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CNN NEWSROOM

Rachel Spiegel is Interviewed about a Missing Family Member; Chauvin Sentencing; Tera Brown is Interviewed about the Chauvin Sentencing. Today; Obstacles Remain for Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 25, 2021 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

RACHEL SPIEGEL, DAUGHTER OF WOMAN MISSING AFTER CONDO COLLAPSE: My mom loves it there. She really loves -- loves Surfside, you know?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Of course.

SPIEGEL: So it's just heartbreaking.

HARLOW: We've seen a lot of pictures of her with your daughter, her beloved granddaughter, Scarlet, who's -- who's four years old. And I understand that the last you heard from her was Wednesday night. And she was texting you that she had finally found this Disney dress that Scarlet wanted so much.

SPIEGEL: Yes. Yes, she wanted this dress. And my mom found it online. It came back in the size -- in my daughter's size, which is a four. And my mom bought it on -- that was the last text I have from her at 9:00 something that she bought the dress and she was so excited. And, like, the dress is in the mail, and I just want my mom to give it to her.

HARLOW: But she might -- she may still --

SPIEGEL: So --

HARLOW: I know that you -- you are -- you are --

SPIEGEL: I'm praying.

HARLOW: You are hopeful.

SPIEGEL: Of course. I have to be hopeful. You know, I want to be with her. You know, I love her.

HARLOW: What do you want people to know about her? Because you told me in the break she was sort of like everyone's mom, like she's that mom that everyone knows.

SPIEGEL: Yes, you know, obviously, I never thought that I'd be in this situation. I haven't told my kids yet. My youngest daughter, Sloan (ph), she's two. She doesn't really comprehend. But Scarlet does and Scarlet's 4. And, you know, my mom helps me a lot. I'm a working mom. And, you know, during COVID my mom chose to be in Florida so she could help me with remote school, help me with pickups and drop offs and dinner. And, you know, my mom has attended many playdates, dance classes, everything. Everything you could possibly imagine.

And so not only does my mom have a special bond with her, but the other kids that we hang out with, they love Grandma Judy. And everybody calls her Grandma Judy. And, you know, I don't even know how to begin to communicate what's happening. I don't even know.

HARLOW: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't know either. And I know that in addition to all the other things that she did for you, she would often be the one to get to school early. I'm always the one late to school pickup. She would be the one early to school pickup for your kids.

SPIEGEL: Yes. No, my mom's job was to be a mom and grandma, you know. She didn't want -- you know, her job was her family. And she would get there an hour early consistently. You can ask anybody at the school. Everybody knew her car. Everybody knew her leggings. She's really -- my mom's really skinny. She wears like really fun, skinny leggings with like all different color patterns and everything. And she was always the first one in the line. Like, she would get really upset if she was second or third. She's like, what time do these people come, you know, because she would get there like an hour early, because she loved it. She wanted Scarlet to see her first when she came out of the car. That was important to my mom.

And my mom did that for me as a child. I remember being in middle school and my mom being the first one there and waiting. And I, you know, I just -- that was my mom. My mom wanted to be very present. And she was. She is.

HARLOW: She is.

What can anyone watching, any of the authorities that may be listening, do to help you and your family right now? Are you getting enough information? Are you, you know, getting any answers possible?

SPIEGEL: I don't know if there's any good information. I was here from 5:30 in the morning yesterday to 11:00 at night. The smoke today is a different story. I have my mask. I mean I'm vaxed, but, you know, it's not as much for COVID, it's more of the smoke. It's a different feel today. It's -- I'm praying for a miracle. But, clearly, there's fires. Clearly there's other stuff happening. And I don't know if they can get in there fast enough. And I don't even know -- I mean when you watch the video of it collapsing, it's just horrifying. So, I don't know.

HARLOW: We are -- we are -- we are praying --

SPIEGEL: Now it's pouring, actually.

HARLOW: We are praying for that miracle right alongside you.

Rachel, Grandma Judy is in all of our hearts right now and we're hoping for the best. We're here if we can help at all. Rachel, thank you.

SPIEGEL: Thank you so much. We're praying. Please pray with us. I need to see my mom again. So, please.

HARLOW: We are.

SPIEGEL: Thank you.

[09:35:00]

HARLOW: We are.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is set to be sentenced in the murder of George Floyd. He was, you'll remember, convicted in April on three counts, including second degree unintentional murder.

HARLOW: His sentencing comes 13 months to the day that Chauvin pressed his knee on George Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes 29 seconds, and he now faces decades in prison.

Our Omar Jimenez has been covering this story since the very beginning and he joins us this morning from Minneapolis.

[09:40:02]

Omar, thank you for being there.

The prosecution is pushing for 30 years here. The defense basically wants probation and time served. And we know, you know, Judge Cahill does have a history of sentencing people with murder convictions. What is expected to happen today in the courtroom?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Poppy. Well, there are a number of things that we're expecting to see. First, from a procedural side of things, we've already gotten arguments, as you alluded to, from prosecutors and the defense about what they want to see happen. Prosecutors, of course, are pushing for a 30-year sentence, while the defense is pushing for as little as probation or at the very least -- probation and time served or at the very least the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, which for someone like Chauvin starts around 12.5 years and goes up to 15.

But the crucial portion of this was back in May, Judge Peter Cahill ruled on a number of factors, what's called aggravating factors, that could boost that number up towards the statutory maximum of 40 years.

Now, some of those factors, as you begin to read them off, are that he abused a position of trust and authority, Chauvin did, that Chauvin acted with particular cruelty in the murder of Floyd, that he acted in concert with three others individuals who all actively participated in the crime, and that he committed the offenses in the presence of children. Again, all factors that could boost that sentence.

And then when you look at Judge Peter Cahill's history, he truly has hit the full range of this. In the past 13 years, he sentenced six people for second degree murder convictions, hitting all from that 12.5 years, all the way up to the statutory maximum of 40.

But even beyond today, even though this is the close of one chapter that has brought this city across the United States so much of the course of the past 13 months, we are still far from the end of this story. And all of it begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time here in Minneapolis. Again, the close of a very significant chapter in this story.

Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

And joining us now to discuss this, Tera Brown, she's one of George Floyd's cousins. She's also director of the George Floyd Foundation.

And apologies again, Tera, for having lost my voice the way that I have.

I do want to ask about how you and your family are today. It is 13 months to the day since you lost George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, his killer, will be sentenced. Do you feel that today is a day where you're achieving some measure of justice?

TERA BROWN, COUSIN OF GEORGE FLOYD: Yes, we've -- we definitely feel like we're receiving some measure of justice. We've been anxiously awaiting this day, and I fully expect that today will be a very emotional day for us. And we're just hoping that -- we're wanting to see him get the maximum sentence.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: You know, it's really notable, Tera, that this -- that this sentencing comes also on a day when bipartisan lawmakers have announced at least a framework for an agreement on police reform in Washington, D.C. We'll see if it gets over the final hurdle. But that's a big deal. A lot of your family has been to the White House, has been talking to Congress about doing something. And I remember when you said that George Floyd's death and, quote, the way he died will build a legacy of change.

This -- are you hopeful this could be that change or a part of that change?

BROWN: Yes, I am very hopeful. And I'm happy to see that these things are still moving forward at this point. There has been some change so far. And I'm happy to see that things are changing. But we're hoping, really hoping that at the federal level they will pass this bill for us. SCIUTTO: Derek Chauvin did not, of course, speak at his trial. He turned down what is his right to testify there. He could make a statement today in court. We don't know if he will. Is there anything you'd like to hear from him? Would you like to hear from him?

BROWN: I've thought about that and I -- I don't know that there's anything that he would be able to say that would, you know, make me feel any better about what happened. But I would love to hear from him if he would be willing to say anything. I would love to hear him say, you know, anything that would -- apologize or anything. But I don't expect it. I don't expect to see it.

HARLOW: His legacy lives on for sure through all of you, but really also through his daughter. And the world remembers that day when she said, just after he was murdered, you know, my daddy changed the world.

[09:45:03]

Can you tell us and remind us about her and how he has carried on through her?

BROWN: Wow, she -- she definitely is his -- we're so proud of her and how she's, you know, handling things. She still, you know, she doesn't have a full understanding of everything that's happening, but she knows that she loves her daddy and she's very proud of, you know, the way that everybody has represented him. And so she's -- she's pretty well adjusted. We're very proud of her.

SCIUTTO: Well, whatever happens in that courtroom today, we know that principally it's a difficult day of loss, a reminder of loss for your family.

And, Tera Brown, we do wish you and your family the very best. Thanks so much for joining us.

BROWN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Back in Washington, do we really have a deal? The White House touting a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. Can President Biden get it through a still polarized Congress and across the finish line?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:36]

SCIUTTO: President Biden says he has agreed to an infrastructure bill with a bipartisan group of senators. But, Poppy, I don't know, based on things we're hearing this morning, you begin to wonder, can this group hold together?

HARLOW: Right. Because when they made this announcement and everything looked like they had this deal and everyone was smiling, we didn't know the other part of the deal.

Let's go to our Lauren Fox and Jeff Zeleny. Explain to people who may have missed the second part, the really big,

maybe $6 trillion part of this deal, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy.

There is still pretty high level of optimism here at the White House that this deal, the framework of this deal is still holding.

HARLOW: OK.

ZELENY: And this deal is really an agreement between a group of Republican senators and a group of Democratic senators. We saw the scene out here outside the West Wing yesterday, which we've not seen in many, many years. In fact, I had to really think back to a couple administrations ago when we saw a bipartisan group of senators with the president standing there saying they've reached a deal.

But, you're right, the president did then go on to say, look, this deal is going to hold if Democrats only were to do the rest of his plans on the American Jobs Plan and Families Plan, that so-called soft infrastructure, if you will.

So the biggest takeaway from this is, none of this will happen until likely the end of summer or beginning of fall. So that gives a lot of time for this to be picked apart and really analyzed and are Republicans going to be willing to give President Biden a win.

But it also, you know, certainly has something in it for them as well to get something accomplished on infrastructure.

But Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was on CNN's NEW DAY earlier today saying none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: This has been in the press. It's been publicly reported. Everybody has known that there are two paths to getting the president's full agenda. Let's get as much as we can in the bipartisan bill and that was what was announced yesterday.

And then there's this other path for the president to get the rest of his agenda through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So clearly there a -- you know, no surprise from Jennifer Granholm. But there are some questions. Is this going to hold, a, among Democrats on left? Will Democrats come together? Most likely so. They are not going to want to take away what would be a victory from President Biden.

But I think a bigger question is what Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to do and certainly Lauren has more of a sense of that. So we've not yet heard from Leader Mitch McConnell and, of course, he holds many cards on this.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

Yes, Lauren, as you know, that's a lot of time for something to fall apart. You're already hearing this phrase from some Republicans of double cross, whether that's true or not.

Ryan Lizza made a good point this morning saying that now a vote for the bipartisan deal can be framed as a vote as well for this larger reconciliation plan Democrats have among Republicans.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think that this is a little bit a game of semantics at this point. A lot of Republicans understand all along that Democrats were going to move ahead with reconciliation no matter what happened on this bipartisan deal. But there's also an interest from both sides to actually hold this bipartisan deal together. And that, in part, for Republicans is the fact that they get to vote or something on infrastructure and then turn around and blame Democrats for raising taxes through their reconciliation bill.

For Democrats, the president, of course, thinks that bipartisanship is an important messaging tool for his administration. It's also an important legacy item for his administration. So I think there's some interest to hold this together.

But let's talk a little bit about the timeline here. Lawmakers in the Senate are on a two-week recess now. I'm told that behind the scenes the next two weeks are really going to be about writing legislative text because, remember, this bipartisan agreement, it's a framework. It's not a bill yet. And I think that is going to be another key test over the next several weeks.

When lawmakers return in July, they're also going to have to start work on their budget resolution. That is the very first step in passing a Democratic only bill. And I think that's going to be key because the budget committee is made up of a diverse group of members, including Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders. Chuck Schumer's been very clear with them, he wants them to come up with a unity budget in the next several weeks so that they can move on that when they return in July.

Then there's another recess around the corner. So this is going to take some time to play out. Like Jeff said, this is not something that's going to happen in July. It is something that we expect to move later in the fall.

Now, we should also note that Republicans are expressing some resistance to the fact that Joe Biden is saying these two things need to be tied together.

[09:55:03]

Here's what the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and actually endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it.

It almost makes your head spin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: And he is not the only Republican saying that. Lindsey Graham, another Republican in the Senate, someone who supported bipartisan deals in the past, he says that this is troubling for him as well. So we need all of this to play out and we're not going to get a better sense of how this is going to shake out until after they return from their two-week recess.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, time can be your enemy here in brief moments of bipartisanship.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Well, the search for possible survivors in the Surfside building collapse is growing more desperate. What challenges first responders are facing this morning is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]