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Senate Holds Key Test on Election Reform; Biden Meets with Key Democrats; DOJ Releases Video Involving Proud Boys; Pressure Mounts on Weisselberg; States with Low Vaccination Rate See Uptick in Cases. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 22, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time for a lightning quick "Good Stuff."
The dating app Bumble just gave all of its workers the week off to recharge. The digital dating business hopes a paid vacation will help stave off worker burnout. They did really well during the pandemic.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
BERMAN: And now they're rewarding their workers.
KEILAR: Maybe give the daters a week off because it is a rough dating world out there, I tell you. I don't know, but I've heard.
BERMAN: Yes, I've heard.
KEILAR: CNN's coverage continues right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
Major movement happening over the next several days on several of President Biden's agenda issues. The stakes for him and his legislative agenda could not be higher. Happening today, the Senate will cast a key test vote on whether to begin debate on sweeping voting rights legislation. But with the bill needing, as per usual, 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster and all 50 Republicans publicly opposing the bill, it is not expected to have enough votes simply to begin debate.
Where have we heard that before?
A key senator to watch, West Virginia's Democrat, Joe Manchin. Democrats are working to agree on a new proposal to win him over so at least all 50 Democrats will vote in favor of advancing the bill. Though even with Manchin on board, debate on the voting right bill will likely still be blocked.
Some Democrats, however, are hoping that that small step could help change the conversation around filibuster reform. Perhaps, Poppy, be a step on towards -- towards a voting rights bill down the line.
HARLOW: Maybe. That's right.
Also, a critical week for infrastructure talks. President Biden's negotiating team will be on The Hill today as the bipartisan group working with the White House hits a roadblock on how to pay for all of this, prompting growing questions over how long the White House will let talks continue or if they're going to let Democrats or encourage Democrats to go it alone.
Also, on police reform, a key negotiator leading this, Republican Senator Tim Scott, is aiming for a bipartisan framework on overhauling policing by the end of this week. One of the key issues remains, though, qualified immunity. Those protections for officers from personal liability while on duty. Where will they land on that or will they take it out to get something through?
A lot to get to this morning. Good we have our colleague Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.
All right, let's start on where things stand today on this voting rights bill vote. Just to continue discussion, Lauren. Just to continue debating and talking about it and Senator Manchin. Does Schumer have Manchin on board?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is a key vote, not just for voting rights, but also a question of Democratic unity and whether or not Schumer and other Democrats, including Amy Klobuchar, Tim Kaine of Virginia, whether or not they convince their colleague, Joe Manchin, to actually get on board with this proposal.
Manchin has suggested changes he wants to include in this bill. Whether or not he gets a promise to include those changes if they actually could move on to debate is another question entirely.
Now, look, we never expected ten Republicans to actually vote for this proposal. That means that this is destined to fail this evening when they go ahead and vote. All eyes are on Joe Manchin, though. Yesterday, we talked to him about whether or not he was going to support this. He said he was still undecided. He said he was still having conversations. So we'll have to wait and see until tonight.
SCIUTTO: Lauren, we are in infrastructure week yet again, you know, chapter 647. Bipartisan negotiations continue. But, I mean, even on basic issues like how to pay for it all, I mean you have this Republican idea of, you know, taxing electric vehicles seems to be a nonstarter for Democrats.
What's the reality check here? I mean is there still a path towards a bipartisan agreement?
FOX: Well, Jim, I like to call it infrastructure summer up here on Capitol Hill because I think it's going to be more than a week or a month.
SCIUTTO: Yes. FOX: But, look, negotiations are ongoing and people who are inside this bipartisan group, really a core group of ten lawmakers, they're feeling very confident that they can make progress.
The key question is, you are up against the wall between what the rest of your conference and caucus will support, and what the White House will be willing to support. That's why it's so important that White House officials are up here on Capitol Hill today to try to work through how to pay for this bill. Like you said, some of the suggested pay-fors this bipartisan group had been working through included tying the gas tax to inflation, also charging electric vehicle drivers for using America's roadways and bridges. Those are issues that are continuing to hit a snag with the White House. So, can they come up with something else? I think that's the big question.
Paying for this bill was always going to be the challenge. Can they find some way forward? That's the big -- that's the big question mark right now.
SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, thanks so much. We talked a lot about GOP unity against these proposals. I mean Democratic unity also a question, though.
SCIUTTO: As the Biden agenda enters a critical few days, the president spoke with two key moderates essential to Democratic unity, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
HARLOW: That's right.
So let's go to Jeremy Diamond at the White House.
I think it's interesting that they were separate conversations.
HARLOW: He didn't have them in the room at the same time. But you have that followed by Kyrsten Sinema's op-ed in "The Washington Post" this morning that means Joe Manchin is not alone on an island anymore, being very clear about his opposition to getting rid of the legislative filibuster.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, separate meetings, for one, because they were discussing different issues. At least they were both discussing infrastructure with both of them, but with Senator Joe Manchin, President Biden really seemed to focus in his conversation there, according to the White House, on this issue of voting rights ahead of this key vote today on the For the People Act, on opening debate, at least, on the For the People Act. The president making clear to Senator Manchin that he believes that this is a crucial issue and he thanked Senator Manchin, we're told, for his work to try and craft a compromise legislation. Of course, that compromise will simply allow Democrats to stick
together perhaps. All 50 Senate Democrats voting to advance this piece of legislation. But it certainly did not attract any Republican votes after Senator McConnell made very clear that neither he nor any member of his Senate Republican caucus was going to vote for this.
The president also talked about infrastructure with Senator Manchin as well as Senator Sinema, both of them member of that group of 21 Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are working to advance this compromise on infrastructure. We're told that Senator Sinema actually briefed the members of that bipartisan group after her meeting with President Biden.
And to your point, Poppy, about these separate meetings. I think part of that is also about the president signaling that both of these senators are very important to advancing his legislation and making clear to both of these senators that he views them as key players whose buy-in he wants, whose input he wants and ultimately whose votes he wants in advancing legislation.
HARLOW: That's a great point, right, be in a room with them one on one, make them really feel heard individually.
Jeremy Diamond, thank you.
Let's talk about all of this with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.
Good morning. It's great to have you.
Let's start on voting rights and what's going to happen today in the Senate. And just big picture, your view on how your party has handled the issue of voting rights in this country since January 6th, both on the state level, legislatively, where they're willing to make all these changes, and then not on the federal level.
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.
Well, first, let me say, Poppy, that I think GOP legislatures around the country have overreacted with some of these laws that they have passed in Georgia and Texas and elsewhere. That's not to say every provision in those laws is bad, but they've overreacted.
That said, the federal remedy, the For the People Act, I think clearly misses the mark. There are serious federalism problems with that legislation. I served in the general assembly of Pennsylvania for 14 years. I'm sorry, same day registration, independent voting, redistricting commissions, these are the purview of the states. These should not be mandated by the Congress.
There's also issue here too about taxpayer funded campaigns, congressional campaigns. I think there are problems. There are good provisions in that legislation dealing with ethics, for example, and presidential tax returns. But I think there're serious problems with it. It's a partisan bill. It was written long before the states were
involved with this. This is a messaging bill pure and simple. The Democrats would be very smart to focus and pivot toward the John Lewis Voting Rights Act reauthorization. That is a much more meaningful bill for voting rights and, frankly, it's much more difficult for GOP members to oppose that legislation.
SCIUTTO: Perhaps more difficult, but enough really to bring on the votes, because Joe Manchin's compromise proposal gives Republicans many of the things they were asking for. For instance, ID laws, voter ID laws, which, by the way, would be a federal mandate, right, of something that many Republicans are looking for.
I wonder, when you look at that compromise, does that have the pieces that make it harder for Republicans to vote no because they're getting some of the things via Manchin's compromise that they've been pushing for, say that they want.
DENT: Yes, certainly the Manchin compromise on voter ID, for example, does make that bill better. But there are still very serious questions of federalism here. Does the federal government have the right to tell a state they have to do same-day registration? I mean, I'm sorry, I think that is the prerogative of the states.
I happen to support independent redistricting commissions. I was on a board in Pennsylvania that helped advance one. We don't have it in Pennsylvania, but it's the purview of the states. Should we be federalizing these elections to the extent that we have? I think that many Republicans will have a problem with that.
And, frankly, a lot of Democrats have a problem with it, too. They're all hiding behind Joe Manchin and letting him take the bullets on this as well as on the filibuster.
SCIUTTO: Good point. Yes.
HARLOW: But given where we are, right, and I know you're not arguing that -- that there's no oversight of elections from Congress, right? I mean there is some as laid out in the Constitution.
HARLOW: But, but, given where we are now, after Shelby v. Holder in 2013, this is the system that we're dealing with. And I hear you saying, yes, you know, you believe that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore federal oversight of areas where voters have had their rights infringed on, is what you like. But I guess my argument here is, at what cost, right? There are things that you point out in this bill that you don't like, but are you arguing perfect being the enemy of the good?
DENT: Well, look, you mentioned Shelby, Poppy. Well, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act does address the pre-Clarence (ph) issues.
HARLOW: It restores, of course.
DENT: It's a remedy. So they -- why aren't they focusing on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act?
I mean I voted in 2006 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We had overwhelming bipartisan support to do so. I do believe that Republicans would be in a very difficult position voting against that legislation.
As I said, look, the For the People Act, it's overly broad. It misses the mark. It was written as a messaging bill, really doesn't address many of the issues, I think, that we're debating in this country right now as it relates to some of these state legislatures. How does -- how does publicly finance congressional campaigns, you know, address what's going on in Texas?
DENT: It really doesn't, as far as I'm concerned. So I think they need to refocus.
SCIUTTO: We'll see.
SCIUTTO: I mean we'll see if the smaller John Lewis Act can even get Republican votes given what we've heard from the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, because you know his position on many of these things.
Charlie Dent, it's always good to have your no-nonsense point of view on the air.
HARLOW: Yes, it is.
DENT: Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Well, the Justice Department has released new video, yet more, from the insurrection on January 6th. Up next, what that new insight, it gives us about the chaos on the Capitol.
HARLOW: Also, the pressure is on the Trump Organization's CEO. He faces a choice, flip on his boss or deal with possible criminal charges ahead. We will explain why he'll needs to make that decision soon.
HARLOW: Welcome back.
The Justice Department is just releasing the first Capitol riot videos related to the major conspiracy case that involves the Proud Boys.
SCIUTTO: In one video, you can see members of that group outside the Capitol discussing their moves. In another, you see them pushing into the building, inside, some carrying makeshift weapons.
CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild joins us now.
This video crucially being used in court as evidence against one member of that group.
Tell us what this video in particular shows us, because there have been so many wild claims about this being a peaceful protest, et cetera. I mean tell us what we actually see with our own eyes here.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the -- part of a case against a man named Charles Donohue. And what the video shows is what prosecutors have said happened, which was a coordinated effort prior to the insurrection, an effort on the day also coordinated to break into the Capitol and then the actual violence of the insurrection.
So this case, again, centered around a man named Charles Donohue, prosecutors say that he coordinated group chats before the riot, that he was a, quote, trusted senior lieutenant of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys. Prosecutors say that he gave directions to others in the group and then cheered on another Proud Boy, who apparently stole a police riot shield that day.
So here are two videos the Department of Justice -- well, three, really, the Department of Justice is using to build this case.
So the first one here illustrates what prosecutors say happened before the riot. So they say there was this organization on the ground. Here's the first video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED): Tighten up. Tighten up. Tighten up. Tighten up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not (EXPLETIVE DELETED): yelled at. All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILD: So it's a little tough to hear, but what they -- what some of those people in the video are purportedly saying is, let's take the f- ing Capitol. So, again, illustrating what prosecutors say was a coordinated effort prior to the riot.
The second video shows another allegation prosecutors have made and that we've all seen, which is some of these rioters actually stealing police riot gear.
Here's the second video that shows that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stole a riot shield?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILD: One of several rioters who stole a police riot shield that day.
The third is the -- illustrates the best, what prosecutors say was Charles Donohue's role. It shows Donohue in a striped bandana, in this crowd, that was right at the edge of the Capitol. Here he is circled in red. As the crowd pushes into and eventually bursts through a police line at the entrance of the Capitol.
Prosecutors say that this was one of the pivotal moments that led to rioters eventually taking over the building. Donohue has pleaded not guilty to six charges, Poppy and Jim. But there it is, more evidence that this was a violent insurrection. It did happen in as much horror as we have all seen with our own eyes.
Poppy and Jim.
HARLOW: And we haven't even -- we haven't even seen all of it yet, right?
WILD: Yes. Right.
HARLOW: I'm sure there's more to come as these cases proceed.
Thank you, Whitney, for your continued reporting on this.
Well, Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg could be indicted on criminal charges as soon as next month a source tells CNN. That is unless he decides to flip on his boss, cooperate with authorities. This as CNN has learned that the Manhattan DA's investigation into Weisselberg is at, quote, an advanced stage.
HARLOW: Our Kara Scannell joins us with more.
Kara, you have been on top of this since the beginning.
HARLOW: It sounds like the choice he's facing is clear, flip on the former president or face possible criminal charges. What more are you learning?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, good morning, Jim and Poppy.
I mean this kind of is crunch time here for Allen Weisselberg. Yes, sources tell me that this investigation into him is in an advanced stage. Prosecutors are looking at whether he paid taxes on some corporate benefits he received, like a company car, a corporate apartment and they're even looking at some tuition payments that were made to his grandchildren's school.
Now, this stemmed, in part, from the cooperation of his former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg. Her lawyer tells us that she met with prosecutors again on Friday. She's met with them multiple times.
You know, this is in the advance stages. A sources tells us that that prosecutors could make a decision to whether to charge Allen Weisselberg as soon as next month. You know, this as part of this broader investigation into the Trump Organization. It's a common tactic that prosecutors look at individuals, look for any potential weaknesses, any vulnerabilities, and see if they can get them to cooperate. And right now a lot of that attention is on Allen Weisselberg given that he is the chief financial officer of the company, that he's been with the Trump Organization for some 40 years, and that he could explain why certain decisions were made even though prosecutors have documents, they have the tax returns, they have a lot of information. But an insider like Weisselberg could help prosecutors understand the intent behind certain decisions and understanding that intention is critical in a criminal investigation.
HARLOW: That is such an interesting point. Not enough to just have the numbers, you have to know the why behind what was done.
Kara, thanks for your reporting.
Ahead, one hospital CEO in the Midwest is sounding quite the alarm, saying the delta variant is responsible for a surge that they are seeing in hospitalizations.
SCIUTTO: And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures are flat. This after stocks soared on Monday, making up lost ground after a multi-day losing streak last week. It was the S&P's best day in about five weeks. The Dow's best since early March. We'll be keeping a close eye.
SCIUTTO: Right now while health officials pour their effort into getting more people vaccinated against COVID-19, a handful of states are seeing an uptick already in new coronavirus infections. Those states include Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. What a lot of them have in common? Low vaccination rates. And in Missouri, the CEO of a hospital system there said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN EDWARDS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COXHEALTH: Well, we've seen now, in four and a half weeks, almost a six-fold increase in COVID patients. But our staff is exhausted. I think the culture or the morale has
changed. And it's harder to know that you're risking your well-being for someone that chose not to vaccinate that then puts both them and you at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's the thing, not getting vaccinated puts yourself and others at risk.
We're here now with Dr. William Schaffner, infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Dr. Schaffner, always good to have you on.
I mean we're seeing the health effects right now of many people not getting vaccinated, right? I mean the new infections and new hospitalizations are up more definitively in places with lower vaccination rates. And, politically, the fact is that there's a red state, blue state, you know, divide here.
How serious is that, in your view?
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Jim, I think it's very serious. We're nowhere near mission accomplished yet. Clearly, nationally, and locally, in my own institution, 90 percent of the persons who are now being hospitalized either were not vaccinated or are only partially vaccinated.
The vaccine is really working. It's keeping vaccinated people out of the hospital. And it's our unvaccinated brethren who are still seeing the effect of this virus. And this new delta strain is starting to spread in the United States. You know it's very, very contagious. And as the chap from Missouri said, it's increasing hospitalization rates in parts of the country now.
SCIUTTO: Yes, we saw how it just devastated India, for instance.
OK, so we are learning just in the last couple of moments that the White House, President Biden, will acknowledge that their goal of vaccinating with at least one shot 70 percent of the adult population by July 4th, the sad fact is it won't happen. It won't happen now, partly because you are seeing this lower take-up rate in these states.
What to do about that going forward? Because they say they're going to announce new goals. And part of their focus had been going after GPs, people's personal doctors, because they trust them more. You know, more than hearing, say, you know, someone from the government.
Is that the best path forward here?
SCHAFFNER: Well, it's a path forward, Jim. We have to keep doing what we're doing and doing it even more.