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Nan Whaley is Interviewed about Mass Shootings in the U.S.; Voting for NYC Mayor; Lawmakers Netted in Probe of Congressional Staffers. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This growing gun violence epidemic now prompting dozens of mayors from America's cities to band together and demand more action from the Biden administration on guns.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In a recent letter they wrote, quote, we are clear-eyed about the political challenge but now more than ever we need to continue this hard but necessary work. So many cities and towns are now dots on a map of mass shootings that could have been prevented if there were a federal web of uniformed laws on background checks, eliminating access to guns for those who have demonstrated a history of mental illness or other disqualifying conditions.

Joining me now -- joining us now, the president of the United States Conference of Mayors, Dayton, Ohio's Democratic mayor, Nan Whaley. She's also running to unseat Republican Governor of Ohio Mike DeWine in 2022.

Mayor, it's great to have you on again.

MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D), DAYTON, OHIO: Great to be on. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: So I met you in 2019 after a horrific shooting in Dayton, Ohio, which came the day after a horrific shooting in El Paso, Texas. And following those two shootings, for a moment, as we've often seen before, there was a bipartisan expression of support for some gun control measures. In Ohio, the governor, Mike DeWine, talked about state laws, I think red flag laws. Mike Turner, representative whose daughter was on the street or nearby, a Republican, said, hey, I've got to come around on this.

That moment disappeared. They changed their public positions. What happened? Why does that always happen? I mean are the politics so intractable here for Republicans that they just won't move?

WHALEY: I think it's really what's going on in our politics, even at the state level with Governor DeWine. These folks are too afraid of the extremists on the right and the gun lobby, frankly.

You know, the night of -- the day after the shooting in Dayton, hundreds of people gathered to the street to holler "do something."


WHALEY: Governor DeWine promised to do something. But instead, this January, he actually signed a stand your ground law which makes all communities and everyone less safe. Every study shows that. It just shows how there is this grip of the gun lobby and gun makers and extremists in the Republican Party that won't let them loose.

I mean these are issues -- we're talking about stuff that nine out of ten Ohioans agree with. I mean we can't get nine out of ten Ohioans to agree that the Ohio State Buckeyes are the best football team. But they still can't get this to move. And it's because they're too weak to stand up to these extremists, frankly.

HARLOW: You mentioned where you think Governor DeWine has fallen short on gun reform. You're now running against him to try to unseat him as governor.

But he has been pushing again and again, session after session, for The Strong Act to be passed, so that calls for new background checks, makes it a lot harder for mentally ill people to access guns.

Now, it's gone nowhere with the Republican legislature, but he keeps pushing for it.

If you unseat him as governor, how would you get the Republican legislature to actually act on that if he can't?

WHALEY: Well, I think what governor DeWine does is he's trying -- you know, they're in his party and he's trying to be a bit too nice to them. You know, he's sitting on a primary now. So, you know, actually he goes the opposite direction. So he'll say, oh, I have this, you mow, Strong Ohio bill, which got no movement, and then, in January, sign the stand your ground bill. There is --

HARLOW: No, I hear you on Stand Your Ground, but I'm asking you specifically on this, which I assume you support, right, the measures in this --

WHALEY: I did -- I did support. But, like, I don't see him really taking the action to get it done. Like, he is just not strong enough to stand up to the extremists in his party. It's not my party. It's his party that's doing this.

HARLOW: But you're going to have to work with them to get it done.

WHALEY: Absolutely. No -- I'll tell you this, I mean, I think, you know, being kind to these guys and just saying, oh, please, isn't going to make it happen. And I think when he needs them in his party, in his primary, is a different situation than a Democrat that doesn't need them for that.

SCIUTTO: Nationally, as you're well aware, you know, the odd fact is even though you have national support for measures like universal background checks, by the way, among gun owners, right? We're not just talking about, you know, a random, you know, collection. We're talking about people who actually own guns. But what happens at the state level goes in the opposite direction. I

mean look at Texas, for instance, you know, passing a lot where you don't even need to have a gun license, right, to carry guns.

Are you disappointed that now, at a rare moment when Democrats have both the White House -- or the White House and the House and the Senate, granted with slim majorities, that even under those conditions can't get national legislation passed?

WHALEY: Look, I think the letter that the conference of mayors I sent as president and dozens others joined me is really calling on the Biden administration to make this a priority. And there are things that he can do, particularly with the Department of Justice, that can really help partner with cities. And that's -- that's what we're asking for.

We're very clear-eyed about the very difficult nature of Congress for sure. You know, we continue to stand in solidarity in the effort for -- to have universal background checks because, look, we're not talking about, you know, responsible gun owners here.


We're talking about the 54 people who die every single day in this country at the hands of a gun. And most of those deaths are people that should never have had a gun in the first place. So that's -- and now it's not even happening in big cities. It's happening in small communities, in rural towns all across the country.

So this is affecting really everyone.

So, yes, we're asking and we've had great partnership with Biden these past six months as mayors. You know, we're happy to help partner in passing the American Rescue Plan in a bipartisan way from mayors. So we're asking for that again because we know that gun violence, we know what can be done and what needs to be done and what will work but the Republicans won't do it. So people in communities like mine and across the country keep dying. There are some actions that could -- that could happen and we could make a difference if we get -- if we get national action and if we do have Biden make this a centerpiece of his administration.

HARLOW: Mayor, briefly before you go, an update on the opioid crisis in Ohio, because you actually have some uplifting news.

WHALEY: Yes, I'm very proud of the work that we've done in Dayton. You know, one of the things, you know, as you all, Poppy and Jim, you know that Dayton, when I first became mayor, was, you know, the center, ground zero, for accidental overdoses. We really worked to treat addiction like the disease that it was and that it is. And so I'm really proud that we have cut accidental overdose deaths in half.

What we have shown is if you treat -- if you get services on the ground and if you treat it, instead of a criminal justice issue, you can make a great difference in saving people's lives.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

WHALEY: It's still a key issue across this country. And, actually, unfortunately, you know, Dayton was a tip of the spear in this issue as we see other communities across the country really become a challenge. You know, Dayton's become a model city on what to do about this.

SCIUTTO: It's a forgotten epidemic, really, to some degree.

HARLOW: Yes. Totally.

SCIUTTO: Or certainly not -- not paid enough attention to.

So we appreciate the work you're doing there.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

Jim and I care deeply about it. So, please, keep us posted on the efforts that are working there. Thank you, Mayor Nan Whaley. Appreciate it.

WHALEY Thank you, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, voters head to the polls tomorrow in New York City's mayoral primary. Boy, is this quite a race, Poppy.

HARLOW: It's so interesting. And, by the way, it's on the airwaves constantly here, with crime as a top issue for voters. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former New York City police officer, is leading the polls for the crowded Democratic primary. But with the city's new ranked choice voting system, it's really not clear at all who's going to emerge the winner.

Our Athena Jones is live for us this morning right here in New York.

Athena, where do things stand and please explain ranked voting for people that do not live in Maine.


Look, the race stands at a place where it is down to the wire. Early voting has already ended. Yesterday, Sunday, was the last day of early voting. There are about eight days of early voting, about 2,000 people we believe came out to take advantage of that.

But Election Day is Tuesday and, as you mentioned, it's ranked choice voting. So there are -- you saw that poll. Eric Adams appears to be in the lead. But we're talking about a field with 13 candidates. Eight of them are the ones who have been appearing in most of the debates. You see that seven-point stretch, Eric Adams over Kathryn Garcia. But that poll was taken at the beginning of the month. So it's already been a couple of weeks since that poll was out. It's hard to know how the race is changing in these final days.

But when it comes to rank choice voting, this is something that New York voters passed in a referendum back in 2019, nearly three quarters of voters said that they wanted this new system which allows to -- for instant run-offs and not having to call people back if no one candidate wins a majority of the vote in the first round. And as I said, there are 13 candidates in this race, eight of them are considered sort of the major leading candidates. But even Eric Adams, who appears out in front, still is nowhere near getting a majority plus one of the vote.

And so under this system, you can -- each of the voters can rank their candidates, up to five candidates, in order of preference. And if no one candidate wins a majority or a majority plus one of the votes in the first round, it means that the lowest candidate -- the lowest vote getter, the candidate who got the most votes, is eliminated and their voters' second choices on the second choice ballot is reallocated.

And so that system goes on over and over again until one candidate emerges with a majority plus one. And so that is why we do not expect to know the answer tomorrow night when the polls close at 9:00, or even a few hours after the polls have closed, who is out on top. We may only know who won the first round.

So it's going to be complicated. It's going to be interesting.

Poppy. Jim.

HARLOW: And it's going to keep you busy.


HARLOW: Its going to keep all of us on our toes and it's going to keep my next guest busy.

Katie Glick is the chief metro political correspondent at "The New York Times."

Good morning. Thanks for joining us. I know you probably haven't slept much in the final push here covering the campaigns.

Athena just laid out for us the polling, rank choice, what this all means. What's the state of the race?

KATIE GLUECK, CHIEF METRO POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

The state of the race is turbulent, and fluid and highly unpredictable and every term we can throw out there to underscore the real uncertainty here. Certainly as Athena noted, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president, a firmer police captain, has been leading these space public polling that has been available over the last couple of weeks. But, of course, as she noted, rank choice voting makes all of this wildly unpredictable.


In the last couple of weeks we've seen evidence that Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, and Maya Wiley, a former council to Bill de Blasio, have been gaining some momentum. Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, is considered a real, you know, formidable contender as well. But as we head into Tuesday with rank choice voting, we just don't know how it's ultimately going to shake out.

HARLOW: One thing that I think is so interesting is that here you have such a progressive left-leaning city and yet the front-runner right now, Eric Adams, is staunchly against any mention of defund the police as a former police officer himself. He's, you know, far more moderate than people might expect in this city for a front-runner. Kathryn Garcia also more to the ideological center. Three of the four leading candidates support, for example, more policing in subways, are skeptical of defund the police. That's interesting, right? What does it tell you about this race and New York in this moment?

GLUECK: It's fascinating. This race is going to be an imperfect but still very important test of the mood of Democratic voters around key issues of policing, of justice, of public safety a year after the national protests over police brutality, a year after the rise of the defund the police movement, which in New York City in particular was very powerful. Just ask any number of city council members who dealt with that last year.

But, at the same time, we're on the cusp of a summer that a lot of experts expect will be a summer that sees a lot of gun violence in cities across the country. And so this race, as you noted, three of the four, considered to be leading candidates, are a little bit more moderate when it comes to issues of policing and public safety. Maya Wiley has taken a more left-wing approach. And it's going to be fascinating to see where voters (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: I think this strategy is interesting of Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia campaigning together. You saw them. I mean it almost looks like they're endorsing each other if you look at the video, but they're not. They didn't do that. And they were criticized for it by Eric Adams. And he even said that they -- them coming together on Juneteenth, Saturday, in his opinion, he's quoted in "The Times" as saying, they're saying we can't trust a person of color to be the mayor of New York City. That's quite an accusation. What do you know about why they came together and his criticism of it?

GLUECK: It's quite an accusation. And as Andrew Yang noted, he is an Asian-American and would be New York City --


GLUECK: Exactly. Exactly. And Adams tried to clarify that statement later as well.

You know, Andrew Yang has been open for a very long time about his respect for Kathryn Garcia. He has made open overtures to her for months to essentially team up together.

She has stopped short of that. And even though the two of them are appearing on literature together, they're doing events together, she's insisting that this is not a cross endorsement.

Andrew Yang has been much more open about his idea that, you know, he would love to see her as his second pick.

But certainly it's a really interesting dynamic around rank choice voting. Garcia has told me, has told others that, you know, she is very focused on trying to get Andrew Yang's second choice voters. Andrew Yang has been very complimentary of Kathryn Garcia's government experience, which is not his area of expertise, as kind of a city political outsider. And so it's going to be a really interesting test of that dynamic and how that works in a rank choice context.

HARLOW: OK, Election Day, tomorrow.

Katie, thank you very much. Katie Glueck of "The Times." Appreciate it.


SCIUTTO: Well, new details this morning about the 2018 Justice Department subpoenas that gathered data from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. The twist, those two lawmakers were not the initial targets of that investigation. We'll have more.



HARLOW: New details this morning on the Trump Justice Department's secret subpoena that netted information on two of the former president's most vocal political enemies, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. Sources tell CNN that a 2018 subpoena to Apple apparently started with the investigation of a congressional aide not the lawmakers themselves.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, part of the team that broke in news story.

So, Evan, what does this tell us about the scope of the investigation, that those two congressmen not the targets, but they were swept up in it, still significant?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is still significant because you're still talking about a senior aide, this was not just some low-level aide. This was a senior aide working with Adam Schiff's office on that intelligence committee, Jim.

And, you know, it still presents the same issues. Why is it that seemingly everybody at the top of the Justice Department at the time doesn't remember, doesn't know anything about this? It certainly wasn't briefed, at least as far as we can tell, to Congress. There are -- there is a procedure that the Justice Department uses for investigations like this. And it appears that something fell through the cracks.

And so what we know, as you pointed out, is that this began with scrutiny over a senior aide. And, as a result of that, investigators sent a list of phone numbers and other accounts to Apple. They got back the names of at least two members of Congress, that's Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff.

Now, one of the reasons why people are so suspicious is the fact that these two, of course, are two of the most prominent Democratic critics of the former president. And we know that the former president and his attorneys general were very obsessed with leaks over stories -- of stories -- that they believe were behind stories related to the Trump/Russia investigations, that the president kept wanting for the Justice Department to bring people to justice over this.


And so what we don't know is what will be the result of this investigation from the inspector general that is now ongoing. And we also don't know what else is hiding in the deep closets of the Justice Department. That's one of the things that Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, is now doing. She's essentially trying to figure out, where are -- the other bodies are buried because this new administration, the new leader in the Justice Department, keeps getting surprised by things that are popping up inside the Justice Department.

HARLOW: Evan, thank you very much for that reporting.

PEREZ: Sure.

HARLOW: For bringing it to us. Obviously, there's a long way to go on this story. We'll see where it takes us.

Well, tense negotiations set to happen soon over several big issues on the Biden agenda. Can deals be reached on infrastructure, voting rights, and police reform, especially with the holiday recess coming up?