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CNN News Central

Alabama to Redraft Voting Districts, Per Supreme Court Order; Russia's War on Ukraine; Ukraine and Russia Blame One Another of Bombing Evacuations; Shelling in Kherson Interrupts Ukraine's Top Rabbi; Indications in the West that Ukraine's Anticipated Counteroffensive Against Russia is About to Start; Building Collapse Survivor Speaks to CNN. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 10:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: You had the three liberal, justices as expected, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh. And so, that is, sort of, bipartisan cross ideological grouping has bound together and kept the Voting Rights Act a vital part of our books.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Can I ask you really quick, Elie, does this suggest to you, kind of, when you see this coalition, just -- I'm -- that -- how bad that map was that was -- as it was drawn in Alabama?

HONIG: That could be part of it, as Jessica said, there are seven congressional districts in Alabama, 27 percent African American population. But this map would have given African Americans a substantial stay, potentially, a majority only in one of those districts. I -- if we choose to take the, sort of, optimistic view here, this maybe an increasingly rare instance where the justices actually look to apply the law and they're not outcome-based.

Because what we so often is, you know the six conservatives are going to come down with a conservative outcome, you know the three liberals are going to come down with a liberal outcome. Instead, it looks like what they've done here is give a strict reading to the law itself. Strip out the politics around it and came to this decision.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I think a lot of people will be looking at this as perhaps a shape of future decisions maybe on a range of subjects with the chief justice and Justice Kavanaugh serving as this moderate swing vote that could push decisions one way or another. Obviously, this is a very immediate practical decision on practical implication on maps, congressional districts, and not just in the state of Alabama.

Let's get Dianne Gallagher on the phone with us right now. Dianne, I know you've been looking at this as well. And there are other states very much at play here.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are. But I do think that we should consider what Elie said, John, that this may not be an indicator for other cases. This ruling came as surprise to any many voting rights advocates and those who focused on redistricting, especially the way that we have seen this break down here.

There are, of course, are them -- watching additional cases, specifically those that deal with redistricting cases when it comes to violating the Voting Rights Act as well as intentional gerrymandering on racial or on political partisan alliance. We're looking at cases out of Utah, in North Carolina as well, case that we've been waiting to hear from this U.S. Supreme Court with Moore versus Harper which became a bit more complicated. It deals with that independent state legislature hearing once the state Supreme Court of North Carolina knocked down previous ruling after the political make up of that state court change.

We're waiting to see if in fact the U.S. Supreme Court will just kick that back thing. They don't need to rule on that particular case due to, you know, those changes at the state court level. But it's unusual to see these for this voting rights advocates to have said that it came as, again, a surprise to them for them to acknowledge that this, in fact, was a violation of the Voting Rights Act, especially because of Roberts and his past majority opinions on gutting the Voting Rights Act, the court back in 2013.

I am seeing now text the messages and e-mails coming in from those that I've worked on -- worked with on this case. You know, these particular things for years now. Saying that they're shocked, even, about this. Failing to draw that second majority black congressional district in Alabama where black voters make up 27 percent of the population in that state only hold one of seven seats, determining that this was intentionally breaking those up which was the argument that lawyers had been making, and something that we've seen in voting rights cases continuing through the, basically, diluting strength of black voters.

We've seen it in cases in Florida as well dealing with more of a state level or legislative level. But this is a major and unexpected win for voting rights advocates. It also puts into perspective that order back in, again, 2022 that actually allowed them to use a map for the 22 -- 2022 midterms. So, that map was used in the 2022 midterms. You know, Justice Kavanaugh, of course, changing sides from that initial, you know, to make the day (ph) five, four ruling.

But this is a very big deal. And it could, perhaps, be seen as encouraging for voting rights advocates. But, again, I think there is some caution still and some trepidation about what this may mean in the future for additional cases. Perhaps this one was so egregious. But again, they do look back just a year ago at that consign ruling that allowed these maps to go into effect for that midterm and what the implication may have been for even the current makeup of Congress.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: I want to go now to Elie Honig. Elie, go back to you. I think it was a decade ago that the Supreme Court, sort of, gutted the Voting Rights Act, tossed out a huge, the heart of it. Now, we're seeing this decision, but it was five to four. Can you speak to the fact that it is so close and what that might mean going forward? HONIG: Yes. So, this was surprising in a couple of respects, Sara. First of all, as you said, we have a six to three conservative majority. We've come to expect mostly conservative outcomes. But because the Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh joined with the three liberals, we got this decision.

And the other thing that's surprising is if you look at the procedural history of this case, what happened was in 2021 Alabama draw its new map. It then went to a three-judge district court panel which said, hold on. We're blocking this for the moment because it appears it might be discriminatory. Then the Supreme Court came in before this ruling and essentially blocked the blocking of that. They said, no, Alabama is going to get to use its new map for the 2022 election and then we'll deal with it afterwards.

Well, that's what's happened today. The Supreme Court has dealt with it, but they came out, sort of, on the opposite side that their prior intervention would have suggested. And again, they said, Section 2, which is the other, the sole remaining portion of the voting rights act remains in effect. This does not mean that anyone in any state can just waltz into the Supreme Court and challenge any new map and claim its discriminatory.

You have to have the proof. You have to have the stats of that. But in this case, it was fairly extreme. And so, the justices have overturned, overruled and sort of gotten rid of the map that Alabama had originally drawn because they found that it is unconstitutionally discriminatory.

BOLDUAN: Elie, stick with us. We're bringing Jeff Zeleny to join this conversation.

Jeff, what do you think is going to be -- could be the immediate political implications here? I mean, we're now -- we're -- you know, we're talking about congressional map and we're heading into another -- literally, heading into another election cycle.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think what Elie was just saying there, this does not mean that every state will be able to have a successful challenge of their alliance, their congressional alliance. But it does show that there are certainly some boundaries, even in this very conservative Supreme Court, there appear to be some boundaries that cannot be crossed.

In the case in Alabama, it was seen as an extreme example of gerrymandering. How black voters were simply disenfranchised. So, I do not think there's going to be a rush to the Supreme Court, and you know, suddenly that this will, you know, sort of, a fairly draw lines across the country. Blue states do it. Red states do it.

But this does show that there is a boundary for this. And this was very surprising even to the voting rights activists. They're just getting a few e-mails and text messages just over the last few minutes. This is not something that was really expected. It was not something the White House was not expected, it was not something that voting rights activists and groups were expecting. So, as we read through this ruling and continue to process it, I think it just shows that, you know, a decade after the Voting Rights Act was essentially gutted, it shows there are some boundaries here even by the Supreme Court and certainly Chief Justice John Roberts.

BERMAN: Look, very real implication of this is that the Republicans have a five-seat majority --

ZELENY: For sure.

BERMAN: -- in the U.S. House of Representatives right now. And Democrats, that you will hear from will tell you that this very likely means that one more seat for the Democrats that would reduce the Republican majority in theory. Again, there has to be an election but by at least one seat. And the margins where Kevin McCarthy are so small already that every seat matters. And maybe this opens up some kind of a pathway for challenges in other states as well.

An unexpected decision from the Supreme Court with potentially major implications. Much more on this and a lot of other important news this morning. "CNN News Central" back in just a moment.



BERMAN: This morning, rescue workers in the flooded region of Kherson in Ukraine are coming under fire as they work to evacuate people following that devastating dam burst. Ukraine's chief rabbi was forced to take cover during the shelling.


MOSHE REUVEN AZMAN, UKRAINE'S CHIEF RABBI: And the Russians, they're -- oh.


BERMAN: So, you could hear the explosions in the background as he dropped to the ground for cover. Ukrainian officials say eight people have been injured from shelling in that city. Ukrainian forces, we are told, have suffered stiff resistance and losses as they try to make advances along several front lines. One U.S. official described the loss of equipment and personnel as significant.

Our Frederik Pleitgen is in Zaporizhzhia which you can see is a key dividing line between areas controlled by Russians and Ukraine there. Fred, obviously, rumblings now that the offensive operations have really begun. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is one of the things that could be the Ukrainians have not confirmed that yet. Of course, that's sort of in line, John, with what the Ukrainians have been saying is that when the counteroffensive starts, they are not going to announce it, but they said the Russians are going to feel it. [10:45:00]

And certainly, from what we're hearing from the Russians is that they are facing more attacks from the Ukrainians. The Russian military did indeed say that especially overnight but also yesterday and this morning as well that there were several pushes by the Ukrainian military. The Russians claim also using western equipment in those. The Russians are saying that they managed to hold all of those up. And they also say that there were those significant losses, as they put it, by the Ukrainians.

There was some drone video that was put out. One of the other things that we thought that was quite interesting is that the Russian defense minister himself came out a little earlier and he commented all on -- on all of this, saying that the attacks had been repelled, as they put it from the Russian perspective. That the Ukrainians had lost several tanks and also a lot of personnel and other equipment as well.

So, that's sort of the messaging that we're getting from the Russians' side. Again, the Ukrainians, so far, for their part, not saying very much. But we can say from our vantage point here, and we are fairly close to where all of this is taking place, John, is that we have heard a distinct increase, especially in the overnight hours of outgoing shelling, of incoming shelling quite frankly as well, that's something that was happening pretty much throughout the entire night of last night which some of that to us, seemed as though there might be outgoing rockets.

So, that could be a certain sign. The Russians are saying, one of the things that is happening is that there has been a distinct increase in shelling also coming from the Ukrainian side. Again, unclear whether or not that is the actual offensive starting. But certainly, one of the things that we are picking up on is a really distinct increase in the pace of action, if you will, on the front lines here around Zaporizhzhia, which as you correctly said, is really one of the key ones. The Ukrainians have been saying and the Russians have been saying as well. John.

BERMAN: All right. And the picture we're looking at on the right, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting some of the areas around Kherson, which has undergone so much of the flooding in the last few days. Frederik Pleitgen in Zaporizhzhia, thanks so much, Fred. Stay safe.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, trapped in the rubble of an apartment collapse for hours. Rescuers were forced to amputate her leg to save her. Now, she's speaking to CNN exclusively. We'll be back.



SIDNER: A woman who survived the partial collapse of an apartment building in Iowa is speaking to CNN about the terrifying ordeal that has changed her life forever. Quanishia Berry had her leg amputated as a result of injury sustained in that collapse. She's now suing the City of Davenport and the building's owner, accusing them of negligence.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is live at the site of the collapse for us in Davenport with more on your exclusive reporting. Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Sara, just talking to Quanishia Bera -- Berry and her wife, Lexus, it was inspiring, because after everything they had gone through. Quanishia, she goes by Peach, she told me that she's not letting this stop her. She does not see herself as a victim here. She sees herself as a survivor. And the reason is because she said she fought like hell that day to still be alive.

Now, I want to show you where exactly they were in this building. So, obviously, this is the building behind me that collapsed back on May 29th. They were on the fourth floor of this building. They said it was a normal day like any other, and they started to notice cracks in the wall, within minutes, another crack, another crack, then the sounds, and within seconds she was down all of the way on the ground, essentially, six stories in total were on top of her.

She laid pinned under the rubble for hours. And when they finally got to her, the doctor told us he had to amputate her leg on scene because at that point it was life or death decision. Take a listen to how she processed that reality.


QUANISHIA "PEACH" WHITE-BERRY, APARTMENT COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: There was nothing to think about. I wanted to live. I didn't want to be trapped. I didn't want to be -- I didn't want more debris to fall on me because it was hard enough. And to be honest, I didn't want the firefighters to have to be trapped or beaten down or bruised or anything like I did. I wanted everyone to make it out of there alive. And with no hesitation, amputate what you have to do -- do what you have to do to get me out of here.


JIMENEZ: And, you know, she talks about what she thinks about every day now. When she closes her eyes, she still hears the sounds of the building starting to collapse. We visited her in the hospital, she worried if that building was safe. She worried about trying to be in any building. So, obviously this is something that is going to stick with her for the rest of her life. That said, she said she is ready for the process ahead, ready to move forward with her life, and she is not taking anything for granted.

SIDNER: What an incredibly harrowing tale, but also Quanishia Berry's just resilience in all of this after losing her leg there on the scene. What's the latest in the legal fight?

JIMENEZ: Yes, so Peach and her wife, Lexus, they are the second of the survivors to file a lawsuit against the city and the owners of this building. And they are alleging negligence that the people involved in this building knew that there were issues here. Had opportunities to make those right, to fix those issues and then didn't, and we ended up in this collapse.

Now, the owners, we've reached out to them and they told us that their heart goes out to everyone affected by this, including those that lost their lives.


Three people were killed here. And the city said that they can't comment on ongoing litigation, but obviously, it'll be something to follow here on Iowa.

SIDNER: Omar Jimenez, thank you, and your team for that powerful story. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, there are two federal courthouses, one in Miami and one in Washington, D.C., that are getting a whole lot of attention at this hour as the Justice Department has officially informed president -- Former President Trump that he is the target in the probe of his possible mishandling of classified documents. Much more on this ahead.