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New Capitol Riot Video Shows Mob Beating, Trampling Police; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Slams Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Proposed Changes to Voting Bill; Juneteenth Now a Federal Holiday. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 10:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Just released by the Justice Department.


It shows the horrifying moments a man armed with a flagpole tackled and beat down an officer trying to protect the Capitol, trying to protect the people there.

Before we play this, a warning, it is very hard to watch. It shows a police officer in distress, and, again, it is uncensored and includes profanities.

The man in that video, the one in the red jacket, is Thomas Webster. He's a former Marine, a retired NYPD officer. He is being charged with seven federal crimes, including assaulting police, unlawfully entering Capitol grounds with a dangerous weapon and civil disorder.

Despite that and despite federal prosecutors charging several others, some Republican lawmakers are downplaying or outright dismissing what happened that day, refusing to acknowledge the heroism of the officers who put their lives on the line.

Terrance Gainer joins me as we start this hour with more on this. You saw the video. CNN and other media outlets pressed to get that video for transparency. You are a former U.S. Capitol Police chief. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: What do you make of what you just saw?

GAINER: Well, it's painful for me to watch and I wasn't even there, but having spent so much time on that Hill with those officers, I get how it hurts them. And every time there's a video like this that comes out -- and I am glad there is transparency on that, it really rips the scab off of their psychological and personal wounds they had. They fought very hard that day for long periods of time.

HARLOW: The fact that we're seeing this, and their remain denials by not just one, not just two, but more than a dozen Republicans in the House, that this even happened, you know, using the words like a mob of misfits or a normal tourist visit, how do you reconcile the two? I mean, where do we go from here?

GAINER: Well, it's shameful and I think where we go is still press to have some full commission that can get at the truth. I know the various committees are trying, but that's not the way you do a comprehensive investigation, not when there's so many departments of the U.S. departments and bureaus involved in this and I.G.s. We just can't get at the truth as to how to prevent this.

And those members who take that position, and there are too many, they really ought to be ashamed. But the part that I think makes it most difficult this afternoon, because those officers are up there now and their families are watching this type of thing, is they need to go to work and try to dismiss the liars and deniers that they are up there to protect why they do their job.

So, hats off to the officers who are up there, to the other departments that came to help us, but we're not going to get better until we recognize what the problem is. And that Webster, he ought to be ashamed of himself, having been a career officer and a Marine. That's not at all what those two operations stand for. He's a terrible representative of what many of us have devoted our life to.

HARLOW: This also comes as the FBI, just in the last week, has warned lawmakers that online QAnon conspiracy theorists, many of whom you saw there participating in the insurrection, may carry out more acts of violence against people that they believe are part of what they call the cabal, and that includes some Democratic lawmakers. I mean, that's a direct warning from the FBI, coupled with the fact that in his testimony this week, Michael Bolton, the U.S. Capitol Police inspector general, said it is difficult to directly point to who is in charge of security at the Capitol. How can that be?

GAINER: Well, I don't think that's the case at all. I don't agree with the inspector general. The chief of police, the acting chief of police is responsible for the security, overseen by the members of the police board, two very experienced individuals from their own military and law enforcement background.


So I think there's a lot -- they're in much better shape now than we were on the 6th. But I think there's a lot of improvements to be made.

But, again, that's the challenge of trying to police in this open environment, the Capitol Police do not have enough personnel right now. We know that from the General Honore report. They're asking for more money and for more time to get ready. The fences are still up and around. And I think we need to reinforce with the officers that we appreciate what they're doing, thank their families for sending them up there, but get at the heart of the matter.

HARLOW: Terrance Gainer, thank you for weighing in on this and, of course, for your service to all of us.

GAINER: Thank you. HARLOW: Well, now, to what was happening inside the Capitol during the insurrection. Two staffers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are recounting horrifying moments as they were locked down inside of a conference room on January 6th while pro-trump rioters roamed the halls screaming and banging on their door.

Our Drew Griffin joins me now. Drew, you spoke exclusively to these staffers and their story is frightening. This is all part of your new special that will air this Sunday night. Tell us what they told you.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That they were just simply scared to death and scared, Poppy, that they were going to be dragged out of that conference room and beaten. They had no idea what lied on the other side of their door. And in this clip, you'll see just the precautions they were taking and how scared they really were when that mob came through the halls of Congress.


GRIFFIN (voice over): There are now hundreds in the mob, roaming halls, banging on doors, taking photos and videos. Some members of Congress are being escorted to safety, but scattered behind doors, staffers, news media, are in hiding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then I remember telling my colleagues, we need to go into lockdown.

GRIFFIN: Inside House Speaker Pelosi's office, her staffers rushed to a conference room, locked the door. Among them, Alisa La and Kelsey Smith speaking exclusively to CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then we started hearing the banging and like the hooting and hollering very close to us. And then I realize, okay, music off, everybody silence your cell phones, turn the lights off, do not say anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're coming for you, Nancy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was menacing. I mean, they were like, where is Nancy, where is Nancy? Where are the people that work for her? Yes.

GRIFFIN: They had barricaded themselves in, hoping the door would hold.

KELSEY SMITH, DIRECTOR OF SCHEDULING AND ADVANCE OFFICE OF SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: The din was coming from all directions and we heard somebody yell, I found Nancy Pelosi's office. People were chanting, Nancy, Nancy. They come through this way.

So we're hearing it from behind us and in our front of our door. So it was completely the sound surrounded us to the point we're just hearing shouting and the yelling and the banging and the crashing and shattering of glass. But then once they started banging on the door, that's all I heard. That's what I still think about, the door sound.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN (on camera): Those two women, they're just staffers, Poppy. They had nothing to do with any voting or any election or anything like that. They were just government workers terrified that a mob was going to drag them out and beat them. They stayed in there for two hours until, finally, almost like being rescued from a school shooting scenario, a SWAT team had to come and erect them from that room.

This is just one of the many, many different aspects of this insurrection that we investigated for this documentary, which really holds a mirror up not only to that day but what got us to that day, and why so many millions of Americans really have been manipulated into believing lies.

HARLOW: Yes, and where we go from here with so many continuing denials. Drew, before you go, I wonder what was most surprising to you and your team working on this and reporting out this documentary.

GRIFFIN: What was so surprising is we were able to track where a lot of this manipulation began, and it was very similar to investigations I've done on multi-level marketing scams. This thing began many, many years ago, manipulated by people who actually decided this is the route that they were going to take. And they brought so many innocent patriot Americans along for the ride with them, who continue, Poppy, to be deluded.


One line in our documentary says, this is an insurrection disguised as patriotism and wrapped in a Trump flag. I think that really summarizes what's going on here and why so many people are having a hard time looking at January 6th, holding a mirror up to it because they fear what they're going to see looking back at them.

HARLOW: Yes, well, but you have to look at it deeply to acknowledge it, to move forward. Drew, I look forward to watching it. To you and your team, hats off, I know it was a ton of work. So thank you for bringing that to us.

And be sure to watch Drew's reporting, CNN special report, Assault on Democracy, the Roots of Trump's Insurrection, it airs 9:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific this Sunday.

Still to come, Senator Joe Manchin trying to find ten Republicans to support his compromise on the Senate Voting Rights bill. Mitch McConnell has very different plans.

Plus, after a decades' long fight, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. We will talk to one woman who helped make it happen.

And the Florida GOP says a tweet branding a Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate as anti-Semitic was a typo. We'll join one of the officials who came to defend him, ahead.


[10:15:00] HARLOW: Right now, fight over voting rights happening on Capitol Hill, or maybe it's already over. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is trying to find ten Republicans to support the compromise proposal he put forth this week on this election overhaul bill. It is the magic number, ten, that the Democrats need to defend against a filibuster.

Manchin's proposal is pretty clear here and he lays out a number of things. One thing that it includes is mandatory voter I.D. requirement across the country, also declares Election Day public holiday, bans partisan gerrymandering, mandates at least 15 consecutive days of early voting.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing to block it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate, all Republicans, I think, will oppose that as well, if that were to surfaced on the floor.


HARLOW: Jessica Dean is with us live from Capitol Hill. Jess, good morning. John Harwood is at the White House.

Jessica, let me begin with you. It was notable yesterday when Stacey Abrams said on CNN that she was supportive of what Manchin is putting forward here, but it's not enough to get him on board. Any chance he gets the ten he needs?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, at this point, it is all but impossible, seeing that path forward to 60 votes here in the U.S. Senate. That just seems like it's not happening. You just heard from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and when he says no Republican support, it means no Republicans will be supporting this bill.

We saw that press conference yesterday. My office is right down the hall. We saw so many Republican senators going in to comment on this, that they would not be supporting it, senators that also participate in other bipartisan legislation, so that tells you a lot.

One thing to keep in mind here though is the political game that Democrats are playing. They want to look unified. They want to be unified when it comes to voting rights. So by getting Manchin on board, and, remember, he was a lone holdout on this, it allows them to get 50 votes and present a unified argument against Republicans, saying that Democrats are for this voting rights bill and it is the Republicans that are obstructing it here, that they are a party of obstruction.

So, again, it's a bit of a political play again to get Manchin to come on board. But at this point, in terms of getting it to pass the Senate, Poppy, that seems all but impossible.

HARLOW: So, then, john, then what happens? Because you've got a continued belief within the Biden White House and the president on down that bipartisanship works, it's necessary, and it can happen. But you've got a growing wing, more progressive wing of the Democratic Party that is fed up, and says we're wasting time on this. How much is the White House going to wait in here?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the White House, Poppy, doesn't have many good options, either on this case in voting rights, or infrastructure. They have to pursue the potential for a bipartisan path, because they've got members on their side, as Jessica was just indicating, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, others, because of the states they represent or their own political temperaments, they want to try and see if they can get something done across the aisle. If they can, say, on infrastructure, a partial package, on voting rights, something like the Manchin compromise, great. If they can't, then they have to see if they can get it done with Democrats alone.

And the process of failing on voting rights, on infrastructure, both efforts in which Joe Manchin is involved, may influence his willingness to go along with them and unify, in the case of infrastructure, on a reconciliation path, that special budget procedure, which says you could pass a bill with only Democratic votes. That's how they passed the COVID relief bill. So if Joe Manchin's attempt to compromise on infrastructure fails, he may be more open to the argument that, well, democrats, to act, we've got to do it alone. Same on voting rights, Joe Manchin has said, we've got to do this with both parties, we can't blowup the filibuster.


On the other hand, if he proposes what he thinks is a good faith compromise, says, I think I can get Republicans, and they put up a stop sign and say, absolutely not, you're not going to get republicans, that may condition how Joe Manchin reacts when the rest of the party says, okay, to safeguard democracy, to safeguard voting rights, we've got to do it with Democrats alone and evade the filibuster.

We don't know if that's going to happen and Joe Manchin has great reluctance opposition to taking that step, but the White House has no other option then to pursue that potential path.

HARLOW: Yes. I don't think Joe Manchin has even cracked the door open on that option, but we'll see. Thank you both, John Harwood, Jess Dean, I appreciate it.

Some lawmakers are optimistic that new legislation establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday could pave a new path forward. Will it? We will speak with an organizer pushing for lasting, meaningful reform, ahead.



HARLOW: The United States officially recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday, President Biden signing the bill yesterday, that establishes the 19th of June as Juneteenth, the national independence day, commemorating the day in 1865 when enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they had been freed more than two years after President Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, one of the greatest honors I will have had as president.


HARLOW: Let's talk about this. Abby Phillips, Senior CNN Political Analyst and the host of Inside Politics Sunday, is with me, and LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of the voting rights organization, Black Voters Matter. Both of you ladies, thank you for being with me.

We were talking about your big smiles in the commercial break because it's a big day for the country. And, Abby, let me begin with you. I mean, the first federal national holiday since Martin Luther King day was established in 1983, you had President Biden saying this is a powerful day for all Americans to learn from our history. How significant is this moment?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it's particularly significant considering how polarized this country is and has been over the last several years. This is obviously not the be all and end all of racial justice in the United States. However, I do think the Juneteenth is about celebrating what this country can be about, which is about moving toward its full promise of equality for everyone.

And so marking the fact that independence day, you know, to quote Frederick Douglas, what is independence day to a slave was nothing to black people for so long. Juneteenth is that independence day for black Americans, particularly in the south, and it's important to recognize the disparate celebration of freedom in this country, what that was for so long, and the fact that now, truly, black Americans can say that they are free. That is progress. That's what America is supposed to be about.

HARLOW: And the fight, though, continues, LaTosha, as Abby just said, for what real, true, fulsome equality is. And that has been so much of your fight. And you're kicking off this freedom ride for voting rights tomorrow. You've talked about, you know, this is not just about the fight we have now, but the fight we have going forward, to transform this nation, in your words, for the people that built it. What is your goal?

LATOSHA, BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Absolutely, we are freaking out on Juneteenth, primarily, because we want to honor the legacy of those that literally found the way to celebrate their own liberation, to really be able to find a way to connect in our communities. And so we are watching the freedom ride for voting rights, because right now, we know that there is an assault on voting rights all across this country. In 47 states, we're seeing voter suppression legislation.

And now we have a real opportunity with For the People Act and the John Lewis Advancement Act to really be able will address that, that if we are serious about the celebration of Juneteenth and we are serious about that this is a space around where all people are liberated and all people (INAUDIBLE) freedom, then we have to really be able to make sure we're protecting voting rights.

So, now I am currently on the blackest bus in America traveling to New Orleans because we're going to do a pre-march today with eight of the original freedom riders that will get to talk to them, hear their stories and they're going to bless our freedom ride as we set it off tomorrow.

HARLOW: You're on the bus now. That's why it's sort of -- the shot is going up and down. Okay, that explains a lot to me.

Abby, you had Sheila Jackson Lee, telling CNN, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee yesterday, the passage of this bill shows bipartisanship can work, right, and we can make progress. Not to diminish that, there are still more than a dozen, we have them here, House Republicans, who voted against this, because they said it divides our nation further was some of the reasoning. Do you share the optimism of Congresswoman Lee?

PHILLIP: I think that the majority of people in this country, in Washington, are reasonable people who understand American history, notwithstanding the 14 members who seemed to want to just ignore the plain facts that are in front of us, which is that, first of all, black people.