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Biden Blasts Texas Abortion Law As "Almost Un-American"; Biden Orders Declassification Review Of 9/11 Documents; California Parole Board Panel Recommends Granting Parole To RFK's Assassin. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 03, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: News continues right now. Let's hand things over to Michael Smerconish, who's in for Chris Cuomo tonight.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you.

I am Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Who would have thought that Texas would come along, and make the Mississippi abortion restriction look reasonable?

But that's where we are, after the Lone Star State enacted a law that bans abortion after just six weeks, a time period so early that many women don't yet know they're pregnant. It contains no exceptions for rape or incest and incentivizes citizens to sue abortion providers.

The Supreme Court has allowed this extreme legislation to stand, for now, even though it's a glaring affront to Roe versus Wade, some say, a precursor to overturning it.

Roe and the cases that followed made it illegal to ban abortions, before the point of viability, around 24 weeks, a far cry from Mississippi's 15-week restriction, and Texas is a full 18 weeks, before the current standard.

President Biden called the Texas law "Un-American" today, in his first on-camera words, about it, and is looking for ways for his Justice Department to limit it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The most pernicious thing about the Texas law, it sort of creates a vigilante system, where people get rewards to go out to - anyway.

And it just seems, I know this sounds ridiculous, almost un-American.

I was told that there are possibilities, within the existing law, to have the Justice Department look, and see, whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals, in enforcing a federal sys- - a state law.


SMERCONISH: The Senate Judiciary Committee now plans to hold a hearing, examining not only the law, but also the High Court's decision to allow it to take effect.

In a scathing rebuke today, Democratic Chair Dick Durbin argued, "The Court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency. We must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect, but also the conservative Court's abuse of the shadow docket."

The "Shadow docket" is a term to describe the use of emergency orders without oral arguments. This was a 5-4 opinion. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, alongside the three liberal members of the court.

Speaker Pelosi now promising a vote to codify Roe versus Wade, as federal law, in case it's ever overturned, but would Democrats ever be able to get that through in a 50/50 Senate? Not without a 60-vote threshold? Not unless they eliminated the filibuster. And we know that senators Manchin and Sinema have been unswayed on that, so far.

In the meantime, the Texas law will stand, while the battle over its legality continues. As pointed out by Amy Howe's SCOTUSblog, what makes the Texas case, so vexing to opponents is the way, in which it was crafted.

"To make it harder to challenge the law in court, particularly before it went into effect, the Texas law does not rely on government officials to enforce the ban. Instead, it deputizes private individuals, to bring lawsuits against anyone, who either provides or "aids or abets" an abortion, and it establishes an award of $10,000 for a successful lawsuit."

And so, there will probably not be a final ruling, on Texas, until the court is called upon to rule, after a private citizen sues someone, for violating the abortion ban, only to have the defendant cite the Roe decision.

Think empowering "Dog the Bounty Hunter," to enforce a state's law, and where that kind of precedent could lead beyond the abortion realm?

At risk for lawsuits? Drivers, who could take a woman to a clinic, for an abortion, in Texas.

But listen to this. Lyft's CEO says his company has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund, to cover 100 percent of legal fees, for any driver sued, under this law, while driving with Lyft.

He calls Texas' Senate Bill 8 "An attack on women's access to health care and on their right to choose," and Lyft will donate "$1 million to Planned Parenthood to ensure that transportation is never a barrier to health care access."

He also says, "We encourage other companies to join us." And already, they are.

Uber's CEO says "Drivers shouldn't be put at risk, for getting people, where they want to go. Team Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push."

Reaction now from our first guest, Nancy Northup, is the President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a group devoted to protecting a woman's right to choose.

Nancy, welcome to PRIME TIME. Are we yet seeing this impact, at a granular level, meaning at the clinics themselves, in Texas?

NANCY NORTHUP, PRESIDENT & CEO, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Oh, yes. It has been a devastating two days, since the Supreme Court turned its back, on women, pregnant people, the Constitution, the rule of law.


And, of course, it's - clinics are - they're open. So, I want people in Texas, to know they should call their clinics. They're open. But they're complying, which means they can only provide abortions, earlier than six weeks.

And the people, who are hurt hardest by this law, are those who already have barriers, to accessing access to health care. So, that is Black, Indigenous, people of color, people in rural communities, undocumented immigrants.

There are internal checkpoints in Texas, even with the means to leave their areas. They can get stopped by that, and not be able to leave the state. So, already we are seeing these really difficult impacts in Texas. And that is why we're looking at every legal means to challenge it.

It was a welcome announcement by Speaker Pelosi, that she's going to hold a vote, on the Women's Health Protection Act, which would address the Texas law, and the more than hundreds of laws that have been passed, in recent years, blocking access to abortion services, and to hear President Biden announce a whole-of-government response, and then to hear from the Vice President, and the Secretary of HHS, and the Attorney General.

So, we now have people very engaged in this. And the American public is engaged, you know? They're sending money to the abortions' funds. They're supporting the clinics. And so, this is not going to be something that anyone's going to just wait--


NORTHUP: --till the Court of Appeals steps in.

SMERCONISH: I needed--

NORTHUP: People are acting now. SMERCONISH: I need to get your - I need to get your quick reaction to what make this so unique. It's not just the six weeks. It's not just the lack of an exception for rape or incest. But it is this I call it, the "Bounty hunter" aspect of it. Where might that lead in a way that concerns you?

NORTHUP: Absolutely. I mean, what Texas has done is to offload its responsibilities, to protect the Constitution, and empower individuals, to be bounty hunters. The $10,000 is a minimum. A court could impose more fees, but also attorneys' fees, on the people, who are sued.

And this was not going to be limited to abortion, where the court, to hold it up. It means that any constitutional individual right could be on the chopping block.

Texas could deny people the right to vote, and say, "But we're just going to empower private individuals to do this," or the right of kids to get education, a whole host of individual rights. And so, this is a travesty.

SMERCONISH: Well be careful - and, be careful, I would say - I would say to Red state folks, "Be careful what you wish for," because there could be a corollary in a Blue state, where similarly something that's an affront to conservatives would be rewarded with litigation.

I wish I had more time. I've got to run. But Nancy Northup, thank you so much for being here.

NORTHUP: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: From the legal, now to the political, the Texas law seems to be a win for Republicans, right now. But will it be for the long run?

I want to bring in Ashley Allison, and Charlie Dent.

You know, Charlie? I didn't recognize you come from this pedigree of Republicans, who will stand up, and oppose their party, on the abortion issue. I never knew that Mary Crisp Dent - Mary Dent Crisp, I should say, was an aunt of yours.

Please explain what happened in 1980.


She was Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, at the time, and leading Republican, from Arizona, grew up in Pennsylvania. But she objected to the party's position, to turn its back on, what was then the Equal Rights Amendment, and also women's reproductive rights.

And at the 1980 Republican Convention, in Detroit, she basically resigned, and walked out, over the whole issue. And she warned at the time that this was going to cost Republicans, a lot of women voters, and there'd be deep political consequences.

And she was right, because there's been a gender gap, ever since. And laws like this one, we've just seen passed in Texas, will only further widen that gender gap, and turn it into a massive canyon.

SMERCONISH: Right. But I have to point out, I mean, what you're - what you're saying is that your aunt objected, to the GOP, going full on pro-life, in the platform, in 1980.

DENT: Correct.

SMERCONISH: But Ashley, I'll direct - I'll direct this to you. Ronald Reagan then won in a landslide. So, maybe this is not all doom and gloom for the GOP?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER NATIONAL COALITION DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEMBER: Well, I think it's important to realize that from Reagan, to Bush, to Clinton, people's views on abortion have drastically shifted.

If you look back to 2000, and 2004, George W. Bush really ran on as abortion as an issue that really actually pulled some Democrats, moderate African Americans, people, moderate Democrats, to vote for him. Of course, there are a whole host of issues that we could discuss about that election.

But from that point on, until present day, the overwhelming majority, even Republican, and particularly Republican women, support a woman's right to choose. They see it as a form of health care, as a form of reproductive rights.


And so, I do think there is a part of the Republican base that is pro- life, and will never want a woman to have a right to choose, over her own reproductive health. But women are half of this country. And over 60 percent of people believe in that the Texas law is not a good law.

People aren't necessarily paying attention to how the Supreme Court did it. But I do think if this becomes an issue, in 2022, it is an issue that Democrats should run on, and should not be afraid of, because it is our body, our choice.

SMERCONISH: Well, Charlie, to Ashley's point, here's the latest polling data, Quinnipiac, from Texas, 49 percent, we'll put it on the screen, oppose this law.

When you then look nationwide, and it's an NBC survey, 54 percent believe that abortion should be legal, in all or most cases. That would suggest that it's the Democratic Party that has a winning hand on this Texas issue.

But where in lies the passion? Who's really going to come out to vote, because of an issue like this?

DENT: Well, I think where this is going to hurt - where this law is going to hurt the GOP is with educated suburban women.

Michael, you're from the suburban Philadelphia area. You know what I'm talking about. Republicans have been just--


DENT: --have been just hemorrhaging voters, in the suburbs. And an issue like this will further compound the problem. So sure, this law may help some Republicans, in some Ruby Red districts. But in the swing districts that Republicans need to win back, this issue is a major setback.

I mean no exceptions for rape or incest, it effectively bans abortion that's in six weeks, I mean, the bounty provision, or the snitch provision, or the informer provision, these are, I mean, there's kind of an eerily Orwellian feature, to this thing.

It just doesn't, you know, most people who aren't obsessed with this issue, are going to look at this, I mentioned, like, it's like the Terri Schiavo issue, like, "Why are they doing this?"

Why are they getting involved with issues that really defy common sense, and just that really, are offensive to many people's sensibilities? Whether you're for abortion or not--

SMERCONISH: Well it remains to be--

DENT: Most, yes, most Americans--

SMERCONISH: Yes. I was going to say it remains to be seen historically.

I think that Republicans have cared more about the courts. I mean, look at Donald Trump's influence. Three justices on the Supreme Court, or this would not have gone the way that it did.

I wish I had more time for Ashley Allison and Charlie Dent. Have a great weekend. And thank you both for being here.

DENT: Take care, Michael.

SMERCONISH: The 20th anniversary of 9/11, one week from tomorrow, there are some survivors, and families of victims, who didn't want President Biden, to visit Ground Zero, next week, until they got more answers on who was behind the attack. Well, they may soon be about to get that information.

A major update tonight, President Biden has just moved to try and declassify certain documents. So, we've brought back a 9/11 family member, to get his take, next.



(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:15:00]





SMERCONISH: Ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, today, the President issued a new executive order that directs the Justice Department, and other federal agencies, to review and possibly declassify documents, related to the FBI's investigation of the attacks.

The order requires the Attorney General to release any declassified documents, publicly, over the next six months. This comes, of course, after a wave of pressure, from 9/11 family members.

More than 1,600 signed a letter, last month, calling on President Biden, to refrain from going to Ground Zero, this year, if he didn't first release more records. Why? Well, the victims' families believe these documents will implicate Saudi officials, in the attack.

You may recall Brett Eagleson. He spoke to me, last month, about what these documents would mean to him. His father, Bruce, died, at the World Trade Center.


BRETT EAGLESON, 9/11 FAMILY MEMBER: We need the President to be our hero. Be our hero, be our champion, Mr. President. This is a direct appeal to you. Help us in this fight. Stand by our side. Allow us to have the justice and closure that we deserve.


SMERCONISH: Brett Eagleson joins me again now.

Brett, are you satisfied tonight?

EAGLESON: Well, thank you again for having me on.

And I think I'm going to withhold those sentiments, until we have documents, in hand, fully unredacted. I think that the President made a great first step today. This is a historic moment, and a historic first step. But the job is not done.

And I hope the President can appreciate and realize that we've been beaten up, and battered, for 20 years. We've been lied to by former sitting presidents. And we are still apprehensive.

We're apprehensive by the fact that the people that are tasked, with reviewing these documents, are the same people that have been covering these documents up. So our, ask, tonight, is that we would love for the author, of the April 4th, 2016 FBI review, to lead this effort.

But I think this is a great first step, Michael, and I think more to come. But the proof will be in the pudding. But I'm excited to see what happens next.

But we need the President to hold strong. Do not let the bureaucracy snow him. Do not trust the FBI. It's the same people that have been - that have been throwing us under the bus, for 20 years that are now leading this declassification review.

SMERCONISH: Brett, is he welcome next weekend?

EAGLESON: Again, I'm going to withhold those sentiments. I think this is a great first step. But let's see what happens.

I believe that he has a few days, according to the executive order, to produce the documents. So, at the end of the day, we will have a celebratory ceremony, if documents are being - starting to being produced next week.


So, I'm hesitant to ask that question, merely by the fact that we've been screwed over, for 20 years, by our own government. So, I really am hopeful--

SMERCONISH: If all - if all the information - if all the information that you want released, is released, what is it, and just give me the bottom line that you think--


SMERCONISH: --it will show?

EAGLESON: Well, for example, I want to point out a breaking news story.

Just last week, we had Catherine Herridge, from CBS, report that a pilot was approached, about a diagram found to be in possession, of a Saudi government employee. The diagram showed how to fly a plane, into a building.

That's just scratching the surface of this information. There are smoking guns that need to be released, and the American public needs to know. So, this information needs to come out.

And there is no reason for this classification, 20 years on. And again, we are - we are cautiously optimistic. And this is the first time--


EAGLESON: And the President deserves credit, where credit is due. This is the strongest statement we've ever had by a sitting U.S. president, to support us. So, we're very hopeful. SMERCONISH: I hope you get - I hope you get everything you want to see. I think you're entitled to it. And I, as a journalist, I want to read it, and give it the light of day.

EAGLESON: Well, I thank you for covering this, yes.

SMERCONISH: Thanks for being back. We really appreciate it.

EAGLESON: And thank you for having me.

SMERCONISH: OK, Brett Eagleson.

And, by the way, a related programming note, a classroom of second graders, a president, and a moment that forever unites them, 20 years later. Find out what happened to the kids in the 9/11 Classroom, at Sunday night, at 10 Eastern, here on CNN.

To our COVID fight, next, new polling shows vaccine hesitancy, in America, is going down overall, but not as much in the sports world. Why are some of the best athletes, still holding off, on protecting their bodies, from a killer virus?

We turn to sports broadcasting legend, Bob Costas, next.









SMERCONISH: Vaccine hesitancy, also rocking the sports world. And big leagues are all making decisions about it - about how to handle it.

For example, in tennis, only about 50 percent of players are vaccinated, according to major associations. The U.S. Open does not have a vaccine mandate for competitors.

Major League Baseball, leaving it up to the teams, whether to mandate vaccines. That's bringing mixed results. Some have several unvaccinated players on the field. Others have fired employees, who refused the shot.

The NFL made a deal with its Players' Association not to mandate vaccines. And, as a result, a head coach is under investigation, accused of cutting anti-vaxx players.

Bob Costas is here to sort it all out for us.

Bob, do you think there's something unique to these athletes? Or do you think if we drill down on other professions, carpenters, architects, who knows, we'd find the same propensity of anti-vaccine?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what we should say, despite the fact that many of us are disappointed that it's not closer to 100 percent, and you get some of the ignorant attitudes, from athletes that you hear elsewhere, overall, among the leagues, not talking about tennis now, where the most prominent player Novak Djokovic, is among the vaccine-resistant, as he goes for the Grand Slam, but among the leagues, NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, I'm guessing NHL, the rate of vaccination is actually higher than the population at-large.

Overall, it's around 90 percent to 93 percent, and the NFL was one example.

SMERCONISH: Carson Wentz, earlier today, had the following to say, on this issue.


CARSON WENTZ, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS QUARTERBACK: I respect everybody else's decision. And, you know, I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that's not the world we live in. Not everyone is going to equally view things the same.

But yes, no one really knows what's going on in someone - someone else's household, and how things are being handled. So, it's a personal decision. That's just where I'm at on it.


COSTAS: Yes. Michael?

SMERCONISH: He also spoke of doing his own research, of doing a lot of research. What thoughts do you have?

COSTAS: Yes, my thought is this.

Let's ignore every credible organization, every credible individual, the overwhelming near-unanimous scientific consensus that the vaccines are not only effective, but that they are safe, and that they are by far our best alternative, and let's go looking on the internet somewhere, or on some partisan cable outlet that trucks in, the traffic's rather in, in fear and resentment, and doesn't want to tell its audience anything that they've determined that audience doesn't want to hear. Let's trust that, OK?

Yes, it's a personal decision. It's a personal decision to smoke. But that doesn't mean you can come into any restaurant and light up.

It's a personal decision, I would hope, if you have a license to do so, to carry a gun. But even the most absolutist NRA person doesn't think they can carry a gun, onto an airplane. This stuff begins to get to a point, where it's not a matter of a

personal opinion. You're not required to respect opinions that put others in danger.

Jerry Jones, who I would say is not a left-wing guy, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, says, "In sports, we always talk about "We." Why is - why are all these people more concerned now with "I?" This is a team thing."

And teams that lose players, either because they're at close contact to someone, who tests positive, or because the player himself tests positive, those teams are placed at a competitive disadvantage. We've seen it during the course of this season, in baseball.

Sean McDermott, the coach of the Buffalo Bills has come out and said it. He says "We're about 80 percent vaccinated. But it's not enough. What if we can't practice? What if we can't field the guys, we want to field? We're at a competitive disadvantage."


SMERCONISH: Do you think that they are young, and perceive themselves to be invincible, and that they're more concerned about side effects, for 48 hours, than a virus that they are convinced they'd beat, if they got it?

COSTAS: Yes, I think that probably has a good deal to do with it. Younger people tend to think of themselves as invincible. I've heard some athletes say, "I'll worry about COVID when I get it," or "I'll take the vaccine"--


COSTAS: --"if I get it." They don't get it. They don't get it up here? They may get COVID.

And some of this is a result of a proliferation of outlets, where people don't get alternative points of view that are informed, but where they can go and suit themselves, seeking out misinformation. That's as much of an epidemic as the COVID virus itself.

SMERCONISH: Final question. Is it a political thing? Is there a MAGA streak that runs through these elite athletes?

COSTAS: To some extent, there is a MAGA streak.

Among African American athletes, as we know, there is some understandable mistrust, in the African American community, which has historical roots, because of the Tuskegee experiment, and other times--


COSTAS: --when government entities abused African Americans, an extreme injustice. And some of that mistrust is carried down, through the generations,

which is why it would be extremely helpful, if more African American athletes, who have been vaccinated, would come out publicly, and say so, and advocate for it.

And, by the way, every time you hear an athlete, and I'm not going to call anybody out by name, every time you hear an athlete say, "It's a personal decision," that means they haven't been vaccinated.

SMERCONISH: I'd interpret it the exact same way.

Hey, Bob, it's been too long. It is great to see you. Thank you for being here.

COSTAS: Thanks, Michael. Have a good long weekend.


COSTAS: RFK was assassinated, RFK, more than 50 years ago. His death may have changed the course of American history. Soon, his murderer could be set free, leaving many stunned and outraged, including some, though not all, members of the Kennedy family.

Why other Kennedys support parole? That's next.









SMERCONISH: After 53 years, in prison, the man convicted of assassinating Senator Robert F. Kennedy, is being recommended for parole. Sirhan Sirhan is now 77-years-old. He's gone before the parole board 16 times. This is the closest he's ever gotten to freedom.

Sirhan's actions may have forever changed the course of history. At the time of his death, RFK was considered a favorite for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.

Our Natasha Chen looks at how history could be rewritten again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kennedy has been shot, is that possible? NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The possible release of the man, who assassinated Robert Kennedy, 53 years ago, is dividing the family, of the former U.S. presidential candidate, and Senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the gun, Rafer!


CHEN (voice-over): In June of 1968, Kennedy's 10 children lost their father, when Sirhan Sirhan shot him, in the kitchen hallway, of the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, now hold on to the guy. Hold on to him.

CHEN (voice-over): His 11th child, Rory Kennedy wasn't born until later that year.

Now responding to a California parole board panel's recommendation last week, to grant parole, to her father's assassin, she wrote an Op- Ed, in "The New York Times," asking "How, having committed one of the most notorious assassinations of the latter part of the 20th century, can you be considered rehabilitated when you won't even acknowledge your role in the crime itself?"

Five of Rory's siblings also oppose parole for Sirhan.

24-years-old, at the time, Sirhan, a Palestinian, was said to be outraged with Kennedy's proposal, to send military planes to Israel. He was convicted and sentenced to death. But his sentence was commuted to life, with a possibility of parole, after California did away with the death penalty, in 1972.

At a parole hearing, in 2011, Sirhan's memory of events was hazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooting of the gun, how long did you have the gun?


I'm not aware that I took it in. I'm not aware that I fired with it. But I was confronted with it, later on and, and I had to take responsibility for that. And I do.

CHEN (voice-over): Responsibility for a killing that shaped the course of an already turbulent political era, just two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and nearly five years, after the assassination of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about what you did?

SIRHAN: It's the most horrible thing that any human being can do to another.

CHEN (voice-over): Two of Robert Kennedy's children support his release. DOUGLAS KENNEDY, SON OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY: My father was taken away from me.

CHEN (voice-over): Douglas Kennedy, who attended last week's parole hearing, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who wrote a letter saying, in part, "While nobody can speak definitively, on behalf of my father, I firmly believe that based on his own consuming commitment, to fairness and justice, that he would strongly encourage this board to release Mr. Sirhan, because of Mr. Sirhan's impressive record of rehabilitation."

Sirhan had been denied parole 15 times. But last week, prosecutors did not oppose a release, because they were not in the room. That's because the Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, who was elected, in late 2020, directed his prosecutors, to stop attending parole hearings.

His office says, "This allows the parole board to make an objective decision, not just based on the facts of the crime, but also on how the person has behaved, in the years, since committing it."

A point of debate among the Kennedys, now watching the 120-day review period to see what the full California parole board decides, and whether Governor Gavin Newsom, weighs in, after that.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Los Angeles.



SMERCONISH: Unbelievable story!

I want to bring in a reporter, for "The Washington Post," Tom Jackman. He's been focusing extensively on this story.

Tom, I should point out RFK Jr. doesn't just want Sirhan Sirhan paroled. He thinks he didn't kill his father, right?

TOM JACKMAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: He does. Now the question is, is that relevant to parole? I mean, is actual innocence relevant?

And a lot of people would say no, just as a lot of people would say, the fact that he killed one of the most important people, of the 20th century, is irrelevant, that he should be judged strictly on how he's behaved in prison, that whether or not he's been rehabilitated, whether he's remorseful, whether he's got a plan for his release, all the sort of minutiae of parole.

But you're right, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., believes, along with a lot of people that because his father was shot, in the back of the head, and Sirhan was in front of him that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots.

But he, and others, including Paul Schrade, who was standing behind Bobby Kennedy, and got hit by a bullet that went like that - I messed up my hair - that he - that Sirhan fired shots that did wound the people behind Kennedy, but not the shots that killed Kennedy.

SMERCONISH: Do you think the outcome of the recent hearing is more on account of the L.A. County D.A. not showing up? Did that matter? Is that what this is all about? Is that what's driving this?

JACKMAN: So, there's two people in the parole board. They have a two- person panel that hears it. And they specifically said, one of them did that "That did not impact our decision. We understand the outlook of prosecutors, in general. We've heard them in the past."

The LAPD, the Los Angeles Police wrote a letter saying, "We don't want that guy out," and represented to the parole board that they were speaking for the Kennedy family.

That caused Robert Kennedy, Jr., last Friday, during the hearing, to send in a letter, saying that letter from the Los Angeles Police does not represent all of the family. And so, he was - he was not there. He had agreed not to sort of take an active stance, because most of the family doesn't agree with him.

SMERCONISH: Ethel Kennedy, the widow, still with us, has she weighed in? I mean, it seems like all the kids have weighed in. Has the widow weighed in?

JACKMAN: She hasn't spoken publicly.

But in that "New York Times" Op-Ed that Rory Kennedy wrote, she said that "My mother approves what I'm about to say in this article. My mother approves our opposition to parole."

So, I haven't heard from her directly. I don't know of any reporter that has. But Rory says that her mother also opposes it.

SMERCONISH: OK. So, what now? There are still several steps that must occur, including the Governor Gavin Newsom, Governor Elder. I say that and people would be upset with me. Just making a little joke! Who knows what happens?

But where does this go from here?

JACKMAN: So, from that two-person panel, which recommends parole, it goes to the full, I think, it's 17 members, of the parole board, who have 120 days, four months, to review this.

So, that takes us to the end of the year that it will still be in the parole board's bailiwick. And then, after that, if they - whatever they do, they can say - they can reject it, and say, "No parole," but it still goes to the governor, who can then reverse that.

But at the end of, I guess, it would be, at the end of December, the parole board will make a decision, and then that goes to the governor, whether it's Newsom, or Elder, or somebody else, and that would be--

SMERCONISH: What is what--

JACKMAN: --in January and-- SMERCONISH: OK. And quickly, if you're able, what's the issue? Theoretically, what are those parole board members supposed to be asking themselves, as they look at Sirhan Sirhan?

JACKMAN: They're supposed to be asking themselves, has he shown remorse? Has he been rehabilitated in prison? Has he demonstrated that he is not a danger to society? That's the big one, you know? This guy is convicted of murder one. Is he going to go out and commit more violence?

And they seem convinced that age 77, after being in there, for 53 years, that he's not a danger to society. That was their main feature, in terms of deciding that he was suitable for release.

SMERCONISH: Incredible! Tom, great job! Thank you so much for being here and for what you've written on this.

JACKMAN: Thanks, man.

SMERCONISH: "LFG," I can't tell you what it stands for on television. But I can tell you it's a new film you're going to want to see. It's about the U.S. women's soccer team's fight for equality that has taken some kicks over time, and a lot of twists and turns.

I'll be right back with the directors of the film, next.









SMERCONISH: Four Olympic gold medals, four World Cup championships, but now, the U.S. Women's National Soccer team may face its biggest challenge, the fight for equal pay.

They're the undisputed global superstars of the sport. But, in a lawsuit, filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation, in 2019, the players alleged they're not getting what the men's team makes.

A federal court judge disagreed last year, throwing out the claim. The judge found that the women's team negotiated a different pay structure than the men, and that the women players were already paid more than the men's team. The women are now appealing.

As the legal battle enters its next chapter, the all-new CNN film, "LFG," brings you a behind-the-scenes look at the grit and determination, these women bring to their game, both on and off the field.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lawsuit is something that no professional athlete would ever want to have. It's so much work. It takes you away from your sport. It's very stressful.


MEGAN RAPINOE, AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYER: The same sentiment that has been happening for, you know, years and years, decades and decades, through many different negotiations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something it's just completely collapsed and crumbled, and we need just to build it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are in camp a lot. But then there's times when we're in completely different time zone, states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's great, guys. Thank you very much for doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages, a lot of emails.

RAPINOE: Strategizing and keeping everyone on the same page and.

Carlos was the only one that had his eyes on that.

Discriminated peoples do not have the luxury of (BLEEP) around, frankly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it's our players that are having to form what the lawsuit is, you know? Figuring out all the inequalities, over the year, trying to go through our contract, going through the other contracts.

RAPINOE: It's hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of our time.


SMERCONISH: Joining us now, the directors of "LFG," Andrea Nix Fine, and Sean Fine.

Andrea, I'll start with you. They're the best in the world. And yet, there's a David versus Goliath element to all of this. How come?

ANDREA NIX FINE, DIRECTOR, "LFG": I think it kind of goes back to despite being like the most global icons of women athletics, I mean, arguably, they're known around the world for being the best at what they do, and yet, why, right before they step on the world stage, to compete in the World Cup, do they drop a lawsuit, about their value? So, we thought there had to have been a story in this. And we did.

There's a long route of this story, this team, as the collective, the U.S. Women's National Soccer team has been fighting this fight, for decades, is what we found out. And it was a story that had never been told.

SMERCONISH: Sean, is that storyline diminished by the fact that, as I mentioned in the introduction, a federal judge said, "Wait a minute, I can't go along with this. And as a matter of fact, you're doing better than the men are?"

SEAN FINE, DIRECTOR, "LFG": No, I don't think it's diminished at all. I think it's just indicative of what they're fighting for, and what they're fighting against.

I think they've been fighting for this, for over two decades, and they're going to keep fighting, and they're going to keep trying to get what they feel is equally deserved, which is equal pay. And that's what they're fighting for.

So, the other part is like, what that judge, I think, and what Megan says, very gracefully, in our film, got wrong, and what they feel the judge got wrong, is that, yes, they are making more, but they're having to win so many more games than the men's team.

And they're winning top-level games. They're winning World Cups. They're winning huge tournaments. So yes, they are making a little bit more.

But that's from winning all the games, and being the best in the world, while the men have not even won a World Cup, or been to a lot of tournaments that they've won, and they're making almost as much.

So, it's what they're fighting for, and I think they're going to keep fighting.

SMERCONISH: Andrea, was it a struggle for you to tell both sides of this story?

I ask, because, you know, the Soccer Federation says, "Hey, it's not fair." "The Washington Post," in reviewing the film said that they failed, meaning the two of you, to explain both sides of a complicated issue.

I know you're aware of that criticism. Please, speak to it.

A. FINE: Yes, we are aware of it. And I think that it doesn't bother us, because I think the majority of the reviews, the majority of the people that know anything about this case, realize it's a much more complicated story, which is why we really wanted the women to be able to delve into it and share theirs.

I think that in the end of the day, we stepped out with an open heart, open mind, about really wanting to tell this story, and meet it where it's at. And we were clicked - very clearly and quickly given a strong message, from the U.S. Soccer Federation that they really were not interested in any kind of story about equal pay.

So, we needed to take the tack about telling the story with the people that were willing to speak with us, and that is the players themselves. And we wanted them to tell you the story, in their own words.

And we did ask U.S. Soccer to participate. And they declined. And so, we still worked with them, in background research, and made sure we wanted to bring their public messaging forward. But that was their choice.

And we made the film that we feel is very fair, and every fact and figures, from court documents, and statements, and we feel really good about it.

SMERCONISH: Sean, "LFG," if it were my SiriusXM radio show, I'd have said it four times by now. It's CNN. I'm being respectful. It's Cuomo's show.

But, let's not leaving the audience hanging, what's it a reference to?

S. FINE: Its "Let's F-ing Go," which is the - it's the - it's the battle cry that the women give, in the locker room, before they take the field. It's kind of their motto.

And we, because it's their story that we're telling, and it's in their words, we felt that - actually Andrea felt that that was really an appropriate title, and appropriate kind of feeling of the entire film.


SMERCONISH: So, what's the next step, Andrea? If you can take it in 30 seconds, and tell me, not relative to the film, but in terms of their story, and the legal case, where do you think it ends up?

A. FINE: I think they're just going to go the distance. This team will never back down. If we know anything, we've learned anything, in the last year, this fight's in appeal. They will continue this fight.

They could settle at any time with U.S. Soccer. But, as of right now, they're going to go to the full distance, and perhaps this will see the inside of a courtroom.

SMERCONISH: Andrea, Sean, thanks and best wishes with the film.

A. FINE: Thank you very much, Michael.

S. FINE: Thank you.

A. FINE: Have a good night.

S. FINE: Have a good night.


Be sure to watch "LFG," now that you know what it represents, Monday night, 9 Eastern, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Thanks so much for watching.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT," with Laura Coates sitting in, starts right now.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Hey, Michael Smerconish? See you tomorrow. Can't wait to hear you. Nice to see you.