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Arizona Republic Obtains Records Showing Trump's White House Tried To Call Maricopa County Election Official After Loss; Capitol Rioter Accompanied Members Of Congress On Trip; Sha'Carri Richardson Suspended From U.S. Olympic Team After Positive Marijuana Test. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 02, 2021 - 21:00   ET




STEVEN FERREIRO, HELPING OTHERS AND GIVING HOPE: It's very hard to keep it a - a straight face. But for those families, you have to, you know? You have to make sure you're giving them hope.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Yes, it is all about hope. And our hearts go out to all those in Surfside, tonight.

That is all for us. The news continues. Time for "PRIME TIME" and good man, Michael Smerconish.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Thank you for that, John.

I am Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Cuomo.

You remember Donald Trump's call to the Secretary of State in Georgia, to find him votes? Well, apparently he was trying to do the same thing in Arizona.

There's new evidence, surfacing tonight, of more reported behind-the- scenes efforts, by Trump, and his allies, to pressure state election officials, to help him retain the presidency. This was all back in the weeks, after the 2020 election.

You remember this in Georgia?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


SMERCONISH: "The Arizona Republic" has now obtained new records, via a public information request, that show how Trump, his former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Arizona State GOP Chair tried to pressure Maricopa County supervisors, overseeing the election results.

Maricopa is Arizona's most populous county. The county supervisors there reportedly got texts and phone calls, as votes were being counted, and also later as the votes were being contested.

Here are two of those voicemails from Rudy Giuliani, one to Clint Hickman, who was the Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, at the time, and another to Supervisor Bill Gates.

Please note that the music you'll hear, underneath the call, was added by "The Arizona Republic," in their online story.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: Hey, Clint. It's Rudy Giuliani. I was very happy to see that there's going to be a forensic audit of the machines. And I really wanted to talk to you about it a bit. The President wanted me to give you a call. All right? Thank you. Give me a call back. I'd really appreciate it. Thank you.

Bill, it's Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer. If you get a chance, would you please give me a call? I have a few things I would like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up.

You know, I really think it's a shame that Republicans sort of are both in this kind of situation. And I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody. So, give me a call, Bill. I'm on this number. Any time doesn't matter. OK? Take care. Bye.


SMERCONISH: Here's another from Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward to Clint Hickman.


KELLI WARD, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: Hey, Clint. It's Kelli Ward. I just talked to President Trump. And he's - he would like me to talk to you and also see if he needs to give you a call to discuss what's happening on the ground in Maricopa. Give me a call back when you can. Thanks. Bye.


SMERCONISH: Hickman told "The Arizona Republic" he believed Trump was going to ask him to change the results of the 2020 election or promote other election-based conspiracy theories. So, he decided not to return the President's call.

Another supervisor tells the paper he didn't return two calls from the White House switchboard operator, who indicated then-President Trump wanted to speak with him.

Kelli Ward didn't respond for comment to "The Arizona Republic." CNN reached out but hasn't heard back yet. We've also reached out to Rudy Giuliani, for comment, and are still waiting.

But we just heard from former president Trump's team, via his spokeswoman, Liz Harrington.

Quote, "It's no surprise that Maricopa County election officials had no desire to look into significant irregularities during the election. They've refused to be open and honest about the presidential election, stonewalling a forensic audit for months, and are still hiding voting equipment and routers from auditors to this day. What do they have to hide?"

Reaction now to all of this, from the Secretary of State of Arizona, Democrat, Katie Hobbs, who's also running for governor.

Welcome to PRIME TIME. Does any of this surprise you?

KATIE HOBBS, (D) ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: No, it's not surprising. It's just - it's so maddening. I mean, we knew this was happening in Georgia. We suspected there were some attempts to undermine the election here. And now, we have it clearly in tapes.

And Arizona law makes it clear that interfering in election is against the law. And that is exactly what this appears to be.

SMERCONISH: Do you hear interference in those Giuliani voicemail messages? I mean is there anything proper about doing that? If he's representing the attorney and - pardon me, the President, and feels he's been aggrieved, can he make that call?

HOBBS: Well, look, there are proper channels. If you have legitimate concerns, about the election, there are proper channels to address those concerns. They tried that avenue. It didn't work for them. They went to court nine times with no evidence.

There really is no reason that you would be calling the supervisors, or other election officials, because that's not the proper channel at all, if you have concerns about an election.


SMERCONISH: Madam Secretary, you know the personalities. I do not. But I'm intrigued by Clint Hickman, because I read, in "The Arizona Republic," that he was a Trump supporter.

HOBBS: Right.

SMERCONISH: Had greeted the President on a tarmac, even had gotten a shout-out--


SMERCONISH: --at a Trump rally, and yet, would not return the President's telephone call, when these calls came.

HOBBS: These are people, who took an oath, to the Constitution of the United States, and the constitution laws of the State of Arizona, and they are doing their job, upholding their oath of office.

What we heard in the tape, with Secretary Brad Raffensperger, was clearly not appropriate.

And I applaud these gentlemen, for doing their job, despite the political pressure on them, and the potential consequences, for not responding to these interference attempts.

SMERCONISH: What's the status of the infamous audit?

HOBBS: That's a great question. It seems like it was supposed to end this week. And now, they've moved everything to another building, at the Fairgrounds.

So, this is just indicative of the fact that they don't know what they're doing. They're making it up as they go along. And that the longer they drag this out, the more they're able to continue fundraising off of this effort.

SMERCONISH: What voting equipment and routers are you hiding from the former president, as per the statement from his office that I just read?

HOBBS: Everything that was subject to the subpoena was turned over to the State Senate.

This is more misinformation, designed to deflect, and distract, and undermine the integrity of the election we conducted, and the integrity of the Board of Supervisors, who continues to do their job, the jobs they were elected to do.

SMERCONISH: "The Arizona Republic" has also reported about representatives of other states, including my own, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who've come looking at the audit, to the extent they are seeking to emulate what's been going on in your state. What would you tell them?

HOBBS: Well, we've been having conversations, across the country, with other election officials, both state and local. And they're all concerned about this type of - I mean, I cringe every time I hear someone say Arizona-style audit, because this certainly is not anything that belongs near elections.

It is not an audit. It is a sham. It is designed to continue to undermine the public's trust and confidence in our elections, and sow doubt on the results of the 2020 election, which was a free and fair election, and the results we certified were accurate.

So, there's a lot of concern about this spreading. And I think folks that are watching, are working to try to make sure that it doesn't happen elsewhere.

SMERCONISH: Madam Secretary, Katie Hobbs, thank you so much for being on PRIME TIME.

HOBBS: Thank you. SMERCONISH: A member of Congress, and a potentially key witness, at the January 6 investigation, just directly linked the Trump White House to comments like this.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day, American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


SMERCONISH: Republican Mo Brooks, in response to a lawsuit, filed by Democrat Eric Swalwell says, quote, "Brooks only gave an Ellipse Speech because the White House asked him to." And there was, quote, an agreement with the White House concerning speech parameters.

Former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams joins me now, to dig into the congressman's legal arguments.

A little bit of context, Elliot. First, so this is a civil suit. This is a private lawsuit filed by Eric Swalwell, against Mo Brooks, and others, seeking accountability for the events of January 6. Is the lawsuit viable?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. But here's the thing, it's not just Mo Brooks. It's Mo Brooks, the individual, in his personal capacity, not Mo Brooks, the congressman.

And the tricky question here, Michael, is where does, the man end, and the congressman begin? Now, Representative Swalwell's lawsuit claims that these are all statements that are made, in his personal capacity.

What Representative Brooks has said, in his filing today is "No, no, no, no, no. This happened during the workday. It happened on the grounds of Congress. I was driven there by a member of my staff. Therefore, this must have been an official act of me, as a congressman. And therefore, you can't sue me for it."

SMERCONISH: Elliott, you know that the discussion continues in the House of Representatives, about a congressional inquiry into January 6. In fact, I'll be talking about it in just a moment.


But, as a plaintiff's lawyer, as a trial lawyer myself, I look at this, and wonder, might the discovery phase, from this litigation, bear fruit?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, there's no question that it will, because there's open questions as to number one, as you teased in the beginning, what kinds of communications were there, between Representative Brooks and the White House?

Number two, what conversations were there between among members of Congress? Number three, what communications were there between the President and other members of Congress? And all of that's going to come out in litigation.

It's just this tricky question, like I said, of whether you can actually sue these people. And there's a - there's an expansive definition, as we saw just, I guess, a month ago, with Donald Trump, and the defamation suit that was claimed to be in his personal capacity, even though it was given at a press conference.

If you remember the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit, where he was alleged to have defamed someone, while in a White House press conference, it was claimed to be "Well, this isn't personal conduct. He's the President of the United States."

And courts and, frankly, the Justice Department right now, regard the definition of "In the scope of employment" quite broadly.

SMERCONISH: Start taking down names, and kicking ass, the words of the congressman on that day.


SMERCONISH: And in his response to Eric Swalwell, I may be able to put a full screen up that shows this, but I can tell you, he said, "Well, the context is important because the words of the sentence or the paragraph actually began "As such." And in context, when I talked about kicking ass, I was speaking of 2022 and 2024."

Your thoughts?

WILLIAMS: Oh, Lord, Michael! And thank you so much for putting that up on the screen. Because in Congressman Swalwell's suit, which I have right here, the context leading into that is where he says, "We're not going to let socialists rip out the heart of our country."

He's not talking about 2022. He's talking about trying to subvert the 2020 election. And it's nonsense and hairsplitting, to start saying that "Well, because I use the aside "As such," therefore, I could not have been possibly talking about 2020."

They're being cute. He's like, and again, he didn't even want to accept service of the lawsuit. If you remember, there was a bunch of stories a month ago that Eric Swalwell couldn't even find Mo Brooks.


WILLIAMS: They had to chase him down with private investigators.

So, this whole idea that now, in your first thing, you didn't want to accept it, and now "Well, I've accepted the suit, but I'm - I was acting in my personal capacity - in my official capacity," excuse me, they're just trying to avoid getting sued, I think.

SMERCONISH: It will be interesting to watch this unfold. Elliot Williams, thank you, as always.

WILLIAMS: Of course, Michael, have a great week. Happy Fourth. Take care. SMERCONISH: You too. Thank you.

Ahead, several Republican members of Congress weren't present for the vote this week, on a select committee, to investigate the Capitol attack. They were with someone, who took part in the insurrection that day.

But wait, there's more, and it's next.









SMERCONISH: More than a dozen Republican members of Congress didn't vote this week, to form a panel to investigate the attack that could have killed them, on January 6. Where were they? Nearly 2,000 miles away, on the Mexican border.

Tonight, we're learning who was with them, a Capitol rioter. Here he is, along with Colorado congresswoman, Lauren Boebert. His name is Anthony Aguero. He's a close ally of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. He's a YouTuber, who took part in the insurrection.

And he accompanied the GOP lawmakers. He even served as a translator for them, at times.

On January 6th, he entered the Capitol, chanted "Heave-ho!" along with others, and "This is our house!" We should note that Aguero has not been charged, and the FBI has declined to comment on whether it's investigating him.

But now, he's traveling around with U.S. lawmakers?

We still don't know much about the Republican lawmakers, in terms of who will make it on the new select committee, formed in the House, by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to investigate the attack.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy can fill five seats on the panel. He wouldn't say yesterday whether he will. Two GOP sources tell CNN they think that he will not.

As I see it, he has three options. Pick no one at all. Pick someone, who opposed certifying Biden's win, plenty of those, a 139 House Republicans voted to overturn the election. Or third option, pick a Republican, who didn't help push the big lie. But that would be going against most of his own party.

Speaker Pelosi won't say if she would veto any of McCarthy's picks. So, let's find out what Ron Brownstein and Charlie Dent foresee.

Gentlemen, I want some game theory here.

Charlie Dent, if he selects someone, a Republican, who voted not to certify Joe Biden's election, that would seem a conflict, when part of the task here, is to take a look at the causes of what went on January 6.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right, Michael. I think it is an enormous problem for Republicans. They don't want to be in this position.

Reason why they don't want the investigation? Because they don't want to have to sit there on a panel and find out what actually happened. Some of them, as you are well aware, could end up being witnesses, in this investigation. And so, that's another reason.

So, I don't - and who's Kevin McCarthy going to select? I mean, he could select Jim Jordan. I would not advise selecting, as has been reported, that under consideration, somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene. I can't imagine a worse look than that, or Matt Gaetz.

So, I think, in the end of the day, if he does select members, he will have to - he will select Trump loyalists, but not the most extreme ones, because that would be a disaster.

SMERCONISH: But Ron Brownstein, if he doesn't select someone, who opposed Joe Biden's election, by definition, he can't trust that person, right?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, look, I mean, the issue is not whether he selects someone who opposed it. It's whether any of the five didn't oppose it. I think that would be the only - the only question.

And he's already sent a strong signal, by suggesting that they may discipline Liz Cheney, for accepting an appointment, from Nancy Pelosi, by removing her, from her committees, when they have not done the same or disciplined Marjorie Taylor Greene.


And it does go to this kind of larger point that we talked about before, that I've written about before, which is that the extremist caucus in the party, whether measured among elected officials, in Congress, or among the voters themselves, has become too big, apparently, for the Republican leadership to confront.

And I think they are consistently sending the same message to the share of Republican voters, who are really uneasy about being in coalition, with QAnon sympathizers, or Proud Boys, that they are not going to stand up, and draw a bright line, kind of writing these forces out of the party, to some extent, the same way that Republicans in the 1960s did, with the John Birch Society.

SMERCONISH: OK, Charlie Dent, option three, he picks nobody.

DENT: Well, I think that would be a mistake as well. If you pick no one, well, then the Democrats, and of course, Liz Cheney, they will control the narrative. And then, I think if they're smart, the Democrats will be smart about this, they'll try to be very fair and balanced in the investigation.

Obviously, an independent commission would have been preferable. But the attack on the select committee will be that it's a partisan witch- hunt. So, it'll be incumbent upon the Democrats to be balanced.

But I think it would be a terrible mistake for the GOP not to be represented on that committee, other than Liz Cheney, because if they want to make - if they want to make their arguments, well, that will be the place to do it.

So, I do think that he'll--


DENT: --he'll have tremendous pressure to appoint people.

SMERCONISH: Ron Brownstein, now look at it through the lens of Speaker Pelosi, does she exercise her veto? Who does she want on that panel?

BROWNSTEIN: I think she's going to be reluctant to veto, because of the points that Charlie mentioned, that Republicans right away will be accusing this of being - of being biased.

I think Democrats would be best served by kind of Republicans, who honestly want to seek the truth, as with the country. The challenge we have, I mean, there are so many stories, one after the other.

I mean, you were talking at the beginning of this show, the revelations today, in Arizona, about the pressure that the President put on Maricopa County, after the election, the accounts a few weeks ago, on the revelations that the Justice Department sought subpoenaing communications that are not only for journalists, but for Democratic members of Congress.

I talked to John Dean, our colleague, a few weeks ago. And he noted that we knew so much more, we had so much of an, greater encyclopedic knowledge, of Richard Nixon's abuses of power, when he left office, than we do have of Trump's. And Trump might seek to re-obtain those powers again, in 2024.

And all of this to me, Michael, just underscores the need for kind of a more systematic understanding of what Trump did with executive authority, and all of the ways, in which he may have abused it.

SMERCONISH: Ron, I agree.

Charlie, you get the final word. The question is would anybody care? I mean half the country will care. But no matter what those findings might show, I worry that a huge segment of our population that they don't give a damn.

DENT: Well, that's true, Michael. I think a lot of people have made up their minds. They've been - they've been told that the election has been stolen, and that no amount of facts or evidence is going to change their minds.

And that's the tragedy of this whole event, of the stolen election narrative, it has undermined the American - much of the American public's confidence, in our electoral process, and in our democratic institutions itself. That is the problem here.

So, but we do need this investigation. We need to find out the facts and the truth. And this is the only game in town right now. It's the select committee. And again, not ideal, we would prefer the commission. But there are many, sadly, on the Republican side, who don't want to delve into this.

That's where we are. And I think it's tragic for the country. But I'm hoping that they can come up with some meaningful findings that can help improve our situation, in this country.

SMERCONISH: Charlie, Ron, enjoy the Fourth. You know we love having you here. Thank you.


DENT: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Happy holiday.

DENT: Happy Fourth.


Heading into the long holiday weekend, what a difference a year makes? The Fourth of July, we can celebrate together again. President Biden won't reach his vaccine goal by this weekend. But where does the immunization efforts stand now?

Wizard of Odds, he's got the numbers, and he's here next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: Travel's back with a bang. And experts say the numbers this weekend could break pre-pandemic records.

AAA says it expects more than 43 million Americans to hit the road this weekend. That's the largest number ever. While TSA says it expects to surpass the record-setting 2.17 million passengers, who were screened last Sunday.

So, let's take a step back, considering where we were last year. These headlines speak for themselves. COVID cases skyrocketing, health experts were pleading with Americans to skip parties and stay home.

So much progress has been made. But keep in mind we've still got a long way to go.

Let's discuss with the Wizard of Odds. Harry Enten is here.

Harry, President Biden acknowledged we're not going to hit his vaccination goal, by Independence Day. Where are we now on that front?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, I mean, look, we're going to get to 67 percent right, of adults with at least one vaccination. He was hoping to hit 70 percent. So, we're going to fall just short of that.

But what's important to point out is there's just such a difference, across the country, in terms of vaccination rates.

You can see the highlighted states in your screen right now, those states 20 and all have hit 70 percent-plus, they are all states that Joe Biden won last year.

So essentially, we have a divided country whereby the Blue states have reached the goal that Biden set, while none of the Red states have.

SMERCONISH: Where do those more contagious variants that we're reading about factor in?


ENTEN: Yes, so look, if we look right now, at the case rates, right, what we do see is in fact, across the country, that you see a lot of red on your screen, right? 19 states, cases are up over the last week.

We have been seeing a lot more green than red. No longer do we see that. That's because of the Delta variant. Cases are up 10 percent from last week.

But what's so important to point out, Michael is that even though cases are up, look at the long trend line.

And this really sort of tells the story. And it's a good story, I think. If this map is a bad story, this slide is a good story. Even though cases are up, it's still a fraction of where we were, at the beginning of the year. So yes, let's see where we are, later down the road, as the Delta

variant begins to take charge, and becomes the dominant variant, in this country. But at least right now, cases are significantly lower than they were, on January 1.

SMERCONISH: Harry, variants notwithstanding, people, as I just referenced, are traveling in big numbers.

ENTEN: Oh, and they are traveling in huge numbers.

Just look at the number of TSA check-ins that we had, on July of 1 that was yesterday, 2.15 million. That is well above last year at 764,000. But it's also above the same point in 2019, when it was just 2.09 million. That is the first time the first day, in this entire pandemic, where we beat the 2019 baseline.

So, there is no doubt that people are traveling. They feel comfortable traveling. And they're traveling, as you mentioned earlier on, in record numbers.

SMERCONISH: Yes, pent-up demand.

How about the jobs report? It was released this morning. Seems like a positive step. What do you see in those numbers?

ENTEN: A lot of this story that we've been talking about is a good number and a bad number, right? And I think the jobs report is very indicative of that, right?

So, what we saw was, look at that, 850,000 new non-farm jobs. That is up from the growth that we saw in May, when it was just a jump of 583,000. But here's the bad news. Look at the labor force participation rate. It's the same in June, as it was in May.

And we are not yet back to this, pre-pandemic levels. So, there still are a number of people, who are staying out of the workforce, who are previously in the workforce.


ENTEN: And I think the real question we have to get to is what can we do to get those people back in it?

SMERCONISH: Yes, it's a subject I talk about constantly on radio.

Harry, have a great weekend. Thank you for being here.

ENTEN: You too, my friend.

SMERCONISH: America is open. So, let's celebrate this July 4th.

You can join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera, for a night full of star-studded musical performances, and fireworks, in cities all across the country. It all begins Sunday 7 P.M., right here on CNN. The Supreme Court closing out its term this week, with the spotlight turning to one of its own, the Court's senior liberal justice, Stephen Breyer. He's now facing calls to retire, so that Democrats can install a replacement, this summer. Will the 82-year-old jurist yield to the pressure?

Nobody knows the ins and outs of the court better than Joan Biskupic. Stay with us.









SMERCONISH: The Supreme Court issued its final opinions of the term. But the spotlight remains on the judicial branch. In fact, it's increasing for Justice Stephen Breyer.

It speaks to just how thin the margins are for the Left that some of the loudest voices in the Democratic Party say the best thing that the court's longest-serving liberal can do is retire.

Remember, Mitch McConnell already said he won't let Biden fill a seat, if Republicans win back the Senate, in 2022. And with a 50-50 Senate, Democrats stand just one sudden illness or accident away from that reality coming sooner.

Few know the state of play on the High Court better than Joan Biskupic, who joins me now.

Thanks so much for being here. Has the Justice himself given any indication that he's open to this conversation?


The Justice has given us several indications here. But they all go in the direction that Democrats don't like right now.

He's hired his four clerks for the next term. He's scheduled to promote a book in September, as a sitting justice. The book is about keeping the judiciary away from politics.

He's had a really good run as the senior liberal justice for the first time. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed in 1993. And he came on in 1994. So until last fall, he was always number two to her. And right now, he's the senior liberal, and kind of feels a little bit

more empowered, although, as you know well, the liberals really have a weak hand, on this Supreme Court.

So, I think he feels like he's in a good place. Democrats really don't want him to feel like he's in a good place right now, because they're worried about this one-vote majority in the Senate.

I think what Justice Breyer believes is that he has a whole another year to do it. Because, as you know, Michael, the midterms in November, of 2022, should mean that the Senate stays the way it is now, with the Democratic majority. But the risk, of course, is a sudden death.

SMERCONISH: I'm glad that you referenced RBG, because you've reminded me of reporting. It may have been Joan Biskupic's, for all I recall that at a certain point, President Obama had tried to sort of ease her on this path.

And the question that I would ask is A, is my memory accurate, and B, do you think that there's a roadmap there for President Biden, or would they, at the White House today, not want to touch this subject?

BISKUPIC: You're remembering right, Michael.

I had gotten a tip that President Obama had invited her to lunch, to sort of feel her out, to see if maybe she would go, while he was still in office, and the Senate was still Democratic. This was back in 2013.

So, she goes to lunch. And I ask her about it because I saw her then the following summer.

And I said, "Well, you know, do you think he was fishing to find out about your retirement plans?"

And she said to me, "No, I don't think he was fishing."

And I said, "Well, why do you think he invited you?"

And she said, "Well, maybe because he likes me. I like him."


And it was - she was her usual RBG-self in the conversation. But as you know, she was not going to - she was not going to be pressured off the court.

And I think she almost made it, you know? She thought she just had to make it to 2016 or January 2017. She had presumed, like so many other people that Hillary Clinton would win.

And then Donald Trump wins. And she almost gets to the end of his tenure, but unfortunately, had passed away in September, last year, meaning that President Trump got his third very crucial appointment of Amy Coney Barrett.

And Justice Stephen Breyer witnessed all that. But I think he - I don't - he has not said a word, about what his plan is.

But every signal I'm seeing, and you know, how I stay very close to that institution, is that he's not going to go this weekend. He probably won't go this month. The pressure is going to get louder. So, he'll probably keep thinking about it through summer.

But every indication is that he would stay another term. Now, he knows that it would be a risk for the Senate, especially after the November 2022 elections. So he probably, again, this is my speculation that if he doesn't go now, he would go next spring, announce next spring, and then leave at the end of next June.

But so many Democrats feel that's risky. And they also don't want Mitch McConnell to use the potential vacancy, as the campaign issue, not for a presidential election cycle this time, as he did in 2016, but for the midterm elections, in 2022.

SMERCONISH: Quick final question. Does a decision like yesterday's 6-3 voting rights case, the Arizona case, crystallize this, put increased pressure, on Justice Breyer?

BISKUPIC: You know, Michael? I would think that he would see - that being part of that decision, and he knows John Roberts very well. And he knows how John Roberts is, on things like voting rights.

But I believe Justice Breyer would not be looking so much at yesterday's decision, as much as he would be looking at the consensus decisions, on Obamacare, on religion that we got this year.

Stephen Breyer cut his teeth in the legislative branch, working as an aide, to the late Senator Teddy Kennedy. And he believes in that kind of process. He might be way too optimistic for Washington, the way it is these days, Michael. But he actually believes that you can work across the aisle, and that you can work across ideologies.

So, I don't think he's thinking very much about yesterday's decision, which talk about a big bang, talk about going out, really, in a defining way, the two decisions that we got from the Roberts' Court yesterday.

I think he's more thinking about the long game, thinking about maybe the abortion rights case, coming next term, the gun rights case, coming next term, thinking that he might be effective, in negotiating to get a bit of a consensus ruling. But that's a very optimistic point of view. But that's him. That's him.

SMERCONISH: Joan, thank you so much for the expertise. We always appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Did you hear about rising track star Sha'Carri Richardson? Her Olympic future now in doubt, after she tested positive for marijuana.

Is her punishment too harsh? We'll take it up with Christine Brennan. That's next.









SMERCONISH: Controversy growing tonight, over the one-month suspension of track star, Sha'Carri Richardson, from the U.S. Olympic team. The reason? Testing positive for marijuana.

As punishment, her Olympic trial results, which deemed her the fastest woman in America, will now be disqualified. That means that she won't be able to participate in her signature 100 meter race, in Tokyo, later this month.

While Richardson says she turned to the drug, to help her cope, with the unexpected death of her biological mom, she didn't fight the decision.


SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, U.S. TRACK & FIELD SPRINTER: I apologize. As much as I'm disappointed, I know that when I step on the track, I don't represent myself. I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love.

And so, I apologize for the fact that I didn't know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.


SMERCONISH: Christine Brennan, CNN Sports Analyst joins me now.

Christine, weed is legal in Oregon. Where's the beef?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: It's a sad story. It's unfortunate. It's heartbreaking.

And those words came from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the drug police, the drug cops, Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, who enforces these laws. He said - he's the one that said it's heart-breaking.

The law, the rules, within the World Anti-Doping Agency, are that marijuana is illegal. And if you take it at a certain dosage, and by the way, they have changed that over the years, so it's pretty high dosage, you can be suspended, and if you're caught, and that's exactly what happened here. And everyone's scratching their heads.

You're right. My guess is, in the next few years, we may see that change. Unfortunately, that will be too late, for Sha'Carri.

And her brilliant performance, at the Olympic Trials has been wiped out. Whether she can make it in the 4x100m relay, salvage a little bit of her Olympic dream this time around, we don't know yet. But this is just a - really, it's a sports tragedy. It's so unfortunate.

But to her great credit, she didn't deny it, like so many others have, Lance Armstrong, and others. You remember, everyone remembers, these clowns that just made up, made "The dog ate my homework" made-up stories.

Here's a class act, who owned it. And even though it's a difficult decision, she did not lie. She did not say she didn't do it. What a great credit to her. And what we're learning about her, as I said, what a class act she is, at this most difficult time, in her career.

SMERCONISH: I too appreciated the way, in which she handled it, and the statement that she offered, which we aired a moment ago.


Here's my question. Is it regarded as a performance enhancer? I mean, I guess it's a function of whether it's Indica or Sativa, whether it's going to be dulling your senses, or sharpening them. But is that the problem? Is it perceived that way?

BRENNAN: That's part of the issue, Michael. Another part of it is and, by the way, there's disagreement on that, as you can imagine, in the scientific world, whether or not it's a performance enhancement, which would then of course make sense that it be or whether it isn't.

There's also the question about just the health of the athlete, who might be taking it, as was pointed out to me by Travis Tygart, who is the man, who caught the worst cheater, in sports history, Lance Armstrong, and brought him to justice.

As Travis said, you don't want a downhill skier, going 90 miles per hour, with - well high, with marijuana in their system. There is danger obviously, in some sports, if you were taking marijuana, and competing. And that's a key part of this.

By the way, I'm not defending it. I'm explaining it, obviously, as someone who's covered the Olympics, for a long time.

But that's the key point here. It is - well you can only test positive for marijuana, during competition. If she had taken this in February, no problem. If she had taken - has marijuana in March, no problem.

It was that she took it at this exact moment. Of course, she said, it's because of her emotional and mental state.

SMERCONISH: Her mom died, yes.

BRENNAN: Her biological mother had passed away.

SMERCONISH: I hope she makes the relay.

Christine Brennan, thanks so much for being here.

BRENNAN: Michael, thank you.

SMERCONISH: Search and rescue efforts continue in Surfside, Florida. But there are new challenges. Engineers are working on a plan to now demolish the rest of the collapsed condo. And a hurricane is threatening South Florida, in the coming days.

An update from Surfside Mayor is next.









SMERCONISH: A demolition order has been issued, for what's left of Champlain Towers South, in Surfside, Florida.

A county lawyer says the building is behaving like it may collapse. This, as search and rescue crews continue to find bodies. Today, they recovered a 7-year-old girl, compounding the heart-break, her father is a firefighter, who was working elsewhere on the site.

It's all being complicated by a hurricane looming, and the fear that the rest of the building may come down. The death toll now stands at 22 confirmed. A possible 126 bodies may still be under that rubble. One of those saying it would be better to demolish the building, and push it in the direction, officials want it to go.

Surfside Mayor, Charles Burkett, who joins me now, on the telephone.

Mayor Burkett, thank you for being here. Can you proceed with demolition before the rescue mission, before the recovery mission is concluded?

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA (on the phone): The Mayor, the Dade County mayors, engineers do not think that can be accomplished.

SMERCONISH: So, how will this play out?

BURKETT: Well, we're going to have to cross our fingers, and hope that this hurricane, or this potential hurricane that could strike Surfside, will not blow the building down, in the direction of the pile with the victims inside.

SMERCONISH: OK, but if we get past the hurricane, then does demolition begin, before the recovery mission has ended?

BURKETT: No, no, not necessarily. It could be going on, at the same time. The recovery, everybody is on the same page with the recovery.

I've said from the very beginning, we have really two jobs. One job is to get everybody out of that rubble, as fast as possible and, two, is to support the families. Everything else is secondary and less important.

The issue with the tower, the remaining tower, is that it creates a dangerous situation, for the workers, in that there's debris falling from it.

So, I imagine if it were to be demolished, the demolition preparation could take place, while the crews are working. And during the time, the building was actually collapsing, the workers would obviously have to step away. But immediately following the collapse, the workers could re-engage.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, how about the fate of the North tower? Has it been fully inspected to your satisfaction? And if not, when will it be?

BURKETT: Well, I was getting calls from the residents, in the Champlain North, who told me, or asked me whether - whether or not the building was safe. And I couldn't answer that question.

We put our building officials in there. They walked through it. They didn't see anything terrible that jumped out at them.

But having said that, they prescribed a full top-to-bottom forensic investigation of the structural systems. That is starting very shortly, and will involve X-ray in columns, to see what the quantity of steel is, in those columns, among other testing, they'll do.

Once that testing is done, it will go to the lab, or their computer systems, for about three weeks of modeling, at which time, they tell us, they'll be able to give us a very good indication, as to whether there's a problem or not. In the meanwhile, we were going to--

SMERCONISH: And during that time period - yes?

BURKETT: Yes, in the meanwhile, we'll be offering to any resident that feels uncomfortable, with living in the building, alternate housing. I wouldn't be comfortable, staying in that building, personally. But there are people, who have said they intend to stay, during the testing phase.

SMERCONISH: Mayor Charles Burkett, thank you for being here. We wish you the best.

BURKETT: My pleasure. Thank you for your prayers.

SMERCONISH: That's it for us tonight. The news continues now, here on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN Special Report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple Capitol injuries. Multiple Capitol injuries.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An assault on democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Capitol has been breached.