Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden Heads to Tulsa to Honor Race Massacre Victims; Texas Governor Threatens to Defend State Legislature After Dem Walkout; Flynn Denies Backing a Military Coup in the U.S. After He Appears to Support an Overthrow on Video; GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham Meets with Netanyahu as Rivals Try to Oust Israeli PM. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 01, 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:

America's history of racial violence and a growing battle over voting rights. Both take stage today as President Biden heads to Tulsa.

Calling for a coup. President Biden's (ph) former national security adviser is now trying to walk back his suggestion a military coup in America is needed. How QAnon is poisoning American politics.

And tennis slammed. Naomi Osaka is taking a stand. The French Open is fining her for it. But this is bigger than just one tennis match and just one tennis superstar.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here, everyone.

AT THIS HOUR, President Biden, he's getting ready to leave the White House. He'll be heading to Oklahoma. He is going there to commemorate one of the darkest chapters in American history, the Tulsa race massacre.

One hundred years ago, a white mob attacked a prosperous black neighborhood killing hundreds of men, women, and children. In just 24 hours, 35 city blocks were destroyed in what is thought to be the single worst event of white supremacist violence against African- Americans in our nation's history.

The White House says that the president is not only heading there to honor those lives lost in the tragic legacy left behind, but also to announce steps today to try to help close the racial wealth gap.

Let's go there. CNN's Abby Philip is joining me from Tulsa.

Amy, I'm so glad you're there. What are we going to be hearing from Biden today? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, today

is all about commemorating what was lost 100 years ago during the Tulsa race massacre, but also, marking what happens in the 100 years since that massacre, which was the disinvestment of the black community here in Tulsa. The theft of land and property as a result of that massacre and as a result of decades of racist policies enacted by governments and by cities.

And so what you're going to hear from Biden is a broader agenda that addresses some of the racial inequities starting actually with the federal government. The Biden administration says they're going to announce that they're going to increase a federal contracting with minority owned businesses. They're going to also address certain issues like access to transportation and minority communities. Issues like fund that they are proposing that would invest in minority communities as well, and also housing discrimination.

So it's a broader agenda that is tied to the legacy of racism that has -- that came out of incidents like the massacre 100 years ago in Tulsa. Incidents like this happened all over the country, and you'll hear Biden, I think, expanding this agenda not just to Tulsa but looking at decades of racist policies and how the federal government can rectify those policies.

Some of this, Kate, will require congressional action. But for the people here in Tulsa, you hear them talking a lot about how the fact that Greenwood which is where black Wall Street stood is now almost entirely white owned now.

That is one of the lasting legacies of that massacre, and it's one of the things you're going to hear the Biden administration addressing not just with his words but also with some of the policy recommendations that they're putting forward today.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. And that speech coming up later today. We'll bring that to you live.

Abby, thank you very much.

There are also new developments in the battle over voting rights in America. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he's now threatening to defund the state legislature after Democrats staged a dramatic walkout that blocked very effectively the passage of a Republican bill that would have implemented tough new voting restrictions.

Texas is the latest battleground over voting rights in America. Democrats there actually now pleading with President Biden and with Congress to step up and act.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining me now from Dallas with the latest on this.

Ed, where do thing stand right now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, lawmakers are waiting to see what Governor Greg Abbott is going to announce. A special session to come back and hammer out this voting bill. That was essentially stopped the very last hours of the legislative session by Democrats on Sunday night. But the governor here says that he's going to bring lawmakers back in a special session.

But it's the timing of this that is unclear at this point, Kate. The legislature also has to hammer out the redistricting process because state is -- the state is getting two new congressional seats as well. So the question becomes, does the governor put all of these issues into the same special session?


And that is not clear at this point. But the governor did fire off a tweet yesterday essentially saying that he is threatening to defund the legislative branch of Texas state government. Lawmakers here in Texas make about $7,200 a year. It is not a full time job. But he is saying that no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. That is obviously a threat to the Democrats who walked out of the legislative session on Sunday night.

But what is striking about all of this and the real problem here for the governor is that article that he is threatening to veto in the state budget also funds the salaries of thousands of nonpartisan state employees that work in state government as well. So real questions as to whether or not the governor is going follow-through.

But the Democrats are saying they are vowing to continue fighting and we'll make it as hard as possible for this bill to pass at any point, a bill that contains things like banning voting past 9:00 at night. It would abandon the unsolicited mailing of ballot applications. It would prohibit overnight and early Sunday morning voting. It would expand the access that party partisan poll watchers have at polling locations. It would stop drive through voting as well.

And one of the bigger concerns is they say it would lower the standard of proof for being able for judges to be able to overturn an election. So, those are many of the issues that have been so controversial in this voting bill. Republicans say, you know, they have the votes and they describe this as a voting integrity bill. But this will be another long, hard fought out battle here when law makes have to come back to Austin to -- for that special session -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: But again, it is a solution in search of a problem. As we have seen when we are looking at how many instances of voter and election fraud there are. It does not point to the needs of what we're seeing in this bill and in so many states across the country. But this is an important battleground for what -- how -- what is playing out right now. Ed, thank you very much.

This all kind of comes together. Joining me right now is our CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. She's also the co-host of "STATE OF THE UNION"

Dana, presidents commemorate anniversaries and if we take the kind of in parts to where the president's heading to Tulsa. I mean, I was thinking, presidents commemorate anniversaries quite often. Biden traveling to Tulsa, honoring the victims on this solemn anniversary, what is the opportunity here for the president and the administration?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a big opportunity. As you said, just the fact that U.S. president is going. It is a big anniversary. But this is a massacre that barely got a mention in most of our history books growing up. And the fact that you have a president shining a light on it speaks to a lot of things.

First of all, the world changing. Thank goodness in the fact this is being commemorated and memorialized. The open question is what next? You know, you saw a concert effectively being canceled last night because Hollywood types who were going like John Legend is angry there is no real discussion about reparations.

As Abby just reported in the area where this massacre took place, so- called black Wall Street, it is now largely white. There has been no repercussions, reparations. However -- well, there are two separate things, repercussions is financial. Reparations is just basic justice. None of that.

So, the question is how is that going to play out? But it also speaks to the larger promise that Joe Biden made when he was running that he would always have the backs of people of color particularly -- well, black Americans and all but in this particular case, obviously we're just talking about black Americans. And I'm sure there are going to be very -- a lot of people are going to be very, very grateful that he's there. But then a lot of understandable questions as to what are you going to do about it?

BOLDUAN: Yeah, exactly. And at the same time, you have another attempt to restrict voting rights as Ed was just laying out in Texas. On the day that we mark America's racist past, there is this new fight over voting rights for people of color. I see both of these things together as really interconnected.

BASH: So true. That's really well put, Kate. You know, the question now here where I am in Washington as Ed was eluding to is what is Washington going to do about it?

What is Congress going to do about it? Let's get more specific, because the House already passed some bills, particularly the largest one, HR-1 to deal with all of the restriction that's are going on statewide to kind of supersede that with a federal law.

And it's now, like many other pieces of legislation, squarely at the door of the United States Senate.


They are working through the process. But it is a big question as to how they can actually get anything past because they have a 50/50 Senate. They have not one vote to spare but much more importantly, the Republican filibuster.

And so I would say of all of the open questions for Senators Joe Manchin, the Democrats who have said I'm not touching the filibuster without, you know, full stop, the voting rights bill is probably the hardest and the toughest for them, because it does go to the heart of democracy.


BASH: And they argue and Joe Manchin argued to me and to others that he doesn't want to ruin the United States Senate by doing away with the filibuster.

The argument back to him has been, but what about protecting voting rights across the country? And this is the -- the bell is ringing. It's time for us in if the United States Senate to fix it, filibuster be damned. It is a big open question as to whether he'll be swayed by that at all. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Well said, Dana, I mean, it's really, there's no sense that there's going to be on that one specifically.

BASH: I will say --

BOLDUAN: I just don't see it.

BASH: I will say really quickly. I was in a briefing with Chuck Schumer. He said this in the briefing where I was and he said this I think many times since, failure is not an option on a federal voting rights law. Failure is not an option.


BASH: How he's going to make that happen, how he's going to execute that, TBD.

BOLDUAN: So also as we talk about Tulsa and shameful days in American history, it was one year ago today that peaceful protesters were tear- gassed outside the White House so that President Trump as you see the split screen that President Trump could hold that infamous photo op of walking out of the White House across the way holding up a bible outside of a church that was across from the White House.

It was such an unbelievable moment, Dana. I mean, where -- where are we one year later?

BASH: Well, we are at a place where we know it was tear gas now based on a report because the White House and people around the president were --

BOLDUAN: Oh, my gosh. There was such a push back on that, right?

BASH: It was tear gas. But more importantly, look at those images from one year ago. And juxtapose those with January 6th. I mean, the fact that the president was so active in, you know, in stopping what had been, for the most part, a peaceful protest. Yes, in protests, there are always things that get out of hand. But for most part, it was peaceful until the military was called in, the National Guard, the police were asked to do what we just saw.

Compared to January 6th where it took so long and the Capitol police were so ill prepared for so many reasons that we're not going to get to the bottom of now in a genuine independent way because Republicans don't want a commission. I mean, if you marry those two incidents in how they played out, it's almost too much to wrap your mind around.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, always worth talking about and calling out.

BASH: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: You too. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OK. Coming up for us, Donald Trump's former national security adviser appearing to endorse military coup in the United States.

Michael Flynn giving life to a dangerous idea supported by QAnon followers. The growing and disturbing influence of QAnon is ahead.

Plus, Naomi Osaka quit the French Open to focus on her mental. Sports stars are now rallying behind here, something the tournament did not initially do.

An American tennis icon is our next guest.



BOLDUAN: AT THIS HOUR, Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser, is trying to clean up something he said that was captured on video.

I want you to listen to his response. He was posed this question at an event in Dallas attended by backers of QAnon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know why, what happened in Myanmar can't happen here.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No reason. I mean, it should happen here. No reason.


BOLDUAN: Flynn now says that he was not calling for a coup.

And we also heard comments like this from many supporters who also supporters of Donald Trump.

Joining me right now is CNN's Donie O'Sullivan for ore on this.

Donie, I remember very distinctly that QAnon supporters have suggested this very same thing to you directly. What's going on with Flynn here?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, of all the conspiracy theories we hear on the road when we're speaking to Trump supporters and QAnon followers, since Trump left office, there should be a military coup here in the United States to put him back into power and speaking to Trump supporters who are looking at Myanmar and are saying this is what we want to happen here in the United States. It is one of the most chilling and frightening things we hear when we're out on the road.

Flynn is now denying that he was calling for a coup or supported a coup in any way. But as you mentioned, you know, Flynn and Sidney Powell, Trump's -- who is part of Trump's legal election team, this is the world they're swimming in. And, you know, there has been talk about this for quite some time now.

And these comments were made by Flynn at what was essentially a QAnon convention in Dallas over the weekend. And Sidney Powell also spoke there. And I want you to have a listen to what she had to say. She was talking about how Trump should be put back into office.



SIDNEY POWELL, EX-TRUMP LAWYER: It should be that he can simply be reinstated, that a new inauguration date is set.


POWELL: And Biden is told to move out of the White House, and yeah -- and President Trump should be moved back in.


O'SULLIVAN: And with the ongoing audit, the Republican-led audit in Arizona, there is a lot of talk in the QAnon world that Powell is playing into that Trump in some way could overturn the election still which, of course, is false -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Such a sad statement you have to continuously have to fact check it. This is many months later, Donie.

And this also gets to the new polling that is truly hard to believe. How many people believe in what QAnon spouts?

Specifically in this poll, they were asked if they believe and agree with the following. I want to read this for everyone -- that the government media and financial worlds of the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation and the numbers are truly disturbing.

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, 15 percent -- I think we have the numbers -- 15 percent of Americans believe that the levers of power are controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles which is a key tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory, 15 percent is millions, tens of millions of people in this country.

I think it's really important to remember that so much of this QAnon, the crazy side of this conspiracy theory is being enabled by the election conspiracy theory by the big lie. You know, the whole talk about Myanmar, it's all enabled by the big lie which is still being pushed by Trump and prominent Republicans -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. And in this poll, even a bigger proportion of people who call themselves Republicans believe in all of this.

Thank you, Donie. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, Israel's prime minister in the fight for his political life. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is there, showing him the love at this critical moment.



BOLDUAN: Right now, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is in Israel. He's there showing his support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- very clearly who Netanyahu is facing what may well be his final days in office after 12 years of leadership. These could be his final days because the leaders of two opposition parties say that they have joined forces to form a coalition government to oust the prime minister after so long.

But again, it is not a done deal yet, something definitely worth and demanding our attention, though.

Now to the pandemic. I often noted the moments it seemed that hope was on the horizon. Though, it still felt out there, right? Well, it feels like we're finally there in the U.S. right now the seven day average of new COVID-19 cases is around 17,000. It's the first time this number dropped below 20,000 since March of 2020.

New reported deaths are also down to the lowest level in almost a year. And just over 600. And the seven day average of COVID-19 related hospitalizations is now around 25,000, the lowest level since HHS started taking over tracking hospitalizations last July.

And with more than 50 percent of American adults now fully vaccinated, we're seeing this big return to normal. We saw it over the weekend.

Joining me now from what this actually means going forward, Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health and ER medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

It's good to see you again. You tweeted over the weekend.


BOLDUAN: I feel like we're starting in the exact same place we started a while back. But let's start there.

You tweeted over the weekend that in four shifts in the ER, you did not have a single COVID-19 case. I mean, what does this moment feel like for you, Doctor?

CRAIG: For us working in the emergency room, it feels like normal. We have kind of a volume back. I'm seeing the same patients I was seeing before the pandemic started. We're still wearing masks and still vigilant. But we're all vaccinated and all really happy that we're not taking care of really sick COVID-19 patients anymore.

BOLDUAN: And just what is the moment kind of America's reopening feel like? You have been on the front lines of the pandemic from the very beginning. You spoken so eloquently and documented what it is like for doctors and nurses and hospital workers on the front lines and worst of it when it was in New York at first.

What is the great reopening of America feel like for you?

SPENCER: It felt like New York city yesterday. You know, in the afternoon the sun came out. I was walking with my wife and kids. It was great. People were out having fun.

It was really the most vibrant city that I have seen in such a long time since the pandemic started really. So, it felt great.

At the same time, I'm looking around at the rest of the world seeing my friends in East Africa and South America wishing for a day wishing for a day they can bass income what we're experiencing here, you know, the ability to go to work and not have sick COVID patients, the ability to be vaccinated, the ability to not fear for your life because COVID is still in many places around the world even if it's declining here.

BOLDUAN: And you have been flagging this far.