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At This Hour

Insurrection Commission Vote Poised to Fail in the Senate; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Insurrection Commission. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here are the top things we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Doomed already. Senate Republicans appear poised to kill the bipartisan investigation into the Capitol insurrection. You want to hear what some Republicans are already admitting is driving this opposition.

Biden's patience. International pressure is growing for a ceasefire in the Middle East. So will Netanyahu listen to President Biden?

New video of the deadly arrest of a black man by Louisiana troopers, and the lie those troopers told about his death.

Thank you so much for joining us.

AT THIS HOUR, we are standing by and keeping our eye on Capitol Hill. We're going to soon be hearing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi will be taking questions from reporters.

She's kind of doing her intro right now, and we're going to get into it in a second, because this is the first time since the House passed the bill creating an independent commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection that she's going to be taking questions from reporters.

Thirty-five House Republicans defied GOP leadership voting in favor of the commission. Now, obviously, that is nowhere near a majority. But in House Republican politics, it is a significant number of defections.

Now, it's up to the Senate, where until you can show me evidence to the contrary, we should expect this bill, this commission, to fail.

CNN's Manu Raju is joining us from Capitol Hill for more on this.

We're keeping an ear on Speaker Pelosi, of course, Manu. But it's the same math, right, that we talk about all the time. Democrats in the Senate, they need ten Republicans to support the bill to pass it. They don't have it.

What does this all come down to?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this comes down to a lot of ways politics. Republicans will admit that right away. They're concerned that Democrats in their view are playing politics. They believe that an investigation like this could actually hurt them come 2022.

Republicans flatly acknowledging that they want the 2022 election to be fought over the economy, over immigration, over issues that have nothing to do with January 6th, the insurrection, the former president's role in all of that, as well as questions who may have to testify -- whether Republicans may have to testify, such as Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader. And that's one big reason why you're seeing very little support on the Republican side for any sort of commission.

They're also arguing that it's redundant. They believe there are other investigations that can be done. Not outside of the hands of an oversight, outside commission, much like with the 9/11 Commission, even though this would be modeled by a very bipartisan panel, five members on each side would be picked. Each would have a degree on the subpoenas and the like.

But nevertheless, Republicans are concerned how this could ultimately come out. And today on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, made clear that he's going to force a vote on the issue in the coming days.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: It is my intention to bring the bipartisan legislation for the January 6th Commission up for a vote. My Senate Republican colleagues must now ask themselves, are they going to join us in pursuing the truth? Or are they going to cover for Donald Trump and his big lie?


RAJU: At the moment, there are not just ten Republican senators who are there, including ones who voted to convict Donald Trump, such as Senator Susan Collins is concerned with the way the bill is structured, wants changes. Senator Richard Burr, voted to convict Donald Trump, raised some concerns about the scope of this probe when I asked him about it a few days ago.

So, it's highly doubtful they get to that point, which means Democrats may decide to take things in their hands, create a select committee potentially in the House to investigate. Democrats would have control over such a panel. But that's an option, as Democrats vow to investigate this, even as this bill appears likely to fail in the Senate -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much. Manu is going to keep an ear to Nancy Pelosi. We're going to jump in in just a little bit.

Let me bring in right now, though, Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, Elissa Slotkin.

Thank you so much for being here.

So, Mitch McConnell is opposed to this. Let's talk about the Senate at this moment. I'm just going to keep saying, until proven otherwise, I have to believe that this commission is doomed. I mean, do you agree?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, I would hope that's not the case. Frankly, I would be supportive of putting it up for a vote even if it doesn't succeed so that people see the choices that are being made in the Senate.

Right now, we don't seem to have the votes. But, you know, I'm a big believer in like kind of put up or shut up, like make your vote known and have that be on your record for the rest of your career.

BOLDUAN: If it doesn't go through, if it ends in the Senate, what then? What do you think should happen?


SLOTKIN: Well, I think a couple of things. We can stand up a committee on the House side, again, with the same parameters that at least has the mandate from the House. We can give it a budget. We can do things like that.

I don't think it's helpful to have it just default to different congressional committees. I think having current members of Congress is not be responsible for this makes it so political. Even with Democrats in the majority, and I'm a Democrat, you want it out into the bipartisan hands of outside experts.

And then, you know, frankly, holding those hearings and doing that work and showing the country what happened.

Now, I think people forget that the 9/11 Commission, you know, it was the official documentation of what happened to us on 9/11.

It was a paperback book. It was in every bookstore in America, every airport in America. They made a graphic novel out of it for kids. That is the way people understand --


BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I want to give -- I want -- we must want this conversation but Speaker Pelosi is speaking to us now. Let's listen to this.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: -- done so much for our country, and quite frankly, many Republicans have courageously withstood, shall we say, assault on our democracy that is going forth.

When you think of the Republicans and the courage that they've had in the electoral system in our country, and election decisions that have been made to support -- support the fact that the election was legitimate. Many Republicans were the ones who came forward. So, I think that there's some courage that needs to be recognized in

the party, certainly, in our body, Liz Cheney and others. But it's not for me to analyze them except to say as one who has served with Republicans for a long time in the Congress, this is a different -- I would say different breed of cat -- but I love our kitten.

So, I'm not going to say breed of cat. I don't want to do that to cat. My granddaughters, (INAUDIBLE) Daisy.

But it is -- it is interesting to see 35 members coming forth. I'm very proud of them. And it was a recognition that this was a bipartisan product, negotiated in good faith, that all of a sudden, they wanted to say, well, if it isn't -- if it isn't Black Lives Matter or something like that, taking their eye off the ball January 6th.



REPORTER: We saw the guidance yesterday from the Capitol Police defending and clarifying some of that. How does that pertain, though, you know, I've asked you this before, when can Congress get back to normal in continuation of hybrid hearings? (INAUDIBLE) I understand the issue (INAUDIBLE) and what Dr. Martin has said, but with that issue, you know, why shouldn't some of the (INAUDIBLE) hearings get back to normal?

PELOSI: Well, what the -- what the attending physician, and that's the guidance we have to go by, said is unless people are vaccinated, we have to continue to wear masks in our meetings and on the floor. And so, that's what we are doing.

It is unfortunate that a large number of people in the Congress have refused to be vaccinated -- or I don't know what it is, refused or have been vaccinated and don't want to admit, I don't know what that is, because I shouldn't know, it's their personal business. But until they -- as the doctor said, until they are vaccinated, we cannot have meetings without masks.

REPORTER: But he was specific to the House floor. Are you talking about that being a meeting place where everyone comes to meeting?

PELOSI: Right.

REPORTER: What about committees where you might have --

PELOSI: Wouldn't it be the same thing? Yeah, in the meetings, if you -- if you're not vaccinated, the other people have to wear masks. And we'll see.

I mean, I'm hoping that this new CDC guidance will encourage people to be vaccinated. We want to get through this as soon as possible. You -- I mean, does anybody feel like wearing a mask?

So, no, no, we all want to get through this and we want to get back to -- much of the containment of visitors to the Capitol relates to COVID. Not necessarily to what happened to January 6th only. I mean, we have to protect people and have safety and security.

But many of the prohibitions of visits sprang well before January -- came forth before January 6th.

Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: Hi, thank you.

Just to follow up on that, you know, the president has talked about July 4 (INAUDIBLE) at the time when the country was sort of gather more and get back to normal. Do you see any room for other aspects of the Capitol to visitors?


And again, knowing that so many people have not been vaccinated, do you keep just waiting for them or is there an alternative?

PELOSI: Yeah, yeah. We have to wait for them to be vaccinated because they are selfishly endangerment to other people, including staff people here.

So, while we are hopeful, and I join the president of being hopeful, that we can reach a place where it is safe for people to be -- what is this, the honor system? The honor system as to whether somebody's been vaccinated? Do you want them breathing in your face on the strength of their honor?

So, let's just see. Let's just see. I mean, again, we have -- this is about science and governance. And science and governance, we have a responsibility to make sure that the House of Representatives' chamber is not a Petri dish, because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated or, to insist -- or to wear a mask -- because it requires us to wear a mask.

I mean, we could come to a place where we say, if you don't want to wear a mask and you don't want to -- if you're not vaccinated, don't even come to the floor. We have facilities up above in the gallery where people can come to vote. We don't want to deter anybody's ability to exercise their constitutional duties. We had that responsibility as well.

So, we're trying to balance everybody being able to exercise his or her constitutional duties, as well as protect, to secure the staff -- the staff and the other members.

Now, as -- I know a lot of things. As speaker of the House, I know a lot of things. And I know a lot about people's predispositions and the rest, because they share them with me. And I have to make judgments based on what the vulnerability are of our members as well. But it's not a, shall we say, subjective decision. Attending physician has said, until everybody's vaccinated, we wear masks.

Yes, ma'am? REPORTER: Back to the commission.

PELOSI: Yes, ma'am.

REPORTER: I know about your strong preference for a bipartisan 9/11- style commission.


REPORTER: Things are not looking great for that passing in the Senate.

PELOSI: Who knows? Who knows?

REPORTER: There's a lot of opposition.

Are you committed -- if that failed in the Senate, are you committed to a select committee? How will that work?

PELOSI: We're taking this one step at a time. But what we've said we want is a bipartisan commission. I don't want to weaken that position.

Everybody knows what my options are. They are no secret. But I -- the preference -- not only preference, overwhelming preference is for bipartisanship.

And I do -- I don't think that what we've heard from the Senate is so bad, compared to what we usually hear from the Senate. And I'm very pleased with the statement made by the majority leader on the subject.

And now some of the senators, Republican senators, are saying, well, if Republicans can hire staff, that would be okay. Of course, they can hire staff. That's never even been a question, so we like that special that they want the committee to pose.

REPORTER: To follow up on that question. It doesn't appear -- there's going to be an investigation no matter what happens, right? That's what you're basically saying is it's been something else, but this Congress is not going to go by without some sort of large-scale probe into January 6th?

PELOSI: Well, let's go back to 9/11. When 9/11, you saw it took 14- 1/2 months to get this signed by the president -- did you know that?

REPORTER: I did know.

PELOSI: Isn't that surprising to you? You would have thought just like that.

But there was major opposition to a 9/11 Commission. I know that because I had the first bill and I lost on the floor. We were in the minority at the time.

The -- and then Tim Roemer had the amendment to the intelligence bill with the help of the families and that's how we got a bill passed and then to the president's desk. But it took time. This has been really on an accelerated pace even though, why don't we

have it? Well, it's in the works and it takes time to negotiate.

The -- in the meantime, though, in 2011 -- I mean, excuse me, 2001 and 2002 leading up to that, we had a joint committee in the House and Senate, bipartisan committee which I was a co-chair as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. Bob Graham was the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. So, he and Shelby, Porter Goss, Pelosi in the House.

And we had months of hearings and the rest. And the work that was produced by that committee was very available to the 9/11 Commission and in the legislation establishing it, said it should take advantage of all of those things -- as we would hope that this commission would take advantage of some of the other oversight committee's work.


So, let's just hope that we can have the clarity of a bipartisan commission, with high-level, national leaders on it as the committee calls for, with expertise in the areas that are important, whether it's law enforcement, mil -- security, civil liberty, civil rights, privacy, different range. Read it -- well, it's in the bill. It's online.

So, let's just -- let's just go that route. It's the preferable route to go. Why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we? So --

REPORTER: Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: How -- just a quick follow-up on that, but how long were you willing to wait when Democrats seem to have a real fear that what happened on January 6th could occur again? So, how long are you willing to wait before Democrats decide to go this on their own?

PELOSI: Well, these things take a little more time than those who want immediate gratification, want an answer on something. We passed it yesterday, what is your answer to that?

It takes time for issues to be socialized, bills to be -- to be reviewed and the rest. So, again, we want to bring it to the floor when it is ready -- I mean, for them to bring it to the floor when it is ready. They may have some modifications in it which we'll see what they are.

And, again, this is about prioritizing, sequencing, honoring the report of General Honore, and the inspectors-general about what needs to be done. But I would like to have the trust that the Senate wants to find the truth as well. And let's just give them a chance to that without hanging something over them about a timetable or other options that exist for the speaker of the House.

REPORTER: Just a follow-up quickly about reform. We're approaching that May 25th deadline of the anniversary of the death of George Floyd. Right now, Democrats and Republicans have said it doesn't seem like they would reach a deal. I mean, what does that say --

PELOSI: No, it doesn't. I don't think they've said they're not going to reach a deal.

BOLDUAN: All right. We've been listening to House Speaker Pelosi with her first though. She is holding out hope, you can tell, that this could pass in the Senate.

If I can, I want to bring in Congresswoman Elise Slotkin.

Thank you, Congresswoman, for sticking around, I really appreciate it.

So, she is like you. She is holding out hope that this is not doomed in the Senate yet.

But I think one of the more important statements that came out yesterday on kind of the Republican position on this I want to ask you about. It came from Republican Senator John Thune, and he was talking to reporters saying that, especially Republican senators fell into two camps on this -- those who supported the commission and were ready to go, but also those who don't, and in part because of pure politics.

Let me play what he said.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): It could be weaponized politically and dragged into next year. Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats' very radical left-wing agenda.


BOLDUAN: If it is all about midterms, full-stop, how do you have hope?

SLOTKIN: Well, listen, I mean, to me, the idea that he said aloud that we're -- there are senators who are worried about voting for this because they're scared would get weaponized in an election -- I mean, this is a time where you put on your big boy pants and you do what you need to do for the country. Like the country needs to understand what happened on January 6th so that it doesn't happen again.

And I guess may be because I'm from a very independently-minded district, I don't give a lot of credit to people who are scared of their base and that keeps them from doing the right thing for the country. But -- sorry, go ahead --

BOLDUAN: No, no, no, go ahead. Sorry.

SLOTKIN: I just -- I just -- so, and that doesn't hold a lot of water with me. I do think that we need to do something. And I'm sorry that the midterms are something that are, you know, prohibiting people from doing the right thing. But I don't accept that as an excuse.

BOLDUAN: And I also do want to highlight, you really are about bipartisanship. You -- the caucus, for everyone else out there, the group that you are a member of is the Problem Solvers Caucus that doesn't get enough attention, quite frankly. It was really the core, if you look at the numbers, Problem Solver Caucus members was a core of the Republicans who stood up for the commission yesterday and supported the commission today -- yesterday, which was really important.


But I'm really struck with, in your district speech to this. But if you can't find real bipartisanship around this, as you say, putting on your big boy pants and doing what is right, why do you have any hope that you can get bipartisanship around any other agenda item? Infrastructure, immigration, anything.

SLOTKIN: Yeah. Well, I do think -- I mean, we saw 35 Republicans come with us. And that is what bipartisanship looks like right now. It's 35 or 40 Republicans who are very brave and very courageous, and voting their country over their party right now on these things (AUDIO GAP) security.

And, to me, that's the way we go forward. We start with 35. And hopefully, the goal is we increase those numbers.

The reason I have hope is because I don't think that people in Washington actually are representing the silent majority of people who just want their government to work. They're not screaming on the Internet. They're not getting into a group and protesting with weapons.

They are just trying to go to work and provide for their kids. The silent majority does not like these games. And I have faith that they will see through them.

BOLDUAN: You keep holding on to that faith. I will be the cynical side of this on where things are in this country right now. And we will meet somewhere in the middle.

It is really good to see you, Congresswoman. Thank you for coming in. Let's see what happens in the Senate. Let's see and then what happens right after that.

All right, let me bring in now my friend and colleague, CNN's Dana Bash, for more on this.

So, Dana, you heard what the congresswoman said and she has a really important, unique perspective on this. What did you think -- what did you think of Pelosi's position today? She's still holding out hope, you can see very clearly in giving the Senate some space to potentially still pass this?

BASH: She knows the power of the words that she uses and how -- let's talk about weaponized. That her words can be weaponized to push or to pull votes for this commission in the United States Senate, which is why she's trying to step back and just say, let's see what happens in the Senate. But the thing that I think is most important that Republicans like

John Thune, who are -- who is saying the quiet part out loud that this is about the midterms, is not, you know, addressing is the reality here.

And the reality is, as follows. Democrats control the House, Democrats control the Senate, so if these Republicans don't vote yes on a commission that will take time and will be pretty quiet, yes, they will have subpoena power and do all of those things. But these will be serious people working earnestly. And that's certainly the way the 9/11 commission was.

If that doesn't happen, what's going to happen, Kate? We've seen this so many times before. The Democrats with the gavels are going to still hold hearings. Lots of hearings, in the House, in the Senate, and this issue isn't going away. It will be still be front and center --

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right, Dana.

BASH: Even more front and center. Even more front and center.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Talk about -- let's talk about Benghazi. Ten -- what was it? Ten congressional committees, eight investigations, none of them we would say apolitical or unbiased. That's how you string something along when you have -- when you have the gavel.

That's exactly what is set to happen. And the sad thing is, is the select committee, I mean, I just don't see it being anywhere close to as bipartisan and independent is with what are --


BOLDUAN: -- what the country is looking at with this proposal right now.

BASH: That's exactly right. And another thing that the speaker said which is so interesting, this is before you covered the hill with me back in the day when I was a producer, but after 9/11, I remember that debate about the 9/11 Commission. It took months and months and months. And it was because the White House was worried that George W. Bush could be blamed. Democrats were worried that Bill Clinton could be blamed for being asleep at the switch and allowing 9/11 Commission. There was politics involved.

It was a different time. It wasn't anywhere near as divided and divisive as now. And you also don't have the elephant in the room which is a former president, you know, whipping up his supporters and continuing a lie. It was a very different set of facts, but there was politics.

And you know what, the people who were appointed to that ten-person commission, they hired staff. Either side hired Republicans or Democrats. They hired staff. They chose to hire nonpartisan staff. I don't know that would happen here but it is doable.

BOLDUAN: So important and what we're potentially seeing here I think is just the yuck of politics getting in the way of real, important progress for the good of the country yet again.

But thanks, Dana. It's good to see you.

BASH: You, too, Kate.

Coming up for us, a man died during an arrest in Louisiana. The troopers involved initially said he died because he crashed into a tree. The video shows otherwise. We're going to show you the disturbing video, next.

Plus, President Biden is losing patience. The new reporting of the strange relationship between Biden and the Israeli prime minister as Biden is calling for calm, and rockets keep flying.


We're live at the border, ahead.


BOLDUAN: Stonewalled and lied to. That is what the family of Ronald Greene says has been happening for two years. It has been that long since Greene died during his arrest. His family says Louisiana troopers, they initially told them that he died after crashing his car during a police chase.

But body cam video that just came out, not released by authorities, but obtained by "The Associated Press" shows a very different, very brutal chain of events.

CNN's Ryan Young has more.


RONALD GREENE: I'm your brother, I'm scared.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terrifying pleas from Ronald Greene after a high-speed chase led to a deadly confrontation with Louisiana state police just outside the city of Monroe.