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Microsoft: Hackers Hit 150 Government Agencies, Think Tanks & Other Organizations; Authorities Previously Questioned San Jose Shooter About Hating Workplace; Procedural Vote on Jan. 6 Commission Underway Now. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

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

Time to decide. Will Senate Republicans back or block the bipartisan commission to investigate the Capital insurrection?

Russia hackers strike again. A major cyber attack against the United States government. The impact now on President Biden's upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin.

And hello summer! Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Last time it led to big surges of COVID-19 in several states afterwards. So what is in store this time around?

We're about to hear from President Biden on that and more.


BOLDUAN: AT THIS HOUR, we're keeping an eye on Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is keeping the country in suspense. Unclear when the Senate is going to vote on whether to form the independent bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol.

The vote was supposed to happen yesterday. They're still at it. They're getting back at it again today.

Despite all of this, the outcome of the vote really is not in question. Republicans are certain to block it, despite the fact that the Justice Department has arrested and charged at least 450 people in connection to the riot and five people have died as a result. Still, there are not ten Republicans who want to choose truth over politics and Donald Trump.

CNN's Jessica Dean is live in Capitol Hill. She is joining us now.

Jessica, what's the latest you're hearing there? JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Kate,

we're just waiting to see how long this process is going to play out. We still have absolutely no indication when that procedural vote on the January 6th commission would happen.

And the reason is a totally separate bill, a bipartisan bill that they thought was all worked out that is all aimed at making America more competitive with China is now all gummed up in the process, because Senator Ron Johnson and a few other senators have decided to kind of drag this out.

What we're now waiting to see, I was just down with Senator Johnson and we were listening to the other senators kind of airing their grievances about how this is all played out, and why they want to prolong the debate on this bipartisan bill. So we're waiting to see if those Republicans are going to use some 30 hours of debate that are available to them. How long they're going to drag this out, because they still have four votes to go on China, and then a procedural vote, before they can even get to the January 6th commission.

So we're just waiting to see how long this is going to take. Once they do get to that procedural vote on the January 6 commission, we only know of three Republican senators that committed to voting in support of that. That Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Susan Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski.

So, again, we are absolutely expecting that to fail to be filibustered and not to move forward. But we still have to get to that point.

We did hear from Senator Murkowski yesterday. She talked about a lot about why she believes this commission should go forward. She said in part to be about -- Senator Mitch McConnell who said there doesn't need to be further investigation in this way. She is said to be making a decision for the short term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us January 6th, I think we need to look at that critically s that what this is about? Is everything just one election cycle after another?"

Of course, McConnell said there doesn't need to be further investigation in this way. There are law enforcement investigations. Democrats have charged this is all politics. They simply don't want to be talking about this when the 2022 midterms roll around as they look to take back majorities in the House and the Senate.

But again, Kate, it's a long way before we even get to this procedural vote on January 6th at this point. We're still trying to get through this China bill which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he's pledged they're going to get done today. He didn't say anything about the January 6th commission vote.

So we wait and see -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: We will wait and see. Thanks so much, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Joining me right now, former Democratic senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, and former Republican senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake. Nice to you have both back.

Senator Flake, you heard Jessica Dean read what Lisa Murkowski has said. Her -- that was her response to Mitch McConnell. I mean, what do you say to your former colleagues? The Republicans who are facing this vote today?

JEFF FLAKE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm with Lisa on. This I think it's far more important to understand and to make sure this doesn't happen again. Yeah, I think Republicans in terms of political price, they're figuring that this won't be remembered as much who voted for the commission, who didn't two years from now.

Whether or not that is correct political calculation, the country needs this. And Republicans should want it in my view.

BOLDUAN: Senator Flake, my colleague Jamie Gangel, she is reporting that Mitch McConnell actually asked other Republicans to oppose the commission as a personal favor to him.


Chuck Hagel, former Republican senator, he said this about that last night.


CHUCK HAGEL (R). FORMER U.S. SENATOR: If he said it, it's shameful. He should not have responsibility or the privilege of being a leader in Congress.


BOLDUAN: Do you agree?

FLAKE: Well, I -- I don't agree with the sentiment. This ought to be a personal favor. And no vote on this the Senate floor ought to be a personal favor to anyone. It ought to be on the merits. And on the merits, I think that this is needed.

Now, Mitch may be right that this, you know, politically doesn't inure to the benefit of Republicans in the short term. In long term, it will, and it's good for the country, short term and long term.

So I -- that's highly unusual for majority leader to actually ask people as a personal favor to vote for or against something. But on this, I think people ought to vote their conscience.

BOLDUAN: Senator Jones, there is a new poll out and it says that majority of Americans think the insurrection was an attack on our democracy. But it also says 74 percent of Republicans say that it's time to move on. You know, cynically, is any commission coming out of Washington going to convince folks that feel that way otherwise?

DOUG JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe or maybe not, Kate. Look, I think the issue though is not necessarily to convince Americans. The issue is to put a set of facts out there that a bipartisan commission can agree on. What happened and why?

And then it will be up to history to judge and whether or not people are convinced or not. We're living in a very partisan time. And there will be a segment of this population that will never believe it one way or another, depending on how the facts turn out.

But I don't think that's the full point. I think the point is that we need to do this for democracy. We need do this for the Congress and the American people to get those facts out there, so that we can also plan down the road. I think that's really very, very important.

BOLDUAN: You know, looking at -- we got this, this fight now. And then looking at the fight ahead, we saw a true split screen last night of Republican past and Republican present. I want to play it for both of you.

Paul Ryan speaking out against Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz responding.


PAUL RYAN (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If the conservative cause depends on one personality or of second rate imitations, then we're not going anywhere.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): As we gather tonight, Paul Ryan is giving a speech in California. Taking advice on party building from Paul Ryan would be like taking advice on how to interact with your in-laws for Meghan Markle.


BOLDUAN: Look, I mean, Senator Jones, have -- has the Trump, Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene portion of the Republican Party as you see it, has it consumed the Republican Party at this point?

JONES: You don't think it's consumed the Republican Party. I really do not believe. That I think it's consumed with all due respect, I think it's consumed the media more than it has consumed the Republican Party.

I think you still see a Republican Party with conservative values that are doing their best to tamp down that rhetoric and see how things can go and move forward. But I think that they're clearly the loudest voices right now, and the loudest voices get the attention. They get the attention on social media, they get the attention in the mainstream media, just like we've seen that happen in the Democratic Party with some of the voices on the left.

So this is going to be some growing pains, I think for the Republican Party right now. That they've got to just kind of work through. And unfortunately, they have, you know, at some point, President Trump weighs in and he's got the loudest mega phone available.

BOLDUAN: And he just -- and he weighed in this morning eviscerating Paul Ryan for that speech last night. When you see when he speaks out, obviously, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, they repeat it. But then you also see the impact at all circles back to what we're

seeing, Senator Flake, with the Senate right now because Donald Trump, for better or worse, is the reason that Republicans are not voting for -- are going to not support this commission. Because of politics and he is a huge part of it or fear of what's going to come from it.

FLAKE: Let me just say Doug Jones is very kind for his description of the Republican Party.

I do believe that most Republicans what to get back to a party that believes in ideas, the kind that Paul Ryan described. But that subset of a subset of Republican voters that vote in primaries and droves still, you know, when they talk about let's move on away from this commission or away from this, what happened in the last election, we still have in Arizona, a Republican Party doing a recount of the 2020 election.


So, too many Republicans don't want to move on. I would ask people, I mean, Republicans, do you want to be the party of Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene or one more of where Paul Ryan is? And the Paul Ryan kind of wing of the party is the one that can grow and actually be a majority party in the future.

You know, the other party can win a few elections here or there. But we're going to lose overtime and Republicans, until we want to start winning elections, we're going to have to, you know, shun this conspiracy fringe element of the party. That's all there is to it. And that includes the former president.

BOLDUAN: Senator Flake, Senator Jones, thank you.

FLAKE: Thank you.

JONES: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Russia at it again. Another massive hack targeting the U.S. government. How this could impact President Biden's upcoming meeting now with Vladimir Putin.

Plus, new details about the San Jose shooter. Early warnings about his hatred towards his job that go back years. The latest on the investigation is next.



BOLDUAN: AT THIS HOUR, an investigation is under way into another major cyber attack by Russian hackers. Microsoft detected the attack and they say that Russian linked group gained access to e-mails used by the State Department's International Aid Agency. They believe it's the same group behind last year's SolarWinds hack.

Complicating things here, just weeks from now, President Biden is set to be meeting with Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow and he joins us now with more.

Matthew, what are you hearing about this from there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, from the Russian point of view, you know, we have come to expect that sort of regular reaction to any allegations like this and there have been so many over the past several years, they're sort of saying it's got nothing to do with them.

Dmitry Peskov, who's the spokesperson for the Russian president, was asked about this by us earlier today on a conference call with reporters. And he said, look, I don't know how Microsoft got to this conclusion. We want certain questions answered before we respond formally on the substance of the allegation.

But he said I don't think that this is going to have any impact on the summit that is planned between President Putin and President Biden. That summit, of course, taking place in Geneva, in Switzerland on the 16th of next month.

But I mean I think at the very least everyone acknowledges that this is going to add another issue to the long list of fraught issues up for discussion between the two leaders, between President Biden and President Putin. There's been historical issues of hacking as well.

The fact it is still going on now. Microsoft pointed thought cyber attack took place within the last week. It is within the past few days really that activity like this is still being taking place. They mentioned that it was the same group of hackers. They believe are responsible for the SolarWinds hack, the U.S. administration has made it clear that it believes because of U.S. intelligence agencies, that's the Russian foreign service Secret Service, the SVR, that have imposed sanctions about that. This is not an issue that White House is able to avoid response to -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Great point. Matthew, thank you very much.

Turning to the tragic shooting in San Jose, California, the shooting at the rail yard that killed nine transit workers.

Homeland Security has now revealed the killer was detained and questioned in 2016 by Customs officials who found hate-filled memos and books on terrorism in his possession.

Joining me now is Josh Campbell. He's in San Jose.

Josh, what's the latest there?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kate, the investigation continues into that shooter. Authorities trying to identify a motive, and after each one of these incidents, officers and then the public want to know were there signs missed?

What we're learning from our colleague Geneva Sands in Washington confirming with a official at Department of Homeland Security, the shooter in San Jose in 2016 was detained by customs officials as he returned from the Philippines. And during screening of his possessions, they found according to this reporting a book on terrorism, books on manifestos, as well as a notebook in which he wrote about his hatred for his employer.

Now, we don't know if that would have risen to a level of a threat of law enforcement. That is something we're asking officials here whether they actually received that information for this community. Certainly wanting answers about what transpired here and whether this could have been prevented.

Now, of course, as had a investigation into the shooter continues, we're, of course, remembering the victims, as is the rest of the community here. There have been vigils. There are memorials set up. We're hearing from the co-workers of the victims speaking out, honoring their memory.

Take a listen.


GLENN HENDRICKS, VTA BOARD CHAIRPERSON: Many of have reported the names of the employees who were lost. To us here at VTA, they're friends and family. And we want to honor their memory.

NAUNIHAL SINGH, LIGHT RAIL YARD SUPERINTENDENT: But I was sad inside that some of my family members could not feel the warmth that I was able to feel yesterday. It's going to be missed forever.


CAMPBELL: Now as law enforcement officers investigate this shooting, they are also working to try to stop the next shooting. I spoke with the top FBI agent here in the Bay Area, who previewed a report forthcoming from the FBI, looking at mass shootings since 2000. One key theme in so many of the shootings, Kate, is the shooters exhibited multiple public warning signs that could have been picked up by others.


That is something that law enforcement officers are imploring the public. If you see something that is suspicious, they want to hear from you. Of course, they don't want to be seen standing over another crime scene like the one behind me. Another incident involving mass murder victims -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Josh, thank you very much.

We do have some breaking news coming in from Capitol Hill. A change in some movement with regard to this vote on the January 6 commission in the Senate.

Let me get over to Manu Raju.

Manu, I know that Chuck Schumer has been speaking on the floor. What's happening?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. There is an agreement here to have a vote within the next hour to move ahead with that bill that would create an outside commission to investigate the January 6th attack.

Now, we have been expecting a vote to happen. But it had been held up because of variety of reasons, namely because it was waiting for action for another bill to be resolved. There's been a fight over a bill dealing with the U.S. competitiveness with China that had been dragged out overnight, they've been fighting over that.

So, what they agreed to here in the Senate is to delay action on the China bill until the first week in June. The week of June 8th. They'll come back on June 8th and vote on those. They'll deal with that bill then.

But within the next hour, the Senate will vote to see whether they would open debate on that bill that would investigate, create this commission to investigate the January 6th attack.

Now to move forward on that January 6th bill, it would require 60 votes to do. And what we know from all of our reporting that we have done over the last couple of weeks, there are not 60 votes to move ahead, because 10 Republicans have to break ranks and join with 50 Democrats in order to get the 60 votes needed to break a Republican led filibuster.

And this if Republicans are successful as expected to filibuster this, it will be the first legislative filibuster that they have done this Congress and expect that to be successful effort.

We do expect a handful of Republicans to break ranks, five, six, seven. Getting to ten unlikely because a lot of them are concerned that this commission could undercut their efforts to take back control of Congress next year and that's an argument that is taking hold across the conference -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. All right. Manu, thank you so much for the update. We'll keep obviously a close eye on the Senate floor now.

Also coming up for us, Biden's first budget. It will be the highest level of federal spending since World War II. A top White House economic adviser is our guest.



BOLDUAN: -- support of the commission. Other than that, you have heard more.

RAJU: There could potentially be more.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio told me yesterday he would probably vote to advance this as well. He was actually not one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Donald Trump back in the second impeachment trial for inciting the January insurrection.

But he said he would move forward assuming they can make changes how the commission is structured. This is a procedural vote to open debate on it f they were to on debate, they could consider amendments to amend the underlying bill. They first have to get through this first hurdle which is a 60-vote threshold to achieve just that.

So, Rob Portman said he would be open to supporting it. Probably will. But also others like Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, another senator who voted to convict Donald Trump has not ruled out voting in favor of this. Senator Ben Sass has not said one way or another.

So there could potentially be six senators, maybe seven senators, Pat Toomey, another one to watch here. He has not said one way or the other. He's been saying for days he's still undecided.

But getting to the ten votes is the big question, the big hurdle and makes it very unlikely, because I've been surveying Republicans up and down the conference for the last several days. And it's been very clear where they are, which is no. They don't want to begin debate. They want to cut it off now.

They are with Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who contends this commission, even though structured in a bipartisan way, it would be skewed for the Democrats and could eventually hurt their message in the midterm elections.

BOLDUAN: Just gut check that. We don't have time. We never have enough time. But gut check that. That is -- we do not know that to be true. It is bipartisan by nature.

Democrats conceded to all of public Republican demands for this commission. And it would be independent.

I have talked to former Republican after former Republican who said essentially their question is, what are you afraid of now? The truth? Because that is what Chuck Hagel told me is what he wants to say to his Republican friends.

RAJU: Yeah, look, that's exactly it. This commission would be five commissioners set up by Democrats. Five commissioners would be appointed by the Republican leaders. And they would have joint subpoena power. They have to issue a report by the end of the year. They would have to investigate what happened on January 6th. But they also to investigate the, quote, influencing factors that run up to January 6.

So, what are those influencing factors, Kate? Donald Trump, his role in inciting the insurrection, his supporters storming into this capitol. The efforts by some Republicans, particularly on the House side, to say they can overturn the election on the January 6th day. The some Republicans went along with that as well.

This would be a month's long investigation. Keep this issue in the headline. It would force Republicans to respond. Have them to ask questions about whether they accept the election results as valid. Put them on the open side of Donald Trump.

All of which Mitch McConnell wants nothing to do with. He doesn't want a debate over how what happened on January 6th to be dominating this Congress, dominating discussions, heading into the 2022 midterms when they want to take back the House.