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Senate Republicans Block Landmark Voting Rights Bill; Biden to Speak on Gun Crime Prevention Strategy; U.S. to Miss July 4 Goal of 70 Percent of Adults with One Dose; Vatican Invokes Sovereign Status to Protest Gay Rights Bill; Britney Spears to Break Her Silence About Conservatorship. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Republicans have blocked the Democrats' attempt to pass a sweeping voting rights bill but the administration says the fight is not over. We will hear from the president later today as the country confronts a sharp rise in homicides as pandemic restrictions are lifted.

And the U.S. is falling a bet short of its goal to vaccinate 70 percent of all adults in America. Dr. Fauci says it is not a big deal but he says young people are the reason that the U.S. is falling short.

Good to have you with us. Well U.S. Senate Republicans dealt a fatal blow to a landmark voting and election bill on Tuesday at least this its current form. Democrats were unable to convince them to budge on the "For the People Act." Democrats say that it is a necessary check on states' efforts to restrict voting access but Republicans dismissing it is a power grab. Now the only hope lies in making concessions to attract bipartisan support. Here is CNN's Ryan Nobles with more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It turned out to be not too big of a surprise. Senate Republicans successfully blocking Senate Bill 1, the voting rights act, the "For the People Act", which Democrats have said is one of their top priority in this Congress. And the Democrats said, we're able to get all 50 of their members to vote in favor of this legislations, but because of the Senate's filibuster rules, you needed ten Republicans to join up in that effort and they couldn't even get one Republican to vote for it.

So the question is, what happens next? The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that they are not giving up. That they're going to exhaust every possible avenue to try and get voting rights legislations passed. The problem is there is one big obstacle that remains and a collection of Senate Democrats that are unwilling to jump over that obstacle. And that is the Senate filibuster. Now both Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, they both said that they believe there are too many long term repercussions for breaking up the filibuster for any reason. And that includes voting rights.

But not there is becoming a level of pressure and concern amongst rank and file Democrats. That's voters in states and also progressive activists that want to see Manchin and Sinema take that step to get rid of the filibuster and pass this legislation. At this point they don't seem willing to do it. So the question is, where do Democrats go from here.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


CHURCH: The White House isn't getting discouraged over Tuesday's vote. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris says she and President Biden intend to continue to push for voting reform, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is that the president and I are very clear, we support S-1. We support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the fight is not over.


CHURCH: Meantime a bipartisan group of Senators and administration officials are trying to figure out how to pay for President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The group was considering tougher tax enforcement as a way to cover it. A White House official says that the president is expected to meet with the team sometime this week.

Well President Biden is expected to address the nation's surging violent crime later today. He is scheduled to meet with the Attorney General, law enforcement and other officials to discuss the issue before laying out his administration's strategy to prevent gun crime.

After years of decreasing crime statistics, the homicide rate surged in major cities in 2020 and that trend appears poised to continues this year. The Guns Violence Archive says more than 9,000 Americans have been killed by guns this year. And there have been almost 300 mass shootings. That is a significant increase compared to this same time last year and in 2019. CNN's Phil Mattingly is outside the White House with more on what we can expect from the Biden administration today.



PHIL MATTING, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House officials have listened with alarm over the course of the last several months, as they've heard repeatedly from local officials, law enforcement officials about a surge in violence throughout the country. A surge that's only exacerbated by the loosening of pandemic restrictions as the COVID-19 virus starts to wane throughout the country. Now this isn't necessarily new. It's been something that's been ongoing for the better part of 18 months, but it is something that has caught the attention of the Biden administration and the president plans to directly address it.

He will meet behind closed doors with public officials, law enforcement officials, other groups that are involved in attempting to mitigate the surge in violence. And then he's going to speak publicly, layout -- according to White House officials -- a package of elements that he believes will start to address this crisis or at least do some to address what has been ongoing throughout the course of the last several months. It's a package that White House press secretary detailed. It's not necessarily the silver bullet, but one that will attempt to get at some of the root causes. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So yes, we believe that a central driver of violence is gun violence and is the use of guns. We're seeing that statistically in a lot of areas. But he also believes that we need to ensure that state and local governments keep cops on the beat, that we're supporting community policing, and that's a key part of it as well.

MATTINGLY: And we heard White House press secretary talk about gun violence. Expect that according to officials to be a primary focus of what the president talks about. It doesn't cover the entirety of the violent crime that your seen throughout the country, but it is a key element. And White House officials obviously have talked about this issue repeatedly over the course of the last several months. They have urged lawmakers to do something about it, to pass laws -- pass bills to add restrictions when it comes to guns, something that hasn't occurred up to this point due to Republican opposition.

And there is no sense in the White House that that will change now, but they do want the president and they do want the American people to know that the president is focused on this issue. Obviously, for any president public safety is a big issue, but it's also a potentially politically damaging one. It's an issue the president is going to try to get in front of on Wednesday.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And for more insights, our statistical analyst Harry Enten examined violent crime rates in three major cities compared to the rates of gun violence. And what he found was the homicide rate is spiking but not the rates of other violence crimes.


HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: What we see here is that in fact there's very little change compared to a year ago. And in fact, compared to 2019, in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the rates are all actually down. So whatever is going on in these cities right now is something that is causing the murder rate to spike, but the other violent crimes actually mostly to fall.

So this is one of the puzzles and crime is often these types of puzzles. If we knew how to necessarily bring down the violent crime rate, then, you know, we'd have low crime everywhere. But we don't know exactly what works and this is a particularly odd puzzle especially coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.


CHURCH: Officials tell CNN President Biden plans to sign executive actions to tamp down on gun crimes, while again urging Congress to enact new gun control laws. He's also said to press lawmakers to confirm his nominee to lead the Bureau of, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While sources say, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to appoint a select committee to investigate the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan program earlier this month. Donald Trump's role in the January 6 attack is sure to be a central focus of the investigation, as with will the actions of some House members. Republicans agreed on an independent panel last month. Then GOP leaders in the House and Senate came out against the deal.

Just over 45 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That's according to the CDC. But just 16 states have reached President Biden's goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults with at least one dose by July 4th. The country's top infectious disease expert says he is not worried about missing that goal and that it will likely be met by the middle of next month.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You set a goal. If you reach it, great. If you don't, you keep going to try to reach it and go beyond it. So I don't really see any to be honest with you big deal here. We were trying for 70 percent of adults by July 4th. If you get to 67 percent or 68, you know, there's not that much statistical difference between the two, but you want to go beyond it.


CHURCH: And the White House is now looking beyond the July 4 goal and putting greater focus on getting young people vaccinated, as CNN's Nick Valencia reports.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. poised to fall short of the president's vaccination goal.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So as to our goal of 70 percent for all adults, we're going to hit it for adults 27 and older.

VALENCIA (voice-over): After weeks of pushing, President Joe Biden's July 4 aim to get 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID- 19 vaccine, the White House is moving the goal posts. The COVID response coordinator now claiming July 4 wasn't Biden's goal. It was an aspiration.

ZIENTS: We set 70 percent of adults as our aspirational target. And we have met or exceeded it for most of the adult population. This is a remarkable achievement.

VALENCIA (voice-over): But that's not how the president has been describing it over the past few weeks.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our goal by July 4 is to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot.

Getting 70 percent of adults their first shot by July the 4th. Get to 70 percent of adult Americans vaccinated.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Right now, according to the CDC, just over 65 percent of American adults have had at least one dose. Even incentives like free cars, free beer and million-dollar lotto prizes were not enough to get more shots in arms. Now the White House is focusing on younger Americans, 18 to 26.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Even if we do sail past the 70 percent goal, we're still going to be vaccinating people on July 5, on July 7, on July 10.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Currently, less than two percent of adults under 30 are getting vaccinated each week.

FAUCI: The endgame is to go well beyond that, beyond July 4, into the summer and beyond, with the ultimate goal of crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Meanwhile, the rapidly spreading delta variant first identified in India remains. In Missouri, a health care CEO says they have seen a dramatic increase in hospitalizations as a result of the variant.

STEVE EDWARDS, CEO, COXHEALTH: Well, we've seen now in four-and-a-half weeks almost a sixfold increase in COVID patients, and we're seeing this sort of unexpected increase in cases. We never imagined this big of an increase.

VALENCIA (voice-over): A stark reminder about the dangers of the virus for the unvaccinated. Still some states are returning to pre-pandemic life.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Our vaccinations are upwards of 61.2 percent. So we're really hitting this virus on a lot of fronts, and we're in a stronger position now.

VALENCIA: In places like Georgia, there was never a grand reopening because things never really shut down, especially outside the city of Atlanta, people carried on with their pre-pandemic lives. But now as we're seeing more of a national push to get people vaccinated, we're seeing younger Americans targeted. Here at this popular brewery, they are doing a pop-up vaccine event. Georgia ranks near the bottom in the nation in terms of vaccinations.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: Concerns are growing as the COVID-19 delta variant gains traction worldwide. The World Health Organization says it's spread to at least 92 countries and now there's also a delta plus variant which has been detected in 22 patients across three states in India. Health experts say it shows worrying traits including even greater transmissibility. Dr. Peter Drobac is a global infectious disease expert.


DR. PETER DROBAC, INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT: I think there is a possibility that actually the deadliest phase of this pandemic may be yet to come, particularly in the global south and in poor countries that haven't yet been given access to vaccination at scale. And as you say, the threat that we see more tragic scenes, like we saw in India with the delta variant over the last several months could play out elsewhere.

I think, honestly, that it's going to take several years before we get a full complement of vaccines manufactured and distributed at scale to really break the back of this pandemic. So we need to be thinking on probably a three to five-year trajectory.

The biggest mistake we can make right now is that in places where we have had higher vaccine coverage, like the U.K. and the U.S. is thinking that this is over and really letting down our guard.


CHURCH: Global infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Drobac speaking with me earlier.

And we are following this breaking news. Hong Kong's biggest pro- democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, says it will stop publishing both its digital and print editions no later than Saturday. The board of directors made the announcement in a memo to staff. Hong Kong police raided the paper's offices earlier this month and have arrested several employees for allegedly violating the national security law. Staff were told to stay home after a columnist for the paper was arrested today.

And now to this developing story. In an historic first, the Vatican has invoked its sovereign status under a century-old treaty to protest a draft Italian law aimed at combating homophobia.

[04:15:00] The Vatican objects, saying that the anti-homophobia bill could restrict the church's religious freedom. CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen joins me now live from Rome. He is also the editor of an independent website Crux and is covering Catholicism. So John, talk to us about how this is going to restrict the Vatican. What is their argument here?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well Rosemary, the Vatican's claim is that this law, which is known in Italy as the Zan bill. After an openly gay parliamentarian who introduced it, Alessandro Zan. It creates a national curriculum to fight homophobia, to teach tolerance. It makes that curriculum mandatory even for private Catholic schools, and the Vatican's objection is that that curriculum in certain respects, might undercut or contradict Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage.

And there are also concerns that this bill by creating a new criminal offense of hate speech for intolerant statements about gay, lesbian and transgender persons might criminalize actually public expressions of Catholic teaching about for instance marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman.

Now Rosemary, the Vatican puts out statements about public policy questions like this all the time. What is new as you indicate, is that this is not just a communique, this is a diplomatic protest based on the Vatican's sovereign status and invoking its rights under a bilateral treaty with the Republic of Italy. This is unchartered territory which indicates I suppose how serious, how high the Vatican believes that the stakes here are.

CHURCH: How will it all likely end up, up against this draft Italian law?

ALLEN: Well, look, I mean all polls in Italy show that this law enjoys broad support. I mean, depending on which poll you look at and how the question is worded, somewhere between half and two-thirds of Italians say that they are in favor of it. Italy's current governing majority supports it. And it is reasonable to think I suppose that at some point some form of this law made be adopted.

Now were that to be the case, the 1929 Lateran Pacts, the bilateral agreement between the Vatican and Italy, say that the Vatican would have the right to insist that joint commission between the Vatican and Italy be created to adjudicate this dispute. It might end up going all the way to Italy's constitutional court. And who knows, we're not there yet, Rosemary, but the point is, this may be the beginning of what is a very long story in terms of this apparent stalemate between the Vatican and its host nation of Italy.

CHURCH: All right, will continue to watch this. John Allen, joining us live from Rome, many thanks.

And still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, a U.S. Senate Democrat is facing a wave of scrutiny for his membership in a Rhode Island beach club. How he's trying to turn the tide. Plus, Britney Spears may break her silence later today about the

controversial court order that gave her father control of her multimillion-dollar fortune.



BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: All right, I will take the stage again -- I have no idea. I I'll having fun right now and the transition in my life, and I'm enjoying myself. So that's it.


CHURCH: Britney Spears is giving her fans no indication if or when she will return to performing. But in the coming hours they could hear for the first time what she thinks about a controversial court order that put her father in charge of her multimillion-dollar fortune. That happened 13 years ago after the singer experienced a series of health issues. CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas takes a look at what me might expect during Wednesday's highly anticipated court hearing.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice-over): Britney Spears isn't shy about sharing with her fans on Instagram. But for the first time, the world may hear from Britney regarding her court-ordered conservatorship in a hearing on Wednesday.

Britney has yet to address the court since her court-ordered attorney filed to suspend her father, Jamie Spears, as the conservator of her $60 million estate last year. The singer's father has been overseeing her finances since the conservatorship began in 2008, following a series of health issues that played out publicly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened, Britney?

MELAS (voice-over): The highly-anticipated hearing has fans and reporters clamoring for a seat in the courtroom. Although Spears is expected to appear virtually, the Los Angeles County Superior Court has already issued a press release stating that they are going to have an overflow courtroom.

Everyone is wondering what Britney might say, and conservatorship attorney Lisa MacCarley, who does not work on Britney's case, has been vocal about the court having had appointed Samuel Ingham as her attorney.

LISA MACCARLEY, ATTORNEY: There is no legitimate reason why Britney Spears was deprived of an attorney of her own choice. What I'm hoping that she will say is -- and all she really needs to say is, I want to hire an attorney of my own choice to talk about my options. That is something that they have steadfastly refused to allow her to do.

MELAS (voice-over): Spears' attorney had no comments citing pending litigation. CNN has also reached out to two judges who have issued rulings on this cases over the years. Both declined to comment to CNN.

Members of the Free Britney movement planned to demonstrate outside of the courthouse.


They want to "Gimme More" singer released from the conservatorship but they say this is bigger than Britney and want an overhaul of a system that they believe has widespread potential for corruption.

LEANNE SIMMONS, #FREEBRITNEY MOVEMENT: We know that conservatorship abuse is much bigger than just Britney Spears, and that's what this has evolved into. Of course, this movement started, because we're Britney fans, a lot of us. It has evolved into a global movement now. There are activists and advocates from across the globe, some of whom are not Britney fans who are family members, were victims themselves of conservatorship ideas. So this is much bigger than just Britney.

MELAS (voice-over): As for an end in sight, this legal battle is far from over, with another hearing scheduled for mid-July.

MELAS: It feels like the entire world is watching to see, what will Britney Spears say during the hearing? We have no idea if this hearing is going to end up being closed, because she might talk about some very sensitive subjects that require the judge to actually clear the courtroom.

Also, many people wondering will Britney ever take the stage again to perform. Well, she just posted a video on Instagram the other day, saying that she doesn't know. She's still taking time for herself. So in the meantime, all we can do is sit back, wait and watch.


CHURCH: Chloe Melas with that report. And we just heard from attorney Lisa MacCarley in Chloe's report. I also spoke to her earlier about what we can expect at today's hearing, and I asked why the singer is paying for her father's legal fees.


MACCARLEY: It is not uncommon -- meaning that it is often the case that the conservatorship estate does pay for both sides of these proceedings. Most of the time the numbers are not nearly the astronomical legal fee and costs that we are seeing in this case. This is highly unusual. Although conservatorships can get expensive when there is sibling squabbling. It is very rare to see a conservatorship fight be between whether or not the conservatee needs a conservatorship and who the conservators actually are. That's actually a rather rare scenario.


CHURCH: Attorney Lisa MacCarley speaking with me earlier. And stay with CNN as we continue to follow the hearing throughout the day. Watching and waiting, it is the day after New York's Democratic

mayoral primary. And results are coming in. But don't expect to know the winner anytime soon. We will explain coming up.

Plus, it's go time for the Tokyo Olympics after a yearlong pandemic delay, the games are set to kick off in a month. We're live from Tokyo with the latest on the preparations.