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At This Hour

Supreme Court Says, Arizona Voting Rules Do Not Violate Voting Rights Act; Biden Meets with First Responders and Families of Condo Collapse Victims. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 01, 2021 - 11:30   ET



THOMAS VON ESSEN, FDNY COMMISSIONER DURING 9/11 ATTACKS: Now, what to do with that column that moved quite a bit from what I heard. They've got to decide whether to try to maybe break it and have it fall. They've got to decide if they can figure out a way to shore up underneath it so if it falls, it doesn't hurt people. They don't know how much is going to fall. Maybe not the whole building but they don't know if a considerable amount of concrete is going to fall. And if it falls 12 floors, you can't be anywhere near it.

So they have got a tough decision to make there right now. The best people you can have, all of the engineers from the Miami, from FEMA, from everybody trying to help.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. These are really life and death decisions that these authorities on the ground here have to make. Tom Von Essen, thank you very much and thank you for all your service over all of this years, not just during and after 9/11.

Fred, we're watching this story very, very carefully, the president and first lady, they are on the ground. Later this hour, our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she is here with me. We'll discuss with her what the president and the first lady are up to, lots more coming up from down here, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks, Wolf, we look forward to that.

All right, coming up as well, the U.S. Supreme Court upholding restrictive voting measures in Arizona. I'll speak with Arizona's secretary of state about this major ruling, next.



WHITFIELD: All right, back to one of our top stories. The U.S. Supreme Court upholding two restrictive Arizona voting laws ruling that they do not discriminate against racial minorities and do not violate the Voting Rights Act. Joining me right now is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She is a Democratic candidate for Arizona governor. So good to see you, Secretary.

So, your attorneys argued to the court that these two measures disenfranchise voters of color and so violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights act. And let me remind people about these provisions that were being challenged. The provisions would not allow ballots to be cast outside voter's precincts nor would it be allowed to have someone else to return a completed ballot.

So the Supreme Court majority ruled against you. What is your reaction to that?

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, this was an expected outcome. But what this ruling underscores is that urgent need for action at the state and federal level to protect voting rights. And what we're seeing right now is a move across country to go in the opposite direction.

And in that context, this decision is very harmful and it is going to make it harder for anyone to be able to challenge discriminatory voting laws.

WHITFIELD: And so like you said, this is not just about Arizona. I mean, there are at least 14 other states that have passed laws restricting voting access. And there are more bills being introduced. So where does this leave you and other Democrats who were trying to push back, particularly against Republican-led state legislative efforts?

HOBBS: Well, look, we know how to conduct and oversee elections and they are very challenging in trying circumstances. We did that in 2020 and saw historic participation. So we're going to keep that fight up. We did it in 2020 and we're going to work every day to make sure that every Arizonan who is eligible to vote has access to the ballot box despite these barriers.

But it is really unfortunate that the barriers exist and under this ruling are going to be able to continue to be easier to put up for voters.

WHITFIELD: And there have been attempts in Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, but it hasn't gone any why because the Democratic majority doesn't have 60 votes to move anything past a filibuster. So your own Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema supports the filibuster. Do you have a message for her today?

HOBBS: Well, I have a message for everyone in Congress that we need to take urgent action on upholding voting rights for all Americans. And if the filibuster stands in the way of that, we need to do something about that. And I've been very clear about that. Action right now is urgent.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, thank you so much for that. HOBBS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to take a short break for now and we'll be right back.



BLITZER: All right. the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is speaking.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (D-CA): -- to bring attention to the gut- wrenching scenes we have seen coming out of Florida since this building first collapsed more than a week ago. We mourn the loss of the 18 lives who have perished, including the two children ages just four and ten whose bodies were found just yesterday.

We continue to keep the families in our prayers and the one more than 145 individuals who are still waiting to hear updates about their loved ones. I also want to thank all of the first responders. I want to thank Israel for sending over their team as well. I know they're working round the clock and I know it is tedious work and I know it is difficult. But I want them to know that we appreciate it as well.

Just moments ago, I made a unanimous consent request on the House floor to fund Israel's critical Iron Dome Defense System. As many of you know (INAUDIBLE), we have the president of Israel here this week. The Israeli government requested resources from the United States to help them replenish the weapons system supplies and equipment, which is vital to protecting the Jewish state from terrorist attacks. As many of you know the Iron Dome is a defensive protection. We watch the number of missiles come.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor Kevin McCarthy. We anticipate he's going to be speaking about this new special select committee being that's formed to investigate the January 6th insurrection. We'll get back to that.

Meanwhile, there's major breaking news unfolding here in Surfside, Florida. The search and rescue efforts, sadly, they have been at least temporarily halted over deep concerns that the rest of the building may crumble, endangering the hundreds of men and women who are deeply involved in the search and rescue operation.

The Miami-Dade fire chief says there has been what he described as slight movement in the concrete slabs. They're also very worried about a large column hanging from the structure that potentially could fall.

President Biden and the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, they are here now. They're meeting with first responders. They will be meeting with members of the search and rescue teams, just ahead of what is expected to be potentially a three hour very emotional visit with family members who are desperately praying for miracles right now. They want their loved ones to be found alive. But, sadly, the entire search and rescue operation has been temporarily halted. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining me right now. Kaitlan, I'm sure for the president and the first lady, they've gone through their own grief over the years. This is so, so sad.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And we always talk about how President Biden is so good at these kinds of things but no one is really made for this kind of a response for something like this that you just do not see happen very often.

And so the White House -- officials we talked to last night kind of said they were bracing for what that meeting was go look like. They're essentially saving the hardest meeting for last. He started out meeting with those local officials and the Florida governor as well, and they are praising the president, saying that he has been on top of this tragedy since day one. Of course, that is someone who is a close ally of the former president.

He also met with the mayor of Miami-Dade County and he made some news there, saying that believes the federal government is going to be able to pick up 100 percent of the cost that is being incurred to the state and to the county right now. So that is significant.

Then he's going to go and meet with those search and rescue teams, those first responders, who have been meeting essentially and working minute-by-minute ever since this building collapsed.

But then it's going to be the really tough meeting, and that is the one with these families of either -- they know that their loved ones have died in this collapse so they're still waiting to hear what is happening as the search and rescue efforts have now been paused but have been underway.

And so I think that that meeting is going to be really tough. It's going to be behind closed doors. But just to give you a sense of how much time the White House is dedicating to that, they've blocked off over three hours for that meeting with President Biden. So they expect it to go on for some time, as he is meeting with them, talking with them through this.

And he said there he thinks this is going to be something that, of course, is not going to be solved in a day. These families are going to have this anxiety and this grief for months and years to come. And so he said he believe that they're going to need help going forward to this from a mental health perspective.

And so you can really see that is a going to be a challenge for him. And White House officials said he is likely going to be exhausted after that because it is going to be such an emotional experience, they expect.

BLITZER: And what is so encouraging is that there is this cooperation between political rivals.

[11:45:03] The governor, Ron DeSantis, who may run for president in 2024, they're working closely together. They're supporting each other, Democrats and Republicans, they're forgetting politics at least here in Surfside, Florida, and they recognize they have a major mission.

COLLINS: And the White House did not want this to be a political visit in any sense. They really tried to keep politics out of this when there were questions in the early days, whether or not he had spoken with the Florida governor.

We know they spoke last Friday. Of course, he was seated next to him just there in that briefing earlier today. And the praise went back and forth between President Biden and governor DeSantis, both saying we're here to help, let's keep the focus on the rescue effort that's underway and being there for these families that are experiencing such a tragic time.

BLITZER: And as depressing as this whole situation is, and I've been here for several days now, it is even worse now for the families because it has been a week. They were praying for a miracle. And as all of the search and rescue efforts operators were telling them, still possible, some people may be alive, we're continuing to search. But now, day eight, day nine and day ten, and now the entire operation has ground to a halt. It's going to make the president and the first lady's mission today when they speak with these family members even more painful.

COLLINS: Yes. These families are -- they're angry and they're grieving for what they don't even understand, what they don't know. These are so many unknowns here about what happened to their family members, why did this happen. Those are all of the questions that I think they're going to have. We know that from reporting that they've been angry with some of the officials in some of these briefings completely understandably because of this situation that is unfolded here, and these -- their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, husbands and spouses. And so I think that is going to be what's at play when President Biden does sit down with them.

BLITZER: All right. Kevin McCarthy is now answering some reporters' questions. Let's listen in.

MCCARTHY: So when Jeff Van Drew got (INAUDIBLE) lost his committee assignments from the speaker and got them from the Republican conference. When Justin Amash left, he then went and got his committee assignments from the speaker. I don't know in history where someone would go get their committee assignments from the speaker and expect them to have them from the conference as well.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You haven't even criticized your members, like Andrew Clyde, who said that it was a normal tourist visit that day yet she can lose her committee assignments for wanting to investigate what happened --

MCCARTHY: I did not -- let me be very clear. I'm not threatening anybody with committee assignments. What I'm saying is, it was shocking to me that if a person is a Republican, they get their committee assignments from the Republican conference. For somebody to accept committee assignments from Speaker Pelosi, that is unprecedented.


REPORTER: Did you regret not supporting the bipartisan commission idea now that you are going to have to deal with a committee that you have even less control over an opportunity to influence and arguably would be more political?

MCCARTHY: No. I regret the politics of Nancy Pelosi. For six months, she played politics with this. So what has transpired in those six months? In those six months in the Senate, they had two committees bipartisanly investigate this and give a report. The FBI has arrested almost 500 people. The architect of the Capitol has been given $10 million. Pelosi continues to make this nothing about politics. That is why no one really take this is serious based upon the direction of what she wants to go.

If you have read the Senate report, you'd be very concerned. You're concerned about what happened on that day but you're concerned what happened on the days before it, that caused that day to happen. Why wasn't the National Guard here? There is a lot of questions why that determination was made. National Guard were doing street patrol but not with on the Capitol.

It is concerning to me why the speaker would narrow the scope. Did something happen in the summer to make the decision not to bring the National Guard here? Why were the riot gears locked in a bus that people couldn't get to? All of that preparation ahead of time, why was the intel not provided and moved further?

Sergeant of arms never spoke to me prior to the meeting, prior to this 6th, during the 6th, after the 6th. There is a lot of questions that raise. And you got the Senate that went and did the work and we got a speaker that did nothing but play politics and try to drive it that way.

REPORTER: Well, (INAUDIBLE) question, are you going to appoint members to this committee to try to answer those questions?

MCCARTHY: When I have news on that, I'll give it to you. Yes?

REPORTER: I mean, that was my question, do you intend to name members to this panel, and if not, I mean, last week you met with Officer Fanone, you met with Officer Dunn, they were here last week, they urged you to take this seriously.


MCCARTHY: (INAUDIBLE) officer say that.

REPORTER: Correct. So are you taking this seriously?

MCCARTHY: I take it very seriously. Yes?

REPORTER: I'm wondering, you just named a number of entities that you think are to blame for potentially for the events of January 6th.

MCCARTHY: I didn't say (INAUDIBLE) something.

REPORTER: You have questions about it.


REPORTER: But do you still -- do you believe that President Trump -- former President Trump is accountable in some way for what -- the events leading up to January 6th?

MCCARTHY: What I looked -- have you read the Senate report? Did you read the Senate report? Did you have questions about how the -- the prep we had for this Capitol? Were you concerned about when they found IEDs in the morning? Did we not call the FBI? Were you concerned about the idea that the sergeant at arms had intel provided by the FBI but it wasn't passed forward? Were you concerned if we had that information, why didn't we have a different presence built here? If you were concerned about riots, why would you put the riot gear in a bus that was locked in a route down the way? If there was -- in the time of the riot took place, why was there not communication that had direction from leadership because leadership wasn't talking? There's so many failures along that way that happened the days before that allowed individuals to get into the building. That's what we want to make sure never, ever happens again.

REPORTER: Former President Trump was the president at the time. Does he have no responsibility?


REPORTER: I was going to ask whether you -- whether you were going to point, because she can go at you at the quorum now that she's appointed Cheney. So --

MCCARTHY: Because she plays politics all the time.

REPORTER: But -- so -- I mean, it would appear to be in your interest to get people on this thing now.

MCCARTHY: It's in my interest that it's a political game of what she's playing. When I have news on this, I'll provide the news.

How are you doing today? Did I upset you last time?


MCCARTHY: Oh. I thought from your article, I must have upset you. I felt gray hair is positive, and you were younger than me. So, I don't know, I hope you feel better after the article.

REPORTER: Do you want to answer my question?

MCCARTHY: Yes, sir.

REPORTER: Do you believe that, effectively, by Liz Cheney accepting the committee assignment on January 6th that she's left the Republican conference?

MCCARTHY: I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi. It would seem to me since I didn't hear from her, maybe she's closer to her than us. I don't know.

REPORTER: -- about previous members who lost their assignment when they literally left --

MCCARTHY: I was trying to give you an example based of how -- when somebody comes here, how they get their committees. I mean, take, for example, when Liz Cheney came to Congress, she came to see me about and the other members on steering about committees assignments, just as every other Republican did. No Democrat came to see me about committee assignments. And the only time Jeff Van Drew came to me about committee assignments after he left. So, no.

That's why it would be shocking to me for anybody from a party on the other side to come and want to accept --

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader. But you can see these are live pictures coming in, the president meeting with first responders right now, members of the search and rescue teams. He's going to be spending most of the day with the first lady down here in South Florida dealing with this crisis, which all of a sudden got even worse, if you can leave believe that.

Remember, 145 people are still unaccounted for, 145 people still unaccounted for. And, sadly, the entire search and rescue operation has at least temporarily been halted out of deep concerns that remaining parts of the towers of the condominium building, the parts that remained intact are very, very tenuous right now, potentially could crumble, could collapse endangering the hundreds of men and women, you're seeing some of them who have gathered with President Biden right now, could endanger them from continuing if they were to continue the search and rescue operation. It's an enormously difficult, dangerous situation that has unfolded right now.

Sadly, for the family members who will be meeting for about three hours or so, if not, longer, with the president and the first lady later today, they were praying for miracles. Now, those miracles become more difficult.

Let's see if we can hear what the president is the president is saying.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My wife went driving home and (INAUDIBLE) that came up through and (INAUDIBLE) we couldn't see (INAUDIBLE) saved my wife and my family. And I want to extend my (INAUDIBLE).


So what would you do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to introduce you to our battalion chief for Task Force One. BIDEN: What's your name?

I just want you to know that we understand. Anybody who is (INAUDIBLE) what you're doing now is hard as hell, even psychologically. And I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

As you all know, it's not only what you do now, but your brothers and sisters across this country are having more pressure because of draught, because of 121-degree of heat just in Vancouver. I know we've got a problem.

I was on a call yesterday with all the western governors. And you know what they're asking for? We need more firefighters. We need more firefighters. Because last year, the fire season didn't start this early, and enough (INAUDIBLE) clearing down, enough territories on the ground, it's bigger than the size of Rhode Island, and already it's started early. So you guys are wanted very badly. I just want to say thank you.

As I said, (INAUDIBLE), I fully appreciate what you're doing. But I promise I know, you know, what you're doing here is incredible, having to deal with the uncertainty of worrying about the families. Anyway, thank you. Thank you.

(INAUDIBLE) today what's going on right here. Take care. Take care. (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: All right. So the president of the United States meeting with the search and rescue teams, the first responders who are here in Surfside, Florida. They are now, as we've been reporting the major breaking news out of here, that the entire search and rescue operation at least for now within a week of this major operation, has been temporarily halted out of deep concern that the hundreds of men and women who are involved in the search and rescue operation potentially could be in danger because the remaining part of the building is very unstable right now. There is fear that building could collapse, injuring, and God forbid, even killing some of those men and women. And as a result, they decided out of abundance of caution, no more search and rescue operation at least for now.

The president meanwhile, will continue meeting with first responders and others eventually with family members. Much more coming up as our special coverage here on CNN continues.