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Soon: Biden To Meet With Local Leaders About Gun Violence; Biden On Cuba Protests: "We Stand With The Cuban People"; United CEO: "Fingers Crossed" Federal Mask Mandate Is Not Renewed. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 12, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Today a White House meeting with a clear message to Americans worried about rising crime and a clear message to liberals who talk of defunding the police. The President's guests at the White House meeting on crime today include Eric Adams. He is the retired New York City police captain who won the city's Democratic mayoral primary with a promise to make the city safer.

Plus, CNN has confirmed a move first reported earlier today by Axios. A new White House memo urging state and local governments to use leftover COVID-19 relief funds to boost police departments. It is a policy shift aimed at rising crime stats and aimed at anxious suburban voters. And the political message echoes the theme of the Adams campaign where he rejected calls for more liberal candidates to reduce police spending.


ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We can't be so idealistic that we're not realistic. We are not going to allow Miami and other places to take our businesses my high income earners. They -- 65,000 New Yorkers pay 51 percent of our income taxes. You speak with them. The tax is not the problem. Public safety is the problem. If we don't have a safe subway system, no one is going to feel these office buildings.


KING: The panel is back with me. It is not just candidates like Mr. Adams driving this conversation. It is the facts, the statistics in New York City. I just want to read you this. This is stunning. At least 125 people were killed as a result of more than 360 shootings nationally over the weekend. According to the latest data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, data covers a 72-hour period from Friday to Monday, 125 people killed, 360 shootings over the weekend.

So the President has this meeting today. It's an urgent challenge for him as the leader of the country. And this is kind of a trying to shake the party a little bit here. FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Right. And when we look at the last election and the message of Republicans crime, law and order, that was a message we saw former President Trump tried to mobilize people who live in the suburbs on in that election. And Republicans have made clear that they plan to continue to campaign on that. So certainly something that President Biden recognizes is a real challenge but also a political challenge that he's facing here.

But when we talk about Mr. Adams and whether or not he's duplicating that electorate or not, it is important to point out where we move on that the demographics necessarily of New York City are not exactly the same as let's say a Michigan or some of these other areas that have suburbs where President Biden was successful last time but the race could be won or lost on in 2024.


KING: Right. But I'll go back to my first presidential campaign 1988, Michael Dukakis leaves his convention 17 points ahead, he loses 40 states. I lost him in part because the George H.W. Bush campaign ran crime ads in the suburbs. Willie Horton adds in the American suburbs. If you go back to Joe Biden, look at 2020 versus 2016. Joe Biden is president and Nancy Pelosi is Speaker because of the Democratic Party's growth in the suburbs under Donald Trump. You see how well he did compared to Hillary Clinton just four years before him.

But the ABC News Washington Post poll last week, proof of the President's handling of crime 38 percent, disapprove 48 percent. If you are a president, and if you're the Democratic Party going into their midterm election, which is usually about the President's approval rating, and what people think of the President, that is a flashing red light.

JULIE PACE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Those are some pretty worse numbers. And there's a -- there are a lot of layers to this problem for Biden, right now. Democrats will acknowledge that the defund the police message did hurt them in the suburbs in the -- in last year's elections. The problem with those crime rates, though, is that the crime rates are not rising in places that have defunded the police.

New York City, in fact, has really strict gun laws. And yet they are having this outbreak of gun violence. So there's this disconnect that's happening between some of the policies that are in place, some of the rhetoric around the policies, and then the actions that we're seeing on the ground right now. And that's the puzzle that they have to figure out. Because until that crime rate starts to come down the actual crime rate, not just the messaging, the solutions around this that he's going to still run into this problem.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think you can dispute, you know, you can have a variety of discussions about, why is the crime rate higher? Is it because of declining police funding? I don't know. It's, you know, pretty soon to say that. Maybe it's because there was a pandemic and a bunch of people lost their jobs and got really scared and drove each other crazy living in small apartments together. OK. It doesn't matter if there's high crime rate, people are living in areas where they feel unsafe, or it makes economic comeback difficult, people are worried about the safety of their children and their families.

You know, the party in charge is where the buck stops. And so the Democratic Party and particularly President Biden, understands that. But this comes at a time when all of the debates around last year not the pandemic debate, but the George Floyd Black Lives Matter debate, that's still real also. In the Democratic Party, there's an absolute rift between people who say, you know, getting a hold of crime and law enforcement is a basic function of government and people who say, OK, but the system is unfair and, you know, people of color their lives are in danger from the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. So that debate doesn't go away.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Into Julie's point earlier, I mean, the defund the police debate really did concern. And in fact Democrats and House races in particular, there's concern about that from the Democratic side that happening because they try to keep control of their narrow majority in the House.

And also, look where we are right now. In Congress, they're trying to get a major policing overhaul bill through. They need to get a deal with Republicans to do that. They're having a hard time getting to that final place where they can get something through among the small group of negotiators met much less selling it to the broader constituencies in the House, in the Senate, in one part because of the rising crime rates and concerns particularly among Republicans about doing anything that could be looked at as going after the police potentially taking away a key election in your message for the Republicans as well.

So all this is happening could impact the key legislative priority of both parties, but particularly this White House police reform at this point because of what we're seeing in the cities.

KING: Right. And the White House saying take that COVID money, use it for your city budget.


KING: Use it to boost it. It tells me everything I need to know that --

TALEV: Yes, and here's a memo and let me give it to you right before Eric Adams shows up with a headline that says, how you can use Joe Biden's money.

KING: They understand the powerful politics of what is legitimate, sometimes we, you know, forget. It's a serious policy challenge, but they get the politics of it as well.


Up next for us, shifting pages, a foreign policy challenge very close to home. See those pictures right there, Cuba, seeing the largest protests in decades.


KING: President Biden today voiced his support for Cubans staging mass protests and the President said it was time for the island's communist regime to quote, hear their people and serve their needs. Take a look. The pictures are remarkable, thousands taking to the streets, Sunday, across Cuba in rare demonstrations, protesting, the lack of freedom, and the worsening economic conditions in the country.

Cuba's president is defending his government today and blaming the United States for this unrest. Well, President Biden upped the ante with this statement today quote, we stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from decades of repression and economic suffering.

Let's get some insights and perspective now with Susan Glasser, a staff writer at the New Yorker, and of course, our CNN global affairs analyst. The pictures, Susan, are stunning. It's a challenge for the President now right here in our backyard. What can the Biden administration, what should the Biden administration do at this moment beyond the statement of support?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you're right. It's a classic example of, you know, just when you least expected this has not been at the top of the Biden agenda. In fact, actually on the campaign trail, Biden had pledged to reverse Trump's reversal of the Obama policy and, you know, possibly reopen up relations with Cuba. He did do that. And maybe he's glad now in the sense that these protests really seem to spread almost from nowhere.


There are limited tools, there are tools. But remember, we've had sanctions for years. We've had pressure campaigns on Cuba for years. Right now, there's a humanitarian crisis that involves both economic crisis. There's also the COVID factor which I think is playing into these protests there. There's been blackouts on the island. So, you know, the U.S. plays an outsized role, whether it likes it or not, in the fate of Cuba, but it's never been able to force regime change for decades.

KING: And so that's my question at the moment is, is what do we know? How much do we know about the situation within? The foreign minister in Cuba issued a statement. I'm going to read parts of it to make a point. The White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had a tweet that has no political or moral authority to speak about Cuba. His government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to promote subversion.

It's a very Castro esque statement the foreign minister issued, but the Castro's are gone. And I guess that's my question. Does the government have enough control? You have the power -- Fidel Castro has the power personality, Raul Castro had the infrastructure of the Communist Party. Do we have a good sense of now that the Castro's are gone? Can the government withstand these kind of things? GLASSER: Well, look, I mean, I think that is the big question. When you see the rapidity and speed with which protests that no one expected to call that reminded me in some ways of some of the early Arab Spring movements in places like Tunisia coming almost from nowhere organized on social media platforms like Facebook, on apps like Telegram. You have this coming from nowhere. Is it sustainable? Will it last?

The Cuban government has been engaged in a crackdown in recent months on dissidents, on artists, and that seems to have played into this as well. And you have this enormous political pressure, of course, on the Biden administration, from Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. And, you know, that's always a domestic political crisis as well as an international one when it's something involving Cuba.

KING: And which traces a great point, and the history would be that there would be even an additional crackdown, right, if you follow the history, not only of Cuba, but about authoritarian, excuse me, regimes. That's what Jake Sullivan was getting at the national security advisor with his tweet yesterday, the United States supports freedom of expression strongly condemn any violence or targeting peaceful protesters, another administration official below saying the same thing. The question for the Biden administration is if that crackdown happens, do you just say things about it? Or is there anything else you can do about it?

GLASSER: Well, I'm sure Republicans are going to pressure very hard on this. They already had accused Biden not campaigning, essentially, to be a cozy backup to the Cuban socialist, communist government. I think, you know, like I said, they must be relieved in a way that they never got around to fulfilling that campaign promise.

But, you know, the levers of power, whether it was the Trump administration, or previous Democratic administrations, they have not proved successful, frankly.

KING: That's an excellent point. And we'll watch this as a plays out. But the pictures are stunning. Susan Glasser, appreciate your important insights. We'll keep our eye on Cuba in the days ahead, one of the many issues for the President to deal with.

And up next for us, back to the domestic front, will the airlines ditch the mandatory mask mandate, this fall?



KING: United States set a new record for pandemic air travel, Sunday, yesterday. This comes as the CEO of one of America's largest airlines now speaking out about the federal mask mandate for planes that as of now is set to expire come September. Let's check in with CNN's Pete Muntean with the big developments. Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, masks are still required on all forms of transportation planes, trains, buses, boats, also in terminals. But now what's so interesting is that United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby says he hopes the federal transportation mask mandate will expire when it is set to go away on September 13th.

It is the biggest difference in travel right now but it is clearly not holding people back, 2,198,000 people pass through airport security checkpoints according to the TSA on Sunday. That is the biggest number we have seen during the pandemic, the highest since February of 2020 even bigger than those big numbers we saw over the long July 4th holiday weekend. Here is what United Airlines CEO, Scott Kirby, said.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: My guess is that the current government order expires on September 13th. And fingers crossed. My guess is it will expire on September 13th. But we'll wait and see for sure.


MUNTEAN: So mask remain, but the things that are still missing are business travel and international travel. Kirby says he thinks that business travel will begin to recover sometime later this summer starting in September. He thinks that European travel really start to recover next summer. He anticipates that next summer will be the biggest summer ever for European travel, John?

KING: Interesting perspective. We'll see if the Delta variant messes with that optimism. Pete Muntean, grateful for the reporting there.


And up next for us, the head of the Social Security Administration is on the job today. It's a problem. He was fired on Friday.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a White House officials tell CNN the Biden administration now taking steps to off board the fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul. Saul was the Trump administration holdover who the President fired on Friday, after Saul refused to resign. But Saul won't recognize the firing. An administration official telling CNN, these off boarding procedures should essentially cut him off from any access to the agency's systems.

And new data today showing politics and religion mixed in a big way in election year 2020. In the two months leading up to Election Day, the Pew Research Center found two-thirds of congregations, 67 percent heard at least one sermon mentioning the election. The numbers were highest among evangelicals, mainline Protestant and black Protestant congregations a bit lower for Catholics.

This quick programming note the conflict in Jerusalem of course goes back centuries. A new CNN original series takes you 3,000 years through six epic battles, in the most coveted city in the world, Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury, premiers Sunday, 10:00 p.m. only right here on CNN.


Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. Busy day Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.