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At This Hour

Biden Promises to "Fight Like Heck" Against GOP Voting Laws; White House: Russian Hackers Likely Attacked World's Largest Meat Supplier; Israeli Opposition Parties Face Midnight Deadline to Form Government. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 02, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

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

Democracy is under assault. President Biden vowing to fight back against Republican efforts to make it harder to vote. Now, the vice president is in charge.

A tale of two pandemics. Progress in America across the board, but that is not the case around the world. So what will the U.S. do to help?

And help wanted. Restaurants across the country wrestling with a shortage of workers. Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio weighs in on this growing crisis, ahead.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here.

AT THIS HOUR, President Biden is vowing to, in his words, fight like heck to protect voting rights in the United States. Republicans in more than a dozen states now have passed new laws that make it harder to vote. A movement fueled by Donald Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud, the baseless conspiracy theories he pushed all last year and is still doing so today.

President Biden has now tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort to better protect voting rights, a task that seems harder than ever right now.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like I've never seen, intensity and aggressiveness that we've not seen in a long, long time. It's simply un-American.


BOLDUAN: CNN's John Harwood is joining me now from the White House for more on this.

John, what is Kamala Harris going to do with this new task?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in theory, she's got an ability to get a lot done, Kate. She is a -- has a big platform as vice president. She is a former senator with relationships in that body, which is where the voting rights legislation is stalled, a former attorney general and popular throughout the Democratic Party.

However, this is an extremely difficult assignment. One thing she can do is try to generate public pressure on the states that are attempting to constrain voting rights. We've seen in some cases, like in the state of Georgia, massive public pressure had an effect of somewhat moderating some of the provisions of those bills that they -- that bill that they enacted. A second thing she can try to do is move the Senate.

Now, to pass voting rights protections, it would take ten Republican votes. The chances of her getting ten Republican votes for that purpose are pretty much zero because Republicans today view it as critical to their survival to make it harder for non-white Americans to vote because they see that vote going strongly in the other direction and it's growing, where the white vote is shrinking.

She could, in theory, try to move Joe Manchin to set aside the filibuster at least for this purpose. But Joe Manchin said he doesn't want to do that. He could change his mind but opposed at this moment.

Which suggests, Kate, that the ultimate step for Vice President Harris would be in 2022 to try to rally voters to overcome obstacles to voting. We've seen in the past that when people believe their right to vote is being threatened, that motivates them to vote more. So, there's no guarantee that these Republican efforts are going to work at suppressing votes. And for Vice President Harris, that may be where she can have the greatest impact.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. John Harwood, thank you.

On Capitol Hill, pressure is growing on Democrats in Congress to take action as John was just talking about to counter this continued attack on voting rights that we're seeing in so many states. Pressure coming from outside Washington and from within.

Just yesterday, President Biden called out two moderate Democrats, Senators Manchin and Sinema for being roadblocks to voting rights protections.

CNN's Manu Raju joining me from the Hill.

Manu, he didn't call them out by name, but the message seemed pretty clear. I mean, how are the comments from President Biden landing over there today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema's office both are declining to comment on this. Right now, the Senate is on recess. What the president said is also not accurate. He accused those two

senators of voting more with Republicans than with Democrats when, in fact, they vote overwhelmingly with Democrats, but do break with Democrats on some key issues, namely whether or not to gut the Senate's filibuster rule which right now requires 60 votes to overcome legislation. But if they were to buckle and cave, along with a handful of others who are opposed to killing the filibuster rules, they could do it along straight party lines, which presumably is one reason why the president said this yesterday, calling them out, but not mentioning them by name.



BIDEN: I hear all the folks on TV saying, why doesn't Biden get this done? Well, because Biden only has the majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.


RAJU: Now, this is all going to come to a head later this month. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced he plans to move forward on the Democrats bill to overhaul campaign finance laws. He wants to bring that to the floor June 21st, that week. That would require 60 votes to even begin debate. And, you know, the 60 votes are just simply not there because Republicans refused to go along with it. And Joe Manchin itself is opposed to the Democrats' bill on this. He's proposing a narrower change that would restore how the Supreme Court shut down the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But even that, Kate, lacks 60 votes.

So, despite the pressure from the White House, getting legislation through the president's desk extremely grim at this moment -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I mean, something has got to give, because you're laying it out perfectly, Manu, and where it stands right now. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now for more on this is CNN political director David Chalian.

David, I want to read how CNN's Stephen Collinson kind of put it really quite eloquently this morning about the attack on voting rights across America and what we're looking at today. He said the mechanisms of American institutions that barely survive Trump's attempt to illegally stay in power are still being manipulated by Republicans to make the country less Democratic.

Manu laid out kind of the politics in terms of the Senate and math. But what is your gut check on Congress getting any voting rights protections passed?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, we should note our colleague, Stephen Collinson is always eloquent. I'm glad you --


BOLDUAN: It's just that one time. No, just kidding.

CHALIAN: No, I think the lay of the land is pretty clear at the moment, which is that as Joe Biden has acknowledged publicly, the votes aren't there yet for this big For the People Act, Kate.

But there are two pieces of voting-related legislation. This is where I think you're going to start to see the conversation head. There's the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. This is the sort of restoration of pieces of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court several years ago in a landmark case. This deals with localities and states getting preclearance through the Justice Department for how they conduct their elections. And the Supreme Court basically said there needs to be sort of an overriding legislation for that to be able to continue.

So Congress is working on that, and I think you can see a path of a potential compromise that involves getting that piece of legislation, more narrow, but important no doubt, through. The larger bill dealing with campaign finance and redistricting and gerrymandered districts, this is a full-out partisan brawl. So, I think there's zero hope for Democrats to get any kind of Republicans on board which is why when you see the president say he's going to fight like heck, that includes apparently needling some of his fellow Democrats.

BOLDUAN: I was going to ask you, I mean, do you know why he's calling out Manchin and Sinema when he knows he needs them on this, and so many other of his priorities, I don't think we've seen signs this public pressure has worked, especially on Manchin yet.

CHALIAN: Yeah, I also don't know that we know that Joe Biden who served for 36 years in that body, is eager to get rid of the legislative filibuster himself quite frankly.

But here is why I think you see him doing what he did yesterday, and as Manu rightly pointed out, inaccurately so.


CHALIAN: I mean, those senators do actually vote more with the Democrats. But what I think you see him doing is this is what I mean when I say I'm going to fight like heck, I'm willing to even rib and take on my fellow Democrats to try to move this really important piece of business through the Congress.

It may not be successful, but I think he's got to show the Democratic Party and the Democratic base that he's willing to fight, and I think that's also part of why he put Vice President Harris in charge of this effort.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, but use an accurate example, like it falls completely flat when you're not using an accurate example. I want to ask you kind of about what is happening above and behind and

below in the backdrop against what this conversation, which is we have now reporting from Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times", reporting that Donald Trump has been telling a number of people that he's been in contact with, that he expects he's going reinstated as president by August. Now, this is the exact language that incited January 6th.

And this isn't just anyone. This is the former president who is still in control of the Republican Party.


How dangerous is this?

CHALIAN: Yeah, your two points of context there, Kate, are really key. I always struggle with this.

BOLDUAN: I do, too.

CHALIAN: Should we talk about something that former President Trump says that's completely absurd. He can't be reinstated. That is a complete, deliberate misinformation kind of thing.

But as you noted, it is exactly that kind of deliberate misinformation that we've seen a real life example of how dangerous it can be, on January 6th with an insurrection on the Capitol, an insurrection against our very democracy. So, it needs to be called out, as absurd a statement as that is.

And you are right that it is the context, this broader, just attack on our democracy from, you know, a large swath of the Republican Party where Donald Trump still has a lot of sway.

BOLDUAN: It's like a slow moving train wreck that you're watching. You can see each of these states taking on these battles. You can see the pressure from Donald Trump, and it just continues to slow roll and wave across the country that we're watching play out, right up towards 2022 and 2024.

It's good to see you, David. Thank you so much.

CHALIAN: You, too. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Russian hackers strike again, attacking the world's largest meat supply. So, what will the Biden administration do about this?

Plus, coronavirus is still raging around the world, though, as things are vastly improving here in America. And the pressure is on the White House right now to do more to help.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, the White House says a Russian criminal gang is likely responsible for another massive cyberattack. The latest victim, JBS Foods, the world's largest meatpacking facility.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is following this for us. He joins us me now.

Alex, what are you learning this morning first on the extent of the hack?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's good news and there's bad news, Kate.

The good news is that JBS says that most of its operations are coming online. The bad news is this is yet another example of a part of critical American infrastructure that is vulnerable to the hackers, that can easily be taken offline and severely disrupt American society. So, what we're hearing from JBS is the vast majority of their operations will be back up today.

This comes after all of their meat packing facilities were taken offline here in the United States, after all their beef production was shut down here in the United States and their operations in Australia were also impacted.

We know that the Biden administration has set up an interagency team to coordinate and monitor the fallout of this. President Biden, I'm told by White House official, has directed his administration to do what they can to mitigate any sort of impact on supply and on prices. And the FBI is investigating this.

We just heard from the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and I want to read part of their statement.

They say: As this and other recent incidents demonstrate, the threat of ransomware continues to be severe. Ransomware can affect any organization in any sector of the economy.

Just as a reminder, Kate, ransomware is when hackers take control of a company's or entity's IT system, their networks. And then they simply ask for money in return.

We don't know what the ransom was in this case or whether JBS paid a ransom. But, you know, we have seen this happen very recently. We saw this with the Colonial Pipeline attack a couple weeks ago. They paid a ransom more than $4 million.

And the Biden administration has reached out to Russia, they say, to crack down on these criminals. We should note these are not government hackers, as far as we know, as far as the Biden administration is saying, but the Biden administration clearly feels that Russia has control or some level of control over these hackers, and this is the latest string in a series of very significant attacks from different kinds of Russian hackers -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And, Alex, paying the ransom, it's become -- it's a difficult thing. The Biden administration, especially after the Colonial Pipeline situation, they acknowledged that it's a real challenge and some of these companies are targeted because they have insurance policies that just make it easier, they're more inclined to pay these ransoms.

MARQUARDT: Yeah. It's not just big rich companies. I mean, there are -- we've seen hospitals, school districts getting targeted. We've seen school districts getting targeted. I mean, like school districts can't necessarily afford that kind of ransom and then you end up seeing data released online.

But, yeah, it is -- it is a hugely lucrative move for cyber criminals. I was just talking to cybersecurity expert who says that cyber criminals have ditched other kinds of tactics and come over to ransomware side because it is so easy. So, this is going to be a major problem -- it is already a major problem, but it's going to be a major question for countries and companies to try to grapple with and to try to figure out.

It's understandable companies want their operations back up online, but governments don't want to see these ransomware attackers getting paid and fueling this industry.

BOLDUAN: Look, oil pipelines, food supply. I mean, it's hitting all of the critical -- all critical elements of American life and globally.

MARQUARDT: That's right, yeah.

BOLDUAN: Alex, thank you. Much more to come there.

Turning now to Israel where a seismic political shift may be just hours away. Opposition parties have until midnight local time, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, to form a new unity government. It could bring an end to Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as the country's longest serving prime minister.

CNN's Hadas Gold is live in Jerusalem with the latest.

Hadas, what are you hearing this evening?


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we could be seeing the beginning of the end of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's run, as you said, as the longest serving prime minister. The opposition parties have until midnight to present to the Israeli president and say they have been able to form a governing coalition. A source close to the negotiations telling CNN that significant progress was made overnight and nearly everything is done, but they're still hammering away at some of the details, ministerial positions, and we still have not heard that official announcement.

But, Kate, even if that announcement does come before midnight, it's not a done deal, because then the government needs to be presented to the Israeli Knesset, to the parliament, for a confidential and that can be done within seven days. In Israeli politics, Kate, seven days could be an eternity. And that could give Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies time to try to get a few defectors away from the coalition, just a few them, could cause the coalition to crumble.

But even if this coalition does get sworn in and we do get a new prime minister who is expected to be right wing leader Naftali Bennett, it will be a very unique unity government made up of the far left Meretz party to the Naftali Bennett's right wing party. Naftali Bennett as prime minister, he would be even further right wing than Benjamin Netanyahu which will be interesting for the United States. But his government, the people who sit with him, will be from a wide swath of political parties. So, it's hard to see what they agree on beyond the fact that they don't want Netanyahu as prime minister.

So, it's hard to see what kind of progress they'll be able to make on other issues such as, of course, relations with Palestinians, settlers in the West Bank, and so forth. So, it could be a very fragile government from the beginning, but it will be without a doubt a historic moment, the end of Prime Minister Netanyahu's run as the longest serving prime minister.

But, again, you can never say never in Israeli politics. Things could change quickly within the next few hours. And then, of course, even if they do make this announcement, even if it is presented to the president, it still has to go through the vote in the Israeli parliament in the Knesset. And so, we still maybe days away before this new government is sworn in -- Kate.

BOLDAUN: So interesting and the ripple effects, enormous. Thank you so much, Hadas. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the pandemic is a global crisis, of course, but maybe one with a solution coming straight out of America. We're going to discuss what the U.S. needs to do if we're going to end this pandemic for good.



BOLDUAN: Soon, President Biden will be laying out a new challenge to America. A White House official telling CNN Biden will declare June, this month, to be a national month of action, to get more people vaccinated by July 4th. So, right now, nearly 52 percent of American adults are fully vaccinated. Almost 63 percent have received at least one COVID-19 shot. That's according to the CDC. That is great progress.

But the president has set a goal last month to reach 70 percent by Independence Day. Can the U.S. get there? What difference will that make?

Joining me right now is Dr. Chris Pernell, a preventative medicine and public health physician.

It's good to see you again, Doctor.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FELLOW: It's good to see you. BOLDUAN: This goal of 70 percent, reaching 70 percent by next month, what will it take to get there do you think at this point? Because we keep seeing the vaccinate rate week to week, it is -- it is going down. What difference do you think it makes to reach that marker?

PERNELL: Kate, I think it's very important that we continue to lead with equity. That is the only way that we're going to reach that goal as a nation.

If you look at where we have unvaccinated populations, unfortunately, that's predominantly in black and brown communities, that's in poorer communities and that's in rural communities. We need to have a block- by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood attack, plan of approach where we know who the influences are, who the credible and trusted messages are and how to best get vaccinations into arms.

BOLDUAN: What -- at this point, what do you think we need to reach the 70 percent marker? There kind of quite a while ago, a concept of there being a specific point that we would reach herd immunity. What does 70 percent mean to you?

PERNELL: It's not magical. When we give estimates around what proportion of the population needs to get vaccinated, we're giving that number because that's when we'll see a precipitous decline in new cases and infections. That's when we'll see a drop in hospitalizations, and that's when we'll see a drop in deaths. We're seeing that across the nation and I don't want to lessen or downplay the progress that were made.

But we're also seeing amongst unvaccinated folks like whether in Maine, or Washington, or even Colorado, that those persons have equivalent rates of infection and even hospitalizations that we were seeing back in the peak in January or even as recently as two to three months ago.

So, population and community immunity is important, but it's not a final destination. It's a process.

BOLDUAN: That's a good way of putting it.

You know, beyond the United States, there are really only a handful of countries that are even close to vaccinating the majority of their populations. We can show everyone just -- we take a look at this map, that will give you a good depiction of the state of things. I mean, how much of a problem is this map to the United States? No matter how well we're doing on our own.