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Justice Department Won't Defend Rep. Mo Brooks Against Incitement Lawsuit; Simone Biles Sparks New Debate over Mental Health; Soon, Biden to Speak on Importance of American Manufacturing, Well- Paying Jobs Amid Reports of Infrastructure Deal; Flight Attendants Learn How to Defend Themselves as Passengers Become More Violent. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Robert, Brooks claimed he was acting in his official capacity as a government employee, so the Department of Justice should defend him. The department said, no, that wasn't part of official duties.

Was that the right call?

ROBERT RAY, MEMBER, TRUMP DEFENSE TEAM IN FIRST IMPEACHMENT: I've seen these debates before. I know Senator Jones has as well.

It tends to be a close call about whether it's within the scope of your employment or whether it isn't. It's hard to say when you're talking about political rhetoric in the heat of the moment.

The Justice Department made that call. I can't say I necessarily strongly disagree with it. I could have also seen it go the other way. So --


CABRERA: Senator Jones, what do you think?

DOUG JONES, (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR FOR ALABAMA: I don't think it was a close call. Mo Brooks is campaigning for the United States Senate. He stood on that stage in a campaign mode. There's no question about that.

By the way, there was nothing patriotic about what happened on January 6th. I don't care what Mo Brooks or anybody says. There was nothing patriotic about what happened.

But he was clearly on a campaign stump. At that point, the president has endorsed him since that time.

To me, with all due respect to my friend, Robert Ray, I don't think this is a close call at all for the Department of Justice.

CABRERA: Doug Jones, Charlie Dent and Robert Ray, I really appreciate all three of you. Thank you for being with us.

JONES: Thanks, Ana.



CABRERA: The pressure is enormous for any world class athlete. But my next guest says, for black stars like Simone Biles, it's even more intense because she's viewed as a messiah figure. That's next.



CABRERA: This is big news. Simone Biles is out of tomorrow's individual all-around competition. The greatest gymnast of all time in the spotlight of the world stage deciding to put her mental health first.


SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I was just like shaking, could barely nap. I've never felt like this going into a competition before.

Once I came out here, I was like, no, the mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.


CABRERA: I want to bring in Candace Buckner. She's a sports reporter for "The Washington Post."

Candace, you just wrote an article entitled, "For Exceptional Black Women Like Simone Biles, Greatness Is Never Enough." Explain.

CANDACE BUCKNER, SPORTS REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, whenever you're a minority or person of color or just the only one in a space, you tend to take on the responsibility of being the trailblazer, of being the one responsible for helping others come in your footsteps.

While we have seen that throughout sports, throughout the generations, it's a heavy responsibility for one person to take on.

Clearly, Simone wanted to do that, but it became too much.

CABRERA: How hard do you think it was for her to make this choice to withdraw?

BUCKNER: This is someone who has dedicated her life, and especially the last four years, to rising up to be the greatest of all time to wear that mantle. It has to be incredibly tough for her to make that decision.

But, again, to be so mentally aware and so spiritually strong, to say to herself, I cannot do this and I do not want to mess up my team, that takes courage.

CABRERA: As a black woman athlete, specifically, you talk about how she has an even greater burden or more pressure in terms of what the expectations of her are and the responsibility she may carry.

You write, "Katie Ledecky and the likes of Megan Rapinoe are models for their sport. They're not, however, cast as messiahs."

Why do you think Biles fits into that role of a messiah?

BUCKNER: You know, when she was young, she saw Dominic Dawles (ph). And I'm sure she was influenced by Gabby Douglas. And seeing someone that looks like her influenced her to get into that gym.

She knows that being the GOAT, the greatest of all time, is going to help other young women, other young black women want to take on the sport that has been traditionally white.

Besides that, she has to clean up the sport. That sport has had a lot of scandals. And live to do that.

Really, she's on a team. We get that, Team USA. But it's all on Simone's shoulders to be the role model for black girls, to save the sport. It's a lot to take on. I can't understand it.

CABRERA: It's been so interesting to see the reaction to this move because it's not just devastating for fans of the sport and those are with her in large part. She's been supported, of course, in this decision to withdraw.

But she has also faced criticism from people like Piers Morgan, who tweeted:


"Simone Biles calls herself the greatest of all time, but no GOAT would quit on their teammates like that, costing them an Olympic gold medal. Get back out there, Simone. You are a great champion, not a quitter."

She's also been called a selfish sociopath, bringing shame to the country.

What do you make of critics describing her actions this way?

BUCKNER: For one thing, most of her critics are not exceptional and they're not exceptional black women. So they have never been in that space of being the only one and having to carry on a movement.

More than just one person doing one great thing. Tom Brady, yes, he's great, but he's just really a football player. LeBron James, great, but a basketball player on a team sport. Simone is in an individual sport. It's all on her. She's carrying a


With all due respect to the likes of Piers Morgan, I don't think he would understand.

CABRERA: Candace Buckner, I appreciate your taking the time. Thank you so much for offering your perspective and insights.

I should also apologize to Megan Rapinoe for mispronouncing her name earlier.

Soon, President Biden is set to make a big speech on the American economy amid reports that lawmakers are closer than ever to closing a deal on infrastructure. Details next.



CABRERA: Just minutes from now, we will hear from President Biden. He is touring this Mack Truck manufacturing facility in eastern Pennsylvania near Allentown.

The president is expected to deliver remarks on the importance of American manufacturing and well-paying jobs.

But we'll also be listening for any comments on the new progress just announced on the infrastructure deal.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know the president is aware of the outlines of this infrastructure deal.

His top adviser, Steve Ricchetti, has been working very closely with these Senators as they are trying to come to this agreement that we're talking about today as we're waiting to see the final details.

You're right, this trip to Pennsylvania, which is his sixth since taking office, of course, a critical battleground state, is going to be about promoting that infrastructure package.

Also talking about shoring up domestic manufacturing and his broader view of the economy.

But, Ana, a lot of this is being overshadowed by that new CDC news and this heightened concern inside the White House about the Delta variant and the state of the pandemic across the United States.

So he's going to talk about the infrastructure deal. We haven't actually heard him comment since you've seen a lot of his Republican negotiators come out and say they came to an agreement. But we're expecting he'll talk about that and he'll talk about the

economy. He'll talk about a proposal to increase the number of domestic American-made goods that the U.S. government purchases. Of course, they do buy a lot of goods.

Also, the question is whether or not he'll also address COVID-19.

We know, tomorrow, he is giving a speech about what the next steps are that they believe to get more people vaccinated, something we know has been a huge struggle for this White House over the last several months since vaccinations have plateaued.

So a lot of topics for this trip to Pennsylvania today.

CABRERA: Kaitlan Collins, we'll be watching. Thank you.

Coming up, inside a different kind of workplace training. Flight attendants learning to hit, elbow, and gouge unruly airline passengers.






CABRERA: Travel restrictions easing in England as the country prepares to end quarantine for travelers from the United States and the European Union.

This exception applies only to fully vaccinated people starting on Monday. And some safety measures remain in place.

Travelers still have to take a predeparture COVID test and a PCR test on their second day in the country, which can detect COVID before antibodies form.

But you still have to mask up to get there. And the mask mandates on planes has been an issue.

The FAA now says it has received 3,500 reports of unruly passengers on commercial flights.

In a CNN exclusive, aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, shows us the federal government is teaching flight attendants how to defend themselves.



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are taking a defensive stance against a growing problem in the air.

Flight attendants are training to hit, elbow, and gouge simulated aggressive passengers with actual passengers getting more violent than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to possibly die. You need to defend yourself at all costs.

MUNTEAN: Undercover federal air marshals are guiding eight flight attendants through this self-defense course, the first class offered by the TSA since training was paused by the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FLIGHT ATTENDANT: It's sad that it needs to happen.

MUNTEAN: Flight Attendant Carrie is taking this class having just returned to her airline following a leave of absence.

(on camera): Are you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Sometimes, a little bit, yes. You get on a plane full of people and some of them aren't happy and you just never know what's going to happen.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): A brawl breaking out on a Frontier Airlines flight is among the latest unruly passenger incidents that the FAA says are skyrocketing.

Federal documents detail show passengers have shouted down, grabbed and struck flight attendance thousands of times since the start of a zero-tolerance policy earlier this year.

In May, a passenger punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, causing her to lose two of her teeth, according to her union.

NOEL CURTIN, ASSISTANT SUPERVISOR OF AIR MARSHAL IN CHARGE, TSA MIAMI FIELD OFFICE: There's no back up at 30,000 feet. So that plane is in the air that has a crew that has to do with the issues. And it's incumbent on us to make sure they're fully equipped.

MUNTEAN: Federal officials say some passengers are fueled by alcohol but most are fighting back over the federal transportation mask mandate, which make up three-quarters of all incidents reported just this year.




MUNTEAN: Sarah Nelson, of the Association of Flight Attendants, says airlines should pay their people to take these classes and the federal government should require that flight crews attend each year. NELSON: That we can have that muscle memory and be able to respond when someone is immediately attacking us.


MUNTEAN: Here, instructors are teaching techniques that could be lifesaving, like pinning an attacker who is armed with a knife.

But the TSA says only a few hundred people have enrolled in this course after it reopened training in late June.

Veteran Flight Attendant Donna O'Neil (ph) says more like her should take this class to deal with the type of passenger becoming too common.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Ready? Move.

DONNA O'NEIL (ph), VETERAN FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I don't ever want to have to use any of this. But if I had to, I certainly feel much more confident.


CABRERA: That was Pete Muntean reporting.

Thank you all for being with us today. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

Have a great day.