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Senate Dems Brace for Defeat on Sweeping Voting Rights Bill; Rift Remains on How to Pay for Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan; NYC Voting for New Mayor as Dems Look for Future of Party. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Ana Cabrera picks up right now.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, and we are hours away from a key vote on a key issue facing the nation. What we know. Republicans plan to block a federal voting rights bill. What we don't know? If every Democrat will unite around it.


UNKNOWN: Senator - Senator Manchin, are you going to support this bill today?

SEN. MANCHIN (D-WV): We're still - we're still waiting. You're talking about the Voting Rights Bill?


MANCHIN: We're waiting to see the final, okay.

UNKNOWN: Wait, the final, I mean, it's going to be the vote on the -

MANCHIN: No, no, no. No, no. No, it's not. I got to make sure that we're going to move to a - to a better compromise.


CABRERA: We are following those headlines, and these crucial meetings on the fate of America's crumbling infrastructure underway on the Hill right now, hundreds of billions of dollars to expand internet access and fix U.S. roads and bridges.

On the line, CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us on Capitol Hill. First, Jessica, the voting rights bill. We know it's doomed at this point because of Republicans and they need at least ten to come on board in order to pass this through the next level, the next step. But democrats, they do want unity and given Manchin's stance right now, how likely is that?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we will just have to see, Ana. That is playing out as we speak down these halls as the senators talked with one another. We just heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar who told us that they are negotiating with Senator Manchin over specifically voter I.D. and also mail-in voting as they try to get some consensus around a full unified democratic vote for this bill.

But something else that was interesting that Senator - Senator Klobuchar said was remember, our other caucus members have views, too, which really underscores what it's like to have a 50/50 split right here. Any senator can really step up and buck the trend when it comes to wanting to get all 50 on board.

But right now we're waiting to hear from Senator Manchin if they can get to a place where he feels comfortable supporting that bill. Remember, what they're searching for, the best case scenario for Democrats this afternoon, will be a - to get all Democrats on board and have a unified front on this bill and be able to argue that Republicans are being obstructionists when it comes to voting rights.

Of course, Republicans arguing this is overreach and there will be no Republican support for this. So that's what we're looking at as we look ahead in the next couple of hours, but it's all going to develop as the afternoon unfolds, Ana.

CABRERA: And with the big rift over infrastructure being how to pay for it, how likely is the deal on that before the July 4th break?

DEAN: Right, so that break happens on Thursday, so we're now just two days away from that. That - we're still pretty far from a deal to get there in - in a couple of days. What we do know is that White House officials are here. They've been meeting with that bipartisan group of senators. Their first meeting just broke up. They're now moving to a different location. They're continuing to meet.

As those senators came out of the meeting, they were telling us that they feel like they're making progress, but they still have got to figure out, as you mentioned Ana, how to pay for this. The White House and President Biden has been - have been very strong in saying they will not accept a gas tax.

The Republicans are adamant that there will be no changes to the 2017 Trump tax cut, so they've got to figure out where that money is going to come from before they can move forward. We're told they're going to continue to meet throughout the afternoon as they try to reach some consensus on this as well.

So, Ana, a lot of moving parts here. We're also keeping our eye, of course, on police reform. They wanted a deal before this recess as well. We've just got a few more days, we'll see if any of these things can get to that place.

CABRERA: Jessica Dean, thank you for staying on top of that for us. And with us now is Daniel Weiner, he's the Deputy Director of the Brennan Center's Election Reform Program. Thank you so much for being with us. Let's dig into what's at stake in today's vote on voting rights reform Daniel. Why do you say we need this bill? DANIEL WEINER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, BRENNAN CENTER'S ELECTION REFORM

PROGRAM: Well, first of all, it's a pleasure to be here with you. And I think that it's hard to deny right now that our democracy is facing a crisis. You have a partisan effort in the states to cut off access to the ballot, in many respects the worst and most aggressive effort to suppress the vote since the Jim Crow era.

You have another wave of redistricting upon us, which is going to see extreme partisan gerrymandering. And, you know, you have also an out of control campaign finance system. So our democracy has major problems, and this bill really contains the solutions to those problems.

CABRERA: Well, what are the solutions that you see in this bill? How does HR-1, you know, prevent democracy that is in peril right now as you see it?


WEINER: Well, the most important thing that this bill does is it creates a baseline access to the voting booth for all Americans, and it does so in a way that I have to tell you will benefit Democrats, Republicans, independents. A lot of the policies in HR-1 were pioneered by Republicans at the state level, so it does that.

It bans extreme partisan gerrymandering, and it just contains some common sense reforms to our campaign finance system that have been long overdue since Citizen's United. And it's overwhelmingly popular.

CABRERA: Would it reverse -

WEINER: Sorry, go ahead.

CABRERA: - forgive me, I didn't mean to step on you. Would it reverse what has already, you know, passed in Georgia and Florida, what they're trying to get through in Texas.

WEINER: Yes. In many, many - in many, many instances, the worst of those bills today (ph) would reverse those laws, and that this is the only bill pending that can do that. That is what is so important. And, again, this is a baseline standard of voting access for all Americans. Everyone, Republican, Democrat, it doesn't matter your political affiliation. But that is critical right now, and that - that's what this bill would do and that's what's at stake.

CABRERA: Let's talk about the GOP reasons for voting against this today because you say there's a lot of misinformation out there. And you touched on this, but one of the arguments we hear from Senate Republicans is that HR-1 is just a partisan Democratic power grab. What's your response to that?

WEINER: Well, thanks for asking me that. I mean, look, as I said, this bill will benefit everyone. And the policies that it represents, you know, a national standard for early voting, vote by mail, these were passed in the state by Republicans, and Republican voters have used these ways of voting for decades. So I really just think that that's - doesn't have any credibility to

say that this is some sort of partisan power grab. Everyone should have a reasonable opportunity to cast their ballot, and that's what this bill does. You know, but we do have, unfortunately, a partisan assault on voting rights now, and it's happening in the states.

It's happening in Georgia, it's happening in Texas, and it's very, very unfortunate. That's why we need this bill right now, and that's why it's so important.

CABRERA: So Senate Republicans, when they say that this should just be left to the states and not controlled on a federal level, you're saying what they're doing is apparently what they see as good for the Republican Party. Do you think it could backfire on them?

WEINER: You know, respectfully, what I will tell you is that this bill is incredibly popular across the aisle. It is popular with their voters. I'm not going to speculate on their motivations, but the reality is, is that the only way this bill disadvantages Republicans at the state level is that it makes these sort of partisan attacks on particular communities, frequently communities of color, impossible for federal elections.

There is no other reason why this will hurt Republicans at elections at all. And indeed, as I said, Republicans have championed a lot of these policies at the state level. They liked them before. They were good. They've done very well. They did very well in 2020 under many of these policies. This will not hurt Republicans. What this will do is will give everyone a chance to cast their ballot.

CABRERA: Then why don't Republicans want them? Why don't Republicans want the bill?

WEINER: You know, I think a lot of it actually has to do with lies about voter fraud. I mean, one of the things that I unfortunately, and I say not all Republicans, you are seeing right now is the emergence of conspiracy theories about voter fraud sadly amplified by the former President of the United States, and then also the normalization of cutting off access to the ballot as a political tactic, and as - as a way to win elections.

I don't think everyone does it, but I think, unfortunately, there are too many people for whom this is too much of a temptation. And again, I return to the fact that ordinary Republicans, Republican voters, support these reforms.


WEINER: There was a poll that showed they support voting access and an end to gerrymandering almost as much as Democrats. So, you know -

CABRERA: And that's why it just doesn't make sense, that they are so adamant -

WEINER: - right. CABRERA: - that they have to stop this bill from happening in the Senate right now in passing. Thank you, Daniel Weiner, for your time, for your expertise. You've done so much research on this issue. I really appreciate you bringing us the facts.

WEINER: It was a real pleasure to be with you.

CABRERA: Reality sinking in, the U.S. will not hit the president's goal of having 70 percent of U.S. adults get at least one vaccine dose by July 4. So now, the White House is shifting its focus to a new milestone, 70 percent of adults over 30 having at least one dose by Independence Day, and that highlights the problem, really.

Young people are getting vaccinated at a much lower rate, and that is holding the country back. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now. So Sanjay, explain why it is so critical that we get more young people vaccinated?


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, first of all, these numbers, the 70 percent number; maybe the exact number may be less important because it's pretty clear that the country is getting a lot of immunity. The case numbers continue to go down, hospitalizations and deaths thankfully.

I mean, 11,000 roughly is the average case number now. If we get below 10,000, Ana, that's the number that Dr. Fauci and others have talked about saying we go into sort of containment mode on the virus, where we can get our arms around this.

But why it's critically important is because these -- you know, we look at these new variants and we see how transmissible they are, and we see what's happening in other countries where younger and younger people are getting hospitalized. So, you know, young people thought look, this is not something I need to worry about, that was the message they were given. That's changing with these new variants. I think that's part of it.

But also a more nuanced issue, Ana, that you and I actually have talked about in the past is that as the virus circulates more and more, more mutations will come about. Many of them will be harmless, but you may get even more transmissible variants. So you want to slow down the rate of spread no matter what, both for the country as a whole but for the young people in particular.

CABRERA: How do you break through with that younger demographic?

GUPTA: It - it's tough. You know, I mean, it's interesting. We've done a lot of reporting on this. I think part of the reason you didn't see at least when it came to college-aged students getting vaccinated as much as they thought was just the timing. I mean, the vaccine sort of got authorized, as they tell me, at a time when there was final exams.

They weren't sure if they got the first shot and they went home would they be able to come back to campus for the second shot. The answer is yes, by the way, or you can get it in your hometown. There's plenty of vaccine available, so some of it was just logistical concerns.

But the other concern, I think, the reason people aren't getting vaccinated in that age group was the idea that this - they didn't need to worry about this, so I think reminding them that this virus, this infection, is not something you want to get.

We don't still understand just what it does to the body. We know these new variants can make you sick. But also long-term, we're learning more and more, as you know Ana, that, you know, months down the line people could still have lingering symptoms. Get vaccinated because you don't want to get this infection.

CABRERA: Yes. We hear about pain and fatigue and sort of the brain fog that are some of these lingering effects -

GUPTA: That's right.

CABRERA: - that are happening across all age groups. Let's talk more about the Delta variant, which is really picking up steam, unfortunately, here in the U.S. It was first identified in India. It appears to become - you know, it's set to become, at least, the dominant variant here in the U.S., like we're seeing now in the U.K. What is your biggest concern there?

GUPTA: I think - I think the biggest concern is that this is 60 percent roughly more transmissible than what we used to call the U.K. variant, the Alpha variant, which was 50 percent more transmissible than the strain before that. You can't - you can't get away with things that maybe you got away with before in terms of potentially getting infected.

Again, people may have thought look, I got away with this, I'm through this, it's in the rear-view mirror. This Delta variant is very unforgiving, and I do worry about this for young people in particular. We are seeing a real bifurcation here among the vaccinated and the infected. People keep saying it's the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in America.

With this delta variant, it's soon going to become the vaccinated and the infected. It is that contagious. The good news, the vaccines seem to be very protective against people getting severely ill. Got to get both doses, and you're getting, you know, some very high protection levels. If you're not vaccinated, there's a increasingly high likelihood, whether it's now or going into the fall, cooler and dryer temperatures, that you will get infected.

CABRERA: I remember Dr. Fauci saying, I think it was last week, he's not worried about the vaccinated when it comes to this Delta variant. And so if you want to be - you know, have that peace of mind, it's just one more reason to make it a priority to get that vaccination.

GUPTA: That's right.

CABRERA: Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Good to see you.

GUPTA: Thanks, Ana. CABRERA: Reopening challenges, rising crime, and it's a crowded and complicated mayor's race.

Today is primary day in New York City, but it could take weeks for voters to know the result.

Plus the pressure is rising on former President Trump's CFO to flip as investigators ramp up their criminal probe into the Trump organization, but he's still going to work every day.

And thousands of Americans who owe months of unpaid rent may now be off the hook. Stay with us.



CABRERA: A big moment for the Big Apple as New York voters begin weighing in on who is best to lead their city through its various post pandemic challenges. Take a look at all those faces, 13 Democrats are on the ballot in today's mayoral primary. And whoever wins will be heavily favored in November's general election.

Today's results may also offers clues for Democrats nationwide. And this will be the first ever test of New York's new rank choice voting system, which gets a little tricky. CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in New York for us, and I understand, Polo, that it could be weeks before we have the result. Why?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going to be - it's going to be a little while, Ana. And when you mention that - to how just massive the list of candidates is, obviously when it comes down to it, though, a lot of the folks that are going to be voting here are trying to decide about four top candidates here. And, as you mentioned, this has - certainly has been quite the contentious race, but it's also quite consequential here.

Many voters throughout New York coming to polling sites just like this one right here with one key issue on their mind, and that is, of course, the issue of gun violence, the issue of violence overall in New York City. Many voters here really do want to see how their next mayor is going to handle what has been seen as an issue that's hit so many families throughout the New York City area, so that's certainly one of the things that people are deciding here.

But, yes, to your other point too, Ana, strap yourself in, it is going to also be a long and fluid process here when it comes to actually find out who will emerge the winner here, and a lot of that, of course, having to do with rank choice voting.

This new approached was actually passed by voters about two years ago, now putting it to work where voters are able to rank their top five candidates in order of preference, and certainly going to be interesting to see exactly who comes out on top here. It's also going to be important to see exactly who comes out on top not only there, but also with some of the other races that elections - that voters are deciding on today, Ana.

CABRERA: Absolutely, including the Manhattan District Attorney race, given that office's examination of the Trump organization, and that investigation continuing. Thank you very much, Polo Sandoval. We know we'll check back with you as we get more information coming out of the mayor race here in New York City. We're also following new developments in that investigation into the Trump organization.

Pressure is mounting on Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg. A person familiar with the matter says prosecutors could seek an indictment as soon as next month. The Manhattan DA's Office and the New York Attorney General opened tax investigations into Weisselberg late last year.

And joining us now to talk about this, CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, first, what kind of charges could Weisselberg face, and what else will you be watching for?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Ana, he could face a whole bunch of different charges. It really depends on what they found enough proof for.

But all the things that you mentioned, you know, this manipulation of income in the form of benefits, so giving benefits to Trump employees like free apartments or free car leases, that sort of thing, instead of income they would have to pay taxes on, that certainly is something that looks like it's right up there for probable charges.

But again, if the Trump organization was involved in these schemes to deflate and inflate their income depending on whether they were seeking a loan or seeking tax breaks, that's the sort of thing that should be right in the wheel house of the CFO. He most likely would be an architect of that kind of scheme. So if they have uncovered that fraud, that's the sort of thing I'd be looking for, for Weisselberg as well.

CABRERA: This is a man who has been extremely loyal. He's worked for Trump and that organization for 40 years. And "The Washington Post" is reporting that he's been going into work at the Trump organization every day, still. How do you get someone like that to flip? I guess just take us behind the scenes of how a strategy to get someone to flip will play out?

RODGERS: Well, it's a real challenge. I mean, it's clear that they've been working on him for some time and that he is resisting those attempts to flip him, you know, especially if he's going to work every day. And, you know, he has a very good lawyer, a very capable lawyer, former Southern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorney.

So I think that they're waiting. I think that they have figured out that he can cooperate at any time. It's not one of those situations where the first person to get in the door gets the deal. They can charge him first, he can decide after he sees what they actually have on him, and so I think that's what he's doing. He's going to wait and see. All of their efforts so far haven't work. If they actually bring charges and he ends up in handcuffs, then it's decision time for him.

CABRERA: I want to pivot to something unrelated; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just blocked a federal judge's controversial ruling that overturned California's long-time ban on assault weapons. And remember, this was the judge who likened the AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife.

So again, the Appeals Court said no, you can't throw out that ban at this point. Do you think that this will end up in the Supreme Court eventually? And if so, I guess, what does that process look like?

RODGERS: I do think it'll end up in the Supreme Court. What the Ninth Circuit has done as of now is they're just putting this case on hold because there's another case in front of the Ninth Circuit about high capacity magazines.

And they raise so many of the same issues, second amendment issues, that the Ninth Circuit has said, you know, hold on this one, we're going to decide this other one first and that will then give guidance for what the Ninth Circuit should do with this particular case on the assault weapons ban. I expect the Ninth Circuit will uphold the ban. It's 30 years old, it's been challenged many, many times. It has survived those challenges.

But then we get to the Supreme Court, as you suggested, and there it's a whole new ball game with this 6-3 very staunchly conservative majority that has really been on the side of the gun lobby and gun rights activists. So, you know, I think it'll survive in the ninth circuit. Whether it survives in the Supreme Court, I think all bets are off on that one, unfortunately.

CABRERA: Jennifer Rodgers, as always, thank you.

RODGERS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: A brave and historic announcement, Oakland Raiders Lineman Carl Nassib comes out, becoming the first active gay player in NFL history. Why he says he spoke out now.



DEAN: I'm Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill, and this is CNN.

CABRERA: Support is pouring in for the Las Vegas Raiders Defensive End Carl Nassib after his ground breaking announcement on Instagram.


CARL NASSIB, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS DEFENSIVE END: I just want to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay.