Return to Transcripts main page


Putin Will Be Working on Possible Prisoner Swap with U.S.; Parents of American in Russian Prison Weigh in on Summit; Soon Biden Signs Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday; Martin Luther King's Daughter on Juneteenth; Harris Speaks on Juneteenth Becoming a Holiday. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 15:30   ET



RUSSIAN OFFICIAL, SPEAKING IN GENEVA: The Department of State will be working on it.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Now the swap would include Russians, Viktor Bout, arms dealer known as "merchant of death," and also Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian drug smuggler. Have you heard anything from the State Department, from the administration about the plausibility of that trade happening?

JOEY REED, SON TREVOR REED IS JAILED IN RUSSIA: Victor, first of all, we have never been told that by any parties in any government. No particular prisoner-for-prisoner trade has ever been mentioned. It's always just been just a discussion of a possible prisoner exchange. We know that in the media there's been a lot of speculation on who would be traded for who, but that's not anything that we have been told.

PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED: We've never been told that, so.

BLACKWELL: And is -- you heard it in the media. Did you -- the first from an official, was that yesterday after the meeting?

J. REED: I'm sorry, we heard what from an official?

BLACKWELL: What I'm saying is you heard in the media you said, but the first time you heard it from any official was that yesterday during these news conferences?

J. REED: No, no, we've never heard anything about a particular prisoner being traded for a particular prisoner. I've been hearing about the people you mentioned in the Russian media for the entire time that Trevor has been imprisoned. They've been talking about that since Paul Whelan has been taken prisoner. So that's the only place we've ever been told about those names.

BLACKWELL: Do you support that swap to get your son home? J. REED: Well, first of all, we just want our son home, so we support

a swap that is agreeable to both nations.

BLACKWELL: Were there any conversations with you by anyone in the administration after the meeting with Putin yesterday?

J. REED: Yes, we just had our weekly call with the SPEHA office, the Special Presidential Envoy on Hostage Affairs, and hadn't really gotten a full briefing from the team that was in Geneva yet. So we did not have any updated information yet.

BLACKWELL: all right, Joey and Paula Reed, thank you again for speaking with us. And of course we all hope that your son comes home very soon. Thank you so much.

J. REED: Thank you, Victor.

P. REED: Thank you for continuing to show his story.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. Certainly will.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, we absolutely will, of course, stay on top of it, and it was very good to get a health update from them.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK, so any moment now we will see President Biden sign a bill that's been decades in the making, Juneteenth, a day to mark the end of slavery in the United States will officially become a Federal holiday. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, Bernice King is going to join us live with her thoughts, next.



CAMEROTA: Any moment we are expecting to see President Biden at the White House sign a bill that will make Juneteenth a Federal holiday. This commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

BLACKWELL: In the run up to this, Gallup conducted a poll asking Americans how much do you know about the Juneteenth holiday? 37 percent of black adults said they know a lot, compared to only 7 percent of white adults, 32 percent of white adults say they know nothing about Juneteenth.

Joining us now, Reverend Bernice King, the daughter of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and now the CEO of the King Center. Thank you so much for being with us, first let me start with just your reaction to what we're about to watch, this moment, Juneteenth becoming a Federal holiday.

BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I certainly think this is an important moment of reckoning, an important moment where this nation now will have an opportunity to learn even more about this important history that African-Americans have faced. It's a moment that creates a more sense of inclusion, you know. A lot

of black Americans don't feel included on our Independence Day as a nation because many of our ancestors were not free. But we can't forget that is ceremonial, holidays are points of recognition. What is needed though is substance. I find it kind of ironic that we would pass legislation for something that is ceremonial but things that are of substant, it seems as if our Congress is a bit schizophrenic.

So you know, my hope is that they will move to substance and pass things like the voting rights legislation for the people the act on, the John Lewis Voters Advancement Act, that they would pass the George Floyd police -- justice and policing act. There's just so much that has to happen in our Senate to really deliver substance to the black community.

You know, I remember two years ago in celebrating the King holiday, I reminded the audience that a day long is not enough, this has to be life long, because we still face great issues of injustice and inequity in our nation and in our world.


And so we have to have a life commitment to make a reality genuinely equality for all Americans, and in this case for black Americans.

CAMEROTA: Bernice, I want to ask you about that poll that Victor just read. Because this year has been a humbling experience for many white folks -- myself included. In how woefully uninformed we are about some major historical moments. I mean between Juneteenth, between the Tulsa Massacre, and the idea that only seven percent of white Americans know this history, how do we change that?

KING: You know I think those of us who were involved in the work of raising awareness and educating have to continue to be persistent and consistent in doing it. I think the holiday helps to raise the level of awareness because it's a moment where there will be a concentration of energy in that regard.

But we can't neglect the fact that while people are catching up on the educational side, we still have to do the legislative work of preventing voter suppression, ending police brutality and decreasing gun violence, and ending housing discrimination, and stopping health care disparities, and eradicating inequity in education. All these things that we still are not liberated from in the black community.

BLACKWELL: You know we -- the vote in the Senate for Juneteenth to become a holiday was unanimous, was not in the House.


BLACKWELL: There were 12 here -- 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 -- 14 GOP members who voted against the bill. And I wonder when you look at this group, 14 white male Republicans who voted against Juneteenth becoming a Federal holiday, and you think back to the early '80s, and those who voted against your father's birthday becoming a Federal holiday, what's your message to these members, that the scope of history has informed what they should know about this vote?

KING: Well, I guess I'm going to lift my father's words in this moment, because I think that those that are in Congress and the Senate have got to find a way to overcome the divide in themselves, you know. My father said one of the great tragedies of life is that people seldom bridge the gulf between profession and practice, and between doing and saying instead of persistent schizophrenia, leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves, and that's what we are experiencing right now, you know, members in the Senate.

Because these are the signs perhaps, I don't know how they voted on the voting legislation, and they probably voted against it, but the fact of the matter is at some point in this nation, those who represent democracy, even passed just a constituent base, have to contend with this you know conflict within.

You cannot support democracy and then do things that vote against what stands for a democracy for all people. And so I'm hoping that, you know, they will get to a place where they will have the courage and strength to be the leaders that they were elected to be.

CAMEROTA: Bernice King, it's nice to talk to you on this important day. Thank you very much for sharing your perspective on all of this.

BLACKWELL: So good to have you. Thank you.

KING: Thank you, I appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Of course we'll bring you live to the White House as soon as that signing happens.

So as America hopes from the pandemic, criminals appear to be taking advantage. Here's video of a brazen shoplifter stealing items, just steps away from a security guard with a cell phone. What's behind the rising crime rates? And how some cities are limiting what they're officers can do about it.



BLACKWELL: Biden, Vice President Harris about to sign the bill to make Juneteenth a Federal holiday. Let's watch and listen.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please have a seat. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. So throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today, a national holiday.

And looking out across this room, I see the advocates, the activists, the leaders who have been calling for this day for so long, including the one and only, Ms. Opal Lee.

Who just received a very special recognition from the president of the United States. And I see members of Congress, members of Congressional Black Caucus, members of the United States Senate who passed this bill unanimously. And all of whom collectively were responsible for delivering this bill to the president's desk, and I thank you all. We thank you all, your nation thanks you all.

And you know when we establish a national holiday it makes an important statement. National holidays are something important. These are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock, and often to acknowledge our history. And so as we establish Juneteenth as our newest national holiday, let us be clear about what happened on June 19th, 1865, the day we call Juneteenth.

Because you see, that day was not the end of slavery in America. Yes, on that day the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free, but in fact 2 1/2 years earlier the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the Confederacy.

So think about that. For more than two years the enslaved people of Texas were kept in servitude. For more than two years they were intentionally kept from their freedom, for more than two years. And then on that summer day, 156 years ago, the enslaved people of Texas learned the news. They learned that they were free, and they claimed their freedom. It was, indeed, an important day.

Still, let us also remember that day was not the end of slavery in America. The truth is, it would be six more months before the 13th Amendment was ratified, before enslaved people in the south and the north were free. So as we commemorate the history of Juneteenth, as we did just weeks ago with the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre, we must learn from our history and we must teach our children our history, because it is part of our history as a nation. It is part of American history.


So let me end by saying this we're gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and we are here to witness President Joe Biden establish Juneteenth as a national holiday.

We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration, and it's not only a day of pride, it is also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action. And with that say I say happy Juneteenth, everybody. And with that I introduce the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Vice President.

156 years ago, 156 years, June 19th, 1865. John, thanks for being here. The major general of the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Americans in Texas from bondage. The day, as you all know, and repeat some of what was said came known as Juneteenth. You all know that. A day that reflects what the psalm tells us. Weeping endures for a night but joy cometh in the morning. Juneteenth marks both a long, hard night of slavery and subjugation

and a promise of a brighter morning to come. This is a day of profound -- in my view -- profound weight and profound power. A day in which you'll remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take. What I've long called America's original sin. At the same time I also remember the extraordinary capacity to heal and to hope and to emerge from those painful moments in a bitter, bitter version of ourselves -- to make a better version of ourselves.

And today we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be and what it must be. A national holiday. As the vice president noted, a holiday that will join the others of our national celebrations. Our independence, our laborers who built this nation, our servicemen and women who served and died in its defense. And the first new national holiday since the creation of Martin Luther King holiday nearly four decades ago.

I'm grateful to the members of Congress here today in particular the Congressional Black Caucus who did so much to make this day possible. I'm especially pleased that we showed the nation that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to commemorate this day with an overwhelming bipartisan support of the Congress. I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another.

We're blessed to mark the day in the presence of Ms. Opal Lee. As my mother would say, God love her. I had the honor of meeting her in Nevada more than a year ago. She told me she loved me, and I believed it. I wanted to believe it. Because Opal, you're incredible. A daughter of Texas. Grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a Federal holiday.

Ms. Opal, you won't believe it, she's 49 years old, and 94 years old. You are an incredible woman, Ms. Opal, you really are. As a child growing up in Texas, she and her family would celebrate Juneteenth. And Juneteenth 1939 when she was 12 years old, a white mob torched her family home. But such hate never stopped her any more than it stopped the vast majority of you I'm looking at from this podium.


Over the course of decades, she's made it her mission to see that this day came. It was almost a singular mission. She's walked for miles and miles literally and figuratively to bring attention to Juneteenth. To make this day possible. I ask once again, we all stand and give her a warm welcome to the White House.

As they still say in the Senate and I said for 36 years, excuse me there for a point of personal privilege, as I was walking down, I regret that my grandchildren aren't here. Because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history.

By making Juneteenth a Federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we've come but the distance we have to travel. And I said a few weeks ago marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa

Race Massacre, great nations don't ignore their most painful moments. Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments. They don't ignore those moments in the past.

They embrace them. Great nations don't walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger. The truth is it's not, simply not enough just to commemorate Juneteenth. After all, emancipation of enslaved black Americans didn't mark the end of America's work to deliver on the promise of equality. It only marked the beginning.

To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we've not got there yet. The vice president and I and our entire administration and all of you in this room are committed to doing just that.

That's why we've launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. Finally address the cruel fact that a home owned today by a black family is usually appraised at a low rate for a similar home owned by a white family in a similar area.

That's why we committed to increasing black home ownership. One of the biggest drivers of generational wealth. That's why we are making it possible for more black entrepreneurs to access capital because their ideas are good. They lack the capital to get their fair -- and get their fair share of Federal contracts so they can begin to build wealth.

That's why we're working to give each and every child, three and four years of age, not day care but school in a school.

That's why -- that's why we're unlocking the incredibly creative and innovation of the history of our historical black colleges and universities, providing them with the resources, invested research centers and laboratories to help HBCU graduates prepare and compete for good paying jobs of the industries of the future.

Folks, the promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real. It becomes real in our schools and on our main streets and in our neighborhoods. Our health care system and ensuring that equity is at the heart of our fight against the pandemic. And the water that comes out of our faucets and the air that we breathe in our communities and our justice system, so that we can fulfill the promise of America for all people, all of our people. And it's not going to be fulfilled so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack.

To see this assault from restrictive laws, threats of intimidation, voter purges and more. An assault that offends the very democracy, our very democracy. We can't rest until the promise of equality is fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation. That to me is the meaning of Juneteenth. That's what it's about.