILLOW: We're in a race against time everyone. We need the election pulled down. We need our great President Donald Trump back in and that's coming.

CHRISTINA BOBB, OAN HOST: It's becoming glaringly apparent that Donald Trump absolutely crushed Joe Biden in the election. The American people resoundingly choose Donald J. Trump and Democrats are trying to steal it.

DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNYSLVANIA STATE SENATOR: Half of the nation believes this election was stolen from Donald Trump and I agree with that. That's a fact. I believe he won the state and we're going to prove it.


ACOSTA: I mean, no wonder Donald Trump believes some of this stuff.

HARWOOD: You know, it's impossible to disentangle the toxic mix of delusion and self-interest and calculation that is Donald Trump. Donald Trump does absolutely nothing that is not -- that he does not think is going to help him. He does not care at all about the Republican Party.

And he is beginning this phase of rallies not coincidentally at a time when his principal preoccupation is staying out of jail. He's got serious criminal investigations of him in New York. He would like to depict those as political prosecutions, somehow rallying Republicans around the country.

And you've got all these hangers on who are -- half of them are kooks and the ones who are not kooks are simply trying to extract money from people who are gullible and trying to advance themselves politically. That includes elected officials. That includes some of the operatives who were trying to get money out of him. And people like Mike Lindell who are nuts.

ACOSTA: And, April, on Friday, speaking of nuts, Facebook announced that Trump would be banned for another two years because what he has to say, what the content he puts on Facebook is just too dangerous.

Here's what Trump had to say in response. Next time I'm in the White House, there will be no more dinners at his request with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business.

Obviously, you know, we're supposed to read that as some sort of tease from Trump that he is going to run in 2024.

RYAN: Yeah.

ACOSTA: What do you think about all that, April?

RYAN: You know, you have a lot of corporations whether they like the president or not, they want to be in that space, that lofty perch that no one really gets into unless you have a golden halo over your head. I'm not surprised Zuckerberg and his wife met with President Trump.

But what I am surprised at and it continues to surprise me is the fact that Facebook gave the president the benefit of the doubt. They've seen what happened January 6th. You know, many of us here at this table saw threats before. The threats became reality on January 6th.

Police officers were injured. People were hurt. People died. People ran for their lives. The vice president of the United States as you showed a picture, he was running for his life with his family.

And, yet, he is off for two years. Let it be someone else. They'd be banned for life.

And this has to be something that we look at, because Facebook is actually setting a precedent by giving him a chance to redeem himself. There is no redemption for someone who spews this kind of hate and continues to spew this kind of hate because he wants to turn back the clock.

What time? Please tell me. And, also, deal with the forgotten man, the white male who did not feel like he was under the umbrella of Barack Hussein Obama. ACOSTA: Yeah. All right. John Harwood, April Ryan, you've given us a

lot to think about. And great to have you on set. We'd love to have you back --

RYAN: Wonderful to be with you, my friend.

ACOSTA: Great to see you. Thanks so much.

A federal judge has overturned California's decades-old ban on assault weapons, calling it a failed experiment and prompting a swift outcry. California's governor calls the judge's decision a direct threat to public safety and disgusting slap in the face. Judge Roger Benitez ruled the state's assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms writing in part: Like the Swiss Army Knife the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense and homeland defense equipment -- if you can believe that.

The father of a teen who was killed in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School back in 2018 reacted to the judge's comparison this morning on CNN.


FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM JAIME GUTTENBERG: My daughter's in a cemetery 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.

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


ACOSTA: I want to bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval.

Polo, condemnation of the judge's decision was immediate, this comparison between the Swiss Army Knife and the AR-15 rifle. I mean, that is just stunning. What happens next?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it certainly led to an outrage, Jim. So, at this point, what the state of California plans to do is appeal the decision to try to make sure that that law can continue to stay on the books as it has for over 30 years now. Just for our viewers on how the law came to be back in 1989, it was created in response to a shooting at an elementary school in Stockton, California that left five children all under the age of 10 dead.

Lawmakers in California quickly putting this law together and then of course passing it. What it did was it was touted as California's first assault weapons act. It defined what an assault weapon was and also made it illegal to have and possess these. It continued to stay in place up until this decision handed down by

Roger Benitez out of San Diego, a federal judge, that ruled the law was unconstitutional and impeded the Second Amendment rights of California residents actually having these kinds of weapons widely available through the rest of the country.

Now, in terms of the guns lobby groups including Second Amendment Foundation, which is actually group which makes up part of the legal action that led to this said they are, quote, delighted with this outcome. Certainly not how multiple groups are responding in terms of those that have been advocating for stricter gun laws including those who have actually lost loved ones.

First, though, you mentioned the governor's response in California. I want to read you more of what Governor Gavin Newsom has said about the latest ruling, saying that: Overturning California's assault weapon ban and comparing the AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife is a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians. We won't stand for it.

Now, his attorney general did say they plan on appealing this. And when you hear the reaction as we've been hearing all day today from those who have actually lost loved ones to violence, they are not only frustrated and angry but they're also concerned that if this law is no longer in the books, Jim, then you could see more of these kinds of assault weapon kind of -- or assault rifle style weapons in the hands of people with bad intentions and that could result in more lives lost.

ACOSTA: Certainly sounds like that could be the case.

All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for that.

Coming up, frightening moments on a Delta flight when a passenger tries to breach the cockpit. What other people onboard the flight are saying.

Plus, the FBI director gives an urgent warning about recent ransomware attacks and says higher prices at the pump or for a burger are proof you should care.



ACOSTA: Terrifying moments on a Delta Airlines flight this week when a passenger on the Los Angeles to Nashville flight tried to breach the cockpit Friday, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

CNN's Natasha Chen is following the story for us.

Natasha, how did all of this play out? It's -- this is scary.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was very frightening for the passengers onboard, Jim. I talked to one of them who actually took the video that you're showing. She said that about an hour into the flight after take-off from Los Angeles, she saw this man in first place get up and start yelling, stop the plane. Stop the plane.

She said this went on for about 30 seconds and he was banging on the cockpit door, a very frightening moment just after she said drink service had been concluded. And that's when a second passenger from the section behind first class got up, tapped a second person, and two men came forward to tackle this guy to the ground. So, really heroic actions from fellow passengers in those brief seconds before the flight crew also joined in to assist.

And what you're seeing is this man barefoot there being dragged through the plane eventually with his hands and ankles tied when they landed in Albuquerque the man was taken into federal custody. And this passenger I spoke to also took video of law enforcement coming onboard. So, a very, two to three minutes she said that felt very long.

Here is how she described the situation.


GRACE CHALMERS, PASSENGER ON DELTA FLIGHT 306: It was actually a very unifying moment because we kind of realized no matter what uniform you're wearing, at the end of the day, everybody is here for the safety of everyone else on board. In that moment there was a lot of cheers and clapping. You know, I do pray for that gentleman. I hope that he gets the help that he needs.


CHEN: She did say to me she thought his yelling was quite unprovoked, that perhaps he was getting a little bit unruly and the flight attendants were keeping an eye on him but that there really wasn't any one thing that sparked him beginning to say these things. You can actually still hear him saying stop the plane. Stop the plane as he is being dragged away.

So, a very frightening moment. She said the two, three minutes felt like years. And that it was very anxious especially for the passengers toward the back of the plane who could not see as clearly as she could what was going on because your mind at that point starts running with all sorts of possibilities in that situation.

This is just one of several recent incidents with very unruly passengers. One passenger, late last month, on a Southwest flight actually assaulted a flight attendant and took out two of her teeth. To the point where Southwest, you know, had to suspend serving alcohol in flight.


So a lot that these flight crews are dealing with these days. The FAA has extended its zero-tolerance policy, which basically makes stronger enforcement mechanisms for this type of unruly behavior. The FAA is saying as of late May that they had gotten more than 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers sometimes having to find passengers like that up to $52,000, Jim.

ACOSTA: Wow. I mean, people are just out of control these days on these flights. I mean, these recent incidents keep piling up and this might be the scariest one yet.

All right. Natasha Chen, thanks so much for that.

A sobering assessment in the meantime from FBI Director Christopher Wray who says cyber threats against the U.S. have grown so much it's like dealing with terrorism after 9/11. Recent ransomware attacks have targeted several key economic sectors including this week's attack on JBS, the world's largest meat supplier and last month's Colonial Pipeline attack which sent gas prices soaring across the U.S.

Most of the attacks appear to have come from inside Russia and President Biden is expected to confront Vladimir Putin about it at their summit later this month.

Matthew Chance joins me now.

And, Matthew, I mean, it does beg the question what is Joe Biden going to do about this and what does Russia have to say about the attacks? People are going to be listening to see what Putin has to say about all this.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got a bit of a curtain raiser for that because just yesterday, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, gave his sort of response to the allegations that Russia was in some way implicated in the ransomware attacks on the meatpacking company and he didn't use very diplomatic language.

He said, this is nonsense. It's ridiculous. It's just hilarious -- is one of the phrases he used. He was speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum where he's on a panel discussion and he was asked about this.

But, of course, U.S. officials just mentioned are suggesting that these criminal gangs, these cyber gangs that have carried out these ransomware attacks -- hold on -- carried out the ransomware attacks are actually based in some part in Russia. Take a listen to what Vladimir Putin had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It's just ridiculous to blame Russia for this. I think that the relevant U.S. services should find out who the scammers are, not Russia for sure. For us, to extort money from some company, we are not dealing with some chicken meat or beef. It's just hilarious.


CHANCE: Just hilarious, the words of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

So, when they do meet in under two weeks from now in Geneva, Switzerland, it looks like Joe Biden if that Putin comment is anything to go by is not going to be getting straight answers on this issue of cyber warfare and ransom attacks from the Russian president, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Matthew Chance, we'll see. That will be an interesting meeting when that happens. Everybody will be watching to see what President Biden has to say to Vladimir Putin. Thank you so much.

Coming up, new reporting on what appears to be the first top Trump Organization executive to go before a New York grand jury.



ACOSTA: Major new developments in the Manhattan D.A.'s investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. A top finance executive at Trump's family business reportedly has testified before a grand jury. "The New York Times" reporting that the Manhattan district attorney's office subpoenaed Jeffrey McConney. He's been the long time Trump Organization controller and according to the times worked for the company for nearly 35 years and subpoenaing him signals a new phase in the investigation.

Let's discuss this and more on our weekly cross exam segment with CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, Elie Honig.

Elie, great to see you.

One viewer wants to know, is there any way to tell how close the Manhattan district attorney is to potentially seeking indictments related to the Trump Organization?

It seems like maybe they're getting closer.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Jim, we're not going to be able to tell exactly where the D.A. is at, but all indications are they are making real progress. The big news as just said is this subpoena to the Trump Organization's long time controller. That is a financial executive within the company, Jeffrey McConney.

Now, one thing is important to keep in mind. In New York state, if a person gets put in the grand jury, they get what's called transactional immunity -- meaning they cannot be charged for those crimes. That tells me the D.A. has decided either this guy is -- has done nothing wrong or they're willing to give him a pass in order to use his information against other people.

What they are trying to do is climb the ladder and go higher on the org chart. It appears to me they're trying to use McConney in order to get to Weisselberg and then they will break into the inner circle of the Trump Organization. It's really important to keep in mind, though, prosecutors in order to bring a charge need to prove that there was a fraud and that specific individuals had intent, knew about it, and participated in it. That's really hard to do unless you can flip someone like Weisselberg who is in the inner, inner circle.

ACOSTA: Right, and the Justice Department, Elie, is investigating potential obstruction of justice connected to the ongoing probe of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz and his alleged sexual relationship with a minor.


Another viewer wants to know: Can Matt Gaetz be charged with obstruction of justice just for reaching out to a witness during the pending investigation?

Obstruction of justice can land you in the slammer.

HONIG: It sure can, Jim. But, no, he cannot be prosecuted for obstruction justice merely for reaching out.

You are allowed, as a defendant, or a target, to try to figure out who is talking to prosecutors. However, there's a very fine line between reaching out and tampering.

If Matt Gaetz or anybody else tried to suggest that a witness not talk to prosecutors or change any aspect of the story or no show for testimony, that would be witness tampering.

That, as you said, is a very serious crime, obstruction of justice. I have prosecuted it many times.

There are examples of well-known people who have been prosecuted for obstruction of justice: Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Martha Stewart, famously, a while back, Scooter Libby.

These are real charges. And importantly, it allows a prosecutor to argue what we call consciousness of guilt.

You get to stand in front of a jury and say, Why does somebody obstruct justice? They do it because they are trying to hide something. That can be a really powerful argument in favor of a person's guilt.

If Matt Gaetz has obstructed justice, he's made a big mistake. We'll see when the facts come out.

ACOSTA: Yes. Following a two-year court fight, Trump's former White House counsel, Don McGahn, has been back in the news and testified Friday behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee about Trump's attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation.

And another viewer wants to know: Now that Don McGahn has testified, how can Congress or others make use of this testimony? Is this going to go anywhere?

HONIG: Jim, it is crazy that it has taken over two years. A lot of people are to blame for that.

McGahn, of course, is a key witness on obstruction in the Mueller report. He was told by Donald Trump to fire Robert Mueller. And then Donald Trump asked McGahn to lie about it and to create a false document.

That is the most flagrant instance of obstruction in the whole report.

As you said, this has been the subject of an ongoing court battle up and down with the court of appeals.

Congress, to be realistic here, they're not going to do anything with this. They're certainly not impeach Donald Trump a third time.

Now the question is, will DOJ act? These are crimes that DOJ still has the ability to charge. They can charge obstruction of justice. It's a federal crime still within the statute of limitations.

What will Merrick Garland do? What will DOJ do? Thus far, they've given no public indication of having any interest in this.

But I think it is a real mistake. There needs to be accountability here. And DOJ is really the only one who can do it.

ACOSTA: We'll see if that happens.

All right, Elie Honig, thanks so much. Great to see you.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Coming up, an Olympic-sized crisis. Volunteers quitting in droves ahead of the Tokyo summer games as COVID cases explode in Japan.



ACOSTA: With just seven weeks to go, pressure to cancel the Olympic games is mounting. Tokyo is in a state of emergency as COVID spreads. And 10,000 Olympic volunteers have already quit.

Earlier this week, the Australian softball team became the first athletes to arrive in Japan.

"The New York Times" reporting they are confined to three floors of a hotel, eat in their own dining room, and are not allowed to visit local bars or restaurants.

They were given a hotel room outfitted with a Nintendo Switch. It's not all bad, I guess.

Joining me now, CNN sports analyst and sports columnist for "USA Today," Christine Brennan.

Christine, great to see you. It's great to talk to you again. Does all of this make it harder on the athletes, do you think, or is it better, perhaps, because they'll have zero distractions from the outside world?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: That's it, Jim. Certainly, that is a piece of it. Obviously, no one is rooting to have the Olympics during COVID. You know, no one would have rooted for any of this.

It's, as you know -- but I think what they're hoping for and they're grateful, the Olympic athletes I've talked to from around the world, is that they have a chance.

The games were postponed last March. The 2020 Olympics were postponed to 2021.

And there was this hope that by that point the world would be ready for this outpouring, this gathering of joy and happiness, and it would be really a signal, a touch tone moment that the world had overcome COVID.

Unfortunately, that is not the story line for the Tokyo Olympics.

As you said, there are real questions with seven weeks to go. Right now, all systems are go. The games are on. The athletes are preparing.

But it is really a tough slogan and something that no one anticipated when they postponed the games back in March of 2020.

ACOSTA: We definitely want the games to be safe and happen. It would be such a shame if it didn't happen.

Let me ask you about a big headline out of the tennis world this week. A lot of people have been talking about this. I'm sure you've been hearing about this as well.

The number-two player in the world, Naomi Osaka, said she had no option other than to drop out of the French Open because of these mandatory news conferences that she feared would trigger her anxiety and depression.

Was there nothing that they could have done for her?

And I guess the other thing is I didn't realize these news conferences were mandated. We don't have that problem here in Washington.

BRENNAN: Right, exactly. The players actually want to do them because, as James Blake said on CNN a few days ago, former tennis player himself, he said we need to do them because to promote the sport.

That has been the case for years. They want to talk and promote the sport, especially with TV ratings, Jim, sliding and slipping. And every sport is trying to keep its foothold in a very packed sports landscape.

But Naomi Osaka, we all hope she gets help, that she takes care of herself. And when she is ready, she can come back to tennis. She is an incredible role model. She's 23. She's already won four

grand-slam titles and a terrific career.

And someone who is so important, obviously, not just in sports but social activism and throughout our culture.

It also shows how tough this is. So much so soon. And the pressure she is undergoing.

She led us to a national and international conversation that I think once again sports takes us there, can be the lowest common denominator of people, who otherwise might not talk about this now, having a conversation and hopefully not only help herself but help others, especially kids who look up to her as a role model.


ACOSTA: Hopefully, something positive can come out of this.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, he was asked about this and he's offering his support for Osaka because he himself has battled mental health issues.

Let's take a listen.


MICHAEL PHELPS, 23-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: When I first read it, I was so happy. Because she is showing her vulnerability and doing it her own way.

I think back to the struggles I went through when I was competing and I don't know if I would have been able to take my own words and put them on a platform for everybody to see.

She is putting herself out there. And I feel this could be an even bigger breakthrough for the mental health world.


ACOSTA: Christine, do you think this could lead to some real changes when it comes to the sports world? We don't really talk about this enough the mental health of our professional athletes.

BRENNAN: Not at all. Michael makes a great point. I covered him from the 2000 Olympics onward. And we didn't know, obviously, he had some issues as well as incredible performances.

This was a young person who was growing up in front of us in the public eye. And so is Naomi Osaka. The difference is, as Michael pointed out, Naomi is still at the top of her game.

One thought that I had is -- and I wrote this in a column, Jim, for "USA Today" -- is that, perhaps, there could be a medical exemption for those athletes who want to skip a press conference or other duties. They all have contractual obligations. Maybe there's a way for that to happen, even though, obviously, the

athletes want to and are contractually obliged to talk to the media to promote their sport.

But let's hope some -- you can get maybe some kind of psychological expert on the tours, as someone suggested, and have them there to help if they need it.

This is a conversation that we have to have. And Naomi Osaka, to her great credit, is taking us to that conversation.

ACOSTA: I want to talk to you about the Belmont Stakes and horse racing.

Somebody who won't be there today is the legendary trainer, perhaps infamous trainer, Bob Baffert, whose horse, the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, failed a second drug test for a banned steroid.

What is next in this saga? He was complaining about Cancel Culture. But you can't cheat. There are consequences.

BRENNAN: Baffert has handled himself horribly during this whole thing. He has brought disrespect on to himself and his sport.

And horse racing is already struggling, Jim. It is certainly not a sport that many people are interested in.

Frankly, I think, in 20 or 30 years, when we look back and see horse racing is a shell of itself now, I think we'll look back to this spring of 2021 as a time it took such a hit. And is all self-induced.

Baffert was the dog ate my homework. The horse, obviously -- there are two tests. He failed both of them. That is steroids. That's cheating. Baffert was cheating.

He is now -- at least allegedly, he is banned from the Kentucky Derby and the Churchill Downs for two years,

And while the Belmont Stakes goes on today -- and I don't even know that many people discussing this. So that shows the damage that has been done to the reputation of the sport.

You've got Baffert, who is also banned from racing at Belmont. And of course, the horse will not be there today.

It is a really dark time in what used to be a very popular sport.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. We don't talk enough about the welfare of these animals that are put through so much in that sport.

All right, Christine Brennan, thanks so much. Great seeing you again as always.

BRENNAN: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And good luck covering the Olympics. We'll be watching for you.

BRENNAN: Thanks. Thank you.

ACOSTA: It was the late-night free-for-all that saw Jimmy Fallon take over for Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert for David Letterman, and Trevor Noah for John Stewart. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for the new generation of hosts.

Here is a preview of tomorrow's brand-new episode of the CNN original series, "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having been on Comedy Central, having a character, he was somewhat removed from the audience.

But when you are the most of a late-night show, you are present in some of the most intimate situations of people's lives. That takes time to get comfortable with.



COLBERT: It is a new segment we're calling "Big Questions with Even Bigger Stars."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a little strange. People weren't used to having Colbert speak to them as him and not as the persona. So some of his fans weren't very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he first got to CBS, I think they told him, we don't want you to be political. You're going to be a song-and-dance man. You know, give them what they want.

COLBERT: And a lot of my emotional state was, how do you do this now? That was sort of the emotional state. You can see that. I just didn't know how to use me.



ACOSTA: "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.

And we'll be right back.


ACOSTA: The White House just announced 31 million people now have coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. President Biden marked the milestone with a special guest in a video posted on Twitter.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, Mr. President. How you doing, pal?

OBAMA: I'm doing good, man. How you doing?

Joe Biden, we did this together. We always talked about how, if we could get the principle of universal coverage established, we could then build on it.

And I just want to say how proud I am of what you've done, now, with the American Rescue Plan.

You know, you and I have, both, had some -- some tragic, you know, illnesses in -- in our families.

BIDEN: So you were so good when Beau was dying. I, literally, remember sitting on the bed with him, within a week or so of him passing away, and thinking, what, in God's name, what would I do, if I got a notice from the insurance company saying you have outrun your coverage?

OBAMA: The effort was worth it.


ACOSTA: President Biden reopened the Obamacare exchange earlier this year. An additional 1.2 million people signed up.

And for years, Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, has run and won on the idea that his party affiliation doesn't define him.

Here he is just days ago, telling Manu Raju he's not ready to abandon Senate Republicans to push a Democratic agenda.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I have always been to the point to where we have got to work together. You know, you can only do so much by yourself.

And you can't make it worse -- work unless the minority has input. You can't disregard a person that's not in the majority.


MANCHIN: You can't disregard a person that's not in the majority. The Senate was never designed that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: His bipartisanship is perhaps the only reason why he has managed to remain in office, as the only Democrat holding statewide office in a Republican-controlled state.

But as political polarization deepens in America, his ability to play both sides may be coming back to haunt him.

CNN's Dan Merica joins us now.

Dan, great to see you.

You traveled to West Virginia. Spoke with Manchin voters, and I guess, voters of all stripes there in West Virginia. What did they tell you?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: You know, you talk to enough voters, you get a range of opinions. No one really agrees on everything.

But what we did hear is there's a deep respect for Manchin in West Virginia. They feel he is delivering for the state.

And they like the fact that, you know, he is focusing on bipartisanship. And in a way, sticking an eye -- finger in an eye of some national Democrats by doing so. And not going along with the party.

Of course, you know, West Virginia has gone through such a dramatic change, politically, from a Democratic bastion to a ruby-red Republican state.

And there are some voters who would like to see Manchin himself make that transition. But he has signaled he's not going to do that.

The other thing that stuck out is just how different life in West Virginia is than the one that Manchin grew up in.

You know, he grew up in Farmington, West Virginia, a tiny town in Marion County. It's this idyllic life where he worked at his grandparents' grocery store.

And he really was like a high school hero. High school football star in the town.

And we were in Farmington. That has really changed. That life doesn't exist.

And even though Manchin draws a line between, you know, his upbringing to his views on bipartisanship, that is gone.

And there's a lot of skepticism among Democrats of whether bipartisanship is even possible at a time like this.

Take a listen to what some of the voters we spoke to said to us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL ANGELUCCI, FORMER WEST VIRGINIA DELEGATE: He is acting upon what he believes his constituents want. And so, I know, a lot of national Democrats may be upset with him that he works across party lines but that's what we should be doing in politics.

LUCINDA POWELL, WEST VIRGINIA VOTER: One minute, he goes with the Democrats. One minute, he goes with the Republicans. It's pick a side and go with it.

THERESA WITT, SEN. JOE MANCHIN'S COUSIN: Sometimes, in bills, there are some things that aren't as pleasing to people's beliefs in our community. But if there's more good in it than there's bad, then Joe always said we can work on the bad.


MERICA: Jim, you know this well. Say what you will about Joe Manchin, he is a political survivor.

There are a lot of people in West Virginia, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Voted for Donald Trump in 2020. But voted for Joe Manchin in 2018. And that's why he persists.

ACOSTA: Yes, Dan, I have often thought of Joe Manchin as sort of the president of West Virginia.

But there are so many of his Democratic colleagues here, in Washington, who are getting impatient with this. They know it works for him in West Virginia.

But they wonder if his allegiance to the filibuster and so on is just getting in the way of a lot of important legislation here, in D.C.

All right. Dan Merica, great to see you. Great report. Thanks so much.

MERICA: Thanks.

ACOSTA: And as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some researchers estimate that food insecurity has tripled among U.S. households with children.

When this week's "CNN Hero" had to shut down her supper club amid COVID, she redirected her love of cooking to provide free, nutritious meals to those at risk of going hungry in her Chicago community.


CHEF Q. IBRAHEEM, CNN HERO: I witnessed that people are literally a paycheck away from not eating. That's heartbreaking. That's unbelievable. But it's so very real. And it's continuously happening.


We've served over 60,000 meals in the past-14 months. I'm inspired to keep going because the need has not stopped.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoo, we've got goodies.

IBRAHEEM: It's a great feeling to know that I'm able to ease the burden, if just a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's beautiful. Oh, my gosh, I see okra, too.

IBRAHEEM: I am giving them a sense of understanding that we are in it, together.


IBRAHEEM: You all enjoy.

A sense of knowing that people in your community do care.


ACOSTA: And to see the full story about her ongoing work to ensure people don't go hungry during the pandemic, go to