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Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) Discusses Anti-Government Protests In Cuba, Protests In U.S. In Support Of Cuban People, Cuban Minister Of Foreign Affairs' Tweet Suggesting U.S. Behind Subversion In Cuba; Michigan Judge Grills Lawyers On Election Fraud Claims; Damning New Book Chronicles Election Night 2020 In At Rump White House; Biden Speaks In Philadelphia On Voting Rights. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK. Happening right now, huge protests on one of Miami's largest expressways. South Floridians showing their support for the Cuban people. The protest shut down the Palmetto Expressway in both directions.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes. Highway Patrol there and Miami police have halted traffic.

There's also, we know, growing unrest in Cuba after huge protests over the weekend. Now, a social media blackout as well.

The Biden administration says it supports the protesters. The question is next, what is the plan.

CAMEROTA: So joining us now is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, New Jersey Democratic Congressman Albio Sires.

Congressman, thank you so much for being here.

We were just watching those pictures out of Miami, how strongly people feel about what is going on in Cuba.

As far as the protests in Cuba this weekend, we have not seen protests like that in decades. So what was the tipping point? Why now?

REP. ALBIO SIRES (D-NJ) (via telephone): Well, I just think the Cuban community is just tired, tired of 60 years of abuse, tired of 60 years of not having any kind of liberties, tired of just struggling every day.

The economy is in shambles. The whole -- (INAUDIBLE) -- experiment is a failure. And the people's lives are not improved.

And people want their liberties and people want democracy.


SIRES: And they are just tired.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I also understand, of course, COVID and the spiking COVID cases and deaths were a big factor as well.


The Cuba government claims that the protests this weekend were organized and paid for by the U.S. government.

They said in a tweet, the minister of foreign affairs said, "The U.S. has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to promote subversion in our country."

What's your answer to that?

SIRES: That's the usual excuse because they don't have an answer.

These are the people that were educated in Cuba, grew up in Cuba, and this was the youth of Cuba that went out on the street wanting liberty and democracy.

The people don't need to believe anything that -- (INAUDIBLE) -- in their real life. It is not the United States, it is not the Cubans in Miami who are stirring things up.

It's the Cuban people want a change of government.

CAMEROTA: We have seen this past weekend, in Cuba, we have seen footage of protesters being rounded up and forcible arrests.

Do you know what has happened to those protesters? Do you know how many are missing or jailed or detained?

SIRES: Well, there's hundreds of people missing, obviously, and there are hundreds of people being detained, maybe possibly more.

But since they cut off all of the Internet and all the phones, you can't tell how many.

But there's enough to see the videos that -- (INAUDIBLE) -- part of the island to see how the government -- (INAUDIBLE) -- the Cuban people.

They're beating them. They're throwing them into cars. They're taking them away.

CAMEROTA: What are you calling on President Biden to do?


CAMEROTA: Oh, Congressman, can you hear me?

SIRES: Yes, I can hear you now.

CAMEROTA: OK. Good. I can hear you as well.

What are you calling on President Biden to do?

SIRES: Well, first of all, the first step that the president took was in support of the Cuban people. That was very big, you know.

People realize that the government has a big megaphone and it goes throughout the world. And this president has shown support for the Cuban people.

It is good because -- (INAUDIBLE) -- in the world -- (INAUDIBLE) -- after -- (INAUDIBLE) -- because the propaganda machine is struggling in Cuba.

Now people are opening their eyes that Cuba -- (INAUDIBLE) -- that's how everything works.

So the support of the president has very --


CAMEROTA: Yes. Congressman Albio Sires, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us.

And obviously, we will continue to follow what is happening in Cuba and try to figure out what is happening with the missing as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and we will keep an eye on what is happening in Miami on the Palmetto Expressway and bring you the latest there.

Right now though, President Biden is in Philadelphia soon. Soon, he is expected to give this really highly anticipated address on protecting the right to vote in this country. We will bring it to you when it happens.

CAMEROTA: Plus, a new book goes into details on the origin of Trump's Big Lie on election night. What was Rudy Giuliani saying?



CAMEROTA: As you know, Victor and I are on between 2:00 and 4:00 in the east.


CAMEROTA: Today, we there two to four things to discuss, Big Lie edition.


CAMEROTA: Here to help us with it is White House correspondent, John Harwood.

John, great to see you.

Up first, a federal judge in Michigan is considering imposing fines and sanctions against former President Trump's legal team for filing a lawsuit to overturn the results in Michigan filled with, as she said, obvious errors and speculation.

BLACKWELL: During the several hours of questioning here, John, attorneys were questioned about the legal aspects, which includes the team, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood.

Trump's legal team struggled to explain what steps if any they took to ensure the court filings and affidavits were truthful.

The judge here said, I don't think I have ever seen an affidavit that makes so many leaps. This is really fantastical.

The problem with the Big Lie is it has been tested. It has gone to courts and still they can't prove anything. And now they're trying to back away from it.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and it is obvious, Victor, they didn't take any steps to check out these allegations because they made them up.

This is a crazy situation. It is very hard for serious people to do a serious analysis of this situation because this is kooky, made-up stuff, conspiracy theory stuff that is simply not grounded in fact.

As you mentioned, Sidney Powell was unapologetic about it. Said, I would file the same things again. We needed to raise things to question the election.

There's not really -- there's not really much of an answer to somebody who is fabricating stuff that is not grounded in reality.

CAMEROTA: No, it is amazing how quickly their case crumbles when confronted by a real serious-minded judge, how quickly the legal team crumbles in front of them.

Number two, there's a new book, as you know, John, shedding light on the origin of the Big Lie. And it is incredible where it comes from.

So the book is called, "I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year." It is by "Washington Post" reporters, Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker.

Basically, what they say is that, on election night, as the results were coming in --


CAMEROTA: -- Rudy Giuliani, who was described by witnesses as drunk, said what?

BLACKWELL: Creative reading here.


CAMEROTA: OK. BLACKWELL: Dramatic, I should say.

"After a while, Rudy Giuliani started to cause a commotion. He was telling other guests that he had come up with a strategy for Trump and was trying to get into the president's private quarters to tell him about it."

"Some people thought Giuliani may have been drinking too much and suggested to Bill Stepien that he go to talk to the former New York mayor."

"Stepien, Mark Meadows took Giuliani down to a room just off the map room to hear him out."

"What is happening in Michigan, he asked. They said it was too early to tell, votes were still being counted. Giuliani told them, just say we won, same thing in Pennsylvania, just say we won Pennsylvania."

So the Big Lie we thought was coming from the president, but maybe a boozy Giuliani started it on election night?

HARWOOD: Yes. And by telling Donald Trump things that he is inclined to hear.

But this is directly related to what we talked about in the first subject, which is, if you are just going to say, "we won," it doesn't matter what the reason is or what the justification is.

You are starting from the conclusion and you are going to make up stuff afterwards.

So they -- you know, there had been speculation before the election that Trump was going to declare victory based on early counts and try to make it look as if later-arriving votes were fraudulent. That's a version of what he did.

But it started as you indicated in that segment with Rudy Giuliani, just saying "just say it, doesn't matter."


CAMEROTA: John Harwood, thank you very much for all of that. Sorry to interrupt.

We do want to go now to President Biden because he is coming out to give his big speech on voting rights.

He is in Philadelphia right now. And he appears to be taking in the big crowd and sharing in their adulation, giving it back.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is the National Constitution Center. A highly anticipated speech from the president.

Will they talk about not just what they call the greatest threat to the right to vote and the integrity since the Civil War, but also what they plan to do about it? JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of good friends out



BIDEN: Please have a seat, if you have one.

I -- let me begin by saying I used to be important. I used to be the chairman of the board of this place. Jeffrey Rosen allowed me to do that for a while.

But thank you all for being here. I truly appreciate it.

Governor, it is above and beyond the call.

Mr. Mayor, I compliment you. I thought you were a great mayor, still think you are, but your judgment and finesse (ph) is even stronger.

But all of you -- and my good friend, Bobby Brady. I see so many friends.

Al Sharpton.

Al, how are you, pal? It is great to see you.


BIDEN: And I am going to get in trouble here because I'm going to recognize my congresswoman from the state of Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester --


BIDEN: -- and her sister, who used to run my office.

Stand up.


BIDEN: Folks, good afternoon.

There's a serious subject I would like to talk about today. I am here in Philadelphia, the National Constitution Center, the city and the place where the story of "we, the people" began.

It is a story that is neither simple nor straightforward. That's because the story is the sum of our parts, and all of those parts are fundamentally human.

And being human is to be imperfect, driven by appetite and ambition as much as by goodness and grace.

But some things in America should be simple and straightforward. Perhaps the most important of those things, the most fundamental of those things is the right to vote. The right to vote freely.


BIDEN: The right to vote freely, the right to vote fairly, the right to have your vote counted.

The Democratic threshold is liberty. With it, anything is possible. Without it, nothing, nothing.

For our democracy and the work and to deliver our work and our people, it is up to all of us to protect that right.

This is a test of our time, what I'm here to talk about today.

Just think about the past election. A 102-year-old woman in Arkansas who voted for the first time on the very spot she once picked cotton.

A 94-year-old woman in Michigan who voted early and in person in her 72nd consecutive election. Know what she said? She said, this election was, quote, "The most important vote that we ever had."


The daughter who voted in memory of her dad who died of COVID-19 so others wouldn't have the experience of pain and darkness and loss that she was going through.

Patients out there and the parents, the parents who voted for school their children will learn in.

Sons and daughters voted for the planet they're going to live on.

Young people turning 18 and everyone, for the first time in their lives, thought they could truly make a difference.

America, Americans of every background voted. They voted for good jobs and higher wages. They voted for racial equity and justice. They voted to make health care a right and not a privilege.

The fact that so many election officials across the country made it easier and safer for them to be able to vote in the middle of pandemic was remarkable.

As a result, in 2020, more people voted in America than ever in the history of America in the middle of a once in a century pandemic.


BIDEN: All told, more than 150 Americans of every race and every background exercised their right to vote. They voted early. They voted absentee. They voted in person. They voted by mail. They voted by drop box.

And then they got their families and friends to go out and vote.

Election officials, the entire electorate system withstood unrelenting political attacks, physical threats, intimidation and pressure. They did so with unyielding courage and faith in our democracy. With recount after recount after recount, court case after court case,

the 2020 election was the most scrutinized election ever in American history.

Challenge after challenge brought to local, state and election officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, even to the United States Supreme Court, not once but twice.

More than 80 judges, including those appointed by my predecessor, heard the arguments.

In every case, neither cause nor evidence was found to undermine the national achievement of administering the historic election in the face of such extraordinary challenges.

Audit, recounts were conducted.

In Georgia, it was recounted three times. No other election has ever been held under such scrutiny, and such high standards.

The Big Lie is just that. A Big Lie.


BIDEN: The 2020 election is not hyperbole. The most examined and fullest expression of the people of this nation. They should be celebrated.

We continue to see an example of human nature at its worst. Something darker, something sinister.

In America, if you lose, you accept the results. You follow the Constitution. You try again.

You don't call facts fake and try to bring down the American experiment just because you're unhappy. That's not statesmanship.


BIDEN: That's not statesmanship. That's selfishness. That's not democracy. It's the denial of the right to vote. It suppresses. It subjugates.

The denial of full and free fair elections is the most unimaginable thing any of us can imagine. The most undemocratic, the unpatriotic.

And, sadly, it's not unprecedented.

From denying enslaved people full citizenship until the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments after the Civil War, to denying women the right to vote until the 19th Amendment 100 years ago, to poll taxes and literacy test and the Ku Klux Klan campaigns of violence and terror that lasted into the '50s and '60s.

[14:55:20] To the Supreme Court decision in 2013. And then again, just two weeks ago, a decision that weakened the landmark and Voting Rights Act. To the willful attacks, election attacks in 2020.

Then to a whole other level of threat, the violence and deadly insurrection of capital on January 6th.

Just got back from Europe, attending the G-7 and NATO. They wondered, Joe -- they wondered, asked me is it going to be OK. The citadel of the democracy of the world.

Time and again, we've arrested the right to vote in free and fair elections. Each time, we found a way to overcome. And that's what we must do today.

Vice President Harris and I spent our careers doing this work.

I've asked her to lead, to bring people together to protect the right to vote in our democracy. And it starts with continuing the fight to pass H.R.-1, the For the People Act.


BIDEN: That bill would end voter suppression in states. Get dark money out of politics. Give voice to people at the grassroots level. Create fair district maps and end partisan political gerrymandering.

Last month, Republicans opposed even debating, even considering For the People Act. Senate Democrats stood united to protect our democracy and the sanctity of the vote.

We must pass the For the People Act. It's national imperative.

We must also fight for the John Lewis fighting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand --


BIDEN: -- to restore and expand voting protection, to prevent voter suppression.

All the congresswomen and men here -- there's a bunch of you -- you knew John, many of you.

Just weeks ago, Supreme Court, yet again, weakened the Voting Rights Act and upheld what Justice Kagan called a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities.

Court's decision, as harmful as it is, does not limit the Congress's ability to repair the damage done.

That's the important point. Puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength.

As soon as Congress passes the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I will sign it and let the whole world see it.


BIDEN: That will be an important moment.


The world is wondering --



You know the world is wondering, what is America going to do?

We also have to be clear eyed about the obstruction we face. Legislation is one tool. But not the only tool. It's not the only measure of our obligation to defend democracy today.

For example, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the United States Department of Justice will be using its authorities to challenge the onslaught of state laws undermining voting rights in old and new ways.

Focus will be on dismantling laws like the recent challenge to Georgia's vicious anti-voting law.

Department of Justice will do so with a Voting Rights Division that is doubling its size and enforcement.


Civil rights groups and other organizations announced their plans to stay vigilant and challenge these laws in the court.

In Texas, for example, Republican led state legislature wants to allow partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters and impartial poll workers.