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White House: Crucial Week for Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement; U.S. Nears 300 Mass Shootings This Year; North Korea: U.S. Risks Disappointment if it Hopes for Talks; Taliban Take Over Several Districts in Northern Afghanistan; Claudette Left a Trail of Destruction in U.S. Southeast; Justice Department Shares Video from Proud Boys Prosecution. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to all of our viewers joining us here in the United States and around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Just ahead, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to work with Republicans and now his promise is being tested with a massive infrastructure bill on the table.

And as pandemic restrictions are being lifted, we're seeing more and more violence across the U.S. and a rash of mass shootings from coast to coast.

And as the U.S. begins to leave Afghanistan, the Taliban is seizing the opportunity to gain more ground, what this could mean for the country as America's longest war winds down.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: So it is 4:00 in the morning in Washington where in just a matter of hours the Senate will hold a procedural vote on a sweeping voting rights bill. And it's part of a critical week for President Biden's legislative agenda and his efforts to secure a bipartisan agreement on another key issue, which is infrastructure. Sources tell CNN that there is optimism around the talks with the president already sitting down with two Democratic Senators as he pushes for a path forward. Phil Mattingly is covering all of this and Phil has the latest.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president having served 36 years in the Senate, he's always going to be deeply involved.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden with his legislative agenda hanging in the balance, now pushing to close the deal. PSAKI: He's always going to roll up his sleeves and want to know every detail of what's being discussed, every detail of the proposal and package.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Or at least aiding a bipartisan one on infrastructure, where 21 senators including 11 Republicans are signed on to a trillion dollar framework that would include $579 billion in new spending, a pathway for Biden's long sought-after bipartisan hopes that burst into the open while he was traveling through Europe last week.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We're making progress, particularly on key investments that we need to build out our nation's infrastructure and prepare for the clean energy economy that is coming.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Biden looking to capitalize on that progress this week with calls and in-person meetings likely to occur, according to White House officials.

PSAKI: I suspect he'll have some members here over the next couple of days to have those discussions in person.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But while White House officials have cautious optimism, there's still plenty of roadblocks ahead.

DEESE: We still have some sticking points particularly around how we pay for this.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Most notably, how to pay for the plan, with Biden dead set against increases to the gas tax.

DEESE: The president has been clear he just is not willing to do raising taxes on middle-class families.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The stakes enormous. The clock, ticking.

PSAKI: It is not weeks in his view in terms of moving forward and seeing if there's a bipartisan path forward.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But White House officials tell CNN they see multiple pathways to enacting Biden's $4 trillion economic agenda, and Democrats already at work on the painstaking process to unify around a measured move without Republicans, whether the bipartisan deal is clinched or not.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): That's what majority leader Schumer and I are working on right now, and it's not easy. We got 50 different Democratic senators in the caucus. Each have their own priorities. But we got to bring people together.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But Republicans urging Biden to move quickly to sign onto the bipartisan talks.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you want to work with Republicans to spend a trillion dollars of -- on infrastructure, it's available to you.

MATTINGLY: White House officials I've spoken to firmly believe there is time to pursue the bipartisan deal and they firmly believe that there is a possible deal to be had. However, they are keenly aware of the anxiety levels on Capitol Hill amongst Democrats particularly progressive Democrats who want to stop the negotiations now and just move along on their own way. It was something that kind of came to pass in a call, a private call, between President Biden's top legislative affairs officials and senior staffers for House Democrats earlier on Monday.

Legislative affairs officials making clear the dual track process is one that they are on right now, however, Louisa Terrell, the top legislative affairs official for the White House staying on that call, we are not going to waste our time, making clear that they are willing to pursue the bipartisan deal if now, for now. But it won't be forever. Back to you.


CURNOW: Thanks for that. Phil Mattingly reporting there.

So in the coming hours, the Senate is set to vote on whether a major voting reform act moves forward.


And once again, the prospects don't look good for Republican support, something the White House press secretary doesn't expect to change.


PSAKI: Is the Democratic Party united? We weren't as of a couple of weeks ago. That's a step forward. If and when, and as I will acknowledge, we don't expect there to be a magical 10 or more Republican votes.


CURNOW: All eyes are now on the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin, despite previously opposing the bill, he could possibly support a new version of it. But it won't come cheap. He wants states to require identification to vote and that's certainly a hot button issue between progressives and Republicans.

So job one for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is to unify his party, but he is noncommittal about whether he is there yet.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Have you gotten a commitment from Senators Manchin and Sinema that would back a party line vote, be a reconciliation?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to get into my individual talks with members. We all know we've got to come together or nothing gets done.


CURNOW: That was CNN's Manu Raju there interviewing Chuck Schumer. Well the Senate vote gets underway later on today.

And then on police reform, Republican Senator Tim Scott says he aims to have a Republican bipartisan framework by the end of the week when lawmakers leave for the fourth of July recess. He told reporters on Monday Democrats and Republicans are pretty close to getting on the same page.

Many Americans however are concerned about the uptick in crime across the country. President Biden is expected to discuss his administration's crime prevention strategy is week including way it is keep U.S. cities and neighborhoods safe. There was certainly a deadly space of gun violence over the weekend and on Monday night, police say three killed, four injured in a shooting in St. Louis. Amara Walker reports on why the U.S. is seeing a rise in violence crime as the pandemic winds down.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Americans emerge from one pandemic, what the White House calls a public health epidemic of gun violence, is surging across the country. At least ten mass shootings happening in nine different states over the weekend from Alaska to New Jersey, leaving seven dead, 45 others injured.

Several occurring where crowds gathered including in Aurora, Colorado, where a group was celebrating the new Juneteenth federal holiday in a shopping mall parking lot early Sunday. One person killed, four injured.

ANTHONY CHAMBRAY, AURORA RESIDENT: Eager to get out, you know, have some fun, tired of being cooped up, and this is crazy.

WALKER (voice-over): Around the same time, another Juneteenth celebration in Indiana, ending with gun violence, killing one and injuring four. In Oakland, California, police say one person was killed and six hurt as gunshots rang out in a crowd of 5,000 people near Lake Merritt. And in Dallas, Texas, a 10- and 15-year-old among the eight people injured in a shooting.

Former Philadelphia police commissioner and former D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey, weighs in on one factor contributing to the rising violence.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well listen, you got guns in the hands of people that should not have guns, and Congress is doing absolutely nothing. Some state legislatures are doing absolutely nothing. Texas just passed a law letting anybody carry a gun that wants to, which in my opinion, is exactly the wrong way to be moving right now.

WALKER (voice-over): There have been nearly 300 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That's a 39 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2020.

CNN defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter. Some law enforcement officials say they're concerned about the violence spiking further during the summer months as they try to understand the root of this crisis.

CHIEF SHON BARNES, MADISON, WISCONSIN POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're trying to determine, what are the ramifications of coming out of a pandemic? What are the frustrations that our Americans feeling? How are we dealing with mental health? How are we dealing with some of the stressors related to unemployment in this country? And so these are the things that I think we have to wrap our heads around.

WALKER: There's also that debate over bail reform where we have seen several states eliminating cash bail all together for certain offenses and whether or not that is contributing to this rise in gun violence the United States is currently experiencing.

Now statistics show major U.S. cities are grappling with an uptick in homicides and shootings including right here in the Atlanta area. In fact just last week, a cashier at this Big Bear grocery store just northeast of Atlanta was shot and killed during a face mask dispute.

In Decatur, Georgia, Amara Walker, CNN.


CURNOW: Well California's long time ban on assault weapons will stay in place for now. On Monday, U.S. federal appeals court blocked an earlier ruling that overturned the law. Assault weapons have been banned in California since 1989. Well earlier on this month, a federal judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and compared an AR-15 to a Swiss army knife.


North Korea appears to be ridiculing U.S. optimism for talks. Last Friday, Kim said North Korea should be prepared for both dialogue and confrontation with the U.S. The U.S. national security adviser called the comments an interesting signal. But Kim Jong-un's sister warns of a greater disappointment, that was of course, if the U.S. interprets the comments positively.

Paula Hancocks is in Seoul and have been monitoring this. How do you dissect the language that we're hearing from Pyongyang right now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Robyn, compared to what we've heard in the past, it is fairly innocuous what we're hearing from Kim Jong-un and his sister at the moment. But as we have seen in the past as well, when Kim Jong-un is speaking recently, it is generally to caution the optimism felt either by the United States or by South Korea when it comes to dialogue being reengaged with North Korea.

So although the words are not particularly strong, it is still a rebuke for the United States pointing out that the optimism that the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan appeared to show in an ABC News interview saying that the Biden administration was waiting to see what an answer would be from North Korea as to whether there would be dialogue. It appears that the answer is right now that is not going to happen.

That's not particularly surprising when you consider that North Korea really has an awful lot of things to be concerned about and a relationship with Washington appears to be fairly low down the priority list as well. We heard from the North Korea leader Kim Jong- un just last week at the Workers Party meeting that the food situation was tense. And there have been concerns about the amount of food within the country given the fact that there were typhoons and flooding last year. They have shut the border since January 2020 due to COVID concerns. So they are not having food aid coming in, not having imports from China.

So really it appears as though that is the biggest concern for North Korea at this point. But then on the side as well there is still time for Pyongyang and specifically for Kim Jong-un to try to caution the optimism the U.S. feels about any potential discussions.

Sum Kim, the special envoy for North Korea for the United States is here in Seoul at the moment. He's been having meetings. He has repeated the fact that he is willing to meet anywhere anytime with North Korean officials. But that really seems to be falling on deaf ears at this point -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, live there in Seoul. Thanks so much, Paula Hancocks.

A history making moment in professional sports. American football player Carl Nassib was the first active player in National Football League history to announce that he is gay. The defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders shared the news on Monday in Instagram saying it took him years to feel comfortable making the announcement.


CARL NASSIB, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: I'm a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know I'm not really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that like one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary. But until then, you know, I'm going do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting, that's compassionate.


CURNOW: He's also shared he's donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LBGTQ youth.

For more on this and other news please do visit our website, it's We also have reaction to that announcement later on this hour.

Time now for a short break. But still ahead, the U.S. Justice Department share as new video of the Capitol riots that they say it shows about those who planned the insurrection. But first as the U.S. draws troops down from Afghanistan, the Taliban

is certainly gaining ground. The latest developments in a live report.


CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta.

So the Taliban are now gaining ground in the final months of America's longest war. Local officials in northern Afghanistan say that the militants have now taken over dozens of districts across several provinces. One official said nine districts fell to the Taliban in just one week, almost without a fight. This is also come just ahead of the September 11 deadline for U.S. troops and their NATO allies to leave the country. President Joe Biden is set to sit down with Afghanistan's president at the White House on Friday. Ahead of that, here's how the Pentagon press secretary described conditions on the ground.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Every day, you know, the situation in Afghanistan changes as the Taliban continue to conduct these attacks and to raid district centers as well as the violence which is still too high.


CURNOW: And Nic Robertson is joining me live from London with more on all of this. It's certainly not unexpected, is it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's not. What was hoped for was that the Taliban and Afghan government would negotiate a peace, a truce deal between them. And that hasn't happened. This was sort of the United States organized its own truce with the Taliban so it could pull out forces, NATO forces, as well.

But what's happened is that the Taliban seem to be taking military advantage on the ground, no surprise at all. Taking advantage of the fact that there aren't air strikes now to support or far, far fewer coalition air strikes to support Afghan forces on the ground. Which has been one of the key things that has held the Taliban back from taking territory in the past. So now the Taliban are taking areas in the north of the country.

I think, you know, when you stand back and look at why the Taliban are taking areas in the north of the country, because that's not naturally their ethnic heartland, that's the south and the east. These are areas that back in the 1990s -- and I covered the Taliban and Afghanistan back then -- these are areas that it took the Taliban many years to take control of.


For whatever reason, they are accelerating their attacks in these areas to the point that overnight they appear to have taken an important border town with Tajikistan to the north of Afghanistan. So these taking roll of district centers is something that the Afghan

government says it's going to fight back against. It won't be easy. I talked one Afghan commander in the north of the country yesterday who said that it could take weeks to roll the Taliban back from some of the district centers in his province. You know, and overnight the Taliban have taken more district centers. So this is a fight that's tipping towards the Taliban in the north of the country at the moment.

CURNOW: Thanks to Nic Robertson there live in London. Thanks, Nic.

Well earlier I spoke with Carter Malkasian, he's the former adviser to the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford. I asked him how the withdrawal is affecting Afghan forces.


CARTER MALKASIAN, FORMER SR. ADVISER TO CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: As our withdraw continues and as we see the Afghans breaking in some areas, being unwilling to fight, some places surrendering, some places turning their posts over, it's concerning. That's we've seen some of this before, but what's perhaps more concerning right now is just how it's happened quickly. The Afghan forces, they have suffered a lot of punishment over the last few years, and our departure comes as a bit of a shock.


CURNOW: Thanks for that to Carter Malkasian.

Now the storm system named Claudette is in the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to pass south of Nova Scotia before dissipating later on today. But before it moves ashore, it left a trail of destruction across the U.S. southeast. In southern Alabama -- as you can see here -- at least 20 people were injured on Saturday when then tropical storm Claudette moved through. It spawned a tornado that tore apart 22 miles wide.

And then in Louisiana, fierce, fierce winds and heavy rain drenched parts of the state including this neighborhood near New Orleans. Pedram Javaheri is tracking all of the latest movements and joins us now from the CNN weather center. Pedram, what can you tell us?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Robyn. This is what is left of this system. It is now a remnant low, last update from the National Hurricane Center had winds of 45 miles per hour. And it is quickly moving away from the United States. And making itself across portions of the Canadian Maritime, and it is being guided away by an incoming frontal boundary. Another one here that could prompt an additional round of rainfall just where this particular storm Claudette left behind.

So notice right along portions of the southeast, along the Carolinas, parts of the Gulf Coast as well getting some thunderstorms here with flooding potential are pretty high in this region. Now back towards areas of the Midwestern U.S., this is where the severe weather has been in place in the last 24-hours, upwards of 299 severe wind gusts reports coming in, right there on the eastern third. And then notice one report of a tornado and ten reports of large hail as well.

And around the Western U.S. of course we've talked about the extensive heat. How about if I told you from June 10 to June 19, some 5,600 record temperatures were observed, 5,200 of them daily records highs, about 260 of them in the monthly record category. 70 plus records that were all-time hottest ever observed around the Western U.S.

And with all that said, not surprising to see the fire season getting under way, some 46 large active fires scattered about the Western U.S. And of course we know about 90 percent of the Western U.S. experiencing drought at this hour. So they need the rainfall that is happening on the eastern side of the U.S. and how about these temperatures? Middle 60s in Cleveland, about 78 in Minneapolis this afternoon. And in Portland, Oregon high temperatures, Robyn, at around 84 degrees.

CURNOW: Thanks so much, Pedram Javaheri there. Thanks, Pedram.

So one of those wildfires that is certainly raising concerns in Arizona has grown to around 20,000 acres. The Rafael fire was found Friday and is threatening several communities near Flagstaff. Officials are warn neighborhoods to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. The fire is believed to have been sparked by lightning from dry thunderstorms. It's one of nearly two dozen currently burning across Arizona.

And still ahead here at CNN. CNN and other news organizations went to court to get access to this video, how the Justice Department is using it to prosecute people who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Plus, New York City's bruising mayoral primary is going down to the wire. Coming up, we'll take a look at the contentious final days of the race as voters prepare to cast their ballots.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. We are getting our first look at some newly released videos from the U.S. Justice Department showing what role a leader of the Proud Boys played at the Capitol insurrection. A warning this report from CNN's Paula Reid certainly contains some graphic language.


PAULA REID, CNN: Well these videos are the first related to a major planning conspiracy case in the Capitol riot investigation. Now Charles Donohoe has been charged in a case that accuses leaders of the Proud Boys of orchestrating, breaking into the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Now prosecutors say Donohoe coordinated group chats and was a trusted senior lieutenant on January 6th, who gave directions to others and cheered on other Proud Boys obtaining -- even obtaining a police riot shield during the siege.

Now, we have a longer clip where you can see Donahoe. His face is actually covered with a striped bandana, but you can see him as he looks on as others in crowd take down four police officers blocking a stairwell into the Capitol. Let's take a look.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F-- you. F-- you ...