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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Interview With Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); First Federal Juneteenth Holiday; Growing Debate On How Race And Diversity Are Taught In America's Classrooms; Critical Race Theory Spurs Heated Debate Among Lawmakers; U.S. Catholic Bishops Proceed With Plan That Could Deny Biden Communion For Being Pro-Choice; Florida Congressional Race Hit With Reports Of A Possible Death Threat, "Hit Squad" Rumors; Two NYC Kids Narrowly Avoid Bullets As Gunman Shoots Man On Sidewalk. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 20:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: He just threw out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight's Mets-Nats game. Watch this.


ANNOUNCER: Officer Goodman, when you're ready, it's your pitch.


BOLDUAN: It looks like he wants to do over, regardless, Eugene Goodman has been hailed as a hero for his actions, leading them away from the chamber, you can see the video right there -- of what he did that day.

Thank you, Officer Goodman.

"AC360" starts now, guys.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Two more vivid reminders tonight that the violence and anger we all witnessed at the Capitol on January 6th have repercussions far beyond that date, even for those who choose to whitewash its existence or minimize its impact.

The former Vice President certainly understands that or he should and after today, especially. Before we show you what happened to him today, here is a quick refresh of what happened to him on January 6. Take a look -- it is images of him, authorities rushing into a secure area. His family is with him, too, being rushed to safety. And outside, there was that makeshift gallows and from some of the insurrectionists, chants of "Hang Mike Pence."


COOPER: Okay, so that was more than five months ago. Today, a reminder that for many supporters of the former President know that anger has gone away, Mike Pence appear to what was billed as the Faith and Freedom Coalition Summit today, and in years past, it's kind of the audience who would have welcomed him. Today, he did get applause, but he also was booed, and people

continually interrupted his scripted remarks screaming out the word "traitor."


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is great to be back with so many patriots dedicated to faith and freedom and the road to the majority.


PENCE: And I want to thank my friend, Ralph Reed for those overly generous words --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Traitor. Traitor. Traitor.

PENCE: I am deeply humbled by it.


AUDIENCE (in the background): Traitor. Traitor. Traitor.

PENCE: Ralph Reed knows me well enough to know -- the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter. I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican -- in that order, and I am honored to stand up for you today.


COOPER: Now, in case you have any confusion about why they are screaming "traitor" at Mike Pence is not because he continues to stand by the former President who disgraced himself in the country by praising insurrectionists while they were still attacking the Capitol saying that they were very special people and he loved them.

No, in the view of many of the former President's supporters, Pence is a traitor because he did his constitutional duty on January 6, overseeing the certification of the election. Mike Pence still wants to be President though, and still hopes that he can somehow regain the approval of the former President he so adoringly supported and his supporters as well.

And so yet again today, he praised the man who didn't even call him to check on his or his family's wellbeing when they were trapped at the Capitol on the day of the attack. As for exactly what happened during the attack, by the way, well, we saw more of that today.

New images from the Capitol on January 6 never released until today. Multiple body camera videos of one officer being brutalized, prosecutors have charged a suspect with 12 criminal counts. The suspect pleaded not guilty.

Now, we're going to play all four of these clips for you, and we want to warn you, they are violent, and they are disturbing. And yes, there is foul language. But this is what happened on that day, even though an awful lot of Republican Members of Congress are attempting to rewrite the history saying it was just like a regular tourist visit by people to the Capitol. "Not an insurrection at all," we now hear from some.

We got some similar video last night. We played it for you in full, and frankly, we're going to do the same thing tonight and every night that new video is released because we all need to have the facts. We all need to recognize what happened because so long as elected leaders of this country try to tell you January 6 didn't happen the way you remember it, the way you saw it, the video itself exposes their lies.



COOPER: I'm joined now by someone who was in the Capitol that day Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. Congressman, I appreciate you being with us. These new videos, they continue to show the reality of what happened, and it's sickening to watch.

Is there any reason to believe -- well, I mean, I know the answer to this, there's no reason to believe that this is going to change any of your Republican colleagues' minds. I mean, they've been whitewashing what happened that day.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): No, they can't, and they won't be able to because they have made a calculated decision that they need a Trump base voter, and in order for them to have the Trump base voter, they basically have to ignore the fact that there was an insurrection that happened, when in fact, most of these deniers were the ones that received Capitol Police protection.

You know the Gosar and the Biggs of the world were the first ones they evacuated, when they started getting us out of the floor of the House Representatives. Representative Clyde was screaming up against the wall at security, trying to tell him what to do in order to keep some of these rioters out.

So, they know what happened, except now, they are basically selling their souls in order for them to have a chance at getting back to the House of Representatives and then eventually, the White House.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Congressman Clyde, it's such an interesting case in point, you know, he called it a normal tourist visit. That's what he's now recently called it, but as you said, I mean, he was working to barricade the door, and I want to read something that you tweeted recently.

You said: "It's true some G.O.P. Members of Congress who are treating Capitol Police like shit were the most scared on the floor. Jody Hice took apart a hand sanitizer station to make it into a club. Gosar and Biggs were the first to leave the floor and Rep. Clyde was screaming like a banshee," end quote.

What was Clyde screaming about? GALLEGO: Yes, at that point, I couldn't tell you, but I think he was

screaming, if I remember somewhat correctly at security about what to do in order to basically barricade the doors.

And look, it's okay to be scared. I mean, I was scared.


GALLEGO: I mean, this is, you know, the closest I've been to any type of combat in about 16 years. The point is, is though, to appreciate the fact that these Capitol Police officers put their life on the line and then to also then at the same time insult them by refusing to acknowledge what happened, by refusing to shake their hands, and also by putting them in danger again, because the problem that you have here is when you're denying that there was an insurrection that ever happened, it encourages another insurrection. You put in these police officers' lives on the line.

So, it is absolutely disrespectful. But at the same time, it is extremely dangerous.

COOPER: Some of your Republican colleagues are now pushing this line that is being spread by FOX News that F.B.I. operatives, perhaps somehow organized and participated in the attack. I don't hear Kevin McCarthy trying to publicly denounce that theory. What do you make of it?

GALLEGO: Well, again, this is Kevin McCarthy, just being, you know, a trashy politician. Instead of being a leader of the country, or at least of his party, he is basically again, selling his corrupt soul in order for him to be Speaker of the House.

Look, the F.B.I. had nothing to do with any type of insurrection. This was entirely led by a combination of political operatives, you know, Proud Boys, a bunch of white supremacists and just general losers that were trying to stop the official count of the Electoral College.

You can't blame a lot of them because a lot of them are -- were bought in and sold many years ago by the Trump lies, but these politicians know better, and that's the sad part. They all know better and they are all participating in the lie because they're just crass politicians that just want power.

And that means that it'll cost us our democracy. It'll cost us this Constitutional Republic that we have had for more than 200 years. They are willing to do it because that's all they really care about, and that's a very sad statement, but that's what this Republican Party has gone to.

COOPER: Congressman Ruben Gallego, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

GALLEGO: Thank you for your time.

COOPER: I am joined now by Drew Griffin who has examined the events surrounding the Capitol riot for a new two-hour documentary: "Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump's Insurrection" that airs Sunday night on CNN. He joins me now.

So, Drew I mean, the misinformation, the conspiracies that drove the insurrection, they are still out there. There's still prevalent, still being pushed by a lot of the same people. Capitol Police have warned lawmakers, threats to their safety have in fact increased. Did you get a sense from the rioters you spoke to that the anger that drove them to storm the Capitol still exists?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely exists and is growing, Anderson, because they are being further pinned into a corner. They truly believe this election was stolen from Donald Trump. They continue to believe lies.

And as you'll see in our report, they pile on conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory to the point where they do not even believe the video that's in front of them.

Take a look at this.


GRIFFIN (voice over): Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, shot and killed by Capitol Hill police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a gun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That sounded like a gunshot.

GRIFFIN (voice over): U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died from a stroke one day after being attacked by rioters. Couy Griffin like others, cannot accept their so-called peaceful protest led to death, so they deny it.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So let me just ask you, do you believe Officer Sicknick died because of the riot?

COUY GRIFFIN, OTERO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: I am not even so sure that Officer Sicknick is even dead.

GRIFFIN: Couy --

C. GRIFFIN: I'm serious. That's how -- and I hate to be so crazy conspiracy minded. I'm not even so sure Ashli Babbitt is dead.

GRIFFIN: Couy --

C. GRIFFIN: I mean, who's to say that was -- have you seen anything of her family?

ROGER WITTHOEFT, ASHLI BABBITT'S BROTHER: Up until the point where she passed, we lived two blocks apart.

GRIFFIN (voice over): The answer is yes.

WITTHOEFT: I mean, I'd say through high school, me and my sister were best friends.

GRIFFIN (voice over): This is Ashli Babbitt's brother, Roger Witthoeft. He says he and his 35-year-old sister were very close.

WITTHOEFT: It was weird because we saw it on the news. And it was like, you know, that's my sister.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, Couy Griffin is not only the founder of Cowboys for Trump and took a picture with Trump in the Oval Office. He's a New Mexico County Commissioner. He is so far off the rails, I would dare to use the loaded term, he is brainwashed.

He is out there. He still believes this stuff. And others like him, I don't believe Couy would be dangerous, but others like him, can and will be dangerous.

COOPER: He's a County Commissioner?


COOPER: I spoke with Officer Sicknick's life partner, Sandra Garza last night and she told me that it enrages her that the Republicans continue to gaslight their supporters about the insurrection. By the way, she was a Trump supporter, as was Officer Sicknick, apparently.

So, to hear that rioter you spoke to say he doesn't know if Officer Sicknick is even dead. I mean, it's beyond insulting to obviously to the officer's memory, the sacrifice to his family -- I don't understand how he justifies these views. I mean, I understand somebody being ignorant to the facts, but when the facts are out there and available, I mean, what's his excuse?

GRIFFIN: I came away in a lot of these interviews feeling sorry for these people because they have been lied to for so long. They've been lied to by a President who has been scamming for years and years and years long before he was President.

They've been lied to and deceived by these so-called media outlets who have led them down these conspiracy theories, where they only get their news from these echo chamber kind of conspiracy profiteer news outlets.

And as Ruben Gallego said, they are being lied to by politicians who know better, Anderson, but see power and profit in spreading these lies and getting behind them. These are politicians who are putting themselves before their country. It is extremely dangerous.

And many people that I used to talk to you about terrorism are using the same words about these Trump followers that these are radicalized people who are beyond help, we can't reach them because like Couy Griffin, they just explain the bizarre conspiracies with even more bizarre conspiracies.

COOPER: Drew Griffin, appreciate it. Thanks. I look forward to the special that you've done. You put a lot of work into it. It looks fantastic.

The CNN Special Report "Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump's Insurrection" airs Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Up next, today marks the first federal holiday for Juneteenth, but there is a growing culture war over race and diversity and how both are taught in America's classrooms with a Republican senator today comparing one teaching method on race to the KKK. All sides of the debate ahead.

Also tonight, President Biden facing a potential review from the Bishops in his own church. What he is saying about possibly being denied communion when we continue.



COOPER: Most government offices were closed today to celebrate a new Federal Holiday, Juneteenth, and just in time for Saturday's 156th Anniversary of the day that marks the end of slavery in the United States.

President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independency Act into law after the Senate gave unanimous approval and wide bipartisan support in the House. Fourteen, though, House Republicans voted against the bill. Some said Federal workers don't need another day off. Others took issue with calling it Independence Day in the formal name and G.O.P. Congressman Paul Gosar went further saying, "Juneteenth is more debunked critical race theory in action," end quote.

Now in case you hadn't noticed, critical race theory, which holds that much of America's history and policies are infused with systemic racism is the latest hot button for many conservatives across America and it sparked a debate over how diversity and race can be taught in the classroom.

It was a popular talking point for Republicans at today's Faith and Freedom Coalition event.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Critical race theory says every white person is a racist. Critical race theory says America is fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn against each other, and if someone has a different color of skin seeks to make us hate that person.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): How about these School Boards across the country that are trying to teach critical race theory? Trash our history? Present our founders as racist and divide us by our color of our skin? PENCE: Instead of teaching all of our children to be proud of our

country, critical race theory teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of their skin color.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): They are propagandizing to our children.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): We need to tell people that critical race theory is wrong because it teaches people to be a victim and not a victor.

PENCE: Critical race theory is racism, pure and simple. And it should be rejected by every American of every race.

CRUZ: And let me tell you right now, critical race theory is bigoted. It is a lie, and it is every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.


COOPER: Senator Ted Cruz and others today. Supporters of critical race theory say those kinds of comments misrepresent the ideas and do so to score political points. They argue the teachings explore how a history of racism and inequality in the U.S. continues to impact society.

Texas is the latest state to take action against critical race theory in schools following Florida, Arkansas, and others and that list could grow with dozens of other states taking up the debate.

Randi Kaye tonight has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I'm a racist, damn it.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A heated community forum outside St. Louis, Missouri, where the Rockwood School District has become a flashpoint in the national debate about critical race theory.

These moms were preparing to protest at the District School Board meeting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of wave it around.


KAYE (voice over): Fighting for a more diverse lesson plan at Rockwood School District where their children go to school.

AMY RYAN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: The children, they want to learn all kinds of curriculum, all right. Is there implicit bias? Yes. Is there racism? Absolutely.

CHARITY IKPE, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: To have my daughter say I want to have blue eyes, curly hair, long blonde hair, and white skin, like her teacher, let's start presenting our children with diverse curriculum.

GENEVIEVE STEIDTMANN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: People who were educated years and decades ago, they got a version of history that wasn't exactly right. That was whitewashed. And now, we're starting to recognize that and reconcile with that.

KAYE (voice over): Critical race theory teaches that much of America's history and policies are infused with systemic racism. The district says it doesn't teach critical race theory, but it has been teaching a curriculum rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion for years.

But this spring, the phrase became a lightning rod, and some parents began accusing the district of teaching Marxist ideology and liberal propaganda.

So, now lessons many hoped would bring the community together have created a chiasm.

KENNETH ROSA, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: A five-year-old in a kindergarten class is not responsible for their 17th generation great grandpa's actions, even if that were in their family lineage 17 generations ago.

KAYE (on camera): But shouldn't they learn about it? What's wrong with them learning about it?

ROSA: Sure, they can learn about it as long as we're not targeting children to make them think that there's something wrong with them over how the history of the United States was formulated.

KAYE: So you say some children are being targeted or made to feel guilty?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE: For things they didn't do?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE (voice over): Terry Harris is Executive Director of Student Services for Rockwood School District.

KAYE (on camera): Those who are complaining are saying, you know, they're painting us as racist. They're making us feel guilty. They're white shaming us.

TERRY HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT SERVICES, ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: No. So, in our district, we're not white shaming, we're not making anyone feel bad about being white, or calling anyone racist. That's not what this is about.

We have diverse students in the Rockwood School District that show up in our school district every single day, students who desire to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

KAYE (voice over): A curriculum that includes lessons about slavery, but also about a black astronaut, and the African-American inventor of the traffic signal.

ROSA: For children of school ages, those are conversations that could be had at a later day, as opposed to trying to propagandize children in kindergarten and elementary in things of that nature.

KAYE (on camera): The district and proponents of this would just say, well, they're not propagandizing, they're just teaching. They're just asking them to think, not telling them what to think.

ROSA: No, I understand, but if that was what they were actually doing, then they wouldn't find a need to cover it up.

KAYE (voice over): And that so-called cover up is a problem. This whole controversy seems to have picked up steam during the pandemic when children were kept home and parents got a closer look at lesson plans.

This leaked e-mail from a Rockwood staff member advised teachers not to make everything visible about their race-based lesson plans on the platform, which parents can view. The e-mail also suggested avoiding trigger words like "privilege" and "democratic."

The District told us that e-mail does not reflect the mission, vision, and values of the district. Adding, "Rockwood encourages transparency."

STEIDTMANN: The history is that white people have done things that are not great in the history of the United States. We've also done lots of great things. So, what I advocate for is just telling the truth.

ROSA: They are teaching divisive rhetoric to children that are too young for that type of understanding and psychology.

KAYE (voice over): But those protesting in favor of diversity teachings, say ignoring the history lessons in what they call whitewashing history is lying to children about the past, and that's harmful.

IKPE: Our kids need to know the truth so they can know how to navigate and do not repeat the past.


COOPER: And Randi joins me now. So, where do things stand in Missouri? Are they in any closer banning critical race theory statewide?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, there are various bills in the mix, and two Republican senators have written a letter to the Governor there asking that he convene a special session about critical race theory. And in that letter, they describe critical race theory as a radical concept, negative and divisive.

But one note about Rockwood School District where we visited, it has gotten so heated there that at least three administrators are now facing threats, including death threats, and they've had to get security around their homes for their families and for themselves -- Anderson.

COOPER: They're saying though that they are not teaching the theory -- critical race theory, is that correct?

KAYE: Right. And a lot of the critics say, well, that's just a Trojan horse, no matter what you call it, it is still critical race theory. It's the same concept. It's the same idea.

But the school, the district, they are saying they've been teaching diversity, inclusion, and equity for years now, and this is not critical race theory, but critics are furious -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi, appreciate it. Thanks.

Let's get perspective now and all this from CNN political analyst, Bakari Sellers, attorney and former Democratic state lawmaker in South Carolina.

Bakari, how much do you think -- I mean, those -- you know, parents who are angry, you know, they clearly believe very strongly in this. How much of this is just being used by politicians now to kind of rile people up and, you know, divide?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A hundred percent, Anderson. I mean, the fact is, I think that critical race theory can go by another name, America's history. It's amazing that we're having this discussion where we're celebrating Juneteenth, and now individuals don't want to teach us what led us up to Juneteenth. It is as if we want to keep a secret from our children that the founders of this country actually owned slaves.

You know, at what point will we be able to teach children that what happened six years ago yesterday in Charleston, South Carolina was a white nationalist who walked into a church and murdered nine people? I mean, that is a part of America's history. That is a part of the fabric.

And critical race theory has been around for a long time.

COOPER: It started in the 70s, as I understand in sort of academic circles, law schools. Can you just talk a little bit about how you see it, what it is? Is it teaching people to feel bad about their skin color?

SELLERS: No, in fact, actually, critical race theory was brought about to challenge other white liberals. I know a little bit about critical race theory, because of scholars and academic academicians like Kimberle Crenshaw, like Derrick Bell, like Cleveland Sellers, who is my father, who actually helped start the African-American Studies Department at the University of South Carolina.

It's not about teaching little white children that you're racist. That's not anywhere near what this is. This is about teaching all children, that there is such a thing as systemic racism, that we have to give everyone the benefit of their humanity, and that we have to truly understand what individual's lived experiences are. I mean, critical race theory is not some racist ideology, and to hear

people like Ron DeSantis, to hear people like Mike Pence, and to hear people like Ted Cruz in your package, just intellectually be dishonest about what it is, is disheartening, but it's not surprising with the level of discourse in this country today.

COOPER: There have been -- some of the criticism of critical race theory or the idea of teaching it is that the country has made significant progress and that these specific conversations about race only serve to divide people.

SELLERS: The country has made progress, though, but how would we know that? I mean, I think that anyone who believes that this country hasn't made progress is a bald-faced liar. Like that's not what this is about.

We have made progress, but Anderson, we still have so far to go. There is nothing about the United States of America that's irredeemable. But we have to reimagine what it looks like.

I mean critical race theory gives you an answer to why we still don't have clean water in Flint. It gives you an answer to why black and brown individuals in this country suffered worse from COVID-19 than others.


It teaches you why you had a Briggs v. Elliot in 1949. And you had a Brown versus Board of Education in 1954, '55.

COOPER: You're talking about -- you're saying it's looking at sort of the structures of the legal system, the structures of governmental systems to look at what role racism may play in those structures and the formation of them and in the perpetuation of them?

SELLERS: Correct. And let me be more blunt, Anderson, I think I've said this on your show many times before. So I think I need to say it again. A lot of the parents that you -- that Randi Kaye profile tonight think that they have to say nigger in order for them or anything around them to be racist. That is not the case.

In fact, we're talking about systems that have oppressed in systems that have set generations of individuals back for a very long period of time. We have been in this country for 400 in one year. There wasn't the Fair Housing Act until 1968. I mean, my father, literally we're talking about one generation, my mother desegregated schools, in Memphis, Tennessee, like we're not talking about geno -- we still have people who are alive from the -- from black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre that people -- and Anderson the funny part is people didn't know Black Wall Street existed until watchmen.

So yes, we have to teach our history so that we don't repeat it.

COOPER: Bakari Sellers, appreciate it. Thank you.

SELLERS: Thank you, brother. COOPER: Coming up next, President Biden's faith now target after U.S. Catholic Bishops voted for a process that could deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights. A Jesuit priests and former Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy joined to discuss, when we continue.



COOPER: President Biden's Catholic faith which is a cornerstone as you know of his identity and is now under scrutiny after a controversial vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today. It's one step in a much larger process that could if successful, potentially deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights, like the president. The vote was 168 to 55 to move forward, asked about how he felt about the vote personally today, the President briefly responded.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: That's a private matter. And I don't think this can happen. Thank you.


COOPER: Let's get some perspective from Father James Martin Jesuit Priest and

Editor-At-Large of American Magazine, and former Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy.

Congressman Kennedy, let's start with you. This is obviously not the first time that pro-choice politicians and the Catholic Church have been at odds over communion at certain points over the years, members of your family offices. They've been caught up in this. This is the first time it's extended to a sitting president and only the second Catholic president, the U.S. What's your reaction, the move by the bishop?

JOE KENNEDY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So a couple of Anderson. One, look, personally, I think it's disappointing, right? This is -- we talked about Joe Biden, just as you said in introduction, this is a man who has faith is deeply personal to him and deeply important to his identity. He's a devout, practicing Catholic.

And if you look at his agenda, his focus, there are so many areas where it lines up perfectly with the Catholic Church and with the Holy Father, particularly on issues like climate change, on poverty, on gun violence, you can imagine if, instead of this statement that we saw today coming out of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, if in fact, there was a unified statement talking about the need to address climate change and pass an infrastructure bill, how different that would be not just for Americans, but around the world.

And so, it's disappointing. Certainly for me, I think there's just as you also said, there's a long way to go in this, right? This was essentially a vote to start a process to write a document that that has to be voted on with two-thirds majority. So, there's a long way to go in this. It is not target the President explicitly or even politicians explicitly, but I think it's hard to ignore that the potential ramifications as well.

COOPER: Yes, Father Martin. I mean, this is not a new position for President Biden. And he's been in public life for nearly half a century and been a Catholic all that time. Why do you think the bishops conference made this move now?

REV. JAMES MARTIN, JESUIT PRIEST: Well, I think, you know, because he's president now he has much more of a high profile. And they felt -- some of the bishops felt that their own credibility was on the line and the church's credibility is on the line. But, you know, there are also other issues that other politicians have not other Catholic politicians have not agreed with the church on, you know, for example, the death penalty. You had someone like Attorney General Barr, you know, ordering executions, and there wasn't talk about this.

So, unfortunately, many of the bishops in the bishops conference meeting mentioned President Biden and Speaker Pelosi yet, you know, it makes it very difficult for people to move away from the assumption that at least some of this is politically motivated.

COOPER: That's interesting. Congressman Kenny, I mean, do you think politics is at play here?

KENNEDY: I would agree with Father Martin, I tried never to disagree with him as much as I can. Look, I think. I think it's hard to particularly when we see the juxtaposition here of the lack of criticism from other high profile Republican officeholders or appointees.

And, you know, I can understand on the one hand, the logic of saying, President Biden is the president, he's a practicing Catholic, we need to clarify these doctrines fine. It is odd when you compare the devotion of President Biden to his face with the behavior of former President Trump and the lack of a piece of criticism from the Conference of Catholic Bishops with regards to President Trump's behavior in office individually or his policies.

And so, it seems to create a pretty robust double standard, whereby you end up targeting Democratic politicians. And again, if this is really a devout question about life, then let's lean into the epidemic of gun violence in this country and do more to prevent gun violence, right? Let's lean into the issues on climate change. And the conference so far, hasn't done that. And I think, obviously, anywhere near as systemic ways we've seen so far with regards to this issue.

COOPER: Father Martin, do you see a hypocrisy in the lack of, you know, pushback from conservative Catholics and other religious figures over the former president's behavior, and then this?

MARTIN: Would say that the U.S. bishops conference was very vocal about the issue of refugees and migrants. And so, they were, you know, they were in opposition to President Trump when he was in office. I think the difficulty is the fact that there are so many issues that one could look at in terms of Catholic teaching.


Pope Francis said, no, in addition to the lives of the unborn, equally sacred, or the lives of those who are born, the poor refugees and migrants, and so, unfortunately, so much of the discussion has focused almost solely on abortion, that it's very hard to for people to get away from the idea that this is, in a sense, the only issue and really it's I think it's unfair to just focus on one single issue as if that is the only even the only life issue that we're supposed to be concerned about.

COOPER: Interesting. Father Martin, I appreciate it always. And Congressman Joe Kennedy, thank you so much, really appreciate it.


COOPER: Quickly, Father Martin is a focus of a new documentary Building A Bridge which looks at how the Catholic Church and LGBT the LGBT community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion, and sensitivity is available for streaming now through the Tribeca Film Festival. I'm going to check it out for the morning, sounds really interesting. Thanks so much.

MARTIN: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, if you think politics in this country cannot give any stranger, kind of bizarre tale from Florida involving a possible death threat and an alleged Russian-Ukrainian hit squad. Details when we return.


COOPER: Well as if the so-called recount in Arizona, a votes cast in last year's presidential election wasn't proven enough of a political system that's gone kind of haywire. Consider the story out of a Florida congressional race, there are allegations and possible death threats, suggestions of a Russian Ukrainian hit squad and secret recordings underpinning everything.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has details.



WILLIAM BRADDOCK, GOP CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I call up my Russian- Ukrainian fit squad and within 24 hours they're sending me pictures of her disappearing.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to Politico, that's relatively unknown GOP congressional candidate William Braddock, allegedly threatening the life of his primary opponent in the race for Florida's 13th congressional district Anna Paulina Luna.

BRADDOCK: If the poll says the losers going to win. She's going to be gone, she's going to disappear.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): According to Politico, who exclusively obtained the secretly recorded phone call, conservative activist Erin Olszewski says she recorded Braddock because she was worried about his alleged dislike for Luna. When reached by CNN, she declined to comment.

The man on the recording can be heard referring to the Russian- Ukrainian hit squad with close battle combat techniques.

BRADDOCK: Up close and personal so they know the person, they know that the target is gone. Don't (inaudible) be on the wrong side of supporting Luna --


BRADDOCK: -- because if you're near her when time comes, I just don't want that to happen to you, when you got kids. So, don't be associated with Luna under any circumstances, please.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Braddock tells CNN he has not listened to the recording. He suggests quote, it may not even be me and quote, it may be altered. He also pointed out that he did not get consent to be recorded. When asked by CNN if he's ever threatened Luna, Braddock replied, I did not. I have nothing against her. I think she's a little crazy.

Luna spokesperson told CNN via e-mail, Mr. Braddock threatened Anna Paulina Luna's life. It is clear and unambiguous. Mr. Braddock's misogynistic comments and clear threats of violence speak for themselves.

Luna filed a temporary restraining order last week for stalking against Braddock, in which she stated in part, I received information yesterday at midnight regarding a plan with a timeline to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me from winning the election for FL 13. Luna also claims in the filing that she obtained screenshots of text messages in which Braddock claims he is working with her political rivals Amanda Mackey and Matt Tito to take her out.

MATT TITO, POTENTIAL CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, FL 13TH DISTRICT: This is a total political hit job. This is a way to intimidate me. It's a way to smear me and it's a way to keep me out of the 2022 congressional row.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Mackey also objects to these accusations. In a written statement to CNN, she says in part, any reference to me being associated with Mr. Braddock and Ms. Luna as somehow being involved in smearing my name for political gain is disparaging and feckless.

BRADDOCK: For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): A disturbing recording that has sparked fear and political drama.

BRADDOCK: So don't be associated with Luna under any circumstances. Please. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

BRADDOCK: And do not repeat this to anybody because both of us will be in jeopardy if you do.


COOPER: I don't even know --

SANTIAGO: And new tonight Anderson --

COOPER: -- what is going on. Yes, these nuts sorry. Sorry, Leyla, go on.

SANTIAGO: It's -- we know, a lot to keep up with, isn't it? Listen, new tonight, I want to make sure to get this in. We have learned that William Braddock plans to drop out of the race. He told us quote, in the court of public opinion I have already lost the race. I also had a brief conversation with Luna, she described things as being very hectic right now and said that she has been advised not to discuss her whereabouts.

COOPER: Wow. I'm going to have a glass of wine --


COOPER: -- I mean process all of this and I hate that word process, but I don't know what else to say. Leyla Santiago, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Fascinating.

Up next, brazen shooting caught on camera a gunman opens fire in New York City in broad daylight just inches from children who have to die for cover. Fortunately, they were not hurt. More details ahead.



COOPER: A brazen shooting on the streets of the Bronx in New York City. Take a look as gunman opened fire on a sidewalk. A 24-year-old man was shot in broad daylight on Thursday and two children had to duck for cover. Thankfully the children weren't hurt. The man who was shot is in stable condition with gunshot wounds to his back and legs. Police are looking for two suspects, one who fired the gun, the other who drove a getaway scooter.

Joining us, CNN senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, the former top cop in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

I mean, these clearly is sort of organized the guy's got a one a getaway vehicle a scooter. What goes through your mind when you see shootings like this in broad daylight?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, first of all, it's frightening to see something like that take place. I've been around a long time, but to actually see it like that on video. And just a total disregard for those two children, it's just the grace of God that they weren't struck by one of those bullets.

But clearly, the gunman had one thing on his mind. And one thing only and that was to kill the individual there on the ground, in the red sweatshirt. And he just totally did not care about anyone else who may have been injured or even killed as a result of that. But that's what's happening on some of the streets in our cities today, so.

COOPER: I mean, he's shooting that person at close range multiple times it appears with children, right? I mean, it's incredible that those kids were not, were not hurt. What do you think what is going on? I mean, last year, major American cities saw 33% increase in homicides in the first three months of this year homicides, Chicago up 33% over last year, L.A. homicides up 36% from the same time last year. Shootings in New York, up nearly 50%.

You know, there's a lot of different theories out there of what's going on from you know, critiques of policies, put forward on people getting out of prison on, you know, policing, what do you make of it?

RAMSEY: I think it's a combination of things. Philadelphia is up to considerably in terms of shootings and homicides. So, I think would major city chiefs, 66 of the largest cities in the United States, 63 of them reported increases in shootings and homicides last year. So this is serious. It's really something that is really gripping the entire nation. There is no one factor. I think COVID did play a role. There's no question about that.


Many of the core institutions in many of our neighborhoods, especially our more challenged neighborhoods were shut down, schools, rec (ph) centers, mentoring programs, all those kinds of things. So obviously, that had an impact. I think the murder of George Floyd protests to follow drew a lot of police resources out of neighborhoods to deal with the protest.

Bail reform, I think may have played a small role in certainly releasing people from prison early, because of COVID. Probably had an impact as well. There'll be a lot of people that will study this for quite a while. But there is something going on and it's not going to stop anytime soon. I mean, summer hasn't even begun yet. We haven't even gotten to the peak period of time where we have the most fun occur.

COOPER: In Portland, dozens of officers resigned from the police department's crowd control team, a day after one of the team's officer who was indicted for allegedly using his department issued baton to assault a protester last summer, the Rapid Response Team is essentially disbanded now. What does that say to you? I mean, how much is the Portland Police Department at a disadvantage now that the rapid response team no longer exists?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, listen, I understand it's tough being a police officer today. There's a lot of criticism, they got incoming from all sides, it seems like but I'm old school, you don't quit. You just do not quit. You took an oath to protect the citizens of that city.

And that's what you do. Things may not always go your way. You may not be happy about it. But you do not quit. As far as I'm concerned, they left that unit they can keep walking and leave the department period because I'd rather be 50 officers short, knowing that I have people who at least will do their job, as opposed to having 50 people there that I can't count on.

COOPER: Chief Ramsey, appreciate your time. Thank you.

Coming up --

RAMSEY: Thank you.

COOPER: -- another honor tonight for Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from members of Congress during the January 6 insurrection. We have details ahead.


COOPER: There have been a lot of searing images from the rioting on January 6. And as we reported the top program we continue to see even more as the weeks and months passed, along with video the rioter is one of the most indelible pieces of video of course has been of this man on Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman running up a staircase and leading rioters away from members of Congress, the men and women that he was sworn and assigned to protect.


Since then lawmakers have voted to award he and other officers medals for their service. And tonight Officer Goodman was given this honor as well, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight's Washington Nationals baseball game against the New York Mets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His pitches Kyle Schwarber (ph).


COOPER: I heard it's really hard to do that. The news continues. Let's hand over with Michael Smerconish, who's in for Chris tonight. Michael.