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Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed about Gun Legislation; U.K. 4-Day Work Week Trial; Mickelson Joins Saudi-Backed League. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing overnight, the two leading Republican senators involved in gun talks on Capitol Hill signaled that raising the age to purchase semi-automatic firearms is off the table, but a waiting period for 18 to 21-year-olds could be a possible area for compromise.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He is a close Biden ally. He serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Coons, thank you so much for being with us.

About that proposal, a waiting period of sorts for 18 to 21-year-olds who want to buy semi-automatic AR-15-style weapons. Is that something you can support?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): It's certainly something I would support, John. John, I would go further than that. As would virtually every Democrat here in the Senate. But the art of politics is the art of the possible. And given the brutality, the tragedy of what happened in Uvalde, given the number of mass shootings that have happened just since then, there is a sense of urgency here about taking concrete steps. They wouldn't address all the sources of gun violence in our country, not by a long shot, but they would help us begin to make some real efforts at keeping guns out of the hands of those who sent out strong signals that they intend to harm others.

So, a waiting period for 18 to 21-year-olds to purchase these so- called assault rifles, the weapons that were used in Uvalde and in other recent mass shootings, in Buffalo and in other tragic killings, is one important step. So-called red flag laws that provide federal incentives for states to adopt laws that with due process protections make it possible for local law enforcement, for school officials or parents to petition a court to temporarily take away the weapons of those who are giving clear signals of an intent to harm others, as happened in Parkland, is another idea that is being actively discussed that I'm helping to work on.

My home state of Delaware, states like Florida, Indiana, a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia, already have these so-called red flag laws. I think that would be a great thing for us to incentivize other states to take up and pass as well.

BERMAN: So what you're telling me is, no, this is not everything you want, but the fact that it is not everything or maybe even most of what you want will not keep you or would not keep you for voting yes if this was the package put on the table?

COONS: That's right. One of the most difficult, painful meetings I've ever had was with a group from Delaware called Moms Demand Action. Young mothers whose children were just starting elementary school sat in my office, now several years ago, and demanded to know why their elementary school student children needed to be taking drills for active shooters. They really pressed me to think hard about the impact on young Americans, children, and what it says to them about our willingness to take steps to protect them.

I remember, as a kid, doing nuclear test drills, you know, where we had to duck and cover, and how that made me feel unsafe and insecure. But it was so distant. The idea that there would ever be a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Tragically, this isn't distant. This is reality. And it is regularly happening over and over again.

So, John, any step we can take, I think we should take.

The last bill that President Biden signed into law in this area was a bill I did with John Cornyn to require that state police be notified if a person prohibited from buying a gun, a convicted felon, say, goes into a federally licensed firearm dealer and lies on their background check and tries to get a gun. Does that solve everything? No. But it will take guns out of the hands of several hundred people a year, and that might save lives and is well worth doing.

BERMAN: Do you have a sense of where these talks are this morning, and how close you might actually be to a vote on this?

COONS: I spoke to several members who have been driving this, to Senator Murphy, Senator Cornyn and several others on the floor last night and this morning, and I'm optimistic. There's a sense of determination and purpose.

But I'll remind you, we have to get at least 60 votes to pass anything of substance in this Senate. And that's a challenge. As long as President Biden and Minority Leader -- Republican Leader McConnell and Senate Leader Schumer are all pulling in the same direction, are all supporting the talks, I am optimistic.

Frankly, what's maddening here is that the overwhelming majority of the American people, a majority of gun owners and a majority of Republicans support strengthening background checks and red flag laws, yet this is so difficult for us to get done.


BERMAN: Can I ask you to take off your Judiciary Committee hat and put on the Foreign Relations hat for a second here. COONS: Sure.

BERMAN: President Biden, we understand, is planning on meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That is someone who he had said at one point he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state, but now meetings are apparently planned. Oil will, no doubt, be one of the subjects.

I want to play for you what Congressman Adam Schiff said about the possibility of a President Biden/Mohammed bin Salman meeting.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I wouldn't go. I wouldn't shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident. Cut him up into pieces in the most terrible and premeditated way. And until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of its human rights, I wouldn't want anything to do with him.


BERMAN: He's talking about the killing of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

How do you feel? Would you support President Biden meeting with Mohammed bin Salman?

COONS: Well, John, I've been working through this, reflecting on this. I will support President Biden in his outreach to MBS and to the Saudi kingdom. But let's be clear, what has changed since President Biden, as candidate Biden, said that MBS is and should be a pariah, is Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. The unity of the west, something President Biden has done a terrific job on, pulling together NATO, pulling together the EU, getting unanimity in supporting sanctions on Russian oil and gas, it is going to fade and wane if we can't deliver, American, North American oil and gas, and if we can't get more resources into Europe soon.

The Saudis are the sole country that has a significant amount of quickly, readily deliverable oil and gas that can help address this. This is the sort of compromise that makes politics painful, John. And I don't think President Biden -- I'm not speaking for him, this is just an observation -- I don't think he's stepping back from criticizing Saudi Arabia's human rights record or criticizing MBS for the direction of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. based journalist. But I think he's recognizing the reality that the other countries that could also quickly produce more oil for the world market are countries that are even worse and have long been American adversaries and are the subject of our sanctions.

So, frankly, I do support this outreach.

BERMAN: So, is this putting oil before human rights? COONS: It is striking a very tough balance and recognizing that the

human rights violations that are being committed every day by Russian troops in Ukraine deserve a forceful, full-throated, united western opposition. And I'm not stepping back from criticizing MBS and the Saudis for the ways in which they have oppressed their people internally.

John, frankly, part of why this was so upsetting, angering, disappointing to many of us here in the Senate, when MBS was ultimately tide by our intelligence community to having directed this killing, was that MBS is a reformer. Initially, when he took leadership in the Saudi kingdom, he made significant progress. That's partly why it was such a bitter disappointment to see him begin to do things, like the war in Yemen, like this murder of Khashoggi, that went back to some of the worst excesses of some of the most brutal, authoritarian regimes. The Saudis have made progress in the conduct of the war in Yemen and in changing the direction of the war in Yemen. But in terms of any real accountability, for MBS, for the direction of the killing of Khashoggi, we have not seen that so far. And it's, frankly, difficult to hold someone in his position accountable.

I do think this is a hard choice, but one that I will support.

BERMAN: Senator Chris Coons, I do appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, speaking of the Saudis. Months after calling them scary -- scary and people who execute people, Phil Mickelson is now going into business with them. What changed?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And the U.K. is about to test out the four-day workweek. Should it happen here in the U.S.? We'll break down the data.



BERMAN: So, in the largest trial of its kind, thousands of workers in the United Kingdom are now starting a four-day workweek. The trial will last for six months, and workers will receive 100 percent of their pay for working only 80 percent of their usual week. But for the program to be successful, workers will have to maintain 100 percent of their productivity.

Joining me now, CNN personal finance and business correspondent Zain Asher, and CNN business correspondent Rahel Solomon.

Zain, explain exactly what this trial is. And I know, I mean, everyone is now on the edge of their seat going, what?


So, it is just a trial at this point in time. It's going to last about six months. It covers a variety of industries, a variety of sectors.

But I think the key here is that it's easy to look at a headline like this, oh, four-day workweek, and think of it as benefiting primarily the employee, the worker.

But companies can benefit so much from this. We are all aware of the great resignation of 2021. And we saw a lot of workers, record number of workers, quitting their jobs because they were unhappy, because they wanted more work-life balance, for example, because they wanted to spend more time with their families. The pandemic showed them that life is more important than where you work or how you work. And that is very expensive for a company. When you are dealing with people quitting their jobs and having to train new people, having to find new recruits, that is very, very expensive.

And, also, the U.K. is dealing with labor shortages as well. So, you have companies sort of competing and elbowing their way to try and entice new workers. And one way to do this is through perhaps the four-day workweek.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, coming out of the pandemic we know that it is a job seekers' market. There is 11.4 million job openings for 5.7 million people looking for work.


So, there is a great imbalance. And so employers will have to start to think about sort of unconventional or out of the box ways to encourage people to come work for their company. And we're already seeing it, not necessarily in a four-day workweek, but we are already seeing more flexible work options, more hybrid options, or different scheduling to try to appease workers.

BERMAN: Is it as simple as, if you're as productive, it doesn't matter how many days you're there? I mean what are the most important issues at play here?

SOLOMON: Yes, I mean, I think it is about, can a worker prove that they can work smarter, not necessarily longer? I think many workers would say, yes, I could, right?


SOLOMON: Give me the extra day. But I think, in past studies, what they've found is that sometimes it depends on actually the type of work you're doing. Maybe it actually is two hours fewer per day as opposed to a four-hour -- four-day workweek. Maybe it is a four-day workweek. It just sort of depends on the type of work you're doing. But it does sort of come down to increased productivity, not necessarily just working less for the sake of working less, but can you do more? Can you be more productive in a shorter amount of time?

ASHER: And also, just to add to that, I think that the mindset has really changed. I mean if you had said to a lot of companies, hey, five years ago, would you consider having your employees work five days a week from home, a lot of people would have said, absolutely not. And at the beginning of the pandemic, I'm sure you remember, that there was this whole sort of question, oh, my gosh, are people - people are working from home now, are they going to be as productive. And then we realized, yes, people actually can be much more productive working from home. And especially if you entice people with working four days a week, for example, and, you know, in exchange you have to be just as productive, they will get it done.

SOLOMON: Yes. And I think we should say -

ASHER: I'm - I'm speaking for myself here.


ASHER: (INAUDIBLE) they would make it - they would literally make it work in order to keep that four-day workweek.

BERMAN: All right, Rahel Solomon, Zain Asher, thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

All right, this just in, American golfer Dustin Johnson resigns from the PGA Tour and is set to play with the Saudi-backed league.

KEILAR: And a big change to international ice skating after the Russian doping scandal at the Winter Olympics.



KEILAR: New this morning, American golfer Dustin Johnson quitting the PGA and joining the controversial league backed by Saudi Arabia. And this is coming after Phil Mickelson announced his comeback by joining the same league despite previously describing the Saudi regime as scary MFers who have a horrible record on human rights.

Joining us now is CNN sports analyst and "USA Today" sports columnist Christine Brennan, who writes, quote, say good-bye to Phil Mickelson, everyone. Say good-bye to his reputation, his soul, his character, his good name. This is a blistering column that you write here, Christine, but clearly you think Phil Mickelson deserves it.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I do, Brianna. And basically because he's going into business with murderers. MBS, who, as we know from all kinds of sources and authorities, killed and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi back in 2018. MBS, this is his money. This is the Saudi government and MBS particularly, their fund that is bankrolling this money.

And it's not just about, oh, we buy gas, you know, the president's going to go to Saudi Arabia, this is about these golfers basically sports washing, whitewashing, helping MBS and the Saudis reclaim whatever image they think they can get, a PR campaign. So it's not just about watching a tournament or, as I said, buying gas, it's about helping these murderers come back into society, giving them a lift, being in business with them, being partners with them in a way that we have never seen before. KEILAR: Now, we do see some athletes go play in other countries,

right, like Russia or China. We should note, Tiger said no to playing in this league. Why is this different to you?

BRENNAN: For example, the Olympics, of course. I was very critical of China and Russia, as you know, Brianna, with you and others for those three and a half weeks we were in Beijing back in February. The Olympics were held there. I was critical of that every single day. But the Olympics were there. So, if you're an Olympian, you have to go and compete where they put the Olympics, or where, in the case of the tennis, the WTA, of course, is not playing in China anymore. They made that stand, Steve Simon and the WNBA - or, excuse me, the WTA, the Women's Tennis Association, because of the Peng Shuai, Me Too situation and controversy. So, some people do take a stand. Women's Tennis did with China.

The difference again is, to me, if you're an Olympian going to the Beijing Olympics, that's where you have to go to compete. Phil Mickelson did not have to go or Dustin Johnson or Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, they didn't, Brianna, have to go to compete in Saudi Arabia. And, in fact, the word compete is almost ridiculous. They're racing for the money. It's all about the money. It's not going to have any of the prestige. It's not going to have any of the competition that they used to say they craved. It is all about the money and taking the money of murderers.

KEILAR: Real quickly, because I can't have you here without asking you about this big move by figure skating to up the age requirement for competition. Is this the right move as you see it?

BRENNAN: I think it's a part of the right move. They did -- from 15 to 17. But they haven't addressed the bigger issue, which is these coaches who are abusing their athletes. And also we will now see the 15-year-olds and the 14-year-olds and the junior competition actually outjumping then the Olympians, which could be a problem for the Olympic games. But until they address, Brianna, the very serious issue of coaches abusing these young skater, whether they're in the Olympics or not, the coaches are still going to feel that they have free reign to do whatever they want.

KEILAR: Of course, all of this coming after the doping scandal embroiling Russian skater 15-year-old at the time Kamila Valieva.


Christine, it's great to have you this morning. Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, a big reveal from one first lady to another.


BERMAN: First Lady Jill Biden unveiled a new U.S. postage stamp dedicated to former First Lady Nancy Reagan. The stamp features Reagan's official portrait, which hangs in the White House. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: With this stamp, we are affirming that she made such a difference. You know, we can all change the world in big ways and small ones. And Mrs. Reagan reminds us that we need both.


BERMAN: So, Nancy Reagan is the sixth first lady to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.


KEILAR: I think a lot of first ladies look to her as an example for many reasons. This is such an incredible moment to see a Democratic first lady unveiling this at a time where there's so much division.

BERMAN: That was a great picture, too.

KEILAR: It is.

BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.