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CNN NEWSROOM

NFL Tackling Gay Rights, Vaccine Deaths & Gun Violence; Schumer: Manchin Will Vote Yes To Open Debate On Election Bill; Manchin: Hope To Have Agreement Tomorrow On Infrastructure; Pressure Mounts On Trump Organization CFO To Turn On Trump; DOJ Releases Videos From Conspiracy Case Tied To Proud Boys; Trump Organization Sues NYC After Golf Course Contract Canceled In Wake Of Capitol Attack; Concerns Rising Inside White House Over Surge In Violent Crime. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 14:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:41:42]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: An NFL player has made history. He's the first active player to publicly say that he's gay.

Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Los Vagas Raiders, made the announcement in the video on social media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL NASSIB, DEFENSIVE END, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: I just want to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay. I have been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable to get it off my chest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So the NFL season starting in two and a half months. The issues players are dealing with reflect what's going on in the country.

One Buffalo Bills player, Cole Beasley, tweeted he would rather retire than get a COVID vaccine.

NFL rookie, Jaylen Twyman, became a victim of the surge in gun violence across the country. He was shot four times in a car. He's expected to recover.

And Kansas City Chiefs player, Frank Clark, was arrested in Los Angeles after police found a submachine gun in his car.

With me now to talk about this, two men who know the league well, retired NFL players, Ephraim Salaam and Esera Tuaolo, also a retired NFL player. He's the founder of the group Hate is Wrong and the author of the book "Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL."

I know you two know each other well. It is good to have both of you on. Esera, let me start with you.

You shared your orientation.

Aloha.

CAMEROTA: You came out -- aloha to you -- in 2002, almost 20 years ago. What is your reaction to what you saw yesterday from Carl?

ESERA TUAOLO, RETIRED NFL PLAYER & FOUNDER, HATE IS WRONG & AUTHOR: Well, absolutely amazing, to tell you the truth. It just made me feel so happy that finally we have the first active gay NFL player to step out into the limelight.

The first thought that came to my mind was how many, you know, people that he's going to be helping? It is an incredible feeling right now. Like I'm super excited.

BLACKWELL: Esera, you also said that how he did it was smart. Why?

TUAOLO: Well, I think it's one of those things that, you know, he did on social media, right? And it was like -- it was in like a huge presentation or anything like that. And it was just sort of like, you know, he was ready.

And the way he did it, he donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, which is a great organization.

You just saw his authentic self-come out. And that's what we always strive for, right, when we come out of the closet to live our authentic self and to live in our truth.

Just the way he did it I thought was very powerful.

BLACKWELL: Ephraim, what does it mean for the league?

EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: I think it's a huge step for the league.

First of all, Esera what's up? Good to see you.

TUAOLO: What is up, my brother? It's been a minute, dude.

SALAAM: It's been a long time, man. You looking good, man.

TUAOLO: Man, thank you.

SALAAM: No problem.

I think it's great for the league. The NFL has the opportunity not only with this situation but everything that's going on the last year to be on the precipice and on the front of making real change on a global scale.

That is such a huge entity not only in American sports but worldwide, and their stances in these things, they fumbled with the Colin Kaepernick thing. They tried to right their wrongs, really leaning into social justice and now this.

[14:35:08]

This is a great opportunity for the NFL to really embrace this and hopefully it paves the way for others to come out and just be their authentic selves.

(CROSSTALK)

TUAOLO: You're exactly right. You're exactly right. This is the opportunity for the NFL to embrace this, right, and to bring some education to all of this.

And, so, things that like, I worked with on, things that David Kope, Ryan to Callahan, all these other players that came before.

Now it is time to sort of -- I'm tired of asking, right, to tell you the truth. I'm tired of asking. Now we need to start moving forward in this whole equality and inclusion part.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: And we received some statements from current and former players supporting Carl. So that obviously is a good thing.

Let me come, Ephraim, to you on Cole Beasley, who tweeted out he's not taking the vaccine come what may.

He said, "I'll be outside doing what I do. I'll be in the public. If you are scared of me, then steer clear. If it forces me into retirement, so be it."

Should it force him into retirement?

SALAAM: Well, it's not going to force him into retirement. That's going to be his choice.

If he doesn't want to abide by the rules and the guidelines, the company he works for establishes, then, yes, he's forcing himself into retirement.

This is not a "the league is against me." This is a "you're not willing to accept what the rules and standards are."

The rules and standards have been a certain way. You may not agree with all of the rules the NFL has implemented over the years. But if you intend to continue to be employed by them --

CAMEROTA: Right.

SALAAM: -- or anybody for that matter, unless you are self-employed, then you have to abide by those rules. If not, go do something else. He wants to have his freedoms. Nobody is arguing that. Be free. Go be free on your own.

BLACKWELL: Let me come to you, Esera, on this last topic while we have just a bit of time left, Kansas City Chiefs Frank Clark.

Wow.

BLACKWELL: Arrested Sunday. Concealed weapon charge in L.A. He had allegedly an oozie sub machine gun in his Lamborghini SUV.

First, I didn't even know there was a Lamborghini SUV.

But he had this gun. I mean, what should the league do here?

TUAOLO: As far as with gun control and all the issues and stuff that we're dealing with in this country with gun control and all that, I think the league as far as like need to come out strongly against stuff like this.

Because, as we all know, guns are killing people right now, right?

It is one of those things where I think it's one of the topics and conversations that the NFL needs to have to sort of bring this under control.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

And when you speak about gun violence -

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Quickly, go ahead, Ephraim.

SALAAM: You know, what we have to realize is every state has different gun laws.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

SALAAM: These players play everywhere. They live somewhere else.

So I think the education on the different gun laws on what you can and cannot do with your firearm, I think that's very paramount for the NFL.

BLACKWELL: That's an important point, an important point.

Of course, as we mentioned gun violence, Jaylen Twyman, we are hoping for his recovery. Shot four times -- arm, leg, buttocks, shoulder. He is expected to make a full recover. Minnesota Vikings rookie, Jaylen Twyman.

Escera Tuaolo, Ephraim Salaam, I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you both.

SALAAM: Thank you.

TUAOLO: Aloha.

CAMEROTA: I think they enjoyed it, too.

BLACKWELL: Good.

CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news. An agreement has been reached on the voting rights bill. Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, says Senator Manchin will vote yes to open debate on that bill.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now with more.

So what have you heard about the breaking news?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, things have really shifted here on Capitol Hill for the Democrats as they head into this procedural vote later today on this voting rights bill.

This legislation very important to the Democratic Party, to President Biden's agenda. And they had this outstanding vote with Senator Joe Manchin who had called for compromises.

Now the announcement coming that they do have Joe Manchin's support, Senator majority leader, Chuck Schumer, breaking that news just moments ago. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I'm pleased to report that Senator Manchin and I have come to an agreement. He came to my office, oh, about two hours ago and we worked it out.

Senator Manchin has informed me that he will vote question on the motion to proceed to debate the legislation.

I have committed to him that if our Republican colleagues don't obstruct and allow us to move forward on the debate, we'll take up his proposed substitute amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:40:06]

DEAN: And that substitute amendment includes things like expanding things like access to early voting by mail-in voting. Also early voting and putting those voter I.D. requirements in there.

There was a lot of push and pull about that between the Democrats and Republicans as well.

But, again, the big news right now is that Joe Manchin will vote for this. That gets the Democrats to 50.

That was the best-case scenario for them going into this. They will not get the 60 to move forward, but they will be able to say they were unified.

That's good for them, they say, politically, and also have a messaging perspective -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: To be clear, we don't think it changes the outcome of the bill.

DEAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: But it does -- it will open debate.

DEAN: It won't open debate. It will just allow the Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Democrats to say they were unified in wanting to open the gates. Understood.

DEAN: You're right. Because this vote is about whether or not to open debate. So they won't even get to the 60 to open the debate, if that makes sense.

CAMEROTA: It makes perfect sense.

Now tell us what Joe Manchin is saying about infrastructure.

DEAN: All right. Let's shift gears to another big topic here on Capitol Hill, being, of course, infrastructure.

We know that group of Senators has been meeting since 12:00 a.m. here. They could, could have a deal in place by tomorrow, an agreement in place by tomorrow.

Now, a lot of things still have to happen in order for that to -- for them to get to that place.

Remember, they were still talking about, how were they going to pay for this. That was the big question more than anything else, is, how do they pay for it?

Republicans had offered up a gas tax. Democrats saying that was off the table because it violated President Biden's promise not to raise taxes on people making less than $400,000.

So they have been trying to sort through that. But the news being from Senator Manchin that he sees hope that a deal could be on the horizon.

So, Alisyn, we will continue to monitor that.

Again, this is playing out as we speak with meetings ongoing right now between this bipartisan group of Senators, also, again, the White House involved in as well.

So we will continue to keep an eye out on that.

CAMEROTA: Jessica Dean, thank you very much for all the breaking news and how pivotal Joe Manchin is today.

Thank you.

BLACKWELL: What's the virtue of that?

CAMEROTA: Unity.

BLACKWELL: But Schumer said he was pleased to announce they now have all 50 Democrats.

To anybody who cares about the legislation, what does it mean that you now have Joe Manchin coming in at the last minute, saying, yes, I am now voting to open debate, but he knows it's not going anywhere?

CAMEROTA: See, you're focused on the substance. They're playing the politics.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I get it they're playing the politics but for Latasha Brown at the top I don't think that she's sitting on the edge of her bus seat --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: -- because Joe Manchin says, yes, I'll vote for something I know that's not going anywhere.

All right. The CFO for the Trump Organization, is he getting closer to cooperating with prosecutors? Details on that story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:05]

CAMEROTA: As you know, Victor and I are on NEWSROOM between 2:00 to 4:00 in the east. Here are things people will be talking about today, justice addition.

Number one, long-time business associate of Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, is facing mounting pressure to cooperate in the investigation into Trump and his business empire. He was the chief financial officer.

Weisselberg has to decide whether to cooperate or potentially face criminal charges.

The Manhattan D.A.'s office and New York attorney general opened a tax investigation into Weisselberg late last year.

"The Washington Post" reports that Weisselberg has been showing up for work at Trump Tower, including on President Trump's birthday last week.

Let's bring in Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst.

Is that mysterious that he continues to show up for work? Does that mean he could also be secretly cooperating?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's probably a good sign for Donald Trump that Allen Weisselberg is continuing to show up.

That said, it doesn't necessarily mean he's not cooperating. Sometimes when you are a prosecutor and you have somebody in the process of cooperating, you just say carry on as normal.

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: Exactly.

It will all come down to loyalty. It always does with these situations.

I have seen hardened criminals who I never expected to cooperate flip against colleagues, friends, even family members.

I saw people I thoroughly expected to flip to say, nope, I will fight this case. I will go to jail and stay loyal.

All signs are that Allen Weisselberg is not interested in flipping at this point. But we can't necessarily know.

BLACKWELL: There are also two others who are being looked at in this investigation, looking to his former COO --

CAMEROTA: Matthew Calamari.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Matthew Calamari, who has the greatest last name of the day.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: Could that be enough? Could those investigations be enough to move forward in the Trump investigation?

HONIG: It's smart of prosecutors to be going after anybody they think they can flip.

The is an insular organization. Most of the insiders are Trumps. So these are two guys I think you want to target. You want as many cooperators as you can.

It's not clear to me that Calamari has enough insider knowledge of the financial stuff this case is focused on to get them to the boss.

BLACKWELL: OK.

CAMEROTA: OK, yes.

BLACKWELL: So the DOJ released three new videos in an effort to show coordination by members of the Proud Boys just before the January 6th insurrection.

Watch this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tighten up. Come on, boys!

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. That man was responding to someone who yelled, let's take the F'ing capitol.

The videos are being used as a conspiracy case against Charles Donahue, who can be seen here circled, wearing the red and white striped bandanna.

Donahue who is considered a trusted and senior lieutenant of the Proud Boys was also captured on camera carrying a police riot shield. He has pleaded not guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:50:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stole a riot shield?

CHARLES DONOHUE, MEMBER, PROUD BOYS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. So, look, some of it, Elie, looks like chaos when we look at it, but I know that's not how prosecutors look at it.

HONIG: They see a conviction in those videos. Part of the beauty of being a prosecutor is there's such you can't have your friends on some other cable channel try to spin a tale for you.

They are as clear as they can be. Those people are going to get convicted. Just a question of whether they flip on one another.

One thing that's notable to me. Where are the sedition charges? DOJ charged over 400 people related to January 6. Not a single person with sedition.

The legal definition of sedition absolutely fits what happened that day in trying to overthrow the government or interfere with governmental function, counting ballots, or take over a government building without authorization.

CAMEROTA: Why aren't they charged with it?

BLACKWELL: Yes. HONIG: My suspicion is that has become a loaded word politically like

"insurrection". And Merrick Garland wants to stay out of any political turbulence.

I think he's not doing his job, though. If the statute fits, if the crime fits, you have to charge it as a prosecutor.

CAMEROTA: Next thing, next lawsuit, the Trump Organization on Monday sued New York City for canceling a lucrative Trump golf course, a contract with the golf course.

These contracts that Donald Trump had make $17 million a year for the Trump Organization.

And it's because the mayor said, of the insurrection, can a mayor say because of the insurrection I'm canceling your business contracts? Is that legal?

HONIG: The mayor doesn't have unfettered ability to cancel any contract. He generally would need good cause.

Just to say I don't like that person's politics is not going to be enough but to say January 6th has to be a line somewhere.

Because of January 6th, I don't think that golf course can continue to bring in business in a viable way.

I think that's a good defense. This will be interesting. Arguments both ways.

BLACKWELL: Does he have a strong case, though? You say both ways. Where would you put it?

HONIG: Yes. I would bet on the city. Ultimately I think the conduct that led to January 6th is so egregious, I think any contractor would be justified in saying enough is enough. We're accounting you off. That will ultimately prevail.

BLACKWELL: OK.

CAMEROTA: Elie, you had us get through three of our two to four things. It is a record.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

BLACKWELL: It's been two things for a while.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

Now to this, the spike in gun violence across the country obviously is very disturbing. The White House has taken notice. How President Biden plans to address this epidemic next address this epidemic, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:57:03]

CAMEROTA: There's growing concern in the White House about violent crime across the country.

BLACKWELL: The president will speak on the issue tomorrow as local law enforcement warn of a long, hot, and potentially deadly summer.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN chief national affairs correspondent, has the new reporting.

Jeff, what do we expect to hear from the president?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alisyn, we know President Biden will unveil a comprehensive crime reduction strategy. That's what White House officials are calling it.

And really it's going to be, we're told, a series of executive actions, things that the White House and the president himself can do on trying to reduce gun violence.

Now, specifics of exactly what these executive actions are going to do have not yet been revealed.

But we do know that simply by drawing attention to the rising spike in crime across the country shows that the White House is keeping a very close eye on this and a worried eye about this, as well.

State and local officials will be coming to the White House to meet with the president for a couple of hours actually tomorrow afternoon, a big chunk of the president's time to talk about, you know, really how this is impacting cities across the country.

And then the president is going to unveil this comprehensive strategy.

But, look, for President Biden, he has a long history with crime and violence, of course, dating back to the 1994 crime bill, which he helped author, which was controversial during his presidential campaign.

But he has really been on a consistent side against the argument of defunding the police that some progressives and Democrats have been pushing.

We are told that he will tomorrow release this strategy and be talking specifically about gun violence and all of its effects.

Of course, he'll call on Congress to do something. But the White House, of course, is very measured and realistic in the fact that Congress will likely do nothing on guns, which they have not done for years.

So the White House is trying to acknowledge the problem and certainly try to keep it from becoming a political problem for them going forward.

CAMEROTA: What about that, Jeff? How is the gun violence or just violence across the country now affecting President Biden's domestic agenda politically?

ZELENY: Look, I think we're talking about police reform. That is something that really has been slowly moving its way in a bipartisan fashion through the House and the Senate.

The White House does not want to sort of derail any of that. But the reality is, you know, we're just seeing the very beginning of a Republicans and House races and Senate races trying to use the crime issue against Democrats and against the White House.

But the president tomorrow is going to try to turn this around and saying it's a gun violence issue. So, again, we'll call on Republicans, of course, to do something else on guns.

But the reality to all of this, the White House is very aware this is the beginning really almost the middle of a long hot summer of violence in cities across the country and trying to acknowledge it so the White House does not appear flat-footed on this.

Of course, they're limited on what they can do but look for executive actions tomorrow from the president on gun violence.

[15:00:03]

CAMEROTA: Jeff Zeleny, thank you for the breaking political news. We appreciate it.

ZELENY: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jeff.