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Civil Rights Leaders Meet with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Voting Rights, Filibuster; Biden's Justice Department to Defend Trump in Lawsuit over Rape Denial; Wall Street Journal Reports, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Book Materials Subpoenaed in COVID Response Probe. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 8, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, a group of civil rights leaders has literally just moments ago wrapped up a meeting with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. This comes after Manchin last week all but killed his party's hopes of passing the For the People Act, which is a sweeping voting rights bill. He also expresses continued support of keeping the legislative filibuster intact.

Our next guest was in that meeting with Manchin. He joins me now, Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League. Good morning to you, sir. And let's start with the meeting.

When you walked in it -- good morning. When you walked in hoping to achieve and what you left with?

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: So, thanks for having me. It was important for us eight civil rights leaders, we lead legacy civil rights organizations, to meet with Senator Manchin for the first time so he can hear from us directly about the gravity of the attacks on voting taking place in states all across the nation.

And we laid out for him many specific examples in Georgia, in Texas, in Florida about how anti-democratic, how suppressive, how if you will, Jim Crow-ish these types of bills are taking place at the state level.

We also walked him through a history of not the filibustering theory but filibuster in practice, how, for the most part, it's been used to block civil rights legislation over the years, more often than not. So we thought it was very important that he hear from us very directly.

Now, we went into the meeting understanding that we have a difference of opinion with Senator Manchin about the filibuster and its continued use and a difference in opinion about the voting bills. He has expressed support for the John Lewis bill but not for the For the People Act.

So we had a candid, I think, constructive discussion. And it's a kind of discussion that's important for us to have. We're nonpartisan, but we're guided by our mission and our values. And our mission and values lean towards the protection of democracy, the protection of civil rights, the protection of people in connection with police misconduct and police brutality.

So what we took away from the meeting was that we disagree.


But what we also took away from the meeting is that we're going to continue our conversations and hope to meet with Senator Manchin sometime in the future.

My take way was that on the fundamentals, I think there is a sensitivity by him but we have a deep disagreement as to the use of the filibuster, if you will, and a deep disagreement about the need for the For the People Act. And many of his concerns seem to be process concerns as opposed to concerns with respect to the broad narrative, some of these bills. So we're going to continue.

We went in if not to confront but to have a conversation. And we had that conversation and walking away we're going to have continued conversations with him.

HARLOW: All right. Conversations are good. The question is what comes of them. And you just use -- you just used the word Jim Crow and that makes me think of what New York Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones tweeted about Manchin's op-ed over the weekend where he said, no, I want to keep the legislative filibuster and, no, I'm not supportive of the For the People Act. Mondaire Jones tweeted that Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, why I will vote to preserve Jim Crow. Did you talk to Manchin about that and do you see it that way?

MORIAL: Let me tell you what I see. I think the history of the filibuster is clear, that there are instances where it has been used for appropriate purposes. But there have been an overwhelming number of instances going back to the '40s and the '50s and the '60s when it is used to block civil rights legislation.

Look, everything is in context, Poppy. What is happening now is in 40- plus states, hundreds of pieces of legislation that have been introduced since January 6th, these pieces of legislation, if you look at them, smack of something from North Korea or from Venezuela or from, if you will, Soviet Russia.

If you look at them in context, one would say why would we even try to block access to voting, block access to people who want to register people to vote, block access to people who want to support people with food and water when there are long lines in warm climates where people are seeking to vote? Why would we undermine access to the ballot box?

And so a lot of times we spent is to make sure that Joe Manchin understood that those types of bills are Jim Crow-ish. Those types of bills are not democratic. Those types of bills we are committed to stopping in their tracks by any means peacefully that we can -- if you will, by any peaceful means necessary. HARLOW: I wonder if you got reaction from him to folks, for example, New York Representative Jamaal Bowman yesterday on this network saying that Manchin is the new Mitch McConnell. Listen to this.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell during Obama's presidency said he would do everything in his power to stop Obama.

Now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people, the work that the people sent us here to do.


HARLOW: So there's that tactic. There is the attacking him in that way and there is your tactic, which is talking to him. And what hangs in the balance is a question of there's like no other Democrat that could get elected statewide in West Virginia, and without Joe Manchin, you don't have the Senate, right? Your thoughts.

MORIAL: So, the politics are complicated but the issues are clear. And it's not my role to defend Joe Manchin. It was the legacy civil rights leaders understanding that at the end, it's the result that counts.

So my aim and our aim is the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to ensure that people have access to the ballot box and also that the federal government --

HARLOW: Right. But he supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. He and Murkowski just wrote about that together. So at least is that a first step that you think is good if you can't get HR-1?

MORIAL: But for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, it will take ten Republicans to get beyond the filibuster. So to be for something, we have to determine what is the pathway to make these bills in actuality real legislation that goes into the law books? And that's not clear as of yet, which is why I saw the meeting today as the first step.

Now, there are going to be many critics of Joe Manchin, many people who are going to protest Joe Manchin.


And that is what it is. And that's the reality. And those who are going to pursue that should continue to pursue that. I'm not going to criticize them. At this point, our pathway forward is to try to continue a dialogue.

Now, we may get to a point where the dialogue may reaches a dead end and Joe Manchin is fairly well dug in. But the fact that he is dug in, we appeal to him to reconsider his position.

HARLOW: Okay. Marc Morial, thank you. Come back, okay? Come back right after the next meeting.

MORIAL: Any time. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Take good care.

We'll be right back.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The Department of Justice says this morning that it should represent former President Donald Trump in a defamation case brought by Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll. By doing so, the DOJ under President Biden is actually continuing an argument made by the Trump administration.

HARLOW: Carroll says Trump raped her in the 1990s. She filed a lawsuit against him contending he defamed her when he denied the allegations while he was president, allegations he still denies.

We're joined now by CNN's Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal and State Prosecutor Elie Honig.

Elie, this is complicated but important because Bill Barr under Trump basically moved this to the federal government saying that they now represent the president because this was said in his office in his capacity as president. Carroll's attorney says that is ludicrous that this would be protected in that way. But now the Biden Justice Department is standing by basically what Bill Barr did. What do you think?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Poppy. I think Bill Barr was wrong then. I think Merrick Garland is wrong now. And I'm not alone. The federal district court judge who heard this case, Lewis Kaplan, in the Southern District of New York, also found that Bill Barr was wrong. Now, the case is being appealed.

Now, the law basically says, DOJ will step in and takeover a case if the lawsuit relates to an officials' official duties, if you're talking about the president, for example, if the president gets sued personally for signing a piece of legislation or issuing an executive order, that falls within his duties, DOJ takes over.

Here, I disagree, and Judge Kaplan disagreed, that defaming somebody, calling somebody a liar who accused the president of sexual assault, I disagree that that falls within a president's official duties.

SCIUTTO: So, Elie, so you have the legal argument there, which you know far better than me, but you have the political argument here, right? Because Barr was criticized -- he was accused of basically using the Justice Department to defend the president, right, kind of using the DOJ as his own personal lawyer.

Here, you have the odd circumstances where the new attorney general is, in fact, defying the current president, President Biden, who has publicly said he does not support that. So, from a policy perspective, who has it right?

HONIG: Yes. I think Merrick Garland is making a mistake here, and I think this is a missed opportunity. I think it's good that Merrick Garland is making this decision without consulting with the President Biden. That's as it should be. The attorney general should not be taking orders from the president. But I think he's missed an opportunity to draw a line between the new DOJ and the Bill Barr DOJ.

Merrick Garland has been, I believe, timid in his approach to this issue and others. We saw the decision to appeal a separate ruling last week or a few weeks ago relating to the obstruction of justice issue on the Mueller report. And Garland really -- the polite way to put it is he's being an institutionalist. I don't subscribe to that. I think he's failing to rise to the challenge that meets him as a result of taking over from Bill Barr and the corruption that Barr put on the Justice Department.

HARLOW: Elie, thank you for helping us understand all this.

HONIG: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still ahead, a new report says federal prosecutors have subpoenaed material that is linked to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's new book about leadership during the pandemic. We'll explain why, next.



SCIUTTO: Federal prosecutors have now subpoenaed several people, including New York State officials who were involved in the early stages of writing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's book about leadership during the pandemic.

HARLOW: Sources familiar with the situation tell The Wall Street Journal this is related to a broader investigation into COVID-19 deaths especially in nursing homes that has been going on for quite a while. Brynn Gingras has more on this story.

Well, this is a significant development. Do you know specifically what they're looking for?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and Jim. Look, they're looking into policies that Cuomo put out there during this pandemic. Really what better resource to look at than the book he published himself.

This new reporting though from The Wall Street Journal is really signaling that the federal probe into the nursing home death controversy surrounding Governor Andrew Cuomo, well, it's expanding, this, of course, one of many investigations that we have been reporting to you that are focusing on Cuomo and his administration.

Now, The Journal is reporting federal prosecutors here in New York subpoenaed materials related to that memoir that you're seeing on the screen that Cuomo wrote in the midst of this pandemic, including contracts and materials used to pitch that book to publishers. Sources are telling The Journal those subpoenas went out last month to people who were part of this editing process of the book when it was really in its early stages and that does include state officials.

This probe by the Eastern District of New York started as an inquiry, as you guys said, for data about the number of nursing home resident who died from COVID-19 in facilities and also in hospitals. Of course, as we've reported, there's been controversy over whether the governor's office altered those numbers, a claim that his office has denied many times. But it is clear there is more information here that investigators are trying to glean.

Now CNN reported Cuomo's book netted him more than $5 million. You'll remember it was written and published while the state was still battling the virus, the nation was still battling the virus, and Cuomo's office didn't comment to The Journal or CNN about this recent reporting about the subpoenas. We do know, however, that that book and what state resources might have been used to complete the book is also being looked at in investigations at the state level.

Cuomo, of course, has said many times anyone who worked on that book volunteered their own time. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras, thanks very much.


HARLOW: Thanks for the reporting, Brynn. And thanks to all of you for being with us. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a short break.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we are watching at this hour.


Insurrection, the most comprehensive report yet on the security failures that led to the Capitol attack, yet glaring omissions still in the over 100s.