Return to Transcripts main page


Obama Slams Senate GOP For Plan To Avoid Debate On Voter Reform; Nine Children, One Adult Killed In Horrific Highway Crash In Alabama; U.S., U.K., E.U., Canada To Sanction Belarus Over Forced Landing Flight To Arrest Journalist; Suspect Charged With Murder Of American Student In Russia; Iran's President-Elect Says He Won't Meet With Biden; CDC: Young Adults Least Likely To Be Vaccinated, Interest Declining; Tokyo Olympics To Allow Spectators & Look At Olympic Village. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 14:30   ET



MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And Biden and his team need to satisfy progressives inside their party.

That if they don't block this from happening, they will be at least rewarded with the ability to make their point again and again and again to try to message the benefits or greater infrastructure spending.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Back to voting rights. Former President Obama weighed in on this, this morning, in a tele-townhall. He called in to talk about what is at stake with voting rights.

Here's that.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line, and many of these same Republican Senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they're suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate.


CAMEROTA: What about that, Margaret? Just blocking it is different than saying, OK, let's all have a discussion and try to find some solutions.

TALEV: Right. And I think it is important, who is the former president messaging here? Yes, he's talking to Eric Holder's group. He's doing a favor for a friend. Yes, he's messaging the younger voters.

But he's also talking to a couple of different groups of people. And one are, potentially, the handful of Republicans who, in theory, are trying to balance the demands of their party against their long desires that are more centrist. I think he is also talking to the Manchins, the Sinemas of Democratic

caucus, not about ending the 60-vote filibuster and replacing it with a simple majority but about the idea that there could be a compromise, some kind of a space between 50 votes and 60 votes that doesn't do away with the filibuster but makes it so voting reform can pass.

I think it will be a difficult argument to make but it's one the Democrats ae trying to figure out if and how they can do right now.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, Margaret Talev, thank you.

TALEV: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: A tragic ending for children have already faced so many challenges. We'll have the latest on this highway pileup in Alabama. Some officials are calling it the worst crash they have ever seen.

And a suspect is arrested in the murder of an American student in Russia. That story ahead.



CAMEROTA: Federal investigators on the scene of a deadly crash in Alabama.

BLACKWELL: Nine of the 10 victims kill were children. A lot of them were in a band that belonged to a ranch for neglected and abused children.

This fiery multivehicle crash happened as storms swept through the area Sunday.

Now investigators from the NTSB are working to piece together what happened.

CNN's Martin Savidge is there in Alabama.

Martin, have they found out or determined if the storm was the cause or what caused this crash?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is certainly what they're looking into, Victor. It can't go unnoticed that you have this tremendous tropical storm that was moving through the area at the same time you had this horrific accident. So clearly, that's where they'll begin.

We're at the girls ranch. This is where the heartbreak is heaviest. This is where eight of their children died. So now they're just beginning the grieving process.

The investigation, 10 NTSB investigators are now joining the efforts already underway by local and state law enforcement as they try to determine how it happened. So it was 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon. If you've seen the images from

the crash site, even the aftermath is chilling and horrific. And it gives you a sense of what disastrous consequences took place.

This was a multicar accident. What that means is that you had one vehicle begin. Maybe it was hydroplaning.

Then another vehicle slams into it. The chain reaction begins. The horror as people try to get out of their vehicle, another vehicle crashes in.

At least two semis are involved. And there was fire. Seven vehicles caught on fire, including the van carrying nine people from this ranch.

There was one survivor. An adult that was driving the van. But that adult, who is the director of Ranch Life, also lost two of her own children.

Mike Smith is the CEO of these ranches here. It has shaken even his own faith.


MIKE SMITH, DIRECTOR, ALABAMA SHERIFF'S YOUTH RANCHES: I got to tell you, I have had some heart to hearts with God these past two days, this past 24 hours. And I question why.

And I know God will not put anything on us that we can't handle. And I do have to come to know. God has big shoulders allowing me to cry on his shoulders, you know? We're going to be OK.


SAVIDGE: Essentially, this ranch was a foster program in which children who had been removed by the state of Alabama there their homes. Maybe an abusive environment, maybe addiction had taken hold of their parents. So they had been through already a lot.

And then to die in this way is just, for so many, hard to imagine.

CAMEROTA: Oh, Martin.


CAMEROTA: It is all so heartbreaking.

How are the operators of the ranch, like that gentleman you just showed us? What is their plan for dealing with the aftermath of this?

SAVIDGE: Yes. Well, first, they rely on their faith. They're deeply religious. They're relying on one another.

There are a lot of people coming and going, like you might expect, delivering food and offering hugs and trying to help. They have a GoFundMe fund and it has been doing well. They need that money. Now they must bury eight children. And then on top of that, they have

the survivor who is likely to need long-term care.

Most of all, they ask for people's prayers -- Alisyn, Victor?


BLACKWELL: And we are certainly sending them.

Martin Savidge for us there. Thank you so much.

Today, the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union and Canada are taking steps to sanction Belarus over the forced landing of that air Ryan flight.

CAMEROTA: The sanctions include travel bans and an asset freeze against Belarus senior-ranking Belarusian officials and an exporter of the Belarusian oil.

As you may remember, last month, Belarus forced a flight from Greece to Lithuania to land under the pretense of a bomb threat. Officials then arrested a 26-year-old journalist and political activist and his girlfriend.

The European leaders say E.U. airlines will not fly over Belarus until he is set free.

BLACKWELL: Let's check in with our correspondents for a look at other stories around the world.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kylie Atwood at the State Department. The Biden administration is preparing additional sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.

Over the weekend, national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said the administration is working on the right targets.

These sanctions are required by law. The deadline passed a few weeks ago. The Biden administration clearly still working to roll them out.

Sullivan saying the Biden administration has been very clear that they won't pull their punches when it comes to Russia.

The interesting thing to watch for is who the Biden administration targets with these sanctions.

Last week, after President Biden met with President Putin face to face, he said there would be devastating consequences for Russia if Navalny died in prison.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Selma in London. Gruesome new details about the final hours of Catherine Serou's life, the American student who was murdered in a town east of Moscow. According to a local Russian court, the suspect charged with her

murder, a man picked up Serou at a bus stop. She hitched a ride with him. He took her to a wooded area.

That's where the two got out. There was an altercation and he punched Serou multiple times and stabbed her at least twice. The 34-year-old woman tragically died at the scene of her injuries.

Her last communication was with her mother, Becky Serou. That's what her mom told "The Daily Beast:"

She said received a text message from her daughter that night saying, "I'm in the car with a stranger. I hope I'm not being abducted." Chilling last words there.

Now, of course, a mother heartbroken and searching for answers.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Tehran. As the new administration is coming in, the hardline administration vows to take a tougher stance toward the United States.

Ebrahim Raisi, the president-elect of this country, who is a hardliner, was asked at a press conference whether or not he would ever sit down with U.S. President Joe Biden and he flat out said no.

I also asked whether he would at least sit down with the Biden administration and what he thought of an expanded Iran nuclear agreement that could encompass the ballistic missile program.

He said, first of all, he want the U.S. to lift sanctions and do so very quickly. And also that Iran's missile program is not up for negotiation.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our CNN correspondents worldwide for those reports.

So there's this new CDC study. It says the interest in getting vaccinations among young adults is dropping. When we come back, we'll speak to a young woman who is trying to convince kids on her college campus to get vaccinated. What she is telling them.



CAMEROTA: A new study shows that young adults are the least likely to be vaccinated and their interest in getting the shot is declining.

As of May 22nd, the CDC found 80 percent of adults 65 and older have been immunized compared to just 38 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds.

BLACKWELL: It found that younger people are increasingly losing interest in getting vaccinated, From April 19 to May 22, the percentage of 18 to 29-year-olds being vaccinated dropped from 3.6 percent a week to 1.9 percent a week.

Let's bring in now Sylvia Lin, who just graduated from the University of Rochester, where she was a health ambassador.

Congratulations on the graduation. That's the first thing.


BLACKWELL: Second thing, why are college students losing interest in getting vaccinated?

LIN: Yes. I think kind of like the first reason was the timing. When vaccination becomes widely available is close to the end of the semester.

So it is kind of -- I remember when most of my friends started to schedule for the vaccine clinics. It is also sometimes close to the finals season.

And then school, like my university has talked about effort to try to encourage vaccination or to administer it through the university.

Since the vaccinations are two doses, it is kind of hard for students to get the first dose on campus, and then, during the summer, they're going to go away and then probably get the second dose elsewhere.

or if they need to come back to the campus to get the second dose. That's like a little bit of a hassle.

And I guess the second reason is, as more and more people get vaccinated, and the social activities start to open up, and then young people tend to feel less of a concern, pressure of getting vaccinated because they just feel like their immune system is strong and stuff like that.

Maybe because of that reason. things are opening up and the cases are dropping, they kind of feel like.


So it is just a combination of the timing, institutional reasons. But also definitely the features and preferences of people at this age.

CAMEROTA: And so, as a health ambassador, what were the things that you would say to them to try to convince them? Take us into your conversations.

LIN: Yes, so we started when there was no vaccination yet, so at that time we were just trying to encourage people to wear masks, use hand sanitizer.

And we provided the ambassadors some education related to public health practices, including also vaccination.

So later, these people had already been established as the source of information on campus when people had questions about COVID-related things.

And I'm sure we were also promoting vaccination in trying to tell people, yes, this can protect yourself and also protect the other people around you and protect the community.

And it also helps get the city, the country, this place opened up sooner so you also have like more freedom to meet up with your friends or visit your family or go travel somewhere.

So both, from like an internal motivation point and also what might do for others.

BLACKWELL: Yes, social motivation as well.

Let me ask you, Sylvia --

LIN: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- we see the numbers that the interest is dropping. Should this be a requirement? For those who are not enthused about it, should they be forced, college students on campus, to be vaccinated?

LIN: As far as I know, most of the colleges right now made it a requirement. And I think the reason was because, next semester, like a lot of students still suffer from virtual education a little bit.

So to resume in-person education to the max capacity, it will be much safer if everyone is vaccinated. Because in those classes, it tends to be 200, 300 people or even more. Or you would be maybe smaller classrooms with maybe around 20 people 20.

So to satisfy the requirement of physical distancing and masking is harder if you want to do more in-person class.

And so an easier way or a safer way is for everybody to get vaccination. So I think it makes the universities to require it.

And in student dorms, you have a lot of people living together. And so those situations are when things are out of control, it will get harder.

CAMEROTA: Sylvia Lin, thank you for sharing with us the challenges on campus. Hopefully, everyone is listening, particularly if they want to have all those opportunities for next semester.

Thanks so much for being with us.


LIN: You're welcome. Get vaccinated!


CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the show will go on in Japan. The Olympics Committee has decided to allow spectators inside events. And a first look inside the Olympic Village, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLACKWELL: Fans will be able to attend the Olympic games in Japan this summer, but the stands will not be full. Capacity at the Olympic limited to 50 percent.

CAMEROTA: Officials warn they could further limit attendance if there's a COVID outbreak.

CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo with a first look at the Olympic Village where athletes will be staying.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Olympic Village, a city within a city, built for the world's best athletes for the Tokyo games. Thousands of Olympians from more than 200 countries will be living here, preparing for the defining moment in their sporting careers.

Normally, a place for partying and celebration, this year, it will be an anti-social sanitized bubble, full of COVID testing, health centers, and staying far apart from one another.

And at Athlete's Village Plaza, there will be everything that they need, cafe, bank, Internet, hair salons and much, much more.

Normally, a place for athletes to mix and mingle, instead, there are signs everywhere reminding people to wear their masks and socially distance themselves.


WANG: But the majority in Japan still don't want the Olympics to happen. A protest is going on behind me as they are debuting the Olympic Village to the press.

There are 3,800 rooms in these 21 buildings that house the athletes. This is a replica of the room. Athletes have to share the room, which some health experts say it increases the risk of spreading COVID.

And they will be sleeping on beds made out of cardboard. But don't worry, they are extremely sturdy and can hold more than 400 pounds.

The Olympians will also be contact traced and tested every day. If they test positive, they have to come to this clinic to get tested again.


If that COVID test comes back positive, yet again, they have to take dedicated transport to an isolation facility outside of the Olympic Village. And they lose their chance to compete.

They are only allowing two-thirds of capacity here at the dining hall.