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Many Across U.S. Celebrate as June 19th Marking End of Slavery in U.S. Becomes Federal Holiday; Tulsa Race Massacre Remembered During Juneteenth; Voting Reform Bills Likely to Fail in Senate Due to Republicans Opposition; Heatwave Affecting U.S. Southwest; Gang Related Shooting Takes Place in New York Near Two Children; New Video Released of Violence Committed by Capitol Rioter; Republican Candidate in Florida Accused of Threatening Political Rival with Hit Squad; Pentagon Moving Some Missile Defense Systems out of Middle East in Response to Perceived Possible Threats from China and Russia; Ebrahim Raisi Wins Iranian Presidential Election. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired June 19, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I've got just 20 seconds. What does it say? "Manchin has zero backbone and is more concerned about his reelection than getting things done." Wireless Cowboy, I don't know. I think he's the guy with backbone, stands up for compromise, and that's not easy.

See you next week.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. It is Saturday, June 19th. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I am Amara Walker. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

SANCHEZ: Amara, I'm glad you could join us today. It is a historic today because for the first time in U.S. history, cities across the country are celebrating Juneteenth as a national holiday. For generations it's marked the end of slavery in the United States.

WALKER: But on Thursday, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. The name is a reference to the June 19th, 1865, date when a union general rode into Galveston, Texas, announcing the end of the Civil War, and telling enslaved African Americans they were, indeed, free. Moments ago, President Biden tweeted "Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and the promise of that brighter morning to come. It is the day of profound weight and power."

SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to Nadia Romero. She joins us now live from Tulsa, Oklahoma, an important location, especially on Juneteenth. This year the celebration coming less than a month after events commemorating the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. Nadia, walk us through what is happening today. How is Tulsa marking Juneteenth?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Amara. This has been such an important time for Tulsa residents to have some national spotlight, to have people talking about them and what's happening here. I've been here all week and there have been multiple moments where I've gotten chills thinking about the massacre, but also thinking about the resiliency of this community to come back and rebuild time and time again.

It was freed enslaved Africans who were enslaved to Native American tribes here in Oklahoma. They weren't emancipated until a year after the Emancipation Proclamation. But that year when they got those land allotments, that's when they built Greenwood, Black Wall Street. And it's largely because those black Tulsa residents weren't allowed to live anywhere else. So, they built everything on their own, their own hospitals, banks, their movie theatres, schools.

And it was all burned down in 1921 by an angry white mob who came in and murdered hundreds of those black residents, men, women, and children. They looted their homes and businesses and then burned it to the ground. Now, it took many, many years of denial for people to realize what happened here in Tulsa. Listen to why one Tulsa Juneteenth festival organizer says we have to remember what happened, but we also have to remember what happened accurately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY CORBETT, EVENT COORDINATOR, TULSA JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL: It's been 100 years. We want to make sure that people know the story. We also want to make sure that the story is are being told correctly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMERO: So, you heard her there. She wants to be sure that the story is being told correctly. So, Juneteenth right now, this big celebration, now it's a national holiday 100 years after the Tulsa race massacre. And people here want the attention to be on the survivors. Believe it or not, there are people who have survived this massacre. One woman, 107 years old, her name is Viola Fletcher. She says after the massacre, her family lost everything. Most of the people they knew were either injured or they were murdered during the massacre. She came back, her school was burned down, they lost all of their belongings, and she lived her life in poverty.

She's hoping this time around their latest lawsuit filed in September will actually mean some form of justice for her and for so many people who were affected by the massacre. So this Juneteenth festival is why so many people are cautiously optimistic that all of the attention around the centennial, the national holiday, will mean justice will finally come to Tulsa. Boris, Amara?

SANCHEZ: Nadia Romero reporting from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thank you so much for that.

It's not just Tulsa. Today, cities all over the nation are gathering to commemorate the end of 400 years of slavery in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a great start. This is a holiday, something that we all should come out and celebrate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: New York kicking off the holiday with a parade and music, performances, vendors at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem.

WALKER: In Wisconsin, the Juneteenth flag was raised over the state capital for the second year in a row in honor of the newest federal holiday. And Milwaukee's Juneteenth Day parade and celebration is under way right now. Officials say they're expecting a bigger celebration than ever before. Today marks the 50th anniversary since this parade tradition started.

[10:05:00]

SANCHEZ: While the approval of a Juneteenth holiday can widely be seen as a positive development, given major issues concerning race in this country for many, it's simply not enough, especially when you consider the implications of the battle over voting rights on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin desperately trying to find 10 Republican senators to support his compromise on an election's overhaul bill. That, of course, is the magic number needed to defeat a likely Republican filibuster.

WALKER: Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams praised Manchin's proposal, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing to block it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill with more. Good morning, Daniella. So where does this voting rights bill go from here?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Amara, Boris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to force a vote on Tuesday for this voting rights package that's a Democratic priority in this Congress. But it's expected to fail because it doesn't have enough Republican support.

So why would Chuck Schumer do this and force a vote on a legislation that's going to fail? It's to send a message and put Republicans and Democrats on the record on this issue of voting rights. There was a lot of back and forth between Senator Joe Manchin and his Democratic colleagues on this legislation. He didn't support the first version of this package that passed through the House, but he made some changes, has his own proposals that actually Stacey Abrams, who is arguably the leading voice on this issue, supported. Some of these changes included things like making Election Day a federal holiday, banning gerrymandering, and a voter I.D. requirement that includes a utility bill as an alternative. And look, even though Manchin backs this legislation, it is still

virtually guaranteed to lack the GOP support needed for it to pass through the Senate. And look, Republicans just aren't on board on this. Even Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said that even with Manchin's changes to this proposal, it still contains the same rotten core, his words, as the first version of the For the People Act" which is the name of this sweeping voting rights package. So bottom line here is Democrats and Republicans are so split on this issue, it's unclear how they can meet in the middle of this issue of whether the federal government plays a role in local elections. Amara, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Daniella Diaz reporting live from Capitol Hill. Thank you so much.

Let's discuss the significance of Juneteenth and the issue of access to the voting booth with a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, Cliff Albright. Cliff, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Today the group kicking off the freedom ride for voting rights to reach out to African American voters. It's a nine-city bus tour. It's going to also rally public support for federal legislation to combat new state laws that are meant to restrict voting rights. So you're starting this tour on Juneteenth, now a federal holiday. I'm curious to get your thoughts about so many Republicans who voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday but yet not supporting either of the proposed voting rights bills.

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Yes, thanks for having me. And I think you pointed out the incredible irony of this situation. One of the first issues after Juneteenth and after freedom from enslavement, besides the economic issues, one of the first issues that we have to deal with as a community and country was the issue of voting rights. Let's not forget that in addition to the 13th and 14th Amendments, there was a 15th Amendment that guaranteed the right to vote.

And yet here we are still fighting for that right to be fully made manifest. And so it's very much an irony that you have these senators, Republican senators, who voted for the holiday, and yet are burying their heads in the sand or being in intentional denial around the fact that we are still trying to make the promise of Juneteenth a reality, particularly as regards to voting rights.

WALKER: You would think that if you voted to commemorate the end of slavery, you would think it would go hand in hand with voting to protect the right to vote.

Some of our viewers may not know, but 94-year-old Opal Lee, she's quite an inspiration. And if we can show video of President Biden signing that bill, making Juneteenth a federal holiday into law, you see her right next to President Biden. And a lot of people say Juneteenth may never have been possible in terms of it becoming a federal holiday if she did not help this fight to make that so. I want to play some sound. She was on CNN the other night, and she talked about that moment. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OPAL LEE, ACTIVIST WHO FOUGHT FOR JUNETEENTH FEDERAL HOLIDAY: I thought it would be like this.

[10:10:00]

But to have it actually happen was -- can I use the phrase the children use? It was off the chain, to find out. I knew that the Senate had passed the bill, but I thought the House was going to take a lot longer.

It's not a black thing. It's not a Texas thing. None of us are free until we're all free. And we're not free yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: Miss Opal Lee there went on to talk about the disparities, Cliff, that this country continues to face. You agree with her, I'd imagine, that the fight isn't over?

ALBRIGHT: Yes, and definitely just want to honor her for her tireless efforts on this. And we know the importance of holidays, right. Holidays indicate what a country values. Holidays indicate what our standards are. And so the symbolism of having this holiday, I don't want to underestimate that, but I think, as you heard from Opal Lee, and I fully agree with her, we can't have the holiday be a substitute for actually moving forward on the calls for freedom, including voting rights. We can't have us feel and high-five ourselves and pat ourselves on the back because we passed the holiday, which is significant, but that's not a substitute for moving forward on voting rights, on police violence, on economic equity and all these other issues, because in that sense if we just take the symbolism without the substance, then in some ways that would actually be a step backwards.

But I want to be clear that I thank her and everybody else, every community that's worked to make this holiday become a reality for decades now.

SANCHEZ: Cliff, I want to ask you about the freedom rides for voting rights, they're aimed at encouraging black voters to vote on voting power. What specific message are you taking on the road with you?

ALBRIGHT: Yes, the message is that at the end of the day all of our advancement as a community in this country has come through a combination of strategies, including people being involved at grassroots level of activism. That it took activism to end slavery, it took activism to get the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed. That wasn't just a legislative process. That was also a process that involved a whole voting rights movement in Selma, in Alabama and Mississippi. It required Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery march. and in this moment that we're in, it's also going to take activism.

So, as we go through these nine cities on the way to D.C., I want to be clear, the call for D.C. statehood is also one of the issues that we're supporting in addition to H-1 and HR-4, as we go around to all these cities, the main message we have is that everybody is a freedom rider. Everybody can get involved in this battle. Everybody has got a role to play, whether it's phone calls or text messages or joining us as one of the cities along the route to D.C., or joining us in D.C., everybody has got a role to play.

And our history shows that even when somebody says that they don't want to support something, right, whether it's Republicans or Manchin or President Johnson himself in 1965, he didn't want to move forward with the Voting Rights Act, but he did because of the pressure that was put on by a movement. At the end of the day, that's what's going to make the difference. Today, everybody is a freedom rider.

WALKER: A great message, Cliff. And lastly, because I know your group was part of the coalition that registered and turn out voters in Georgia which helped to flip the state blue. But you've seen the fruit of your labor in other states as well, and as a result, you are a threat to people who don't want to see democracy happening. You've been threatened with your life in some instances. Is that still happening, and has that changed your strategy or your drive in any way?

ALBRIGHT: It still happens, and that's something that I face, my dear friend sister, LaTosha Brown, who is co-founder, we've faced it personally, our organization. And any organization that's in this battle has faced it to a certain degree, right. And so yes, it's ongoing. Has it changed our strategy? No, because as we always say, we always say can't stop, won't stop. We can't let that distract us. We're going to move forward. And what we know is that when we move forward in our faith and in unity, centering black love and black culture and black joy, at the end of the day when we work together there's no level of intimidation or voter suppression that can stop us. Can't stop, won't stop.

SANCHEZ: Cliff Albright, we wish you success and safe travels. Thank you so much.

WALKER: All the best to you.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Outdoor celebrations to mark Juneteenth are under way across the country, but some folks may be wanting to stay inside. A massive heat wave sweeping across the western part of the United States.

WALKER: More than 30 million people in just the southwest are under excessive heat warnings or advisories all weekend long. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joining us live from the CNN center with more. It's pretty extreme.

[10:15:00]

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And again, you think of the southwest as a very hot place. That's no surprise. But even for this area, these temperatures are well above normal. You've got over 30 million people in half a dozen states dealing with excessive heat, warnings and watches and even heat advisories. We are going to continue to see records as well, 20 possible record highs, not only today, but also tomorrow.

Once we get towards Monday and Tuesday of the upcoming week, we finally start to see the temperatures break back down a little bit, especially for places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and even Sacramento. But again, the big concern is not only the heat, but its impact on the fires, essentially you have over 30 large active fires across much of the western U.S., where they really need rain.

The problem is, most of the real heavy rain is focused across the southeastern tier of the country, and that's where we have Tropical Storm Claudette. This particular storm making its way up to 45-mile- per-hour sustained winds, gusting up to 60 miles per hour, moving to the north, northeast at about 12 miles per hour. This storm is going to be a little tricky over the next couple of days because it's going to weaken down into a low-pressure system, before re-intensifying back into a tropical storm once it gets back out over open water into the Atlantic. So certainly something we'll have to keep a close eye on over the next couple of days.

In the short-term, though, tornadoes, waterspouts, and even damaging winds are still going to be possible along the gulf coast. We've already had reports of some possible tornadoes across Alabama, maybe even perhaps some of the other surrounding states, and that will continue through the afternoon.

Here's a look at the main system as it continues to slide off towards the east, bringing with it a tremendous amount of rain. You've got widespread, four to six inches of rain still expected to fall over the next 24 to 36 hours. Keep in mind, this is on top of some areas that have picked up six, seven, even eight inches of rain already, which is why, guys, we do have the flashflood threat that would likely stick around for the rest of the day today.

WALKER: Allison Chinchar, appreciate it, thanks.

And still to come, a brazen shooting caught on camera, a gunman opening fire on a man in broad daylight in front of two young children just feet away. What we're learning about the suspect.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a wild political story out of Florida -- where else? A Republican candidate accused of threatening to assassinate his primary opponent. We have some shocking audio recordings you will want to hear. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:21:34]

WALKER: The statistics are stunning. More than 280 mass shootings in America since the start of this year, and that is according to the Gun Violence Archive. Now, CNN defines a mass shooting as incidents in which four or more people are shot, not counting the shooter.

SANCHEZ: There's no question it's part of an uptick in crime that police are reporting, and there's a concern not only about the frequency of these acts, but also the brazenness of some of the violence. Watch this shocking attack in New York, unsettling moments when a young man and two kids struggle to avoid a shooter opening fire in broad daylight in the Bronx. Somehow, they were not physically harmed. CNN's Polo Sandoval has been following this story. Polo, walk us through what happened.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the NYPD confirming for CNN just a few moments ago that this was gang related. And sadly, you just saw in that video, Boris and Amara, you almost saw two children become victims of that gun violence being caught in the crossfire here. According to NYPD, the reason why they're releasing this video is hoping to generate some leads here. And according to them, this 24- year-old man in the red top is charged at by that gunman who is masked at the time. Investigators believe that he was targeted. He is shot several times while next to him, two children, 10-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, brother and sister there, nearly shot in the process.

After the shooting, the gunman hops on his scooter and flees, so police right now on the hunt not only for this masked gunman, and also for the driver of that scooter, the getaway drive.

But it's important to really just underscore the heroic acts of this little girl and her efforts to protect her little brother, Boris and Amara, because when you look at these pictures, you can see how they pulled her little brother back onto the ground, and then uses her body to shield him from the muzzle flash just inches away. So certainly, important to just recognize not only the heroic efforts of this little girl, but obviously the ongoing investigation right now and the ongoing search for the gunman, just the latest shooting here in New York City that has many residents unnerved.

SANCHEZ: Polo Sandoval reporting from New York. Thanks for the update.

WALKER: Coming up, graphic and disturbing new video showing Trump supporters taunting, stalking, and punching a police officer on January 6th even as some Republicans try to whitewash the horror of the Capitol insurrection.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a Republican candidate in Florida accused of threatening his political rival with a hit squad. Details on a bizarre story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:28:35]

SANCHEZ: The attempt by some Republicans in Congress and on right wing media to whitewash the Capitol insurrection is diving deeper into conspiracy theory territory. Yet new videos of the rioters now facing charges are reminders of what we all saw happen on January 6th.

WALKER: In the latest clips obtained by CNN, the actions of one accused rioter are disturbing enough that it moved a judge to keep that man in jail pending trial. The judge saying, quote, "If any crime establishes danger to the community and a disregard for the rule of law, assaulting a riot gear clad police officer does." CNN's Marshall Cohen has been following these cases very closely. And

Marshall, the videos are explicit, and what is really on display here, at least from this man, is the hate and vitriol he has.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Amara and Boris. Good morning, guys. These videos, we just got them yesterday. They are shocking, they are disgusting, and they are worth watching because it tells the story of what happened on January 6th.

So let me just back up for a second before we roll the clips. We have these tapes because CNN and other news organizations had to file a lawsuit against the Justice Department to get these tapes released. They were presented in court, they were submitted to judges. They are part of the record of January 6th, but they weren't public. Now they are.

[10:30:00]

So, you're about to see this clip. It's a long clip of a man by the name of Scott Fairlamb. He is a gym owner from New Jersey. He's been charged with 12 criminal counts. He's pleaded not guilty. You're going to see him in this footage. That's his face on the screen. Keep an eye out for him in this video. He is wearing a camouflage jacket. He will be stalking -- prosecutors say that this is him in the video stalking officers, taunting them, and eventually shoving one and punching him in the face. Before we hit this clip, I've got to say, this is graphic. There is profanity, so be aware. But let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have your back, sir. I have your back. I have your back. You protect me, I'll protect you. I have your back. I have your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you an American? Act like one. You don't know what the fuck you're doing. You have no idea what the fuck you're going. Not one idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't talk to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the fuck out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they work for us. Fuck them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Yes, so you see that there. It's hard to watch, just throws a punch, hitting the face of a police officer. This is one of a few clips that we got. There's more to show you. But it's scary stuff, guys.

SANCHEZ: Bring us up to speed on the actual case. Where do things stand right now?

COHEN: Yes, so Mr. Fairlamb, he is in jail. As you mentioned earlier, the federal judge in charge of his case said that his conduct that day was just too dangerous, posed such a great risk to the public in the future that he might do something like this again. And one of the reasons why is because he has a record of assaulting people, and some of his words that day really sent a shiver with the judge. So listen to this other clip. I will warn you again, it is explicit. But this is what he said. He uploaded this video to social media after he picked up a baton on the ground during the skirmish. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're patriots, too. We fucking disarm them, and then we storm the fucking Capitol. Fuck you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: These are the rioters in their own words. They weren't Black Lives Matter, they weren't Antifa, they weren't the FBI. These are Trump supporters in their own words. This is a video attacking police. It was not tourists. It was not a peaceful protest. It was a very scary day.

WALKER: You can see that just in his eyes, Marshall Cohen. Thank you for your reporting.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:8]

SANCHEZ: All right, so things are about to get a little bit weird. A Republican candidate for Florida's 13th congressional seat was allegedly caught in a secret recording obtained by "Politico" where he can be heard threatening to hire a Russian-Ukrainian hit squad to assassinate his opponent.

WALKER: What? That's conservative activist Erin, I'm not sure how to pronounce the last name, Olszewski, says she recorded candidate William Braddock because she was concerned about his dislike for his primary opponent Anna Paulina Luna. Braddock tells CNN he has not listened to the recording. CNN's Leyla Santiago has more on this unhinged war of words.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WILLIAM BRADDOCK, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I call up my Russian-Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours they're sending pictures of her disappearing.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to "Politico," that's relatively unknown GOP congressional candidate William Braddock allegedly threatening the life of his primary opponent in the race for Florida's 13th Congressional district Anna Paulina Luna.

BRADDOCK: If the poll says Luna is going to win, she's going to be gone. She's going to disappear. SANTIAGO: According to "Politico," who exclusively obtained the

secretly recorded phone call, conservative activist Erin Olszewski says she recorded Braddock because she was worried about his alleged dislike for Luna. When reached by CNN, she declined to comment. The man on the recording can be heard referring to the Russian-Ukrainian hit squad with close battle combat techniques.

BRADDOCK: Up close and personal, so they know the person, they know the target is gone. Don't -- be on the wrong side of supporting Luna, because if you're near her when time comes, I just don't want that to happen thank you. You've got kids, so don't be associated with Luna under any circumstances, please.

SANTIAGO: Braddock tells CNN he has not listened to the recording. He suggests, quote, "It may not even be me," and, quote, "It may be altered." He also pointed out that he did not give consent to be recorded.

[10:40:00]

When asked by CNN if he's ever threatened Luna, Braddock replied, "I did not. I have nothing against her. I think she's a little crazy." Luna's spokesperson told CNN via email "Mr. Braddock threatened Anna Paulina Luna's life. It is clear and unambiguous. Mr. Braddock's misogynistic comments and clear threats of violence speak for themselves."

Luna filed a temporary restraining order last week for stalking against Braddock, in which she stated in part "I received information yesterday at midnight regarding a plan with a timeline to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me for winning the election for FL-13." Luna also claims in the filing that she obtained screenshots of text messages in which Braddock claims he is working with her political rivals, Amanda Makki and Matt Tito, to take her out.

MATT TITO, POTENTIAL FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is a total political hitjob. This is a way to intimidate me. It's a way to smear me, and it's a way to keep me out of the 2022 congressional run.

SANTIAGO: Makki also objects to these accusations. In a written statement to CNN, she says in part, "Any reference to me being associated to Mr. Braddock and Ms. Luna as somehow being involved and smearing my name for political gain is disparaging and feckless."

BRADDOCK: For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.

SANTIAGO: A disturbing recording that has sparked fear and political drama.

BRADDOCK: So, don't be associated with Luna under any circumstances, please. And do not repeat this to anybody, because both of us will be in jeopardy if you do.

SANTIAGO: And we've learned that William Braddock plans to drop out of the race. Why? He told us, quote, in the court of public opinion, he has already lost the race. I also had a brief conversation, phone conversation with Luna. She has described things as being very hectic for her right now and that she has been advised not to discuss her whereabouts.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: Leyla, thank you for that.

Let's dig deeper into the story with national political reporter for "Politico" and fellow Florida man Marc Caputo. He was the first to report on this story. Marc, I am trying to figure out Braddock's motives here, why he dislikes Luna so much, if he was being honest about having these connections. It sounded to me like he was bragging, trying to make himself sound well connected. What do you think?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": I'm hesitant to hazard a guess because even though I've covered Florida politics for 20 years, and I'm always surprised that I'm always surprised. This really surprised me. This is a 30-minute recording. You listen to this guy. He's talking about importing money from Malta and Gibraltar. He's got freemason buddies.

And then on four separate occasions he mentions this Ukrainian-Russian hit squad. To begin with, within three minutes of the phone call he brings it up himself. I think one could guess that he's bragging, one could guess a variety of things. I don't have any experience in this.

And then when I contacted Braddock, he got into that same song and dance with me that he did with your reporter there, where he was like, oh, it's allegedly me. I didn't give consent to being recorded. I'm like, OK, well, did you talk about a Russian-Ukrainian hit squad, and then he wouldn't answer. And then finally after a long exchange back and forth between me and him, he's then is like, well, I don't recall. I don't know, that's the kind of thing I would recall. But it's never a dull moment in Florida.

SANCHEZ: No question about that. And you're right, Braddock goes back and forth. He says he didn't do anything wrong. He's never threatened Luna, he says he hasn't heard the recording, there's no evidence that it's him, but that it may have been doctored.

I do want to ask you about the decision to make these recordings. What do we know about the relationship between Olszewski who recorded the calls, and whose credibility has come into question in the past, and this congressional candidate, Luna?

CAPUTO: Well, like you, I don't want to butcher her last name. She's also nicknamed nurse Erin, was a nurse, she wrote an expose about a New York area hospital during COVID and became a conservative figure, an activist. And in that capacity, Braddock had reached out to her, they travel in the same circles in the St. Petersburg area, which is where Florida's 13th Congressional district is, and he wanted her apparently to be on a health care panel. But she had told me that in repeated conversations with him, he sounded, quote, unhinged, she said. And she was just kind of worried that this was just not a normal guy saying normal things.

So when she decided to call him back after this prolonged back and forth about will you be on this panel, will you not, and him saying these other things she said, which to her sounded crazy, I think to a lot of people it sounded crazy when you heard the recording, she decided to record it. What she did, as you see from the video there, she actually called him on one smartphone and then videoed it with another, and did it in front, I guess, in front of her pitch and range so she could actually show the time and just prove that it is indeed him. She said she was really nervous about his demeanor, and then that recording and what he said on it really bore out her concerns about his mental fitness and how safe of a person he is.

[10:45:06]

SANCHEZ: And, quickly, Marc, how does this effect the race?

CAPUTO: Well, I'm not sure -- if Braddock did have all of this money that he claimed he had, he probably could have been a player. But now if he is going to drop out, we'll see if he actually does, that leaves Luna still as the assumed frontrunner. She won the primary last time. But Makki and Tito are very interesting candidates, and this race is going to get a lot of attention.

There already are a good number of Florida Republicans on all sides where these Republican primaries are playing out who are getting engaged. So you can expect a bit of a bare knuckle primary. Again, bare knuckle, not kind of like open gun primary. So with Braddock out, I presume we're going to have a little more of a normal conversation in the race. But it does look like it's going to be pretty heated.

SANCHEZ: Let's hope it's a bit more normal. A sunny place for shady people. Got to love Florida. Mark Caputo, thank you so much for the time.

CAPUTO: Thank you. Talk to you later.

WALKER: Sunny place for shady people, I love that, Boris. I do miss living in Florida, though.

Coming up, a new report says that the Pentagon will withdraw some of its jets and missiles out of the Middle East. We'll explain why the Biden administration is making that move.

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[10:50:51]

WALKER: Just in, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is expected to announce today transgender veterans will be able to get gender confirmation surgery through the V.A. health care system.

SANCHEZ: Yes, this change marks a substantial shift in care for eligible transgender veterans. While the V.A. health benefits package includes coverage for things like mental health services and hormone therapy, it has excluded coverage for funding for gender confirmation surgery. That's a procedure that makes a person's anatomy match the gender with which they identify. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are approximately 134,000 transgender veterans.

WALKER: Huge news there.

A U.S. Defense Department official says the Pentagon will be moving some of its missile defense systems and personnel out of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that's because the Biden administration wants to refocus on threats from Russia and China away from the Middle East. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more on this.

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OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon is pulling U.S. military assets and capabilities out of the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia, according to a defense official, as it shifts its focus towards what it sees as the growing threat posed by China and Russia. Much of the assets that will be pulled out of the Middle East are air defense assets, so Patriot missile batteries which are effective at incepting short range ballistic missiles.

The defense secretary Lloyd Austin instructed the commander of U.S. central command which oversees the region to bring those assets back to the U.S. to redeploy them over the course of the summer. Again, some will come back to the U.S. for much needed maintenance and repair, other assets will be redeployed. The Pentagon wouldn't say to where or on what timeline.

But this is all part of the global shift the U.S. has away from what it sees as the wars of the past and Middle East, towards what it sees as the threat of the future, the threat posed by China and Russia. And you see that in a broader drawdown of the Middle East. The U.S. is set to complete the withdraw of U.S. forces from Afghanistan ahead of the September 11th deadline, and let's not forget that it was the Trump administration that reduced U.S. forces in Iraq to 2,500.

Meanwhile, it is China and Russia that are the focus of the Pentagon moving forward. The China task force recently completed its work and passed on its recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and the Pentagon has made it clear those recommendations will inform the national defense strategy moving forward. As for the global posture review ordered by this administration, that's expected to be wrapped up in the coming months. That, too, will see a shift away from the wars of the past towards the threat of the future, again, the threat of Russia and China.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, in the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WALKER: Iran's chief justice has won a landslide election and will become the country's next president. Ebrahim Raisi emerged as the front runner after election officials banned all of his serious rivals from the race. Iran state media says he got 62 percent of the votes in yesterday's election, and there will not be a runoff. Raisi has a brutal human rights record and is currently under U.S. sanctions.

SANCHEZ: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is moving forward with a plan that could deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights. It's seen as a potential rebuke of President Joe Biden and his advocacy of women's reproductive rights. Biden is the first Catholic president in nearly six decades. And a recent polling shows most American Catholics do not believe the president should be refused communion. When he was asked Friday about the plan, Biden said he did not think it would actually happen.

Staying in the nation's capital, the Capitol police officer who may have saved the lives of dozens of lawmakers during the insurrection riot has been given a rare honor. You can see Officer Eugene Goodman in this video from January 6th as he's running toward the camera. He was actually leading rioters away from the Senate chamber. At one point he even directed Senator Mitt Romney to safety.

WALKER: No doubt a hero. The Army veteran was hailed as a hero for his actions that day and received the distinguished public service award for his work.

[10:55:00]

On Friday night he received another honor. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Friday's baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. Take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer Goodman, when you're ready, it's your pitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: Why does he look so disappointed? He didn't hit anybody.

SANCHEZ: It bounced. It was right over the plate, though. And, of course, the Nats won. So nice job, Officer Goodman, not just for the pitch, but for everything that you've done and that you will do.

WALKER: That's right.

That is our time. Thank you so much for watching.

SANCHEZ: Amara, it's been a pleasure to be with you the past few weeks. There's still much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom. It's coming up in just a few moments.

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