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NBA Great Bill Russell Dies At 88; Remembering Nichelle Nichols; Authorities Release Footage After Woman Dies Following Patrol Car Fall; Senate To Vote Again On Burn Pits Bill After Protests Broke Out At The Capitol Steps; GOP Blocks Bill Expanding Care For Vets Exposed To Burn Pits; January 6 Committee Held Interview With Former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 31, 2022 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington with the top stories for you on this Sunday night.

Not only was he one of the NBA's greatest players he was a civil rights icon. We remember Bill Russell. And she changed television for millions and millions of Americans as Lieutenant Uhura on "Star Trek," the original series. Nichelle Nichols has passed away at the age of 89.

Also tonight, investigators releasing bodycam video taken during an arrest of a Georgia mother just before she dies after falling from a police car. Hear what her family is now saying.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And tonight, the loss of a legend, not just in pro-basketball but also in the long struggle for American civil rights. Bill Russell has died at the age of 88. The NBA Hall of Famer passed away today. His family's announcement did not give the cause of his death. Among the countless tributes and personal memories of Bill Russell today, this from NBA commissioner Adam Silver who called Russell the greatest champion in all of team sports.

And former President Barack Obama also remembering Bill Russell today, writing, "Perhaps more than anyone else Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trail blazer, marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali."

And after his playing career, Russell stayed connected to the NBA attending nearly every major event hosted by the league and he continued to be a voice in the fight for civil rights.

CNN's Andy Scholes looks back now at Bill Russel's life and his incredible career.


BILL RUSSELL, NBA LEGEND AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I took basic skills and egotistically speaking, I think I had the best command of all of the basic skills in basketball as a package of anyone who has ever played.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: The champion of champions, Bill Russell won more NBA titles than any player in history and he always had one thing on his mind -- winning.

RUSSELL: Well, one thing I loved to do was to be back on defense by myself and have a three-on-one fastbreak coming to me. I absolutely loved that because over half the time I could stop it. I brought defense to a level where it was as important or more important than offense. But my defense was part of our offense.

SCHOLES: The 12-time all-star for the Boston Celtics revolutionized the game with his shot-blocking ability, but Russell put greater value on victories than individual numbers.

RUSSELL: If I'm really going to be a good team player, I have to be willing to disappear sometimes, be out there without you knowing I'm out there.

SCHOLES: Russell wasn't always such a force on the court. He took the only scholarship he was offered to the University of San Francisco. In the span of one year, Russell won an NCAA championship, Olympic gold medal and NBA title, and he credits much of his success in life to his parents.

RUSSELL: The first thing I remember is my mother and father loved me. She said, you must always be willing to fight for yourself. Never be a victim. And that's the way I connected my life, is that I have avoided as much as possible ever being a victim.

SCHOLES: Russell was a private person who wanted little to do with stirring trouble, but given racial tensions, trouble was all around him, whether he liked it or not, and he used his fame to become an outspoken backer of the Civil Rights Movement.

RUSSELL: I contributed a great deal to the game, and the game contributed as much to my life as I did or probably made a little more. I came here and I lived and I died, that's what happened.


RUSSELL: I had a good time




BROWN: And we're also remembering another African-American trail blazer, this time from the world of entertainment. Actress Nichelle Nichols, known to audiences worldwide as Lieutenant Uhura on the original cast of "Star Trek." Longtime castmate and "Enterprise" crewmate George Takei tweeted this image, saying, "We lived long and prospered together." Nichols was 89.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more on her impact.


NICHELLE NICHOLS, ACTRESS: Security sweeps of all decks are negative, Mr. Spock.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Nichelle Nichols broke barriers on board the "USS Enterprise" as Lieutenant Uhura, she was dancing and singing her way across the stages of New York City and Chicago, the city close to where she grew up, Robbins, Illinois. In 1967 she released a cover of the Joe McCoy classic, "Why Don't You Do Right" on Epic Records.


CARROLL: But it was playing "Star Trek's" Lieutenant Uhura where she really found fame. It was a groundbreaking role for an African- American woman in 1966, widely considered one of the first times a woman of color was not portraying a servant on TV. Uhura was the chief communications officer and fourth in command on board the "Enterprise."

NICHOLS: I didn't find out that I was fourth in command until the second season.


NICHOLS: Nobody told me.

CARROLL: Nichols actually thought about leaving after the first season. The show's creator Gene Roddenberry begged her to stay but it was an influential fan that finally convinced her, Martin Luther King.

NICHOLS: He said you can't. Don't you know who you are to our movement, to everyone who's -- you are there in the 23rd century. You've created a role that has such dignity and everything is powerful. You cannot leave.

CARROLL: Another landmark for the show during the turbulent '60s, the first scripted interracial kiss on national TV in 1968.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: We had heard rumors that the southern stations -- some southern stations might cut that.

NICHOLS: It changed television forever, and it also changed the way people looked at one another. If they -- two of their favorite actors can battle through it and come through it on top, why can't everybody?

CARROLL: The show ended in 1969, but endured for years in syndication and at conventions attended by devoted Trekkies. In 1994 Nichols published her autobiography, "Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories." Nichols also starred in several Trek movies and even worked with NASA to increase diversity in the space program.

NICHOLS: I had the privilege of recruiting the first women and minority astronauts for the Space Shuttle Program.

CARROLL: Nichols' enduring beauty, her strength of character, her commitment to human rights will always inspire.


BROWN: Nichelle Nichols and Bill Russell, two icons that inspired us and changed the country.

I want to bring in Dan Shaughnessy now of "The Boston Globe." He's covered Boston sports since 1981. He is the author of "Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with Larry Bird Celtics."

Hi there, Dan. Let's talk about Bill Russell.


BROWN: He had a massive impact on the court and in the Civil Rights Movement. What legacy does he leave behind?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, in Boston I mean he is at the top of the Mount Rushmore. I mean, you know, 11 championships in 13 seasons. His rookie year, they had never won before. They won when he came here as a rookie. They won eight in a row when Auerbach was coming off the bench. And then he was made player coach by Red. He was the first black -- you know, first black coach in American sports history and won twice as a player coach of the Celtics. So 11 championships in 13 years.

Nobody like him. He's at the top of the heap there, and as you referenced earlier, a social justice warrior of the highest order. Never gave any quarter on anything. He stood up what he believed in and this is an epic day in Boston to lose Bill Russell.

BROWN: An epic day in Boston and beyond. It's really being felt by so many people who were influenced and inspired by him. And you mentioned, he was a civil rights icon. A social justice warrior. He experienced significant racism in Boston despite being a sports hero. Tell us more about that.

SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. Bill was very free to talk about that. It's in the books that he wrote. He was a very elegant writer. We always hate it when the athletes are better writers than we are and he was that, too. And he put it to the page and the experiences when he had his family here.


This in the late '50s, early '60s. They're winning championships every year. But he did not feel the love in the community. And he made that clear. He was right. And took a long time, I don't know if some of those wound ever healed. There was always a little bit of a distance between Bill and the city. But there's a statue of Bill Russell here. I'm recommending that statue be put to more prominent place like in front of our statehouse or city hall or something. Because, really, he's as good as he gets in Boston, Bill Russell.

BROWN: It's interesting, as I was reading more about him today, he would tell people, he would often say he didn't play for Boston. He played for the Celtics. He felt it was important to make that distinction. What more can you tell us about your interactions with him?

SHAUGHNESSY: There was always -- he blew hot and cold with us. And again, who wouldn't with media? Everybody hates the media. So sometimes he was in a good mood, he would be advancing one of his daughter's mentoring programs at Harvard, things like that. And sometimes there was a forcefield around him. If you knew, don't approach. The do not disturb sign was literally around his neck, it felt like.

So you never knew what you were going to get. But we loved his game. He gave us his game for 13 years and really that's enough. They won 11 championships. He's thought of very highly here. We got Tom Brady, we got Larry Bird, Bobby (INAUDIBLE), Ted Williams, all that stuff. Bill Russell is a cut above that because of the winning, the championships. The greatest winner in the history of North American sports. Doesn't get any better. And he could beat you multiple ways. He didn't have to have the ball on his hands or score the ball. He could beat you on defense, rebounding, running the floor, and intellectually. He was a great intellect on the basketball court.

BROWN: What was it that made him such a standout in the court in all those different ways you mentioned?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, I know you have basketball in your background, Pam, and he's the kind of guy. He would block a shot but press everybody by swatting it into the stands. He would control it so that his team could run the fast break and go the other way. He told me a story about playing against the Lakers. The Celtics were behind at the end. He intentionally let a guy go to the basket to get extra points for the Lakers that they didn't need because he knew the guy would do it.

He created a path to the basket, Archie Clock went to the basket, Bill blocked the shot, got the ball back to Boston, and they beat them in overtime. He reveled in that story because it showed how you could beat people with mind games. He was always outthinking his opponent. This goes back to the Wilt Chamberlain duels, the rivalries they had. The greatest rivalry in sports history probably. And Bill always came out on top because he was smart and he was a great athlete.

BROWN: Just an amazing human being all around. And we remember and honor him tonight.

Dan Shaughnessy, thank you.

We are following several other important stories for you tonight, including the release of body camera video recorded as a Georgia woman was being arrested. She died just after this happened and her family wants answers.

Plus, just how much support does President Biden have for a second term in the White House? Well, not everyone is giving him a ringing endorsement, to say the least.



BROWN: There are new questions tonight about the death of a Georgia woman who investigators say was fatally injured after falling out of a police car. Authorities have now released body camera footage of the incident.

CNN's Nadia Romero has that and reaction from the woman's family. So tell us more about this, Nadia.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, this newly released video is such an important part of this entire investigation. You know, her family says back on July 15th 28-year-old Brianna Grier was experiencing a mental health episode so her mother called 911 for help.


ROMERO (voice-over): The family had made similar calls before and they say normally an ambulance would come but this time it was Hancock County sheriff's deputies.

MARVIN GRIER, BRIANNA GRIER'S FATHER: Brianna was having an episode. And we called 911 for assistance to get our daughter some help. But if we knew what we now know we wouldn't have called them. She wouldn't be -- we would deal with what was going on with her alone as she would have been here.

ROMERO: The family's attorney, civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump said that Hancock County sheriff's deputies came into the home, handcuffed Grier, placed her in the back of a patrol car to take her into custody for allegedly resisting arrest.

(On-camera): In newly released bodycam footage by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, you can hear Grier tell police repeatedly that she is not drunk and that she would hang herself if they put her in the police car. Sheriff's deputies then lift up Grier and put her into the back of the patrol car. The bodycam video fails to show if officers opened, closed or had any interaction with the rear passenger side door.

You're about to see video of Grier and sheriff deputies, and we want to warn you this video is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold up. I know how --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the other side closed?


(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMERO (voice-over): Off camera you hear one of the officers asked if the door on the other side is closed to which the other officer replies yes. Sheriff's deputies left the scene and drove a short distance before Grier fell out of the moving car, according to the statement from the GBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. She jumped out the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SPO said she jumped out of the vehicle.

ROMERO: The video ends with Grier on the ground while police wait for paramedics. GBI investigators concluded Wednesday that the rear passenger side of the patrol car near where Grier was sitting was never closed, according to a news release.

Grier's family and Attorney Ben Crump alleged the deputies didn't secure Grier in a seat belt when she was handcuffed in the back of a police car and as a result when the car started moving she somehow fell out of the car, landed on her head, cracked her skull and then went into a coma for six days before dying because of her injuries.


GRIER: We want answers. We need answers. We want to know the truth. We want to know how did she get out the car for her to be not here no more.


ROMERO: Now CNN has reached out to the Hancock County Sheriff's Department but we've yet to receive a response -- Pamela.

BROWN: Nadia Romero, thank you for bringing us the latest on that story.

Well, 25 Republican senators are being called out for blocking a bill to help veterans affected by toxic burn pits. Up next our political experts weigh in on the controversy. Alice Stewart and Paul Begala, join us live. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Anger and accusations on the Capitol steps today, blasting Republican lawmakers.










BROWN: Military veterans are calling out the 25 Republican senators who pulled their support of a bill that would expand medical coverage for millions of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were exposed to the toxins from the military's so-called burn pits. Those infernos of everything from medical waste to plastics to heavy metals and vehicle parts.

President Biden Facetimed with the Capitol Hill protesters to show his support and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer says he plans another procedural vote tomorrow to try and break the filibuster.

And joining us now to discuss, our political panel, Alice Stewart is a Republican strategist, and Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist.

Great to see you both on this Sunday.

Alice, first to you, last week you had two dozen Republicans reversing their support for this legislation to support veterans exposed to toxic burn pits because of what they're calling a budget dispute. Take a listen to this from Danielle Robinson whose husband Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson died from lung cancer. She attributed his death to burn pit exposure.


DANIELLE ROBINSON, WIDOW OF SFC HEATH ROBINSON: We know a veteran who actually took his life. He was denied from the VA and he lost his private health insurance. We would qualify under this new bill. Once he learned about the delay, he actually did take his own life because he wanted to spare his family of losing their home.


BROWN: Veterans and their families, clearly this is emotional for them. They are fired up. How does this Republican reversal square with the supposed Republican values of supporting veterans, Alice?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's be clear. Every Republican on the Hill supports our veterans and they certainly support women like her and women you spoke with earlier on the program. Our hearts go out to them. And we praise our heroes that serve in our military and we honor them just as much when they go, as when they come back. They do deserve the health care they need.

And look, Republicans that we're talking about supported the PACT Act, supported health care measures that would protect these soldiers who have been harmed by the chemical burns that they experienced. The problem is, what happened after their initial approval the Democrats went back and added a budgetary provision in this that would take $400 billion and add it to this measure for completely unrelated issues that have absolutely nothing to do with veterans for healthcare.

And as we head into a recession and as we are at record inflation we cannot afford $400 billion on top of what we're already spending. And shame on the Democrats for using these veterans and the healthcare that they need as a shield for projects that are completely unrelated to the healthcare. But let's just be real clear and very honest, Republicans do support these veterans getting the healthcare that they much deserve.

BROWN: And Democratic Senator Tester said this is not a -- when he said this today to my colleague Jim Acosta, saying this isn't a fast one, it's the same bill that we passed on the 16th of June. It should be passed again.

Paul, what do you say to what you just heard there from Alice?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a special place for Republican senators who oppose helping save the lives of the men and women who serve our country, and on a Sunday I don't want to use the word for that place but it's not the United States Senate. They don't belong there. They're gutless, spineless, soulless hacks.

I cannot believe that people would excuse this. It is the exact same bill. They passed it before. The only thing that's changed is their politics. I think they're angry that Senator Manchin is now passing the president's climate and healthcare bill. Fight about that later. But to do that to veterans is really despicable. And I'm being careful to watch my language, but you can imagine what I'm thinking.

BROWN: Alice?

STEWART: Look. Again, let's be truly honest about this. These Republicans did support this measure. They have voted in support of this. But as it has changed and over the last week or two there has been major budgetary changes in this provision. And again, $400 billion of unrelated spending that has nothing to do with these veterans. And again if I were these veterans or if I were people out there fighting so far for this, bravo to Jon Stewart who has really put his heart and soul into this measure, fighting for these veterans who deserve this.

If I were them, I would be frustrated to the fact that they are being used to help push through projects that have nothing to do with this healthcare.


If Democrats were smart and truly did care about these veterans, they would take that provision out and put this a mandatory spending for those affected by the burn pit chemicals and make sure that that is kept in front and center and then they would have bipartisan support, and these veterans would get the health care they deserve. BROWN: I see you firming your brows there, Paul, and you know, I want


BEGALA: You it's not accurate. If those veterans were being done wrong by the Democrats, they would be smart enough to know that. I don't think our veterans are dumb. I have a lot of friends and students who went and fought over there, and they were sent by their country and they did their duty. Some of them came back, wounded, grievously wounded.

And to sit there and say well, it's just a budget thing. It's not. They're playing politics, and it's despicable. And by the way, if it was the Democrats monkeying around with it, believe me, those veterans are smart guys and gals, they would be calling the Democrats on it, but they're not.

They're telling the truth, which is that the Republicans have decided to play games with our veterans' lives. It is -- it's just -- I don't know how much lower they can go. They'll find a way, but they are moral spelunkers digging down into a cave of betrayal of our veterans.

BROWN: All right, quickly, I want to get to it, because obviously you both are very passionate, clearly emotional about this, understandably.

There is another vote on this coming up this week. Chuck Schumer is going to bring it back to the floor. We'll have to see what happens on that, a discussion for next weekend.

But I want to get to this Manchin-Schumer spending bill. Democrats still would need to win the support of Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

Here is Senator Joe Manchin making his pitch to her on CNN this morning.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think that basically when she looks at the bill and sees the whole spectrum of what we're doing and all of the energy we are bringing and all the reduction of prices, and fighting inflation by bringing prices down, by having more energy, hopefully she will be positive about it.

But you know, she'll make her decision, and I will respect that.


BROWN: So, Paul, this bill was announced Wednesday, why do you think Senator Sinema is still staying quiet about whether she'll support it? Should Democrats be worried at all?

BEGALA: Well, they should always be worried. They have 50 seats in the Senate, they need all 50 votes, because again, Republican recalcitrance. Republicans don't seem to want to lower energy costs. They don't seem to want to lower prescription drug costs. They don't seem to want to lower health insurance premium costs. They don't seem to want to lower the federal deficit, which this bill

does. Kudos to Senator Manchin and to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and to our President Joe Biden for putting this together.

But I think Democrats are doing a smart thing in giving Senator Sinema and everyone else the time and the space to analyze this and come to support it.

But this is rare for Democrats. It is focused and it's branded. They are not trying to do everything in one bill. This is inflation, climate and healthcare. It'll be a massive reduction in our prescription drug costs, our energy costs, our health insurance costs, and at the same time, the biggest investment in climate in American history.

So I think they'll get Senator Sinema, but I think they're wise not to pressure her too much in public right now.

BROWN: The bottom line, though, Alice, is that Democrats have wins or expected wins coming their way. If they do manage to get this through, how do you think it plays out politically? Do you think it would help them make their case as they face off against Republicans in November?

STEWART: They may possibly win on this Manchin-Schumer bill. I think it's still iffy. Bravo for getting the Chips Bill passed, which was a great way for us to compete against China. I'll give Joe Biden the win on that one.

But at the end of the day, when we're looking at midterm elections, if we're still with inflation, the way it is, the recession in full swing and jobless numbers as they are and gas prices high in grocery and housing and everywhere you look, prices are high. That's going to be what is on everyone's mind.

It's not going to be the Manchin-Schumer Bill or the Chips Bill or even the Burn Pit Bill. It is what is taking money out of their pocket and how much it's costing to get food on the table. That's going to be the big indicator for the midterm elections.

BROWN: All right, quickly, Paul, I want to get to Senator Manchin and what he said this morning about whether he would endorse President Biden for President in 2024.


MANCHIN: I'm not getting involved in any election right now. 2022 and 2024, I'm not speculating on it. President Biden is my President right now. I'm going to work with him and his administration to the best of my ability to help the people in my State of West Virginia and this country.


BROWN: Not exactly a ringing endorsement there for Joe Biden, Paul, your reaction? BEGALA: Well for Joe Manchin in West Virginia, it is a ringing

endorsement. That is a state that you know --

BROWN: I guess, that's a fair point. Yes.

BEGALA: Growing up next door, you know West Virginia. No Democrat has carried a single county in Joe Manchin's state.

BROWN: And he actually gave Joe Biden credit, too, I was noting, talking to someone about this earlier. He gave him credit for the Climate Bill being able to come to fruition, so that was notable, too, given the fact that he is from West Virginia, but go ahead.


BEGALA: Absolutely. I'll take it. I think it is going to be a huge win for Joe Manchin and for Joe Biden and given that it's such a tough state, imagine if the Republicans had a senator from Hawaii, right, where there are only a few counties, they don't carry any.

I think those Republicans would be pretty careful about protecting her. I think Democrats should be saluting Joe Manchin and thanking him for coming to a terrific bill on inflation, climate healthcare, three of the biggest problems facing America.

STEWART: I was just like, anytime a Member of Congress has asked, would you support the sitting President, your party's nominee running for re-election? And their answer is not a resounding yes. Then the answer is no.

BROWN: All right, Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, we have to leave it there. But thank you both. Really good conversation tonight, an important one.

STEWART: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, the January 6 Committee has interviewed the former acting Homeland Security Chief. What could they have learned from him? I'm going to ask former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti up next.



BROWN: Well, the House Select Committee investigating January 6 is starting to work more closely with the DOJ. Committee members say they are sharing 20 transcripts with the Justice Department.

It's unclear at this point which interviews they've handed over, but I'm going to bring in former Federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti. He is also the host of the "On Topic Podcast." So, Renato, we're learning more about the Committee's movements prior to the eight televised hearings. In fact, a few months ago, they interviewed former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. What could the Committee would be hoping to have learned from him? RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that the

Committee is very concerned, it's apparent, they're very concerned about the missing text messages from the department, so that's one subject that I imagine has come up another likely subject of discussion is exactly what the Secret Service was doing on or about January 6th.

We know of course, they were protecting the President of the United States, Donald Trump. They were allegedly keeping him from going to the Capitol. I'm sure that would be one potential conversation.

And another one would be the status of another protectee of theirs, Vice President Pence. So, you know, I think that there was very dramatic testimony, for example, in this last Committee hearing about obviously those agents who were fearing for their lives, the role of the Secret Service, for example, and also, whether or not there was any conversations from Trump to the Department of Homeland Security, regarding attempts to put an end to the insurrection on January 6th.

BROWN: And Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told FOX News that he's had conversations about potentially appearing before the Committee. It looks like the Committee is homing in on former Trump Cabinet officials. What does that tell you?

MARIOTTI: Well, the Committee has been well, I think, you know, on a political purpose, in addition to trying to build a case to push the Justice Department to act, and I think that from that perspective, they're very interested in potential discussions regarding either 25th Amendment or just regarding, for example, whether or not there was any attempt by Cabinet members to try to take a more active role in policing the decisions that were made by the former President.

I mean, there are some pretty dramatic testimony in that recent hearing from former Secretary Scalia, the Labor Department Secretary, basically suggesting to President Trump that future decisions should include the Cabinet. And you know, he thought he could do more within the administration.

I think that they are trying to get a sense of who else was potentially trying to counsel former President Trump and what they were telling him to do after January 6th.

BROWN: And I want to go back to what I mentioned earlier, the 20 transcripts the Committee has given to the Justice Department. Chairman Bennie Thompson says nobody that's been interviewed so far will be off limits. What is the significance of that?

MARIOTTI: I think that that's almost putting a marker down or kind of a shot across the bow to witnesses who have not been fully forthcoming.

In other words, you know, lying to Congress is a crime. Some witnesses have taken the Fifth, we've heard that some have obviously been quite forthcoming with their views.

Others, I think, have potentially been less cooperative. So, I think just like we've seen, for example, Congresswoman Cheney make certain shots across the bow from the lectern. I think this is essentially a shot across the bow telling witnesses who've been less than forthcoming, you know, now is the time potentially to amend their testimony before it gets sent over to the Justice Department.

BROWN: I'm wondering, you know, you wrote an article a while back, saying that it would be an uphill battle, basically laying out why it would be an uphill battle for DOJ to charge Donald Trump, the former President, and I'm wondering, in light of any of the evidence we have seen since you wrote that article in the last hearing and the reporting that's come out, if your view of that has changed.

MARIOTTI: You know, Pamela, that's a great question. One thing that has changed my view is the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. She is -- I do think her testimony regarding, for example, the former President knowing that people in the audience were armed in saying they're not here to hurt me. They're not interested in hurting me, they are going to be going to the Capitol. I do think that that really moved the needle in terms of a potential incitement to a riot or incitement offense. So I do think that's significant.

I also think that a lot of what we heard, definitely move the ball forward regarding potential charges against what I'll call the dishonest lawyers. You know, people like Mr. Eastman, Clark, and so forth, and they're very close to the former President, and they were obviously having conversations with him.

You could imagine a flip going on there in the future. So, I do think it moved ball forward. I still think some of the charges that have been discussed would be very difficult to make and I think any case against the former President would be a challenge, but it appears that the Justice Department is moving in that direction.


BROWN: I appreciate you called those lawyers dishonest. That is a charitable view compared to what others have called them.

Renato Mariotti, thank you very much.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

BROWN: Could the US actually have become a failed -- actually become, I should say, a failed democracy? "Washington Post" columnist, Max Boot says yes.

I'm going to ask him why and what can be done to save democracy, up next.



BROWN: Welcome back.

A new op-ed in "The Washington Post" offers a grim warning about the future of US democracy. Columnist, Max Boot writes: "The United States has been defying predictions of doom for more than two centuries. But as the ads for mutual funds say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. We need to take seriously the possibility that the United States could become a failed democracy, if only to avert that dire fate."

Why so bleak? Max Boot joins me now to explain. All right, so Max, some people may hear that quote, and think that seems pretty extreme. Explain why you think this could be the time we're actually doomed in America?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, conditions are pretty extreme in this country right now. I mean, look at the way that our political system is taking away abortion rights for millions of women. At the same time, we're not doing anything serious to rein in gun rights, despite all of the mass shootings that keep occurring on such a regular basis.

It just feels like our political system is not able to deal with massive problems. And in some ways, I think, at the root of it, is what is happening with the Republican Party, which is becoming increasingly far right, and increasingly authoritarian. And I say that as somebody who was, you know, used to be a former Republican, but I'm just horrified by what my party has become.

At the moment, the Republican Party is really a danger to our democracy. A recent CNN poll showed that 66 percent of Republicans don't believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected and Donald Trump, despite all the evidence from the January 6 Committee about how he tried to instigate a coup and overthrow our democracy, Donald Trump remains the most popular Republican in the country and remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

And if he comes back into office, I just don't know that our democracy can survive that.

BROWN: You write this about Donald Trump: "We need to be clear about what another Trump term would mean, it could be the death knell for our democracy." And you mentioned some polling, and CNN polling released just a few days ago, 44 percent of Republican voters said they wanted Donald Trump to be the party's nominee in 2024.

Max, what do you say to those voters?

BOOT: Well, you know, I'm very concerned about what those voters are thinking, because they're expressing that desire to have Donald Trump come back into office, even after all of the information that's been dug out about the January 6 Committee, which makes clear that what happened on January 6 was not some protest that got out of control. It was actually a deliberate attempt on the part of the sitting President to overthrow our democracy, and stay in office despite having lost an election.

So the fact that, you know, 44 percent of Republicans want this guy to be their nominee, again, I think is one of the things that makes me despair about the future of our country, because it suggests that a lot of people in this country don't care very much about our democracy.

And you know, all you have to do to be even more alarmed is to read there was a recent piece in AXIOS that revealed the plans in Trump World for taking over the government in 2025, which include purges of tens of thousands of civil servants and replacing them with ultra-MAGA loyalists.

I'm just not sure that our democracy can survive something like that.

BROWN: All right, I'd like to end on a positive note, if it's possible. What do you think the solution is to turn things around from the current trajectory?

BOOT: Well, we have the future in our hands. The solution is to register and to vote, and not to vote for Republicans who are complicit in anti-democratic plots and anti-democratic with a small D. And there are a handful of Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who are fighting to save our democracy.

Liz Cheney may lose her seat in Wyoming very shortly, but I think it's imperative for everybody who cares about the future of our democracy to support largely Democrats. There are a few pro-democracy Republicans, but you certainly can't vote for Republicans who are dedicated to bringing Donald Trump back into office because he is a clear and present danger to our democracy.

BROWN: Max Boot, a sobering conversation, but one we need to have. Thank you for coming on.

BOOT: Thank you very much.

BROWN: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday evening, Bill Russell and Nichelle Nichols, two legends lost this weekend, a look at their lasting impact on sports, entertainment, and Civil Rights, next.

Also tonight, an all-new "Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World." We explored the extremes of the far south.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On average, a volume twice the size of the Empire State Building crashes into the lagoon every day, and the fractured ice flows hide a formidable predator, a leopard seal.

Normally, they live and breathe almost exclusively in the Antarctic where penguins are one of their main prey.

But in the San Rafael Lagoon, more than 1,200 miles from Antarctica, there are no penguins and it is a mystery how the seals are surviving here.


BROWN: "Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World" airs tonight at 9 right after NEWSROOM only on CNN.