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At This Hour

Today, Biden to Announce Gun Crime Prevention Plan; Progressives Demand Action after GOP Blocks Voting Rights Bill; Eric Adams Leads Democratic Primary but Winner Weeks Away. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 11:30   ET


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.


John Warner gave his best to America. To the best of my knowledge, everybody he had a relationship with. May God bless him. He was a good man, a great American. It was an honor to have known him and worked with him.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Right there, you can see President Biden finishing up his remarks at the funeral service for five-term U.S. senator, Republican Senator John Warner. And, quite honestly, President Biden lauding and applauding the qualities of that man and that leader that are sorely needed right now in that town in Washington, D.C. Biden saying, John was a man of conscience, character and honor.

John Warner, passed away last month at the age of 94. We'll continue to watch this funeral service, the services for John Warner playing out at the Washington National Cathedral.

But also at this hour, we are keeping a close eye on what Joe Biden will be doing in just a few hours. Biden will be, in just a few hours, laying out his new plan for tackling violent crime in America, particularly gun violence in America today. There have been, as we have discussed, nearly 300 mass shootings in America so far this year with crime and gun violence spiking in cities across the country.

In New York City, for example, shootings are up 73 percent since 2020. Overall crime has jumped by nearly a quarter.

In Miami, the chief of police there, he is sounding the alarm. He is telling CNN this, it is going to be a long, hot, bloody summer.

Joining me right now is that police chief, Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. Chief, thank you for being here.

With your warning in mind, is there something that you would like to hear from President Biden today when he makes this speech, when he lays out this strategy to help make a difference in the crime spike that we're seeing? CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on. The first thing I would say to the president that it is disappointing that, as president of the Major City Chiefs Associations, it has the 70 largest police departments, the 70 largest police departments in the country, the ninth largest in Canada, where we don't have a seat at the table apparently, because we didn't have an invitation to this conversation.

And we have been ringing the bell and sounding the alarm for quite a while. This uptick didn't just start. It started during the last administration and is just progressively getting worse. And what we want to hear from the president is a commitment to look at what's going on with our criminal justice system, with court systems that are shut down, with judges and prosecutors that are absolutely coddling violent criminals, where bad actors that are caught with firearms. Police officers are working and bad actors with a history of convictions of violence are caught with firearms and there are no consequences.

It's a perfect storm in this country. And unless we start using common sense on all sides, we're going to have a bigger problem that will get worse before it gets better.

BOLDUAN: Chief, when you point to your disappointment, has the White House reached out at all for your thoughts, the organization's position ahead of this?

ACEVEDO: No. Again, we know there's a meeting. And I just looked at the invitation list. And it's disappointing. Sadly, violent crime is impacting a big part of this country, but it's disproportionately impacting big cities and did not have the big city chiefs there, we're already off, I think to a challenging start. But I know that it could have been an oversight but I'm hopeful that we'll be part of that conversation. Because, again, it is something we've been talking about for months and months, if not, the last couple years as an organization. And I'm glad that they're at least starting to pay attention to it and we'll see where we go from there.

BOLDUAN: One big focus around all of this, and it has to be, is what is driving all of this. You just spoke to it. But one thing you have spoken up about is the courts, largely being shut down due to COVID and you believe that's become a big factor in the crime levels. Do you think that just getting courts open and back up to speed in pre- pandemic levels would make a real difference in slowing this trend?

ACEVEDO: I think it will be a step in the right direction. But when we see this perfect storm that we're experiencing, it's going to take a comprehensive approach that includes the courts, the prosecutors.


I mean, we have prosecutors like in Los Angeles County right now with George Gascon, or in Philadelphia, or in Travis County, that they act more like public defenders, they're more interested in coddling bad actors that are hurting communities of color disproportionately, that are just letting them go in one door and out the other, that are dismissing charges even though there's more than enough probably cause.

And it's time for the American people to demand transparency, not just from frontline police officers but transparency from the entire criminal justice system. When you have upwards of 60,000 cases in Harris County, where I just came from, outside of Houston, that are pending, murderers who are going in one door and out the other, and then running free for three to five years on low bond or personal bond. It just -- we've lost our common sense.

On the right, it's about more guns for everybody, and on the left it's, let's try to save everybody, including people that just -- they are not interested in playing by the rules. They are committed to violence. And those kind of individuals, when we identify them and we prove the charges, they need to go to prison. They have to be held accountable. Because they're not afraid of death but they are afraid of incarceration, we have got to start using that tool again.

BOLDUAN: Chief, I hear your frustration and, as you say, your disappointment is on the left and the right, as you've been speaking out for quite some time about that. Chief, thank you for coming on. Your voice in this, we're going to need going forward. I appreciate it.

Also coming up for us, Republicans are passing laws to restrict just as Republicans are passing laws to restrict voting rights in states across the country, why then is Mitch McConnell saying that there is nothing broken with our election system right now.



BOLDUAN: The fight is not over. That is the message from Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats after Senate Republicans blocked their effort to get a vote on an election reform bill. Progressives are now very clearly losing patience, calling on President Biden directly to get more involved. Some even signaling they could make moves to block the president's signature infrastructure plan if something doesn't change.

CNN's Manu Raju is joining me now from Capitol Hill for more on this. Manu, Mitch McConnell said last night there is nothing broken, his words, with the country's voting system. And that's why Republicans aren't budging on this voting bill. If nothing is broken, then why are more than a dozen Republican-led states passing laws to change the voting systems to make it harder to vote? What is the reality here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are seeing actions in a number of states in the aftermath of what happened in 2020, and states expanding access to mail-in voting during the pandemic, and then Donald Trump railing against mail-in voting, claiming baselessly that it is rife with fraud, lying that the election was stolen. And a number of states have taken action to pare back those rules, make it more restrictive on the state level about how mail-in voting is conducted. States have come into focus about this. Of course, they're also central to the fight for the majority in the 2022 elections as well as the 2024 presidential election.

And one state in particular in Arizona, where Republicans are conducting what they call an audit, try to throw into question Joe Biden's victory there. I asked McConnell about that yesterday. He says he has no issue with what Republicans are doing in Arizona because he says it is up to the states and not the federal government. And that's the argument he made yesterday, saying that the voting system upheld properly in 2020. And he said that Republicans and Democrats on the state level can do what they want.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's nothing broken around the country. The system upheld very well during intense stress in the latter part of the previous Congress. There's no rational basis for federalizing this election. Therefore, there's no point in having an election -- a debate in the U.S. Senate about something we ought not to do.


RAJU: And there's also no path for Democrats to get their bill through. They don't have the 60 votes to do that. There's not support within the Democratic Caucus to lower the filibuster threshold from 60 to 51. So this is ultimately going to be an argument that they're going to make to voters come 2022 about who is right.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I'm sorry. There's nothing broken around the country, yet he's supportive of efforts to change the system that he says is not broken and change it dramatically. I will leave it out there. It's not for you to opine on, Manu.

Also, Manu, you have new reporting about Speaker Pelosi making moves to launch a select committee now to investigate the insurrection on the Capitol since Republicans blocked the formation of an independent 9/11-style commission. What more are you learning?

RAJU: Yes. Sources are telling that she is expected to name a select committee led by Democrats to investigate what happened on January 6th. Now, she's indicating she still wants the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill to create a bipartisan outside commission but there just is not the support to do that. So, expect a decision this week by the speaker.


She said she has not made a decision yet but her number three, Jim Clyburn, told me earlier today, Kate, he expects her to do that and he's urging her to select Bennie Thompson, the homeland security chairman, as the chairman of the select committee. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu Raju, thank you. Still ahead for us, New York City voters have spoken, but it's going to be a while until they have an answer on who the city's next leader will be. So why Democrats across the country are watching the results of this race so closely.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, there is still no clear winner in the New York City mayoral race and it could be weeks until there is a final answer, but it's all being watched very closely as kind of a possible measure of the moderate/progressive battle going on within the Democratic Party nationally.

Right now, Eric Adams, a former police captain, holds a sizable lead. But without locking in a majority of the votes, that could still change once the ranked choice votes are tabulated and absentee ballots are counted.

Joining me right now is CNN's Harry Enten. Walk us through what happens next, Harry.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Right. So, as you pointed out, Eric Adams right now in the lead. He is that moderate, mainstream candidate, ran very tough on crime issue. But here's the key nugget. This number right now does not include at least 87,000 mail ballots received. I think there are some also Election Day ballots still out there, so these numbers are incomplete. And they're also incomplete because these are just the first choice results. And there is going to be sort of this slew of calendar, we'll get sort of weekly updates as we sort of move forward.

So, next week, what we'll essentially have is this. We will the first choice results from in-person today, a week from now, we'll have the ranked-choice results from in-person voting but it's not until the 6th of July that we'll have ranked-choice votes including some mail ballots. And official results, Kate, we're not expecting until the week of July 12th.

Now, here's the thing I'm going to be watching going forward, is the size of Adams' lead as we get those absentee ballots in. Why is that important? Because if we look back at ranked-choice elections over the last 20 years in this country, what do we see? We see that when the leader has less than 40 percent of the vote and is ahead by less than 10 points, which is where Adams is right now, that leader only wins ranked-choice elections around 72 percent of the time. But when the leader has less than 40 percent and is ahead by more than 10 points, they pretty much have always won.

So I think the key thing forward is, does Adams' lead remain among ten points -- or does get above ten points as we get more ballots in? If they do, he's very likely to win. If it shrinks, watch out, especially if Kathryn Garcia moves in the second place, because a lot of the polls indicated she could beat him in a ranked-choice runoff.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting. Harry, thank you for laying that out for us, I appreciate it.

Joining me now for some more perspective is CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis. He's a Political Anchor for Spectrum News, of course, and host of the You Decide podcast.

So, Errol, we wait for the final result but what we already see and are looking at through the results so far, what sticks out to you?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One important thing that sticks out is just as the polls were telling us, public safety and crime are top of mind for Democratic primary voters, that it's an issue that has gotten a lot of attention.

And Eric Adams has led in, really, the last half dozen major polls running right up to primary day. Meaning, the voters said it and the meant it and they confirmed it in yesterday's tallies that they need somebody who's going to step in and do something about it. Their perception, apparently, is that Eric Adams is the man to do it.

BOLDUAN: This race is viewed as a test of the larger national struggle within the Democratic Party, between the moderate and kind of progressive wings. Do you see any signs of what signals are going to come from this race?

LOUIS: Well, one clear signal that comes is that if you look at the totality of races here in New York City, so-called moderates did quite respectively well. And most of the officially endorsed socialist candidates who are running for city council seats, most of them do not appear to have prevailed. You can't be sure because of ranked choice voting. We're going to have to wait, just as Harry pointed out.

But it's sort of a clear signal that while people are very progressive here in New York, they're also very practical. You cannot squeeze 8- plus million people into 300 square miles where we're living all on top of each other and not be very practical about public safety, public education, public sanitation and the other basics of making a city work.

BOLDUAN: Errol, what happened with Andrew Yang? I know that this -- if you look on, as so many smart people will say, Twitter is not a good marker example of America today or definitely even reality, in general. If you look at Twitter, Andrew Yang was the front runner all along. He was an early front runner but what happened?

LOUIS: Yes, he had millions of Twitter followers and so forth, and Eric Adams, who beat him very, very soundly, has about 14,000 Twitter followers. Twitter is not real life. Let's just say it again. The tedious trolls of the Yang campaign tried to sort of create this froth and attack anybody who didn't see him as the savior of New York City and so forth.


But, look, the signs were always there, Kate. He didn't win any delegates when he ran for president. So he was known for running for president but he didn't get very far. He spent many, many months in Iowa and didn't get a single delegate.

Here in New York he had never even votes for any municipal offices in the 25 years that he's lived in New York City. He was not and is not, has not been part of really important debates in New York around public safety, public education, around a lot of different issues, around housing, all of the things that really concern people. And so when he stepped forward and said not just that he wants to get involved, but he wants to be the mayor, it was always a bit of a stretch.

And he took a pounding in some of the debates, in some of the interviews. It was clear that he just didn't understand a lot of the issues, didn't have a real connection to it. And in the end, the voters didn't believe him when he said that he was ready to make this leap into the leadership of New York City.

BOLDUAN: Errol, it's always good to have you. Thank you, Errol.

And thank you all so much for joining us today. Dana Bash picks up our coverage after a quick break.