Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden Speaks Out Against Unrelenting Assault on Voting Rights; Schools Increase Security Amid TikTok Shooting Threats; Former Minnesota Police Officer Kim Potter Testifies in Her Trial. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 17, 2021 - 11:30   ET



DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Already, he's been out multiple weeks because of various exposures in the classroom and it causes a significant disruption in learning, also in child care for parents and caregivers. And so I think this is so important for us to be able to keep our children in school.

I will say that lack of testing is a major problem. I'm not sure how we're able to literally implement this test to stay when we don't even have enough testing for people who are symptomatic. Ideally, we need to get to every point where every child is tested twice a week before going to school, and that will help keep everybody safe.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Yes. And you hit on something so important, which is this is great news, yet there's a major but that people need access to affordable and regular testing in order to pull this off, which we all really, really need, which puts the focus once again back on testing. We see the long lines in New York City, in just one city, of people waiting to get tested right now.

Thank you, Dr. Wen.

WEN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Biden making the case once again for protecting voting rights, just as his social spending bill stalls in the Senate. That's next.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, President Biden forcefully backing the fight for voting rights once again in a commencement address at South Carolina State University.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live in South Carolina following the president with more on this. Lay out what he said. What was the case he made today, Arlette?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Biden pushed Congress to pass voting rights legislation even as those efforts currently remain stalled up on Capitol Hill. Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to pass pieces of legislation, but the president said that the battle is not over just yet.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've never seen anything like the unrelenting assault on the right to vote, never.

As John Lewis said, it is the only -- without the right to vote, there is no democracy.

But each and every time it gets brought up, the other team blocks the ability to even start to discuss it.


SAENZ: Now, even as legislation remains stalled on Capitol Hill, Democrats are pushing forward, trying to see if there is a viable path for passing voting rights legislation. At this moment, that would require changing Senate rules, that filibuster rule that requires 60 votes. But, currently, there are not enough Democrats on board to change that rule. So, the White House and Democrats up on Capitol Hill still trying to work towards whether they can make voting rights legislation a reality. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Arlette, thank you so much.

Let's focus in on that. Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Thanks for being here.

What do you make of the president -- so he's talking about voting rights today, but he is essentially also at the same time shelving the social spending bill until next year and instead renewing his focus in this area on voting rights? But resistance to changing the voting rules in the Senate has not changed.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So, those were a couple of different issues. I would disagree with you, first, that he's shelving discussions on the Build Back Better Act. Those discussions are going to keep going forward next week. I've had at least ten conversations in the last 12 hours on what we're going to do, how you move it forward. And it remains front and center and a priority (INAUDIBLE).

With regard to voting rights, I don't understand how we are seeing in state after state in this country that people are trying to discourage and make it harder for people to vote and at the same time are trying to undermine people's confidence in the outcome of voting that is taking place. We do need voting rights legislation.

The Senate has become a place that bills go to die. We are not passing legislation. The filibuster is -- look, I'm a traditionalist. I know that our forefathers were white men, might have helped if they have had a few women in there, but something's got to give because everything can't be blocked and the president is going to be critical to leadership on that issue. BOLDUAN: The focus on this issue as well as on the social spending bill comes back to a focus on Joe Manchin. Nothing's changed that I have seen, Congresswoman, in terms of how Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema feels about the filibuster. They do not support changing it. If that's the reality that you're facing, what is this really about? I mean, I'm cynical, I know, but it's not going to change. They're not moving on the filibuster rule. So, that also means that the voting rights bill isn't moving.

DINGELL: Okay. First of all, never say never. Second of all, the John Lewis bill is in essence the Joe Manchin bill. He helped write that bill or came to that compromise. There are always things that can be done. I am never someone that says it's never going to happen.

There's a lot of pressure on Joe Manchin right now in several areas. What he thinks does matter. But I think he understands. Look, I've talked to -- Joe Manchin was very close to my late husband. He is a friend. I've had many long talks with him. The president and he are going to have to -- really have -- are having, not going to have to, are continuing to have long thoughts, but in the end, Joe Manchin is going to have to understand the importance of some of these issues to this country.

And we have to do something on voting rights.


It's just clear and simple. People are being discouraged. They're trying to take people's ability to vote away. And that is the fundamental pillar of our democracy.

BOLDUAN: Before you go, you're back in Dearborn. Jason Carroll, our Correspondent, was in Dearborn, outside Beaumont Hospital, actually talking about just how horrible the COVID surge is across the country but is really strapping resources, hospitals maxed out in Michigan right now. What are you hearing from there in terms of this surge at this point in the pandemic? How bad is it?

DINGELL: It's bad. I didn't realize he was in Dearborn. Dearborn, Beaumont is one of the -- my hometown, is one of the hospitals that has a team from the Pentagon that is helping them. But there are eight states that have already been designated as eligible for those teams. The state has been asking for more teams.

I'll tell you, Henry Ford hospital, all of our big hospital systems are very, very worried. They're talking, asking for help. I deal with these frontline workers every day. They're crying. But the University of Michigan, which is -- you know, everybody thinks they'll always be there, they'll always be able to deliver. The hospital has been talking to me for two weeks about how worried they are, how they don't have enough people, they can't take transfer patients, they're canceling their surgeries.

Last Friday, I had a doctor that sobbed on the phone to me and said to me, Debbie, people are dying, not because of COVID, because we can no longer take patients. We are the last hope and they're not letting us give people hope.

This is real. Everybody is telling people, please get vaccinated. I want to add myself to it because there are people -- your friends, your family, people in your community are dying. Another person I know died last night. This is real and it's impacting everybody and it's beginning to surge across the country.

Once again, Michigan was unfortunately one of the first to experience the surge, but it's happening across the country again.

BOLDUAN: One of the premiere institutions, medical institutions in the country says that. That's terrifying. It's great to have you. Thank you for being here.

DINGELL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, soon, former Police Officer Kim Potter is expected to take the stand in her own defense. She claims that she meant to use her taser when she shot and killed Daunte Wright. The very latest from the courtroom, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, former Police Officer Kim Potter is expected to testify in her own defense. She's charged with first and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop outside of Minneapolis. And this could be happening any moment now, quite frankly.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is joining me now live outside the courthouse. She's been following this all throughout. Adrienne, what are we expecting?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the court is on break right now. The defense said it will call two witnesses today. Its first witness has already testified and wrapped up. That was Dr. Lawrence Miller. He testified about this phenomenon called action error. In plain language, he said, it means you intend to do one thing, you think you're doing that thing, but you do something else and then you realize later the action that you intended was not the one you took.

He gave several examples of this. One example, in particular, he talked about writing down the date at the start of a new year. Instead of writing the current year that you're in, you might write the previous year because that's what you're used to doing, that muscle memory. He said this comes -- that happens in a variety of fields, not only law enforcement but the medical industry and the aviation field and in the military.

He did not say that is what happened with Officer Potter on April 11th, on the day she intended to pull her taser and instead pulled out her gun, shooting and killing Daunte Wright. That's in part because of the judge's ruling. So what happened? We will hear from Potter in her own words tell us what happened on that day. And she has an opportunity to look at members of this jury and talk about her remorse and how her life changed as well. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Adrienne, thank you very much for that.

Also at this hour, schools across the country are on high alert because of a despicable viral TikTok threat that has been going out warning of school shootings. Authorities say that there is no credible threat against schools, but this has understandably scared and terrified many parents and kids.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is tracking this. He's joining us right now. What is this about, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Kate, we can't say enough right now. Authorities have not found any actual viable intel that suggests that this is, in fact, a legitimate threat. But as you pointed out, this has certainly left some parents not only fearful but also some schools led them to preemptively close. And not to mention has stretched law enforcement sources in some parts of the country here.

This, again, non-credible threat made its way all the way up even to the federal government, and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, again, reassuring parents that there's no indication, that it is legitimate but nonetheless recommending that people remain vigilant.


Now, TikTok, for its part, did say not long ago, aside from all of these alerts have gone out to parents, making sure that they know that their children are safe. TikTok did respond, saying that they basically searched their platform, and that they have found no material that actually promotes violence at schools. They did, however, find schools -- I mean, videos, rather, where they were discussing these kinds of threats and that's why they are continuing to urge parents to stay vigilant, but at this point not a credible threat at any campus across the country.

BOLDUAN: Polo, thank you very much for that.

SANDOVAL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right. I want to turn to this right now, another troubling sign of this moment in the pandemic. Every hour we're hearing of something else canceling or shutting down. The Radio City Rockettes just announced that they have canceled today's performances. More and more Broadway shows are also not performing due to outbreaks of COVID among casts and crew.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City announced this week that staff and audience members will soon need to show proof of not just being vaccinated but a booster shot in order to attend a performance because of all of this.

Joining me now is Peter Gelb. He's the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Thank you so much for being here, Peter.

Why did you feel like this -- that it was time right now to make this move, even before the CDC has really even leaned into it?

PETER GELB, GENERAL MANAGER, THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: Well, you know, the Metropolitan Opera is the one cultural institution in New York that has not canceled a performance yet, and we believe it's because we've been just so on top of the safety requirements. We have up to 3,000 people work inside this building every day, putting on a variety of different operas. And from the very beginning, we had vaccine mandates going back to August when we were reopening, and we're following the CDC advice recommendation that all eligible people get booster shots. It seems logical, and this is not a time for half measures. We need to do, you know, the maximum to ensure the safety ever our employees and the audience.

BOLDUAN: We've seen pushback to requirements for vaccinations all across the country. Have you gotten any pushback or resistance from cast and crew about this move for boosters?

GELB: Surprisingly not, or maybe not surprisingly not. We have 15 unions at the Met, the largest portion of our workforce are union members. But, you know, when you consider the fact that in opera, you have up to 100 people performing in close quarters in the pits, hundreds of singers, dancers, actors on the stage, hundreds of stage hands moving the scenery around and not to mention the dozens of people backstage, it makes sense that everyone would want to be safe and -- and would not object to this kind of -- these kinds of measures. You know, they are -- they are as eager to have them as I am to institute them.

BOLDUAN: You know what, more broadly as we ticked off, you know, listed off here today performing -- other performing arts groups have had to shut down because of COVID, multiple Broadway shows canceled just in the last week. What does it mean for the industry to have this happening once again, Peter?

GELB: Well, it's potentially devastating. I mean, I think it's so important that we all do everything we can to keep a shutdown from happening which, you know, seems to be looming on the horizon. We don't want that to happen. We want audiences to feel safe so they can go out and, you know, culture is a very important -- very important part of people's lives. And we need to do everything we can to keep us all going. I think we're in this together.

So, you know, we're hoping for the best, but certainly we want -- the key -- the key thing is to keep everyone safe, as safe as possible.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And you're taking this step for that reason to try -- well, both of these reasons, right, to try to stay open and to stay safe.

How worried are you that it might be inevitable? I don't know, with this level of spread that we're concerned about in New York City, that you -- that even though you have not had to cancel the show, how worried are you that you will have to shut down again temporarily? GELB: Well, we certainly worry about that and, you know, we're prepared if that has to happen. We don't want it to happen because we're being lax if it turns out that the hospital has become overloaded in this, you know, powerful scenario potentially that could happen. It's inevitable that theaters and restaurants will have to shut down. We're hoping that that will not be the case.

But in the meantime, we want to make sure that our audiences feel safe, that they don't get sick when they are at the opera. And I think actually our audiences who we survey say that they feel safer at the Met because they know all the safety precautions we're taking.

So, for now, you know, we just have got to do the best we can, follow the medical advice and -- and hope -- you know, hope that we don't have this terrible wave and -- and that we can dodge this bullet.


BOLDUAN: And one thing we've definitely learned in the pandemic is not to ever again take for granted how important live performance is from concerts to operas, to everything in between, how important they are to our lives. So, thank you, Peter.

GELB: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Before we go, in this season of giving, we want to show you how you can help our 2021 top ten CNN Heroes continue their great and important work, and you also have your donations matched dollar for dollar. Here's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Each of this year's top ten CNN Heroes proves that one person really can make a difference. And, again this, year we're making it easy for you to support their great work. Just go to, click donate beneath any 2021 top ten CNN Hero to make a direct contribution to their hero's fund-raiser on GoFundMe. You'll receive an email confirming your donation, which is tax-deductible in the United States.

No matter the amount, you can make a big difference in helping our heroes continue their life-changing work. Right now, through January 3rd, your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $500,000.

CNN is proud to offer you this simple way to support each cause and celebrate all these everyday people changing the world. You can donate from your laptop, your tablet or your phone. Just go to Your donation in any amount will help them help others. Thank you.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS (voice over): I'm John King in Washington. I want to take you directly now to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kimberly Potter testifying here in her own defense charged for the April 2021 shooting during a traffic with Daunte Wright. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Counsel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Ms. Potter, will you speak into the Mic because both of your lawyers have a hard time hearing?

POTTER: Yes. There's just the mask here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. You stated your full name. How old are you, ma'am?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are you married?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is your husband in the courtroom?

POTTER: Yes, he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what's his name?

POTTER: Jeff Potter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long have you been married?

POTTER: Over 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when did you first meet your husband?

POTTER: When I was 15?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in high school?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you reunite much later?

POTTER: Yes, when I was in college.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what does your husband do?

POTTER: He works for a health care system now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a retired police officer also?

POTTER: Yes, he is. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where was he a police officer?

POTTER: Fridley, Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he also a member of the drug task force?

POTTER: Yes, he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And with respect to your children, do you have children?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are they, two boys?

POTTER: I have two boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are their names?

POTTER: Nicholas and Samuel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are they in the courtroom?

POTTER: No, they are not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where is Nicholas?

POTTER: He is an active duty Marine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where is that at?

POTTER: He's currently stationed in Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your other son, where is he at?

POTTER: He is in college in North Dakota.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are they going to be home for the holidays?

POTTER: Yes, they will.