Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Oath Keeper to Plead Guilty in Capitol Riot Conspiracy Case; Supreme Court Sides with Cheerleader Who Cursed Online; Fauci Warns Delta Variant Poses "Greatest Threat" to U.S.; President Biden Speaks at Sen. John Warner's Funeral. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 11:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: AT THIS HOUR, we're beginning with two breaking stories.

One, an alleged member of the Oath Keepers will be pleading guilty today for his role in the deadly Capitol insurrection.


We were also following breaking news out of the Supreme Court, a free speech ruling just handed down.

Let's begin. Let's get to both. Let's begin first with CNN's Whitney Wild on the insurrection investigation.

Whitney, what are you learning about what is going to happen today?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a significant development. There is a man named Graydon Young who is accused as part of the 16-person conspiracy case that revolves around this far right extremist group, the Oath Keepers. They're charged, again, with conspiracy. And the allegation is that they preplanned this attack and then carried it out on the day of January 6th, carried out this violent insurrection.

Graydon Young is accused of being within this stack. The prosecutors identified. It was a group of people who sort of snaked through the crowd in this paramilitary gear and then ended up making their way into the Capitol. Graydon Young is 54 years old. He's one of a pair of siblings prosecutors say came to the D.C. area for these rallies. He is facing a list of charges including conspiracy. He's expected to plead guilty today at 2:00.

So, we don't know what charges he'll actually plead guilty and what charges prosecutors will drop. We'll have to wait to find, you know, of course, in coming weeks and months if he'll serve any jail time or what kind of sentence he'll face.

But more broadly, Kate, this is a significant moment because it will solidify what prosecutors always said, which is some of these far right extremist groups preplanned this attack and carried it out, solidifying the acquisition that this was a violent insurrection, Kate. BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you very much for that. We'll be watching

this closely as it happens today.

Now let's turn to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices just handing down a ruling in a free speech case involving a former high school cheerleader punished for posting a profanity-laced Snapchat post when she was off school grounds.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining me now as we're getting more details from this ruling.

Jessica, what did the justices say?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of that high school cheerleader who was suspended from the team after she wrote that profanity-laden Snapchat message several years ago. This turned out to be a hot button case because it was focused on what are the free speech protections for school kids in the social media age.

Well, the justices here ruling in an 8-1 decision that the school in this case could not punish the former cheerleader for her speech off campus on Snapchat. But the justices here did say there might be some instances where public schools can punish for off-campus speech. That might include instances of harassing speech or bullying.

It was Justice Stephen Breyer who wrote this opinion for the seven other justices. And during oral arguments, he expressed disbelief that the school punished this cheerleader in this case, saying in his words, she just simply used unattractive swear words. And he kind He said, if swearing off campus warranted punishment, every school in the country would be doing nothing but punishing.

So, the cheerleader here from this Pennsylvania school, she has since graduated. But at the time, she wrote on Snapchat when she didn't make the varsity cheerleading team, she said, F school, F softball, F cheer, F everything, obviously, using the actual profanity.

And she and her family have been fighting that suspension for years. And now, they come up victorious at the nation's highest court. And, of course, this was a case closely watched all over the country as their continues to be this struggle over where to draw the line since social media blurred that line because off-campus speech can easily be seen on campus in just seconds, Kate.

So, the Supreme Court here saying the school district went too far. They violated the cheerleader's First Amendment rights after they punished her for this off-campus Snapchat speech -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jessica, thank you so much for laying that out.

Joining right now for more on this is CNN chief legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, 8-1 on this SCOTUS decision. What's your reaction to it? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's really a

remarkable story that, you know, it's sort of a cliche. You know, you can take your case all the way to the Supreme Court. But here, this cheerleader, in a very obscure controversy, about who makes a cheerleading team in the middle of Pennsylvania, it went all the way to the Supreme Court.

And it's a real issue because, you know, this is a case about how people, especially young people communicate in the real world. This is a Snapchat where this young woman expressed an opinion that in my experience every high school student has felt at some point, and most of them have expressed in exactly this way, you know, F school, F softball, F everything, and that prompted her suspension from the team.

And the profound question raised by this case is, you know, is this speech on campus or off campus.


And the Supreme Court said, you know what? It really doesn't matter where physically you are. You can't be punished if you are expressing something that just is blowing off steam and doesn't hurt anybody.

There is a very important limitation on this opinion because this speech was not targeted at anyone. And Justice Breyer's opinion made clear that, if you are harassing, if you're bullying someone, even if you're doing it on social media, you can be penalized at school. But if you're just expressing your frustration, you can't be. I think that's a big deal.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, the justices, you have described many times it makes quite a bit of sense. The Supreme Court in general, they are hesitant to make broad sweeping rulings on these cases, often described also here, they rule narrowly. Why you -- explain to folks why they're so hesitant to offer major implications for First Amendment cases like this, why they rule narrowly here.

TOOBIN: Well, especially in a case like this one. This is a case about school discipline. And the justices don't want to be in a position of telling every school in America precisely how to run their schools. You know, they are aware of the limitations of their role.

So, they are not establishing sweeping rules that every school has to abide by in every circumstance. But this is a very important guide post to the schools that, in general, schools should be aware that students do have free speech rights.

You know, this goes back to a case in 1965 where a student in Des Moines, Iowa, wore an armband to protest the Vietnam War. And for the first time in 1965 the Supreme Court said students in public schools do have free speech rights as long as it's not disruptive of the school. All the subsequent cases have been about, well, is the speech disruptive.

And here you have a circumstance where the court is saying to schools, look, just because something is on social media doesn't mean you can automatically punish it as if someone is yelling in the school's cafeteria. That's an important message to send to schools. I have no doubt there will be more disputes like this. That's appropriate.

I mean, you know, we don't know how every dispute should be resolved, but it is a good idea that the Supreme Court, I think, made this ruling that showed even an 82-year-old justice like Stephen Breyer understood a good deal about how young people live in the world today.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and of course, then, the role that social media and the role of the Internet and the role that Snapchat is playing in the immediacy of all of this swirling about. This is going to be more and more up to the Supreme Court.

If I can get your thoughts on the other topic, breaking news at the top of the show, that Whitney Wild was reporting about, this first guilty plea among any of the defendants in the major Capitol riot conspiracy cases. What do you think the significance is today?

TOOBIN: The big issue here is cooperation. In federal court, the people who plead guilty and cooperate, that is, agree to testify against others, are awarded mightily. The federal system, really gives much lower sentences, often no sentences at all to people who are first in the door and cooperate, and testify against their co- conspirators.

This is the key part of the case now. Obviously what we all want to know about January 6th is how it was planned, who planned it, when did -- how it was organized. When you start getting guilty pleas, that means people are starting to cooperate, and that means you will start to have insiders telling the story of what really went on here. That to me is what's really significant about this guilty plea.

BOLDUAN: While there's quite a significant portion that is not known, exactly what he will be pleading guilty to, what he will admit to in court. And also, I think part of that, correct me if I'm wrong, part of that is the level of cooperation if there will be cooperation with this guy going forward. Is that something that we would learn in court today?

TOOBIN: We should. When defendants agree to plead guilty and cooperate, there is a document, a cooperation agreement signed that is part of the public record. That is what I will be looking for when this guilty plea takes place about whether there is a cooperation agreement.


Because if there is, that means that in the pre-plea negotiations, the prosecution got something that they were interested in from this defendant, that there was useful testimony. In every big federal case, whether it's against the mafia or insider trading, the way federal prosecutors work is they try to get people to plead guilty and cooperate. It's usually a smart idea if you're guilty to plead guilty and cooperate because you can get a much lower sentence in federal court. This could be the beginning of that cascade of cooperation and, more

importantly for us, the beginning of unraveling what really happened here behind the scenes before the insurrection took place on January 6th.

BOLDUAN: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

Coming up next, greatest threat, a significant increase in the Delta variant cases in the United States right now, and Dr. Fauci is sounding the alarm to every American.

And then American cities are facing a big rise in violent crime and gun violence. Miami's police chief is joining us to talk about what his city needs and what he needs to hear from the president when he makes a big announcement today.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, there are new and growing concerns over the Delta variant in America, that it could soon blunt the progress the United States has made, such great progress, in fighting the coronavirus.

Vaccines are driving down new cases. We know that. They have fallen dramatically, now averaging 10,000 cases per day. Just look at that graph.

Deaths related to COVID are also significantly down, now averaging fewer than 300 a day. But the Delta variant is spreading quickly in America and now accounting for one in five cases researched and sequenced which is double the rate from just two weeks ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci issuing this warning now.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19. Good news, our vaccines are effective against the delta variant. There is a danger, a real danger that, if there is a persistence of a recalcitrance to getting vaccinated, that you could see localized surges.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


BOLDUAN: Sanjay, Hey, Sanjay. Dr. Fauci calling this Delta variant the greatest threat to eliminating COVID. Why is this such a concern? GUPTA: Well, this is just a much more contagious virus. I mean, you

know, to give the context, you see how fast it's growing. In the beginning of May, we were hardly talking about this. It was just 1.3 percent. You can see what has happened.

So, this is 60 percent more transmissible than the U.K./Alpha variant, 50 percent more transmissible than the strain before that. You can see where this is headed.

People are ending up in hospitals who are younger as a result of this. And we have to figure out now, is this going to be the strain that sort of becomes the most dominant strain in the entire world?

The good news as you've said many times, if you're vaccinated, they work pretty well. We can show you quickly, getting more and more data. It's holding up. They pooled the data between Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and you can see on the left there, the protection against serious illness very high. If you only get one shot of either of those, the effectiveness drops way down.

So, it is the same discussion, Kate, the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.

BOLDUAN: The vaccination rates right now when you look at them -- there might be some lag here, Sanjay, that people need to hear more of this warning about the delta variant before they say this is the reason I need to get the vaccine now if I'm hesitant. From everything we known about vaccine hesitancy and resistance to the vaccine so far, it doesn't seem to be changing minds of vaccine-skeptical people.

What happens if it really doesn't and this Delta variant just continues to take off?

GUPTA: I think what happens is that the unvaccinated people remain at increasing risk because this is so much more contagious. Someone put it to me, Kate, which I thought was prophetic, we talk about vaccinated America and unvaccinated America, what it becomes a vaccinated America and an infected America, because this virus -- this Delta strain is very unforgiving.

Let me show you, we got granular with some of what was happening in Florida. The red line is if you live in an area primarily unvaccinated people, a lot of unvaccinated people, you can see the Delta variant has become a larger percentage of overall cases as compared to areas where you have lots of vaccination. So, if you're an unvaccinated person who live in an unvaccinated area, where a lot of people are unvaccinated, that's a tough situation. You're likely to become infected at some point.

What has to change? I mean, I think going in the fall, Kate, there may be resurgence in numbers. There's universities that are likely going to require vaccines, some of them for coming back on campus. More people will get vaccinated then. It may take these sorts of things before we increase the numbers even more.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunately, right? Even with COVID deaths hitting these record new lows, there's a new CNN analysis showing there is a significant rise in younger people dying of the virus now, particularly younger black people.

What are you seeing in this analysis, Sanjay?


GUPTA: You know, Kate, we've been talking about the inequities and disparities among outcomes for some time now. In fact, when we traced the data, it was improving a little bit, still a lot of disparity. What we're seeing is exactly what you said.

You're seeing rising numbers among young people and black people are more likely to get infected, more likely to end up getting sick. Unvaccinated, when you look at the African-American population, 8.8 percent of the total vaccinated people are made up by blacks. So, not high enough vaccination rates there right now.

What really struck me, Kate, and I talked to my parents about this, for most of this pandemic, if you were over the age of 75, that's where the majority of deaths were occurring. It was very frightening. Now the majority of deaths are occurring in people under that age.

So, it is getting younger. The Delta variant is more transmissible. There's early evidence that it may be more likely to make people sicker as well. Typically when you increase contagiousness, you decrease the likelihood of people becoming sick. With Delta, it appears to be a little of both.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Sanjay. Really appreciate it.

We're going to go to Washington right now. President Biden is beginning to speak at the late Virginia Senator John Warner's funeral.

Let's listen in.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, a sacred place on a solemn day when we undertake the fundamental act of remembrance.

And amid the moments that I was there, and the monuments of stone, we remember each marker represented a precious life, remember the heroes from the greatest generation the world has ever known and that bears the noble name, United States of America.

The only nation founded on an idea, that we're all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and a democracy that is the very soul of our nation and must be defended at all costs, a soul embodied by all those patriots buried in Arlington and the fields across the world and by our dear friend John Warner.

Like many here, I had the privilege of serving with John for three decades in the United States Senate. While we represented different political parties, I can say without hesitation -- John was a man of conscience, character and honor, with a deep commitment to God and country, enlisted in the Navy -- the United States Navy at age 17 to fight in World War II. A few years later, enlisted in the Marine Corps to fight in Korea.

Eventually named secretary of the navy by President Nixon, then elected to the United States Senate where he became a towering and respected voice on foreign policy, national security and defense, the second longest serving senator from Virginia and the longest serving Republican. A member of the greatest generation, and as that, he understood that democracy is more than a form of government. That democracy is a way of being.

He understood it begins and grows with an open heart and with a willingness to work across the aisle and come together in common cause and that empathy, empathy is the fuel of democracy, the willingness to see each other as opponents, not as enemies. Above all, to see each other as fellow Americans even when we disagree -- from John's perspective, especially when we disagree.

That's how John forged consensus and made sure our system worked and delivered for the people.

I saw it time and again.


On issues of war and peace, John opposing torture and ending gun violence.

On protecting the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, John's decisions were always guided by his values, by his convictions and never by personal political consequences, and was always guided by his obligation to all those he represented, even those who did not vote for him.

Every senator wears the pride of his or her state on their sleeve, but John's love for the people of Virginia was something special, and they loved him back and kept reelecting him because they knew John understood the job of senator was bigger than himself. It was about more than just John.

As we say in the Senate, excuse me, a point of personal privilege, when John endorsed me for president last year, it carried an extra meaning for me. The senators and congresspersons here will understand this.

It wasn't merely that a prominent Republican endorsed me. When John endorsed me, it gave me confidence, not about winning, about being able to do the job. John gave me confidence.

You know, in the battle for the soul of America today, John Warner is a reminder of what we can do when we come together as one nation.

While we've never made real the full promise of America to all Americans, John's life is a reminder that every generation, every generation has opened the door of opportunity a little bit wider to everyone. And the mission handed down generation to generation is to work at perfecting the Union, a mission he now leaves us with a way forward.

That's the power of remembrance. It lies not just on our history, but on our hope for the future, not just in our solace, but in our strength. It lies in our hearts to continue the work of democracy, the work of our time of all time, and the work of John's whole life.

To John's Senate staff, thank you for your service, for all you'll do to carry on John's legacy.

And to his family, Jeanne, Virginia, John, Mary, Andrew, Joe (ph), I know it hurts to remember. Sometimes it hurts to remember. But it's also a way to heal, to remember.

The Bible teaches blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. While comfort can be a long time in coming, I promise you, it will come. It will give you purpose in his memory, in his love for you, in his love for this country.

Virginia, I know you'll be reciting your father's favorite poem, sort of an anthem. Here is another one that describes him so well in my view. It means a great deal to my family. And to me, it's called "American Anthem."

The work and prayers of century have brought us to this day. What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through.