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Roe Ruling Unleashes Fierce Battle Over Abortion; Trial To Begin Against WNBA's Brittney Griner In Russia On Friday; U.S. Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Increase In May. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 27, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats are now calling on the White House and the president to step up and do something to blunt the blow after the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade. A group of 34 Democrats sent a letter to Biden this weekend asking him to take what they called bold action on abortion rights. So far, no word from the White House what if any executive action the president is considering though.

One of the leading voices in the Senate on this and the only senator to have worked at Planned Parenthood, Democratic Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota and she joins us now. Senator, thank you for being here. What you want the president to do now is one thing and an important thing, but what do you actually expect him to do? Do you have assurances he is going to take any action around abortion rights?

SEN. TINA SMITH (D-MN): Well, thank you, Kate. I'm so glad to be with you this morning. You know we've had quite a few conversations with the president and his team about what steps they can take to protect access to abortion care in this country now that this extreme Supreme Court has overturned this fundamental freedom. They have already taken some action. I want to point out.

On Friday, the president spoke very bold -- very strongly about protecting people's rights to travel to states where abortion is legal in order to get the care that they need, and the Attorney General talked about protecting access to medication abortion, which is very important in states where abortion is still legal. What we want the president and the administration to do is to use all of the authorities that they have to protect access wherever they can.

And I'm confident that they'll do whatever they can. But we also have to realize that they have limited -- there's only a limit -- there's a limit to what they can actually do. And that is why this issue, I believe, is going to be so salient as we move into the elections in 2020 because the choice between Democrats and Republicans on this could not be more clear.

BOLDUAN: I mean, you did -- you actually wrote significantly about this in an opinion piece that you wrote this weekend. In it, you write that people should now, and the way you put it is, do all you can and demand the same all you can approach from all of our elected leaders. Even before -- that's obviously even before the election in the midterms. What exactly is that all you can approach legislatively right now when the Senate math is what it is?

SMITH: Well, you're exactly right. We have to deal with reality. As long as we have a 50-50 Senate and we have rules in the Senate, which mean that you have to have 60 in order to pass legislation, we're not going to be able to take legislative action to put into statute the protections of Roe versus Wade. So what I want to get across to people and what we were talking about in our -- in our opinion piece with Senator Warren is that we have to do everything that we can.

We have to organize at the grassroots in order to turn people out to vote in elections for state-level and for congressional-level elected officials. We have to call on the administration to do everything that they can. We have to protect and support the rights and help to expand access to abortion care where it's still legal, which is why I have been trying to push out information for people about where you can get a legal abortion, care, and supporting organizations that are providing that care.

The point is that this has been a dramatic overturning of a fundamental constitutional right and there is not one thing that we can do to solve this problem. Work -- it's going to take work and time, and we have to do everything that we can.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And nothing in the near term with the math of the way that it is, that's maybe the only certainty that there is right now. You talked about people needing the grassroots efforts and efforts that, you know, for everyone to do all that they can.


BOLDUAN: What that gets to is people being motivated. And in a new poll that's out -- the new poll out -- polling out following this decision, Americans were asked in this poll how they feel right now. And in this poll, those who support overturning Roe, they actually appear more motivated than people who are against overturning Roe. More upset and angry, yes, those who are upset over Roe, but not more motivated afterward. How much does that concern you?

SMITH: Well, you know what? I think that -- here's what I think about when it comes to this. First of all, the important thing to remember is that something like 60, 65 percent of Americans did not believe that Roe should have been overturned. Americans are more pro-choice today than they have been over the last 25 years and strong majorities of Americans believe that the right to abortion should be there in most or all cases so it is -- just such a strong difference.

BOLDUAN: But if it is the case, that yes, if those -- if those majority -- if the majorities agree with you. But if it is the case that even in the face of this major decision, there are not more motivated at all to do something about it. That's a problem for you.

SMITH: Yes. Well, I just don't -- I just honestly don't buy that. I just don't go there. I saw that on Friday afternoon on the Democratic fundraising platform, ActBlue, we raised $6 million in just a matter of hours. And I think about my old organizing experience when I first got involved in politics, and I went into a state legislative district, not -- never been involved in politics before, and talk to people about the fact that their state legislator was anti-choice and we got our candidate who was pro-choice elected in that race.

Now, if somebody had pulled in that district, they never would have shown, oh, that abortion is the galvanizing issue, the one thing that people are going to care the most about, but that's how we made the distinction between Republican and Democrat in that race, and it made a difference and we won. And I believe that that's going to be the story of millions of conversations that will happen with voters over the next four and a half months as we look towards this election. And my view of it is it will be galvanizing and it will actually be very motivating to people.

BOLDUAN: You know, part of the conversation now is what's next from here. And part of that is what are these -- what are the states that are now banning or have banned abortion, what are they going to do to support you more, to support pregnant women and their children. I want to play for you what Mallory Carroll of Susan B. Anthony what she said about this, this morning.


MALLORY CARROLL, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATION, SUSAN B. ANTHONY PRO-LIFE AMERICA: We don't ask a firefighter before he goes into a burning building, is he prepared to provide for all the material needs of the people inside the building that's on fire? We have just put out a huge fire, the taking of 4000 unborn American lives every day. And now we can focus even more on providing for the needs of women and their children.


BOLDUAN: Do you believe her? And is this an area where you think you can work together with anti-abortion activists?

SMITH: Well, first, I just fundamentally disagree. I think the decision about whether or not to continue a pregnancy should rest with the woman and not with the government. And that is what -- that is what is the case now in over half of the states in this country. Fundamentally, this country needs to do a much better job of taking care of moms and babies through pregnancy.

And when babies are young, we have, in this country, one of the worst maternal mortality rates of any industrialized country in the world and that is especially acute for women of color, black and brown women. So that is absolutely something that we need to do. So I would ask anybody who wants to join with me to improve maternal health care to expand access to childcare, to expand access -- Medicaid access for poor women so that they can get the health care that they need.

That is an important issue, but it doesn't address the fundamental question of who you think should be able to decide about whether or not to continue a pregnancy, and that is -- that is the travesty of what the Supreme Court -- this extremist Supreme Court has done.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you for coming in.

SMITH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. WNBA star Brittney Griner was back in a Russian courtroom this morning, the very latest on her battle for freedom is next.



BOLDUAN: Developing AT THIS HOUR. A date is now set for Brittney Griner, the WNBA star appearing in a Russian courtroom this morning. Her trial is now set to begin on Friday over alleged drug smuggling charges. CNN's Clare Sebastian has been tracking this. She joins us now. Clare, what's happening with this?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Kate, this was a preliminary pre-trial hearing at a court in a suburb of Moscow today. As you say two key things came out of it. One is that a date for the trial has finally been set after Brittney Griner has spent now more than four months in detention in Russia. She was, of course, arrested on February 17, exactly a week before the war in Ukraine started. The second piece of news is that her detention has not -- has been extended for six further months pending trial, not the best news, of course, for the two-time Olympic champion and WNBA basketball player.


SEBASTIAN: This is something that the U.S. government is you know actively dealing with. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said over the weekend that he has no higher priority than to bring her and then -- and other American detainees held abroad home. Her supporters have labeled this trial as politically motivated. Now, of course, one piece of hope was the release in April of Trevor Reed and other American being held in Moscow. But the news today does not bode particularly well for Brittney Griner. She will now face trial starting Friday, Kate, in a -- in a Moscow courtroom.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much for that update. Joining me now for more on this is CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. She's a sports columnist for USA Today. It's good to see you again, Christine. So we now have a trial date set. Her trial is set to start this Friday. You've been speaking to your sources about just this whole nightmare for her. What do you think this could mean?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: This is part of the process, Kate, unfortunately, so sad in all ways, and certainly not what we expect as Americans, and yet, here she is, and here we are. And my understanding from talking to sources is the conversations are going on behind the scenes, negotiations going on behind the scenes, there's real hope that they will be able to get her out and this trial may well be a sham, whatever the allegations are, whatever the truth is, we may not -- we may never know. But this trial, Kate, is part of the process. And they have to go

through this. Russians can save face, they can convict her, and then they can say, OK, now what do we get in return? So as sad as that is, and as strange and bizarre as it sounds, this actually means the entire situation is tragic as it is, is moving forward.

BOLDUAN: Yes. You know, Clare Sebastian mentioned the Secretary of State Tony Blinken. He talked about Griner's situation with my colleague, Jake Tapper, just yesterday. I want to play when he said.


ANTHONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I've got no higher priority than making sure that Americans, who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world, come home, and that includes Paul Whelan, that includes Brittney Griner, that includes people in a number of other countries. I can't comment in any detail on what we're doing except to say this is an absolute priority.


BOLDUAN: An absolute priority. No higher -- he says there is no higher priority of his. Do the people around Brittney Griner's family feel that way?

BRENNAN: I think they're starting to. I mean, there's frustration, of course, right? I mean, this is horrible, four months, and so little information. And of course, she's still in jail, arrested, and now going into this "trial." But the good news is that I think there's certainly been more voices. The concern early on was that people weren't paying attention. Well, people are paying attention when the Secretary of State says that that's a very big deal.

And the WNBA players have been champions, once again, for their colleagues and the way that the league has talked about this, Kate, the way that we see her number everywhere on courts, remembering her talking about her and fighting for her. So I think hopefully, that from this side of the Atlantic is helping over in Russia as we move forward.

BOLDUAN: And part of it is keeping that drumbeat up, keeping the attention on it, keeping eyeballs on it. That is part of -- that is a significant part of trying to give hope to bring anyone home. Before I let you go, can I ask you really quickly about Serena Williams? She's making her return to Wimbledon and -- full, frankly, to tennis for the first time in over a year. What's on the line for her? She's about to take the court tomorrow.

BRENNAN: I feel like this is a victory tour. As much as anything that Serena would say that's terrible, she's going to try to win the tournament, but as you said she hasn't played in a year, she is 40, she's actually closer to 41 now, and of course, what an icon the greatest of all time. So she's going to go out there and play. Seven- time Wimbledon champion but the last time she won was in 2016 and, Kate, she was the oldest ever in 2016. That shows you what a monumental task this might be for her to win --

you know, a match or two and work her way through the tournament, but what a delight to see Serena back at Wimbledon. And the crowd will be welcoming her the way they should. And if this is the last time we see her or one of the last times, maybe the last time at Wimbledon, sit back and enjoy it, folks because this is the greatest of all time and one of the great surfaces and one of the great venues of all time.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. No matter the outcome of Wimbledon for her, they -- her impact on the sport was immeasurable. It's good to see you, Christine, thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. A new report on U.S. home sales, showing a rebound after months of declines. Details on what these new numbers mean. That's next.



BOLDUAN: The U.S. housing market saw unexpected improvement actually in the month of May with Pending Home Sales climbing slightly after months of declines. So, what is happening here? CNN's Rahel Solomon is here with more on this. It's good to see you. This is a surprise.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a surprise. And this is actually the first time in about seven months where we're seeing any type of increase in this monthly figure. So point 7 percent increase for the month of May, which is small but still a surprise. But when you look under the hood of Pending Home Sales, it's still down about 13.6 percent, so Pending Home Sales is essentially the sale of a home that is now under contract but hasn't quite made it to closing yet.

And it's important because it's considered a leading indicator. It gives us a sense of what we might see a few months down the line when the sale of that home actually makes it to closing. So the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors who puts out this report saying that despite the small gain and pending sales from the prior month, the housing market is clearly undergoing a transition. Contract signings are down sizably from a year ago because of the much higher mortgage rate. So, transition according to one chief economist.



SOLOMON: Another chief economist had much stronger language. Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon saying that look, the tiny increase was a surprise but this is no more than an unsustainable blip given the calamity in the mortgage market. So what's happening? It's kind of a bit of a one-two punch, right? I mean, prices are still elevated by about 20 percent on average for the price of homes.

BOLDUAN: Right. SOLOMON: And, of course, mortgage rates have soared this year, by some estimates more than two percentage points. So it's both things happening at the same time.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you. Thank you so much for coming in.

SOLOMON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's see where this roller coaster takes us next month. Thank you all so much for being here. I really appreciate it. I'm Kate Bolduan. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after this quick break.