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At This Hour

Stacey Abrams, Some Voting Rights Groups to Skip Biden Speech; New York Times Reports, Pence and 1/6 Committee Engage in High-Stakes Dance Over Testimony; Australia Border Officials Investigate if Djokovic Lied on Entry Form. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: LaTosha Brown is here, co-Founder of Black Voters Matter. She's one of these voting rights activists that will be skipping Joe Biden's speech today, and CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.

LaTosha, let me start with you. The co-founder of your group, Cliff Albright, he told CNN this morning this. We don't need another speech. What we need is a plan. Talk to me why not attending, not welcoming the president's visit is the way to get action from him in Congress?

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Well, let me just start by saying, he's welcome to Georgia, right? We welcome him to Georgia. What we're saying is that this is not the moment, this is not the time. What we're saying is it is important to recognize the significance of this moment and how frustrated those of us who have been working diligently on the ground, after election after election, and here we are a year later and there are still not voting rights --

BOLDUAN: It looks like we might have an issue with LaTosha's connection. We are going to work on that.

Patricia, let me go to you as we try to get LaTosha to connect back with us. The headline on this, from this morning, in AJC I saw is Stacey Abrams won't be with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in Atlanta today. You heard Joe Biden just there in that tape that John Harwood played say that they got their schedules mixed up, everything is fine. Is that what you see? And how important is this aspect of this?

PATRICIA MURPHY, POLITICAL REPORTER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: I would say everything is not fine when Stacey Abrams is not with the president, when he comes to Georgia. She certainly was with him when he campaigned for president. She was with him after he was president. She's been at nearly everything that he's done here in Georgia, and the president really was able to use Stacey Abrams to benefit from the kind of grassroots activism that she and so many other black rights groups worked to really seed the territory in Georgia for Democrats to win both the White House and those two U.S. Senate seats.

And we're hearing from activists that when they gave and feel like they helped give control of the Senate to Democrats, that they felt that their priorities would be top priorities. Certainly, the president has been focused on COVID, but while he's been focused on COVID, Georgia has passed its own restrictive voting measures here in the state, and the activists say, you would be preaching to the choir, coming here and talking to us, give the speech in the Senate, give it in West Virginia, give it where you need to convince people instead.

BOLDUAN: Yes. LaTosha, I think we're reconnected, gosh darn those gremlins always getting us but thank you for sticking with me. Is there something that you think you could hear from Joe Biden today to make you feel differently about where things stand? Because I heard you say that you do not think that voting rights is a priority for President Biden. Could he say something today to make you feel differently?

BROWN: I think one of the things that he would make a commitment that we're going to have voting rights legislation passed. When he talked about the infrastructure bill, even when he's talked about Build Back Better, he has been very adamant about not just sending that bill to me and I'll sign it, but he said he had a full throat support of it, and said we're going to have voting rights legislation in this country, that's what I want to hear him say. I want him to say that I am willing to do everything within my power as president to make sure that that bill gets to my desk. That's what I want to hear him say. I want to hear him say that he is literally willing to commit, whether that goes up to the Senate, whatever it is that he needs to do to make sure this gets passed.

When I thought -- a mentor reminded me this morning. I'm a native of Selma, Alabama, and those 600 people in Selma, Alabama, they have far less political leverage than we have currently right now, and yet, they stood in this space (ph) on principle and they fought for voting rights. And I think we need to see the same kind of commitment, the same kind of prioritization of making sure that this policy passes.

BOLDUAN: Manu, and the big focus turns to the halls where you are right now. A big part of the problem for Joe Biden here is he doesn't have the votes. He doesn't have votes from Republicans and he doesn't have votes from all Democrats, like Joe Manchin. I want to play for everyone what he said to you just last week about a key element of this, which is the idea of changing the voting rules in the Senate to make it easier to pass these voting bills. Listen to this, everyone.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): That's a heavy lift. And the reason I say it's a heavy lift is that once you change a rule or you have a carve- out, and I've always said that, any time there is a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey. There's nothing left because it comes back and forth.


BOLDUAN: So, Manu, what is the next step here? Is there a compromise to be had?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not with Senator Manchin about the process for changing the rules. He reiterated again this morning that he does not support the process. Remember, the Democrats are united about the policy here but they are not united about how to actually enact that policy. Because in order to move through the regular order, it would require 60 votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.


There simply are not 60 votes because there are not ten Republicans to back their larger plan. In fact, there are zero Republicans to back their more sweeping measure. But there is also this push to get Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to change their view about how to overhaul the Senate filibuster rules, to actually make it a simple majority, that could actually pass the legislation. But in order to do that, they need to have Manchin and Sinema on board to agree to what invoke what is known on Capitol Hill as the nuclear option to change the rules.

Now, Manchin again said this morning he is not in favor of that. So that means that with Sinema as well, that means that there are 48 Democrats at the most who would agree to change the rules, leaving the Democrats with essentially nothing.

Now, on the Republican side too, Kate, they have their own fight, their own issues. While they're united against the Democratic plans, they are still dealing with Donald Trump's lie that he won the election. That is just in the last day, Donald Trump attacked a fellow Republican, Mike Rounds, over simply saying the facts that Donald Trump lost the election and that the election was not -- there's not widespread fraud that could have changed the election.

I just caught up with Mike Rounds moments ago, and I asked him about this, and he made clear that he said this because he wants to restore faith in voter's view of the electoral process. While it isn't really the Democrats' policy, he believes the rhetoric is important here.

So, both sides dealing with their own issues here, but as the president goes to Georgia and wants to get his big bill passed, that appears increasingly doubtful amid resistance within his own party, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So interesting. All right, thank you so much, while the center of the universe, when it comes to voting rights and the fights for voting protections returns to Georgia again today, we're going to continue to follow that.

All right, so will former Vice President Mike Pence provide testimony to congressional investigators looking into the insurrection? I'm going to speak with a former House impeachment manager, next.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote the ayes are 232, the nays are 197, the resolution is adopted, without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


BOLDUAN: It was one year ago this week the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump, a second time, for inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. This morning, The New York Times now reports that the House select committee investigating the attack is engaged in -- is engaged in what could potentially be the most important negotiations of the investigations so far, trying to secure testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette, who served as one of the impeachment managers who laid out the case against Donald Trump one year ago. Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

Liz Cheney called Mike Pence a hero last week for what he did on January 6th, also saying that she's looking forward for him cooperating with this investigation. Yet the times is now citing people familiar with Pence's thinking in this new report today, saying that he is growing increasingly disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation. How important do you think Pence's testimony will be?

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): I think former vice president's pence's testimony would be very critical in the investigation, because after all, he was the one that was certifying the vote. He was also the one that the insurrectionists were threatening to hang. So, I think that it would be really critical to have information from him and also from his senior staff, from his chief and others, about what he had -- the conversations he had had with the president before that, what it was expected that he was going to do, and what he thought of it, and, ultimately, why he decided to go ahead and certify the results.

BOLDUAN: Do you think there is a case against Donald Trump without Mike Pence's testimony and cooperation?

DEGETTE: Oh, absolutely, I do. We concluded that during the impeachment trial. The evidence is overwhelming that then-President Trump, he incited the people to come. When they came he pretty much told them to come down to the capitol and stop the counting. We unearthed so much evidence just in the impeachment trial, but the more evidence we can get, the better. And, surely, Vice President Pence would be a critical witness to talk about any conversations that he might have had with the president.

I think it's very disturbing. I read The Times article too, and I was very disturbed to see that he is now maybe getting cold feet because of this political ambitions. This just shows to me that Donald Trump has an uncanny and very, very disturbing control over the Republican Party. Vice President Pence needs to keep the same gumption that he had when he came over to the Capitol and certified the election on January 6th.

BOLDUAN: The committee wants to speak to one of your colleagues, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, and he is insisting -- the latest that he says is that he has, quote, nothing relevant to offer the committee. Why do you think that he doesn't want to talk to the committee?

DEGETTE: Well, Congressman Jordan and others, they doth protest too much. If they don't have anything to offer, then why don't they just come over and say what they know? I think they're trying to hide things and I think that the committee is working very hard and effectively to get to the bottom of this.

BOLDUAN: Yesterday, a D.C. federal judge who is handling one of the lawsuits trying to hold Donald Trump accountable for January 6th repeatedly referred to Trump's silence during the insurrection, in a way that let me quote what the judge said because it's very interesting, what do I do with the fact that the president didn't denounce the conduct immediately and sent a tweet that arguably exacerbated things? Isn't that from a plausibility standpoint that the president plausibly agreed with the conduct of the people inside the Capitol that day?


That from a district judge.

Is it possible these civil lawsuits may be like the only way a former president will be held accountable?

DEGETTE: Well, there's a number of ways the president can be held accountable, and all of them should be pursued robustly. You know, when we were doing the impeachment trial, we had a question of should we call witnesses. And, in particular, should we call Marc Short, the vice president's chief of staff. We ultimately concluded not to because we felt we had enough evidence and we didn't want them trying to slow-walk this.

That is exactly what they're trying to do now with the select committee. They're trying to slow-walk it, to not show up, to cause litigation, and so that's where I think some of these civil suits are helpful. And also, some of the other -- the New York attorney general criminal investigation, and others, I think that we need to look at this from every angle.

Donald Trump's M.O. has always been to just try to delay, delay, delay and we can't let that happen here. The future of our democracy is too important.

BOLDUAN: Well, and if it delays through the midterms, there is a possibility that this committee will be no longer if Republicans take over the majority in the House. That's definitely a part of the timing that you are looking at there. Congresswoman, thank you for your time.

Coming up for us, Novak Djokovic is back on the court preparing for the Australian Open while border officials are looking into whether the tennis star lied on a document in order to enter the country. The latest in this saga, next.


BOLDUAN: Novak Djokovic, the number one men's tennis player in the world, is back on the court in hopes of competing in the Australian Open. And this morning, CNN has learned that Australian border officials are investigating now whether Djokovic lied on his travel declaration form when he certified he had not traveled 14 days before his arrival in Australia. Photos on social media posted during that two-week period showed the tennis star in Spain and Serbia after testing positive for coronavirus. So, where does this leave things now?

Joining me now is CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan, she's also a columnist for USA Today. Christine, what do you think of this whole thing right now?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Kate, there's one person who could have prevented all of this and that's Novak Djokovic. If he had gotten vaccinated, none of this would have been happening. He has created it. It is all self-induced.

Now, that said, here we are with this latest twist, which is that the Australian authorities believe that Djokovic lied when he said he had not been in another country before coming to Australia, that's question everyone gets when you're traveling these days in COVID. And if he was in Spain, there are pictures, there's videos, of course, he's also maskless after he said he tested positive, including an event where he was with kids, maskless, after testing positive. So that's where we are, and, you know, the story just keeps kind of spinning and turning and who knows where it's going to end up.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's exactly -- I mean, it could change even today. I mean, I want to play something for you, some interesting perspective, I think, from former professional tennis player James Blake speaking to Anderson Cooper last night.


JAMES BLAKE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: I think for him to get through the Australian Open, if he's able to play this year, would be one of the greatest accomplishments any tennis player has ever done mentally because of what he's been through. And not able to train or be -- be able to be active at all for the last five days, go through all of this that he's been through, and I can only imagine what he's going to walk out to in the first match and, really, every match in Australia with all these fans that have been through what they have been through, I have a feeling it's going to be really, really difficult to focus strictly to tennis. He's proven to be the best in the world at that, but I think this is a challenge like he's never seen before.


BOLDUAN: If he ends up playing in the open next week, what is the challenge that he's going to be up against? BRENNAN: I think James Blake is right, it would quite an achievement. I guess I'm focused more on the citizens of Australia who have been doing everything right, and Melbourne, especially, with, of course, the host city of the Australian Open, Kate, where, for 260 days, the folks there were locked down.

And so you can imagine the booing. You can imagine the anger, understandable, all of it. And, yes, I mean, I think Djokovic has already lost, frankly, in terms of his reputation worldwide. There are those who want to cheer him on, obviously, the anti-vaxxers, what have you, but, my goodness, we've learned a lot about this man and I think Australia knows enough now, even though it's been a mess on all sides, I think the Australian people know that this is a guy who just thought he was going to saunter into their country unvaccinated, a country that has been hit so hard by COVID and has been so diligent, its citizens, so diligent to do the right thing while this guy walks right in having done so many wrong things.


BOLDUAN: And also I've heard from -- well, we heard from James Blake say this also last night as well as the -- well, the main rival now for Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, at this tournament, both saying that the best thing for the sport is always to have the best players playing, the best players on the court. And I'm wondering though if this is going to, despite, leave some kind of a black mark on the tournament, the sport, the player, kind of all in.

BRENNAN: Oh, for sure. Yes, this is -- I don't know that you can handle anything in COVID well. This is all new territory for government officials, for everyone, but certainly there have been mistakes and missteps by the Australians apparently. And it has not been a good look for anyone. And, yes, you know, the idea of having one of the four Grand Slam tournaments is to have the top players there.

And that's the push here, Kate. That's what the pressure is for the Australians now. Do they want to be seen as the country that refused to have the number one men's player in the world come and play in the tournament that they care so much about?

So, that's where it stands, but I do think Djokovic is at the heart of this. He could have solved this long ago and he did not by not getting vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Christine, as always, I appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for being here today. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Inside Politics with John King begins after a quick break.