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Texas Man Charged with Illegal Voting Faces 40 Years; Suspect Arrested in Haiti Assassination Planned to Take Power; Biden Meets with Attorney General and Local Leaders on Gun Violence; Interview with Eric Adams, (D) New York City Mayoral Candidate, White House Meeting on Rising Crime. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 12, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Rogers was convicted of felony burglary charges in 1989 and 1995. And the law says that people cannot knowingly vote if they know that they are ineligible. And the ACLU is representing Rogers and claims that he did not realize he was voting illegally.

So let's bring in now Robin Steinberg from The Bail Project, the nonprofit that provides free bail assistance to people who cannot afford it. And the group provided Rogers $100,000 bail. Robin, thank you for being with us. You say that this is the example, this is what we should pay attention to as we watch what is happening in Texas as laws become more restrictive for people to vote. Explain that.

ROBIN STEINBERG, FOUNDER & CEO, THE BAIL PROJECT: Absolutely, and thank you for having me. You know, this story and what happened here to Mr. Rogers is shameful, and the American public should be outraged by what it really illustrates about how we use our cash bail system and about the ongoing efforts to restrict voting rights.

We received a call from the ACLU from Mr. Rogers' lawyers and our team at The Bail Project sprang into action. We travelled to the jail. We paid Mr. Rogers' bail and then we waited for hours until he was finally released and drove him home where he was greeted by his family. I spoke to him on Saturday night when he was released and he was exhausted and traumatized by what had happened and utterly confused because he thought he had the right to vote and did not realize that a conviction from 25 years, a quarter of a century earlier would have restricted his right to vote.

But he was also incredibly relieved that so many people were in his corner. And I think we need to be very, very clear about something here. If this had been me and I'm actually Mr. Rogers' age, right, if this had been me or someone who looked like me, the Texas Attorney General would not have brought charges. There would not have been an arrest and nobody would have set a $100,000 cash bail and use the cash bail system to not only hold him in jail cell or attempt to do so but to also send a message of fear.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Well, what does that mean? You mean that all this is happening because he's black?

STEINBERG: I'm saying that I believe that had he been white, he would not have been arrested, charged or cash bail would have been set. What we know about our criminal legal system and what we know about the way our cash bail system operates is that it has historically targeted communities of color and low income communities particularly black communities. And that in this case, it is being used to send a message to black and brown communities across this country to stay home and not vote.

BLACKWELL: So you use this as an example of restrictive laws and why they must be blocked. For those who look at it from the other perspective who say this is why we need to invest in election integrity. That someone who should not be voting voted twice. I understand it was both in the general election in 2018 and the special election in March of 2020. They say this is why we need these laws. To those to those people, you say what?

STEINBERG: I say, look, the Texas legislature is in session until just a few minutes ago and they were doing a variety of things. They were trying to pass laws that would expand the use of cash bail, that would further two tier system of justice. One for people with resources and one for people without. But they were also trying to make it harder for people to vote. People who genuinely believe they have the right to vote.

In addition they are targeting charitable bail bonds and trying to restrict the use while allowing the private for-profit bail bond industry to continue to operate. This is literally an attack on our democracy, right. If you think about the cornerstone of our democracy is the right to vote and the right to be presumed innocent. These attacks in the state legislature have actually undermined both those things.

Mr. Rogers mistakenly believed he had the right to vote. We can talk about that. That can be litigated in a different way and discussed in a different way but to use the criminal system to bring somebody into a jail cell and then hold them there on $100,000 bail, that has an entirely different intention and that intention is to send fear into communities of color and to black Americans across this country.

CAMEROTA: By the way, usually, when you're breaking the law and committing a crime, you don't grant an interview to CNN in the middle of it. So I mean there is evidence that he didn't know that he was breaking the law since he publicly went on camera and talked about how committed he was to voting, and that's why he was willing to wait almost seven hours in that line. He's not going to go to prison for 40 years, is he?

STEINBERG: It's unclear. You know, the Attorney General has charged him with felonies and the attempt to hold him in jail on $100,000 cash bail is a pretty good indicator that they intend to prosecute this to the fullest extent of the law. But he has an enormous amount of community people behind him.


People recognize the unfairness and that this is just a shameful story and a shameful sort of theater that the Attorney General in Texas is using to forward the laws that they have been trying to pass in the state legislature all day and this week to further restrict people's voting rights and expand the use of cash bail.

We should stand firmly against all those things. I think all Americans should really think about this as a real illustration of when we need to resist, you know, the attacks on the cornerstones of our democracy like the right to vote and like the right to be presumed incident and not be incarcerated until you've been convicted.

I think anybody who looks at Mr. Rogers' story and recognizes that his right to vote has been removed from case that stem back a quarter of a century ago. It's a mistake any of us might have made. Certainly had I made that mistake, I don't think I would be arrested and charged and incarcerated.

CAMEROTA: Robin Steinberg, thank you very much for the perspective and for sharing all that information with us.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

STEINBERG: Thank you so much for having us. We appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: All right next, we have new details about the latest arrest in the assassination of the Haitian president. Police say one of the men had plans to take power. We'll explain.



BLACKWELL: We've got new details in the investigation into the assassination of Haiti's president. The Haitian National Police, they now tell us that a suspect they now have in custody wanted to become president himself.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Tell us about this person and what you've learned.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a pretty major update to this investigation after not hearing really anything from authorities here in Port-au-Prince for a few days. It was last night that we heard this press conference from the chief of police here in Haiti where he identified this 63-year-old man born here in Haiti named Christian Emmanuel Sanon. And this is a man who authorities basically say helped orchestrate what happened here.

Using a Venezuelan security company based in south Florida, he recruited some 26 alleged Columbian mercenaries, as well as two Haitian-Americans. Not only did he recruit them for the job -- according to authorities -- he then helped organize them here on the island, here in Port-au-Prince in the days and weeks leading up to the assassination. When according to authorities it was those 28 people that actually carried out this attack.

We know that authorities raided Sanon's home within the last few days. They say they found lots of boxes of ammunition. They found targets. They found rifle and pistol holsters inside the house. That's part of the evidence that they're putting out there.

That said. This is far from over. Because there are many people here who believe it's not just one person here on the island that had something to do with this, it's perhaps many people overall.

Authorities have not said what they've charged Sanon with, we haven't been able to get in touch with him, we don't know if he has legal representation. So this investigation is kind of I think really in the early stages here. They remain a ton of questions including perhaps who the actual mastermind of this assassination is.

CAMEROTA: Matt, the U.S. delegation that traveled there over the weekend, what can they do?

RIVERS: Well, I think you have two kind of tracks happening, right. The U.S. delegation has people here to help with this investigation into the assassination. They have expertise that some, you know, people here in Haiti might not have at that same level so they are here to provide their assistance in that.

On the other hand don't forget you have this political crisis. There's a power vacuum here after the assassination of a president and you have the U.S. diplomatic core essentially trying to find a solution to that.

There were two meetings that were held between two different political factions and the U.S. delegation here on Sunday trying to come up with some solution about who's going to run the country in the near term, get new elections scheduled, not only for the president but also for parliament. Unfortunately, there was no consensus made there and when there's no political consensus in Haiti, that's when things can become very difficult. Because this is a place that is no stranger to protests over politics. They can become violent. That's what we're going to be looking out for over the coming days and weeks.

CAMEROTA: Understood. Matt Rivers, stay safe. Thank you for the reporting.

So moments ago President Biden wrapped up his meeting with local leaders to discuss the surge in crime in many part of the country. One of the people in that meeting was Eric Adams, he's the former cop himself, who just won the Democratic primary for mayor of New York and he's going to share what was discussed in that meeting with us, next.


BLACKWELL: Well, now to America's gun violence epidemic. Violent crime continues to surge across the U.S. This weekend 369 shootings were reported with 125 gun deaths in the U.S. In New York City there were 11 shootings over the weekend with a total of 14 victims, and city has witnessed the troubling rise in gun violence this year. So far, the NYPD has recorded 803 shooting incidents, 931 victims in 2021 so far compared to 623 shooting incidents and 762 victims this time last year.

And just moments ago the president wrapped up a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland and state and local leaders as they discuss the administration's plan to help communities reduce gun violence. In that meeting Eric Adams, the former NYPD police captain, who is now the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City.


Sir, thank you for being with us right after this meeting, we heard from the president at the start of the meeting, plans that he has told us before, essentially there was no new element that I heard. Did the president in the meeting offer anything new that we haven't heard to fight violent crime, and is what he's proposing enough?

ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, first off, I'm here representing the borough of Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Borough president where we are witnessing an increase in violence. And I believe what the president has stated and what he is doing, he's sending a loud message that this country and cities like New York we're no longer going to normalize the level of violence that's taking place in our inner cities, particularly handgun violence, something we have ignored on the federal level.

BLACKWELL: So, has he offered something new to deal with handgun violence?

ADAMS: Yes, based on the plan that he has rolled out, he's taking a new and what I believe for the first of its kind, a holistic approach. When we think about the ecosystem of public safety, far too often we think about only the role of police officers.

The president has made it clear we're going to look at crisis management teams. We're going to look at the educational system, employment, all of those things that could become a feeder to violence, particularly gun violence if you don't ensure that you're giving the inner cities the tools and resources that they deserve.

And then he heard directly from us about how do we utilize the federal, state, and city agencies to better do information sharing and go after those dangerous offenders.

BLACKWELL: One thing you've suggested is that New York had better access to federal tracking of stores that sell illegal handguns. Did you get any assurances from the president, from the White House, that that will happen?

ADAMS: Well, that is something they're looking into. They heard from all of the men and women who joined us today. And I called for the establishment of what's called JGGTF, Joint Gun Gangs Task Force. We did something like this after the terrorist attack. And you saw that our country became a safer place because we zeroed in

on terrorist behavior, those sleeper cells. There's terror taking place in far too many communities, particularly those of color and poorer communities. And we don't need heavy-handed policing to solve it. It's the combination of the holistic approach.

BLACKWELL: I want to get back to specifically policing in New York in just a moment. But as we have this conversation about federal response, we understand the president said it's not one size fits all, but what is the legislative realistic proposal that you think the president could focus on? You've criticized your party for focusing too much on assault rifles. They should be focused on handguns, short of a handgun ban, which is not going to happen. What can happen?

ADAMS: Well, there are a number of things that we can do. Everything from bullet identification, stopping the large volumes of bullets from being purchased. Making sure that we go after those store purchases. Identify and track. Are we having the same illegal guns in different parts of the city and the country that's coming from the same dealer over and over again? And then connecting those and the various gangs. We have real violent gangs in our city and throughout this country. Are we sharing enough information to identify those criminal elements?

And then we're having a real conversation with our judges. How do you have a gun, shoot it on one day, and then the next day you're back on our streets committing violence with prior gun arrests? So, that is why the holistic approach of gun violence, handgun violence, coupled with dealing with our assault rifle bans that we're seeing is going to solve this violent problem we have in our country.

BLACKWELL: Specifically on New York, do you plan on hiring more NYPD officers?

ADAMS: Well, we're going to do -- right now I'm the borough president so that call is not mine to make. And I still have an election in November. What we're going to do is do a --

BLACKWELL: But you got a plan, right, is it part of your plan to hire more NYPD officers?

ADAMS: Let me answer your question again because maybe you didn't hear what I said. I'm the borough president --

BLACKWELL: I'm listening.

ADAMS: I'm the borough president. When I become the mayor of the city of New York, if I'm successful to do so, I'm going to do an analysis of the need. What you're finding in my assessment is that not only the number of police officers but how we're deploying them.

Why do we have officers patrolling in groups? I was a transit police officer. I patrolled by myself. We have to use and better utilize our police officers. Too many clerical assignments police officers are doing. Many of them are doing roles that they should not be doing. So once we do the right assessment, then we can make that determination that do we need to hire more to keep the city of New York safe. [15:55:00]

BLACKWELL: So over the weekend you said that it would be unfair to call you the anti-woke candidate or call you generally anti-woke. You say it's realistic versus unrealistic. But as Democrats look toward 2022 and they try to figure out how to hold majority, is there a lesson in your win for the party?

ADAMS: I believe it is. And what I stated to be accurate, I stated that some of us have never gone to sleep. We have been consistent. In fact, we're suffering from sleep apnea for fighting on behalf of what's right in the city. I have a 35-year track record. And I say to my group who have considered themself to be woke. Speak to some of the people who have been awakened throughout this entire fight for justice, police reform, safe streets, et cetera.

And I think the party should look at the victory that we had in the Democratic primary in New York City. There's a real message there. You see every day blue-collar workers in the same spirit of this president speaking very clear, specific things that are important to everyday New Yorkers. And what I responded to and I'm proud that they responded to me as well.

BLACKWELL: One thing before we go on coronavirus. You talked to my colleague Jake Tapper over the weekend. You recommended vaccinated people wear masks indoors, but you also said that science and that facts not fear should dictate guidance. Is there science to support that recommendation? Is that fact-based that vaccinated people need to wear masks indoors?

ADAMS: Well, let me share this with you. What I've learned from my life experiences. When you are comfortable wearing a mask, if the science tells you, you should wear a mask, you should. But if you also feel comfortable to get back on our subway system, to get back in your place of employment, to get back inside your church, the houses of worship, if you are comfortable and that's going to give you the safety net you need to make that transition to not wear your mask, I say hoorah to you.

I still wear my mask indoors to give me that comfort level. And so I say let's allow those New Yorkers who want to feel comfortable to do so, let's allow them to do so. There's no reason to point fingers or demonize them if they choose to do so.

BLACKWELL: Eric Adams, thanks so much for your time, sir.

ADAMS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, and THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right after a short break.