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Defense Department Leaders Spar with GOP Lawmakers on Critical Race Theory, Los Angeles Sees 50 Percent Rise in Gunshot Victims Compared to 2020, Biden to Unveil Effort to Combat Staggering Crime Surge, "Lady Boss -- The Jackie Collins Story" Premiers Sunday on CNN. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So this is just into CNN. Some heated moments on Capitol Hill, as some Republican members of Congress are pressing leaders the defense secretary and other Pentagon leaders about Critical Race Theory.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley forcefully pushed back after a question about the appropriateness of a seminar at West Point called "Understanding Whiteness And White Rage."


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS: But I do think it's important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. And the United States military academy is a university. And it is important that we train and we understand, and I want to understand white rage. And I'm white. And I want to understand it.

So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. And I personally find it offensive that we're accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, "woke" or something else because we're studying some theories that are out there.


CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in Ron Liebermann at the Pentagon. We saw Matt Gaetz there, Congressman Matt Gaetz shaking his head. What was that about? Did he have a response?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a bit of a debate or bit of, shall we say, a testy discussion that went back and forth throughout this hearing.

There you hear Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley giving a passionate statement about the importance of understanding this. He then went on to say, look, he's read books by communist leaders. That doesn't make him a communist, it makes him somebody who wants to understand the issue and the thinking. And that was the point he was making there.

There was another exchange, as you just mentioned, between embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz, as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about Critical Race Theory, and about extremism. Where the secretary said, the goal isn't to teach a political view or to prosecute or persecute a political view, it is to fight extremism and the behavior of extremism. Here's part of that exchange.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): How should the Department of Defense think about Critical Race Theory?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Could I make a comment, secretary? I'm sorry.

GAETZ: I'm very limited on my time, General Milley --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just want to make a comment that the --

GAETZ: I've asked the question to Secretary Austin.

AUSTIN: I don't know what the issue of Critical Race Theory is, and what the relevance here is with the department. We do not teach Critical Race Theory, we don't embrace Critical Race Theory, and I think that's a spurious conversation.

And so we're focused on extremist behaviors, and not ideology, not people's thoughts, not people's political orientation. Behaviors is what we're focused on.

One final point -- and thanks for your anecdotal input -- but I would say that I've gotten 10 times that amount of input, 50 times that amount of input, on the other side, that have said, hey, we're glad to have had the ability to have a conversation with ourselves and with our leadership. And that's what we need to make sure --

GAETZ: And again, reclaiming my time, Mr. Secretary.



LIEBERMAN (on camera): This isn't just a debate limited to this hearing, or an issue limited to this hearing. Republican Congressmen over the past week or so have gone after Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday for having on the Navy's recommended reading list a book called "How To Be An Anti-Racist."

Gilday defended that decision saying it was part of the ability to learn, part of the ability to understand other viewpoints and dismiss any suggestion that the Navy was weak because of a book recommendation.

CAMEROTA: OK, that was fascinating, may I just say. Watching these gentlemen, these well-read, intellectually curious -- VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Generals.

CAMEROTA: Generals.


CAMEROTA: Like, you know, Secretary Austin, General Milley trying to swat away Congressman Matt Gaetz, and saying, I'm sorry, sir, you basically don't know what you're talking about.

BLACKWELL: I think they did more than try --

CAMEROTA: Good Point.

BLACKWELL: -- to swat away Congressman Gaetz. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

I mean it is as if -- this is also what we saw from Senator Ted Cruz, to try to sell this narrative, of a weak and weakening U.S. military. And you're going to try to use the defense secretary and General Milley to do that?

CAMEROTA: And then they have to deal with these questions that they clearly think are ludicrous. And try to explain, sir, your -- thank you for your -- what did he say? Thank you for your one example but I have, you know, 10 fold --

BLACKWELL: Interesting anecdote, he said, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- your anecdote but I have, you know, 30 on the other side. I mean that was really interesting to watch those exchanges. I'm sure they weren't expecting that.

BLACKWELL: All right in a few minutes, President Biden he's going to address the nation on the surge of violent crime. We're going to take you to the cities around the country to see what is happening there. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: In just a few minutes, we're expecting President Biden to lay out his plans to reduce crime. We know that a lot of cities, big and small, are experiencing a surge in gun and violent crime.

In the first three months of the year 32 cities -- you can see them here on the screen -- cities or counties -- or counties in the nation's largest police jurisdictions -- have seen increases in both homicides and aggravated assaults compared to the same time last year.

CAMEROTA: Our CNN correspondents are tracking the situation around the country.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Omar Jimenez in Chicago. City officials here know the mountain of the tasks they have ahead of them in trying to slow down the pace of violence.

Murders are up more than 30 percent compared to this time in 2019. Up close to 60 when it comes to shootings. That's why they're now targeting specific zones, 15 sub-geographies within neighborhoods Mayor Lori Lightfoot says are responsible for more than 50 percent of the violence in the city. And the strategy is to flood these locations with resources across city departments and community groups hoping to send the violence trajectory back down to what we saw at the end of 2019, trending down for a third year in a row.



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Josh Campbell in Los Angeles. As violent crime surges in several parts of the country, the city of L.A. is one place grappling with a spike in the number of people hit by gunfire. Los Angeles is experiencing a 50 percent rise in the number of people shot compared to this time last year. That according to LAPD Chief Michael Moore speaking before the department's civilian oversight commission on Tuesday.

651 people have been shot since the start of 2021 Moore said, adding that city of L.A. is averaging about 27 gunshot victims per week. In addition to the rise in the number of shooting victims, Moore says the number of homicides in Los Angeles is up. There have been 162 homicide victims in 2021, a 20 percent increase since the same time period last year.



AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Amara Walker in Atlanta. Two people are dead after a shooting broke out outside a gas station. This is according to Dekalb County Police and they say this happened around 11:00 p.m. last night, when a suspect approached a man standing outside. Shot at him, and two other men, who returned fire. As a result, one of those victims is dead, along with the shooter. Police say they don't know the motive at this time although it does not appear that this was a random act of violence.

Now, the mayor of Atlanta says that the city is experiencing a COVID crime wave, with data showing homicides are up by 63 percent compared to the same time period last year. And 43 percent compared to the same time period in 2019.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our correspondents there. Let's discuss this with CNN's senior political correspondent Abby Phillip, she anchors "INSIDE POLITICS" on Sundays. Also here, Andrew McCabe, he's our CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former deputy director of the FBI. He's also the author of "The Threat -- How The FBI Protects America In The Age of Terror and Trump." Great to see both of you. Andy, I want to start with you. What should the FBI's role be? What can the FBI do, as we're seeing this surge of violence across the country?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, I think what I know from my own experience what the FBI does in these situations -- and it sounds like what the Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has already planned -- is to surge resources in the form of agents and also analysts into those cities that are experiencing these really troubling rises murder rates and shootings.

The idea of those resources is to target specifically gun crimes. You know, gun crimes in some places are policed and prosecuted at different rates. And so, the idea is to increase the policing and specifically the prosecution and ultimately the sentencing of people for gun crimes. In an effort to both put gun criminals in jail and keep them there, but also to send the message to the community, that if you're caught committing a crime and you have a gun on you, you're going to experience much more severe consequences.


BLACKWELL: So Abby, let's talk about the political considerations going into what we're going to hear. We heard from Kaitlin there, she mentioned the 1994 Crime Bill, of course, that's something in the deep background.

But also present day, the defund the police sector of the Democratic party and those who say we need to invest in police, trying to balance those constituencies. We know where the president stands on this.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean the backdrop is that the defund the police argument is being used on the right politically against Democrats. And I think the reality of the situation around the country is that first of all, there is no one solution to -- no one cause, and no one solution to the problem.

And what you're going to see President Biden do is try to reframe the debate, try to reclaim the narrative. And not just explain the solution to the problem, but also the nature of the problem as well. Because I think Democrats recognize that if this gets painted as -- this crime -- increase in crime gets painted as a result of rhetoric around defund the police, they're already losing. So they have got to change that narrative.

I think secondly, you know, Democrats have seen this idea of crime being used against them as being a little bit of a mixed bag. It's kind of a jump ball. There have been some examples in the last election of Republicans doing maybe a little bit better using this against Democrats. But more recently, in a New Mexico's special election, for example, this was used heavily against the Democratic candidate in that election. She won by a landslide.

So it's a bit of a mixed bag and a jump ball. And this is where you're seeing the Biden administration trying to say, we're not going to let this be a runaway train. We've got to get ahead of a real issue for Americans, explaining why it's happening. And also explaining what we're going to do about it.

CAMEROTA: Andrew McCabe, Abby Phillip, thank you both very much for the perspective.

So still ahead, the vice president just announced that she will visit the southern border on Friday. This is after getting a lot of criticism during her first overseas trip. Details on what is on her agenda.



CAMEROTA: Romance novelist Jackie Collins, I know you're a fan --


CAMEROTA: -- is one of the most successful authors of all time. But her best story may be one she never got a chance to tell, her own. Now a CNN film explores the personal life of the 1980s icon who promoted her own brand of feminism while building an empire. Here's a look at what made Jackie Collins the ultimate "Lady Boss."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An hour from now CNN will carry live Soviet leader Gorbachev's address to the Soviet Union. But first author Jackie Collins --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not in the mood for blackmail.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If she wanted the bitch dead, she was going to have to do it herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And lots of steamy sex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fast, pure, exciting lust took over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's hot stuff you write.

JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: Well, I like to entertain people. Let's put it that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jackie Collins, author of 32 novels, more than half a billion copies sold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all learned sex from you.

COLLINS: I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about that?

COLLINS: I write good sex. That's why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A self-styled brand of feminism filled her stories. Strong and sexually empowered women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything. That was her motto.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The books drew from reality as Collins hob- knobbed in Hollywood.

COLLINS: I saw plenty but I'm not naming any names. But you will be reading about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her Hollywood life started in the shadow of her older sister Joan.

JOAN COLLINS, ACTRESS: There was always an extra man hanging around, and she loved it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Jackie's own foray into acting fizzled.


COLLINS: Would you like a drink?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A first marriage to an abusive and drug-addicted man ended in divorce and his suicide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was the defining point, I'm guessing in her life to moving her on, I think, to protecting herself, and how did she do that? She created a world for herself of wonderful characters who wouldn't let her down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She found happiness with her second husband. For more than two decades before he died of cancer. Several years later her fiancee succumbed to a brain tumor.

COLLINS: Everybody looks at me and they think she has this fabulous life. But I also nursed two men through terminal illnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through it all, Jackie kept writing.

COLLINS: I'm going to do "Lady Boss" which is the third book about Lucky who lives her life with all the freedom and style that men have always managed to live theirs with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she kept working, hiding it from everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She'd had a lump. And we don't know -- this is two years and I don't know if it was longer than or not, but she just hadn't, you know, she thought that she could defy it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jackie Collins lived life on her own terms, a trait familiar to her readers.

COLLINS: But there lies the difference, Lucky said. I'm not everybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An unapologetic "Lady Boss."


CAMEROTA (on camera): And, again, that new CNN film premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. don't miss it.

BLACKWELL: Any moment now we'll take you live to the White House. President Biden lays out his five-point plan to stem the surge in violent and gun crime.



BLACKWELL: So the CEO of Morgan Stanley, who is on the show a lot recently.

CAMEROTA: Because he has strong feelings about getting people back to work.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he does. So last week he said that he wanted all employees in the office by September. Now he also says that workers who are not vaccinated will be barred from returning to the office.

All Morgan Stanley staff in the New York area and the New York metro area are also required now to report their coronavirus vaccination status by July 1st.

CAMEROTA: OK. We'll see how that goes. I mean some people do have medical issues. But beyond that, we'll see how that goes, if people really want to go back that much.

OK, "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.