Return to Transcripts main page


Belarusian Sprinter Seeks Asylum, Fears Arrest At Home; Florida Schools Fear Losing Funds After Gov. DeSantis Blocks Mask Mandates; NY County Considers Bill Allowing Police To Sue Protesters; Third D.C. Police Officer Who Responded To January 6th Insurrection Dies By Suicide; Lawmakers Camp At Capitol To Protest End Of Eviction Moratorium. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 14:30   ET



SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Before the U.S. women's soccer team, a historic loss, narrowly losing to Canada, 1-0.

This is the first time the U.S. has lost to Canada in 20 years. And Megan Rapinoe put it this way, she said, quote, "It sucks."

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I get it. Sometimes just keep it short and simple.

Let's turn now to this case of the sprinter from Belarus, who has refused to board a flight home. She's seeking asylum and asked the International Olympic Committee for help. What's the latest on that case?

WANG: Now, we have learned that she has actually received a humanitarian visa from Poland. She's set to leave for Warsaw in the coming days.

The Poland foreign ministry said the country is prepared to do whatever she can so she can continue her sporting career.

She was set to compete on Monday in the 200-meter heat. But on Sunday, Belarusian representatives of the national team went to the Olympic Village, ordered her to pack her belongings and go back to Belarus.

And when she got to the airport, she approached a Japanese police officer. She said she wanted to seek political asylum.

She was scared to go back to Belarus. She was fearful of being jailed. She was fearful for her own safety.

This fear comes after she had openly, publicly criticized sporting authorities in Belarus.

She had, on Instagram, complained that she was entered in the 4x100- meter relay race, a race she did not consent to and was not prepared for.

Victor, this comes against a very dark political climate in Belarus. Athletes following the mass protests who criticized the government in

Belarus, they faced reprisals. Some of them were detained. Some of them were excluded from national teams.

President Alexander Lukashenko has had a brutal crackdown on its citizens -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Selina Wang, for us in Tokyo, thank you.

There are concerns from Florida's largest school districts. The governor there has threatened to take away funding from schools if they issue mask mandates. So how will school administrators respond?



BLACKWELL: Florida is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic right now. Look at this long line of cars. Look at that. People waiting there to get tested for COVID in Miami Beach this morning.

And no wonder the line is so long. Florida reported more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases over the past week, the most of any state in the country.

And 15,000 new infections a day on average. That's one in five new COVID cases in the country.

Florida schools have a crucial decision to make as well. If they make masks mandatory for staff and students, they could lose the funding that keeps the doors open.

That's because Governor Ron DeSantis threatened in an executive order he signed Friday to withhold money if schools implement a mask mandate.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Ft. Lauderdale for us.

You're there in Broward County. And we know the mayor in Broward told you the situation right now is terrifying. Tell us about it.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Victor, he described it as terrifying because he's looking at the data. He's looking at the numbers.

And if you look at those, you'll see that, regardless of if you look at the cases and the hospitalizations, those graphs are shooting up, and that is the big worry.

He also pointed out that when you look at the hospitalizations closely, they're younger people.

Last year, when we were covering this pandemic, it was older people, senior citizens, that were hospitalized. Now it's people in their 40s, 30s, 20s, and he says even children. That is their big concern. The new case positivity here in the state of Florida is 18 percent.

The positivity rate for children between the ages of 12 and 19 is 22 percent.

Now, despite all of these flags, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier last week joking about the new CDC guidelines at a conservative conference in Utah.

Now, back here at home, on Friday, the governor signing an executive order that does not ban mask mandates. I have to mention that and be clear.

What it actually does do is it directs the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health to write rules that give parents the choice.

Now, why am I here in Broward County? Well, Broward County Public Schools actually passed a mask mandate before the governor signed that executive order.

Well, now, they are evaluating that executive order, trying to figure out what adjustments they need to make.

Now, while here, I was able to talk to parents on both sides of this issue, a parent that is for masks and also a parent that is for masks optional.

And I asked them to react to the governor coming in and, in essence, big-footing the decision from their public-school elected school board members.

Take a listen to what they said.


MICHAEL AZCARATE, PRO-MASK PARENT: Party of small government, right? It's really disheartening.

FLORES: What was your reaction to that?

CARRIE MELANCHINO, PATENT AGAINST MASK MANDATE: Relief. And simply for my children and their wellbeing.


FLORES: Now, Victor, I spent several hours with these two families and I think that, all politics aside, one of the things that as Americans and as just people in this country that care about children, one of the things that I came away with from talking to them is that they all love their children.

They want the best for their children. They want their children to get a good education. And that was the common ground.

And maybe that's where we start, Victor, going forward. BLACKWELL: Have to start somewhere. We'll see what these districts do.

If they think that requiring those mask mandates or the masks in schools are worth the fight with the state. That, we shall see.


Rosa Flores, for us in Broward County, thank you.

COVID is surging. And now millions of people are at risk of losing their homes. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are blaming one another. More on that next.


BLACKWELL: Just into CNN, we are learning that -- OK. We'll get back to that in just a moment.

Can we go with it now?

All right, so we're learning a third D.C. police officer who responded to the capitol insurrection on January 6th has died by suicide.

CNN law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild, is following this for us.

Do we have Whitney standing by or should we get to her later as well?


So let's get to Whitney in just a moment.

Let's go now to Athena Jones, who is watching the development in a suburban county in New York.

She's preparing -- they're preparing to vote on a new bill that would allow the police to sue protesters and collect financial damages. This is Nassau County.

First responders, including police officers, if this passes, would be able to sue individuals they believe harassed, injured, menaced or assaulted them, and seek damages up to $50,000.

Athena Jones is covering this one for us.

What's this about?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty remarkable and interesting. This is a debate that's going on right this minute as we're sitting here talking in Nassau County.

This is a county where, a couple of years ago, the legislature passed a bill that adds first responders, like police officers, to its people who were protected under its human rights law.

Those people are people who cannot be discriminated against. This bill would take the protections for them a step further. It would allow first responders -- they name police officers,

corrections officers, but other first responders as well -- to be able to bring a suit in civil court against an individual.

This could be a protester or it could just be a person on the street, who they believe has harassed, menaced, injured, or assaulted them.

Now, if a person -- if the individual is found to be in violation of this law, then they could be subject to a civil penalty, essentially a fine from the county, of $25,000.

That fine would be doubled, go up to $50,000, if this incident that occurred took place during a riot.

That's one thing. That's the civil penalty, the fine from the county.

Separately, this law would allow first responders, like police officers, to sue people for damages, a long list of other damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs.

There's no limit placed on the amount of monetary damages an individual police officer could get from an individual that they sue if this person is found to be in violation.

But there's another important point. And it says, if those -- if that happened during a riot, in that case, those damages could be tripled.

So, we're talking about potentially many thousands of dollars if this bill is signed into law and it's allowed to move forward.

Just so far in this hearing, that began a short while ago, at least this portion of the hearing, we're hearing from a lot of law enforcement officials and union members who are in support of this bill.

But critics say, look, this would hamper free speech and people's free exercise, people's ability to protest.

The bill itself is a short text. It does talk about the importance of the right to protest.

But there are a long list of people set to talk about this today and over the next few hours it could take.

And there's certainly going to be a lot of people who are saying, look, this bill is too broadly written and it would put too much hindrance on people's ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.

BLACKWELL: Harassed or menaced. Are there any specific incidents where they talk about potentially use of cell phone video from people who are standing by and watching?

JONES: It's very interesting. We haven't heard that yet. It's not part of the bill, not in the text.


JONES: No one, so far, at this hearing has mentioned cell phone video.

But we did hear from a member of law enforcement, who just said, police officers should not have to be subjected to verbal abuse.

So you can see here how people who are critics of this bill have a lot of questions about how are we defining these terms? How broad is this?

What is this going to mean for people who are out peacefully protesting or any number of people who may try to challenge a police officer if that officer says they feel harassed or menaced, you know, how is that going to work?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Malleable terms there.

Athena Jones, thank you.

JONES: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Let's go back to that story that I told you about at the top. The third D.C. police officer who responded to the capitol insurrection on January 6th dying by suicide.

CNN law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild, has this one.

What more can you tell us?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, what we know is that Officer Gunther Hashida joined the department in 2003. We also know that he responded to the U.S. capitol on January 6th.

The department -- I want to make absolutely clear, the department has not drawn any connection between his responding to the U.S. capitol and his eventual death by suicide.

But what this does, Victor, remind us of is that law enforcement is an incredibly difficult job. It comes with a very heavy burden.

We can't know, ever, what the complicated circumstances are behind suicide. It's impossible to just say it was one reason.

But I think it is, again, important to know that these officers undergo trauma on January 6th, they undergo trauma many days of their professional career when they serve in uniform.

The department telling us today that they are grieving as a department and their thoughts and prayers are with Officer Hashida's family and friends.

Victor, this is the third officer who responded to the capitol who died by suicide.

U.S. Capitol Officer Howie Liebengood as well as MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith both responded to the day of the insurrection, and both eventually took their own lives -- Victor? BLACKWELL: All right, Whitney Wild with that development. Thank you so



Millions of people are at risk of being homeless. What progressive lawmakers are doing in trying to bring back the eviction moratorium. We'll have that for you next.

Also, a programming note for you. What happens when your back-up plan becomes a way of life? Meet the real-life doomsday preppers. A CNN film, "THE BUNKER BOOM," Saturday night at 9:00 Eastern.



BLACKWELL: It's the beginning of the month, and the rent is due. Millions of people across the country are facing possible evictions now that a federal moratorium put in place during the pandemic has expired.

Some progressive Democrats are now pressuring party leadership to act.

Over the weekend, activists and members of Congress camped outside the capitol demanding the House reconvene to extend the eviction ban.

CNN's Jessica Dean is following this one for us.

With the House on recess, where does this go?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's the perfect question, Victor, because millions of people now facing eviction, and right now there's a lot of kind of the blame game going on.

I was just outside with Congresswoman Cori Bush. She's on the steps. She says that to her best guess there are about three to 15 votes short that they would need get this passed.

As you mentioned, they're out of recess. So the House taking action on this doesn't look likely at all.

Then it would have to go to the Senate where they're tied up with infrastructure right now. That's kind of the legislative piece of this.

We just got a statement from the White House listing what they're going to be trying to do to help people.

Remember there's about $47 billion that's already been allocated that's just sitting out there that has not really been distributed to both renters and also landlords to help kind of ease this financial burden for people.

We're told about $3 billion of that has been allocated. You can imagine there's a lot of money sitting out there.

And the White House wants to get to the bottom at the request of Congress as to why it's not being distributed more quickly.

They're also urging state and local governments to extend eviction moratoriums on a local level and try to kind of get this moving, this money moving quicker to people who need it.

But at this point, no one has exactly the right answer as to how to extend this eviction moratorium.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hoped the CDC would be able to do that. The Biden White House believes that, because of a Supreme Court ruling, that is not a legally viable way to do this.

They're a little bit stuck as to what can happen.

What we do know is that this ran out on top of them, and nobody was doing any -- there was nothing that could be done by the time it ran out.

Millions of people at risk of being evicted. And all of the different branches of government trying to figure out exactly how to make it work. We shall see.

Again, Cori Bush still trying to get her point across -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right. Jessica Dean for us. Jessica, thank you so much.

The first day of school in Orange County, Florida, is just a few days away, August 10th. An executive order that signed Friday by the governor, Ron DeSantis, he threatened to withhold money if schools implement a mask mandate.

Barbara Jenkins is the superintendent for Orange County Public Schools.

Thank you so much for being with us.

We know that your district, the tenth largest in the country, more than 200,000 students, should there be considering the CDC guidance, mandatory masks for schools in Orange County?

BARBARA JENKINS, SUPERINTENDENT, ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: So as you mentioned, it's really no longer an issue because the governor's executive order basically took any of that local control away.

I will tell you our board had moved on a policy to make it optional for students to wear masks.

We also had an escape clause that if we saw a need, the superintendent under authority vested in me by the board would be able to make adjustments, as well. And the school board could also make adjustments.

All of that is no longer on the table due to the executive order from the governor.

BLACKWELL: So, Madam Superintendent, you say that it's not on the table, it's not an issue.

Your counterparts in Miami-Dade and in Broward County are now considering what their options are considering the order signed by the governor.

Is that not a process that's happening in Orange County? Do you not see an opportunity that if the conditions suggest it's necessary that you would challenge the order from the governor?

JENKINS: So what you will hear from legal advisers all over the state is that the governor's order includes withholding financial means to districts who disregard his order.

Our attorneys and those even in south Florida who we've been having discussions with seem pretty clear that I suppose there could be a test case for someone who wanted to take it to court.

But we believe -- our legal advisers say it's pretty much a moot point at this hour.

BLACKWELL: So short of the mask mandates, what are you doing there in Orange County to protect students? And teachers, I should say.

JENKINS: Absolutely. All of our employees -- in fact, I will tell you our greatest effort is around vaccination.


We actually have a $200 incentive that we just announced on Friday for employees to get vaccinated if they've not already been vaccinated.

If you provide that proof, evidence that you have been fully vaccinated, then we will give you a $200 incentive from funds that the president asked that individual districts and areas would consider.