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At This Hour

Texas Dems Block Voting Restrictions Bill by Denying GOP Quorum; Soon: Biden to Make "Moral Case" for Voting Rights in Speech; NYC to Require Masks in Schools, While California Will Let School Districts Decide How to Enforce Masks; Inside the Wild Chase to Capture Haitian President's Assassins. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Battle over voting rights. Democrats fleeing Texas to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. And President Biden is planning to tackle voting rights and the big lie in a speech today.

The hunt for assassins. Exclusive CNN reporting on the wild chase to capture suspects (AUDIO GAP).

Alarming surge. New COVID cases are increasing in a big way across the United States as the battle over masks and vaccines in schools heats up.

Thanks so much for being here. We do begin with breaking news.

Republicans in the Texas House are reconvening a special legislative session right now. But this will not go far. They will not have a quorum, it seems -- meaning that they don't have the votes to really do any work. And that is because in an extraordinary move overnight, a majority of the state's Democratic lawmakers left Texas and are now in Washington, D.C. in order to block Republican efforts to pass new voting restrictions.

These Democratic lawmakers -- they are now vowing to remain out of the state until the end of this special session, which could mean weeks out of the state. It comes as president Biden will be delivering a highly anticipated speech on voting rights today.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Washington. She's following the Texas lawmakers as they plot the next move.

So, Dianne, what's happening?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So those Texas lawmakers who flew on the private planes leaving the state of Texas in their effort to deny quorum which is about to happen, watching the House floor right now to see when they will reconvene, that will be their first accomplishment of the trip, the effort to deny quorum because you need two-thirds of the legislature there to do official state business.

Next, it is a lot more difficult. And that will be potentially trying to convince Senate Democrats to push forward federal voting protections. Now they've been up here before as they denied quorum in the regular session and say that they felt like they got feedback, but obviously, we know that there seem to be much appetite on Capitol Hill for this.

So they're going to spend the next 27 days or potentially more if the governor goes through with his effort to call another special session and another special session trying to convince Senate Democrats to do what they could not do in Texas since they are in the minority. Take a listen.


STATE REP. RAFAEL ANCHIA (D-TX): We are not going to buckle to the big lie in the state of Texas. The big lie that has resulted -- that has resulted in anti-Democratic legislation throughout the United States. We said no.

STATE REP. RHETTA ANDREWS BOWERS (D-TX): We can't stay here indefinitely to run out the clock, to stop Republican anti-voter bills. That's why we need Congress to act now and pass the For the People Act.


GALLAGHER: And again, they talk about staying here indefinitely. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has said that he will use his powers to continue calling consecutive 30-day special sessions until they get some voting legislation passed in Texas.

Kate, of course, the Democrats say, there are a lot of restrictions in this legislation. We don't feel like this is morally okay and they're going to try as long as they have funds and ability to stay out of the state to prevent that from happening.

BOLDUAN: Dianne, thank you so much for that reporting.

Joining me right now is Armando Martinez. He's one of the Texas House of Representatives who went to -- left Texas and went to D.C. last night.

Thanks so much for being here. So, what is your plan for today?

STATE REP. ARMANDO MARTINEZ (D-TX): Absolutely. And thank you very much, Kate.

You know, our plan is mainly to meet with Congress and our senators as well to discuss the importance of voting rights and making sure that we can pass the voting rights act to address this situation and this anti-democratic suppression session that we're facing in Texas.

BOLDUAN: I saw a note that Chuck Schumer said on the floor he's going to meet with you all today to kind of plot your next move. What could that really be?

MARTINEZ: You know, it's great that Majority Leader Schumer is going to meet with us. We've met with him in the past and I think it is just discussions an what we need to do to continue moving forward and making this measure pass and allowing it to pass, which is very important, not only for Texas, but across the United States when it comes to democracy and voting.

BOLDUAN: So, you can't stay out of Texas forever. With Republicans in the majority, the bill that is being discussed, it will very likely get passed.


If this is the eventual reality, do you acknowledge that what you all are doing is a stunt?

MARTINEZ: I don't think that it's a stunt. I think we've used the rules to our benefit. I think Democrats once again are very resilient and have come out ahead and utilizing anything that we have available placed on the table in order to address this.

I think it's something that we will continue to look at ways that we can -- that we can address this issue, especially with voting rights. And the fact that we as Democrats are doing this in a way that not only for party affiliation, not only for social economic status, it is for everybody and voting rights is extremely important.

So Democrats are going to do everything available to us in order to make sure that we address voting rights and democracy within Texas.

BOLDUAN: Look, and politicians pull stunts on both sides all of the time and sometimes it is to draw attention to an issue that you care deeply about which is what we're seeing. But you have said and we've heard other lawmakers say you need Congress to now act. Congress, on the voting rights element of this, has not acted. They will very likely not act when it comes to these voting rights bills because Congress is deadlocked on this issue.

Why do you think any of this going to convince them what you coming to Washington, D.C., to convince them otherwise, because the bill that y'all are talking about coming out of the Senate and Congress, it's going nowhere right now?

MARTINEZ: Right. And we're hopeful that they will take this into consideration. We have not done this once. This is a second time that we're doing is it.

BOLDUAN: But why are you hopeful? Where do you find the hope?

Because I'm cynical, yes, but in watching Congress in the recent history and long history, they're not going anywhere on this bill right now?

MARTINEZ: Right. But we are hopeful that they will. And that they will make a decision. When Texas legislators, even though we're in the minority, we still have a voice and our voice is very powerful when you have over 50 members coming to Washington, D.C., and we are hopeful that the Senate will take this into consideration and the members of Congress.

BOLDUAN: Are you meeting with Joe Manchin?

MARTINEZ: We did meet with him last time. And we're hopeful to meet with limb on our stay during these next few weeks.

BOLDUAN: That would be interesting if that happens because that is a key vote in this.

So the Texas governor, he said when you return to the state you are going to be arrested and cabined in the Capitol until the vote on this bill is taken, until he says you do your jobs. Let me play for you what he said.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I can and I will continue to call special session after special session, after special session all the way up until election next year and so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they're hanging out on this taxpayer paid junket, they're going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. And as soon as they come back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested. They will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol, until they get their job done.


BOLDUAN: What do you say to that?

MARTINEZ: Well, yeah, I think first of all, the governor is not the king. We live in a democracy. And so he can't just make those types of statements.

And secondly, the misstatement about this being a taxpayer junket is totally false. The House Democratic Committee paid for our stay, they paid for our travel, and those are dues that we pay as members of the House Democratic Caucus.

So, a lot of misinformation, a lot of misleading information by our governor. But let me tell that you we're not going to buckle and we're not going to back down and fold our hands to something that he is saying.

What he has done is he has forgotten the fundamental needs of Texas. When we talk about the grid, when we talk about access to health, when we talk about flooding in the Rio Grande valley that this happened the fourth time in a row and he has not looked at funding or any type of infrastructure that is important for the people of Texas, he is placing politics over people and that needs to stop. People come first. Democracy comes first. Voting rights come first.

And the people of Texas are the ones that are being placed in this position because of him.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much -- thank you for coming in. Let's see what your next moves are. Appreciate it.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So the bill Texas Democrats are fighting are one that dozens are trying to pass as we have covered. Take a look at map. Texas and 16 other states have already put 28 restrictive new laws in place since January 1st. All driven by Republicans and largely driven by the lie pushed by Donald Trump and repeated by many Republicans that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election and that we know there was not.

Later today, President Biden will be taking on Donald Trump's election lies and making the case for further protecting voting rights.


CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live in Philadelphia where the president will be speaking very soon.

Kaitlan, the White House calls this a major speech. So what are you hearing about what the president is going to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they believe he's going to do when he comes here today is put his political muscle behind this issue. Speaking from the National Constitution Center here in Philadelphia, we're expecting this to be an impassioned speech. The president is going to attach urgency to the issue and he's also going to describe the efforts like the ones you were seeing in Texas and in the other states that you just laid out on the map there as authoritarian measures.

He believes they're un-American, these efforts to limit access to the ballot. But I think, Kate, the other question is going to come out of the speech today once President Biden has delivered it, are what is the concrete steps that the White House is going to take here.

He's being urged by civil rights leaders and other Democrats to use this voice, use the bully pulpit that comes with being president of the United States to get behind this issue and in a more way -- a bigger way than he already has after the speech that he gave in Tulsa. Pretty similar to the one he's going to give today according to White House officials.

But you're seeing the efforts continue and you're seeing Republicans barrel ahead with trying to restrict access to voting or change the way that their election laws are even if there was no fraud in their state. And you've also seen that Senate Democrats have been blocked by Republicans so far to enact any kind of federal legislation. You saw the Supreme Court ruling recently that was weakening the enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act. So there are real questions about what the White House and what

President Biden can do beyond just giving a speech here in Philadelphia and what concrete steps they could take. Of course, it is reviving questions about the filibuster with Jim Clyburn putting out this idea of creating a carve out for something as grave as voting rights. The White House said that is an issue for the Senate to decide not President Biden. So we'll see if he does reference it here in Philadelphia in just a few hours, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Kaitlan Collins reporting there.

Still ahead for us, a new battle over whether masks should be and will be required for children in school. California just reversed course. More on that ahead.

And also a CNN exclusive, reporting on the wild chase to hunt down the assassins who killed Haiti's president.



BOLDUAN: Red lights are flashing again. The country is seeing a much sharper uptick in coronavirus cases right now. Thirty-four states are seeing an increase of 50 percent or more in new cases in the last week.

Yesterday that number was just 11 states and now we're talking so many more. This is being driven by Americans who remain unvaccinated. One major impact if this trend continues is getting kids back in school in the fall. Just as there is a new battle over whether masks are going to be required for children in school.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is live at a New York City school where the mask question seems to have been settled there at least.

Brynn, the mask -- this mask debate, though, is stretching from coast to coast.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, Kate, listen, the mask debate has been going on. It's been politicized ever since the beginning of this pandemic, right, and now, it is going into the schools as we start heading into the fall and kids going back into school.

In California, that was really an about face because originally what they said is everyone needs to wear a mask when they return to school and then there was a lot of criticism going on there. So, now, they're letting school districts decide.

And that is what a lot of states are actually doing. Letting individual school districts decide what is best for their students in their communities, New Jersey and New York being one of them. But then will are sharp states taking a strong force against not wearing masks at all, making sure there is no mandate, eight states or seven states right now saying so. Texas, Utah, saying that school districts, no one could tell a student to wear a mask in school.

Of course, that is something that they may see an increase in cases when students actually -- have a full return to in-person learning. And then there are states like New York where just yesterday, the mayor said that masks are going to be mandated. And one of the reasons really because along with the CDC guidelines, they say they want to keep the three feet distance in between students.

Well, if you know New York City, you know schools are tight as it is with the population inside of those classes. They want to make sure that there is safety first. And that includes the first level of protection which in this city's mind is wearing masks.

Now, the mayor of course couching it saying, listen, we'll give updates guidance and continue to look into this as we get closer to the return of school in September. But as of now, parents should know that if you're coming back to school in the fall, you need to wear a mask.

BOLDUAN: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

In addition to the battle over masks, a new CNN analysis has found that at least seven states have enacted law this year prohibiting schools from requiring students to get a COVID vaccination, yet another kind of layer in all of this.

Joining me now is Dr. Chris Pernell. She's a public health physician, a fellow at the American College of Preventative Medicine.

It's good to see you, Doctor. What is your reaction to that analysis? We're looking at seven states now who are making moves to restrict schools, stop schools from requiring COVID vaccinations for students.

DR. CHRIS T. PERNELL, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FELLOW: Kate, that is flat out disheartening for me as a public health physician. We need to be practicing sound and rational public health recommendations and guidelines.


To flat out prohibit COVID-19 vaccination is not in anyone's best interest. We know that now we have those who are 12 and above who are eligible for the currently authorized vaccines and what we need to be doing is encouraging vaccination. When states make that move, they get in the way of good and effective public health. And we can education our children and be safe at same time. So I'm really disappointed.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and then you have a debate over masks again, whether students should be wearing them indoors in school. So, Doctor, with what we know about the virus now, what we know about the delta variant and its impact on the unvaccinated, what do you say here?

PERNELL: This is primarily a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And we need to be very clear about that message. Because we don't have a way of knowing who is specifically vaccinated and indoor large public spaces, we should be masked. I work in a health care environment, I'm masked every day when I go

inside of that hospital. If you're in a long-term care facility, you will be masked. If you're on mass transit, you will be masked. If you're at a jail or a prison, you will be masked.

So for me, I don't think we should create a different or another set of circumstances for schools where you have high traffic areas, where you could not verify and confirm vaccination, we need to keep the most amount of people safe and what we know is that the delta variant is more transmissible, Kate. The delta variant leads to, because of its higher transmission rates, people getting sick, and we can see an increase in hospitalizations and we could potentially see an increase in deaths. Typically those data points lag about three to four weeks.

We need to prevent that. Prevention is on our side.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and look, people might not want to hear it but things are not -- or are heading in the wrong direction with COVID. You got case jumping, you got 34 states seeing these big increases. The number was just 11 states yesterday.

I want to play for you what one doctor in Missouri which is getting really hit hard right now said he is seeing in his hospital.


DR. HOWARD JARVIS, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, COXHEALTH, SPRINGFIELD, MO: I can see the regret on their face, we ask them because we want to know are you, are you vaccinated? And it's very clear that a lot of them regret it.


BOLDUAN: Because he says 99 percent of the people that are sick enough to be hospitalized are coming in are unvaccinated. I mean, so even so, I'm sitting here wondering at this point, what would the country look like if we didn't have the level of people getting vaccinated that we actually do at this point?

PERNELL: If we had not experienced this measure of success that we have today, over 67 percent of adults having at least one vaccination, still hovering below 50 percent of the population being fully vaccinated, we would not see that among the vaccinated folks and populations life resuming some semblance of normality. And this is why our message needs to remain clear.

We are not out of the woods. Vigilance needs to still be our main and primary goal. We see that this delta variant in states where you have low vaccination rates are like Missouri or like states in the South, like Florida or even like Arkansas or even in Wyoming, those states unfortunately are a set up for disaster. But we could prevent that. We could prevent that.

BOLDUAN: They're very important lessons in what we're talking about right now.

Doctor, thank you very much.

PERNELL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, exclusive CNN reporting on the frantic search for the group that killed Haiti's president. An inside look at the wild chase to capture the suspects.



BOLDUAN: CNN is learning extraordinary new details about the plot to kill Haiti's president and the pursuit that followed his assassination. Police chasing the suspected attackers through the streets of the capital.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Port-au-Prince with this exclusive report.

Matt, you've been able to recover some remarkable details on how this unfolded?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kate. We were able to spend a good chunk of time with a very key source here in Port-au-Prince who really took the time to walk us through in detail so much about what happened in the key 36 hours after this assassination.


RIVERS (voice-over): Hours after Haiti's president was assassinated, gunfire still crackled through Port-au-Prince. But this time it was the alleged assassins under attack.

As bullets slammed into the concrete walls around the group, one fighter called his sister.

He told me they were in a house, she says, under siege, under fire and fighting. She added, he's not a killer.

Just 36 hours after a group of more than two dozen Colombians and two Haitian Americans allegedly assassinated a president, most would be either detained or declared dead.