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The Situation Room
Biden Takes Fight For Democracy To Geneva For Pivotal Summit With Putin Just Hours From Now; New E-mails Show How Trump & Allies Pressured DOJ To Consider False, Outlandish Claims The Election Was Stolen; Trump DOJ Seized Phone Records From Journalists, Lawmakers, W.H. Counsel; Atty. General Announces National Strategy To Combat Domestic Terrorism; GOP's Rep. Greene: Holocaust Museum Visit Was "My Decision"; CDC Now Designates Delta COVID Strain A "Variant Of Concern". Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 15, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer live from Geneva, Switzerland.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're coming to you live from Geneva, Switzerland.
Happening now, President Biden is here in Geneva just hours before this historic showdown with Russia's Vladimir Putin. The President taking his fight for democracy to the Kremlin leader.
And we're learning more about former President Trump's assault on democracy back at home. Newly revealed e-mails show how Trump and his allies pressured the U.S. Justice Department to consider outlandish allegations supporting the big lie that the election was stolen.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
American and Russian flags flying tonight here in Geneva, as we count down to the historic first summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Biden framing their showdown as nothing less than democracy versus authoritarianism.
Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here with me. She's got the very latest.
Kaitlan, these two leaders do we agree on one thing, U.S. Russia relations right now very bad.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And these are two leaders who have met multiple times before but this is the first time they've actually met as counterparts, as equals, and the White House is expecting this to be tense but also tightly choreographed. They say they do not want a lot of surprises to come out of this meeting, but they also aren't expecting a lot of concrete outcomes either.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden arriving in Geneva tonight for the main event. In less than 24 hours, he'll sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the world will be watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you ready for tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. All right. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.
COLLINS (voice-over): White House officials are already lowering expectations for the outcome, telling reporters they aren't expecting a big set of deliverables.
The White House says, the notoriously late Russian leader will arrive to the venue before Biden and the two will first meet with just one staffer each in the room before being joined by a larger delegation. The venue for the historic summit, an 18th century villa, a reminder of this 1985 meeting also in Geneva, between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But if this was Reagan's mantra,
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The maximum is doveryay, no proveryay, trust but, very.
COLLINS (voice-over): Biden is offering his own version.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd verify first and then trust. In other words, everything would have to be shown to be actually occurring. It's not about, you know, trusting it's about agreeing.
COLLINS (voice-over): Although, it will be Biden's first meeting with Putin since taking office, it is far from their first face to face.
BIDEN: I have met with him. He's bright. He's tough. And I have found that he is, as they say, when he used to play ball, a worthy adversary.
COLLINS (voice-over): Biden has met with at least three Soviet leaders and two Russian presidents in his career. Then Vice President Biden took aim at Putin in Munich in 2015 after Russia illegally seized Crimea from Ukraine.
BIDEN: America and Europe are being tested. President Putin has to understand that is he has changed, so has our focus.
COLLINS (voice-over): White House aides are confident that this summit with Putin will be nothing like the last one the world watched with a U.S. president.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.
COLLINS (voice-over): Then President Trump sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence on election interference.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
COLLINS (voice-over): Sources say, Biden plans to confront Putin over election interference, ransomware attacks, detained Americans and human rights.
BIDEN: I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond.
COLLINS (voice-over): But in his first interview with a U.S. outlet in three years, Putin is already telegraphing his own response.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyberattacks, and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence.
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, of course, that's not true. There is plenty of evidence about Russian interference in the election. An entire report actually dedicated to it. But tomorrow, we do know President Biden and President Putin are also expected to discuss the New START Treaty, whether they come to an agreement on that really remains to be seen. But White House officials are expecting these meetings to go about four or five hours right now.
BLITZER: Four or five hours, a lot of discussion that's coming up.
Stay with us. Don't go too far away.
I also want to bring in our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She's with us here in Geneva.
Clarissa, President Biden says he wants a predictable relationship with Putin. What does Putin want?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there's three main things that President Putin wants. Number one, anytime he is standing on the world stage next to the U.S. president, it elevates his status, it shows that he's a major player, it shows that Russia still has a hugely important role on the world stage. So that will be absolutely front and foremost in terms of his political calculations.
Number two, he'll want to get the measure of the man, if you will, he'll want to explore what Russia's red lines are. And of course, some of those include, for example, allowing Ukraine to join NATO, or having U.S. military installations in Ukraine. So, they'll be wanting to sort of probe where each other's red lines are. And number three, if we're to trust what President Putin has said so far about this, he liked Biden's team, would like to ensure that we don't see a further degradation in the relationship. And there's a number of reasons for that. I think the last bat raft of sanctions did actually hurt Russia, they want to ensure there won't be any more sanctions. They have a big parliamentary election coming up in September. They don't need any further escalation for the moment.
So, I would say, those are the three primary considerations. No one is expecting anyone to walk away with a big bear hug here. The term that one Kremlin aligned, professional sort of observer used was hostile, but respectful. So, it's a low bar.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a very low bar. Let's see what happens tomorrow, four or five hours of conversation.
Several American presidents, Kaitlan, they've tried to, quote, "reset" the U.S. Russia relationship with Putin, former President Trump as we remember, in Helsinki. Not that long ago, we were there. He clearly admired Putin. And at one point is we just him trashed the U.S. Intelligence Community and sided with Putin.
Biden doesn't have any illusions about Putin, does he?
COLLINS: I don't think he has any illusions about him. He has met with him before. He's well aware of him. He's been meeting with him for decades since he was a senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This is something he's well-versed in. And he is very familiar with Russia.
But I think the question and the issue that kind of follows every new president is they always think that they can be the ones to maybe change Russia's behavior. It happened with President Obama and when Biden then was vice president, that's why he was so many times involved in that.
But that's the big question facing him, is what can he actually do to get Russia to change his behavior? Because time and time again, they've turned to sanctions. But there are questions about maybe the sanctions are painful, but are they actually working because they don't appear to be deterring Russia's behavior. So, I think that's a big thing facing it.
We should note, President Biden has been consulting Russia experts ahead of this, including Fiona Hill, who was Trump's Russia director, and actually testified against him and that impeachment trial. That consensus of that group of experts was, don't hold a joint press conference with Putin.
BLITZER: And there's supposedly not going to be a joint news conference. There'll be two separate news conferences after their four or five hours of conversation.
The president, President Biden, Clarissa, he clearly wants to change the optic of what happened in Helsinki back in 2018. That was a pretty awkward moment, as we all remember. WARD: It certainly was. And that's exactly why we're seeing there will not be a joint press availability. I think everybody understands that President Putin has a lot more to gain from that potentially, than President Biden would.
But even when you listen to the way President Biden has taken pains to articulate, what America's red lines are in advance of this meeting, what America's values are, subjects that he knows are very sensitive for the Kremlin such as Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned with Novichok in August, who is now languishing in a Russian penal colony, making it clear that it would be unacceptable if he were to die in Russian custody.
He understands that that is seen as provocative by the Russian side, but he is sending a very clear signal that this isn't weakness, we're coming from a position of strength.
BLITZER: All right, Clarissa and Kaitlan, stand by.
The President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, is joining us right now. Richard is the author of the book "The World, A Brief Introduction."
Richard, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, President Biden is framing this entire trip as democracy versus authoritarianism. Arguably, no one has done more to undermine American democracy than Putin. So, what message does Biden need to deliver tomorrow?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, actually, I think we've done a better job of undermining our own democracy than Putin has done, we didn't really need his help to do what we've done on that, Wolf.
Look, I disagree with the President with this, I'll be honest with you. I think framing this as democracy versus authoritarianism is seen by Putin as a direct challenge to his rule, a direct threat. There's nothing he can give on that, because then he would become vulnerable at home, that we're not going to make any progress there.
But the real question then is, why are we doing it if we can influence them? Instead, what I would say, what we really want to do is try to influence Russian behavior where we can possibly in eastern Ukraine, possibly in Afghanistan, possibly be severe Iran, but I don't think we're going to challenge Putin's hold on power.
BLITZER: Yes, I will say the U.S. Intelligence Community has concluded, as you know Richard, that the Russians interfered in the 2016 and 2020 elections in the United States to foment dissent, believing that dissent. Political unrest in the U.S. would undermine U.S. strength, weaken the United States, not only at home, but around the world. That was one of the major goals of the Russians. I assume you agree with the U.S. Intelligence Community? HAASS: Well, I agree that that's what Russia did. But the Intelligence Community has never said, Wolf, is what affected actually, how significant it was. And again, my own view, when you're looking at domestic events in the United States, Russian impact been at the margin.
But then, that is something, just to take a step back for a second, we could talk about. I don't -- this is not central to Putin, what central to Putin is his maintaining power. What they're trying to do to interfere with American democracy, that's potentially something we could get him to back off of. But I don't think we're going to get what we want by trying to, again, fundamentally change how he behaves at home. That is not something he's going to give on.
BLITZER: Of all the issues these two leaders will cover tomorrow, Richard, we're talking about cyberattacks, Navalny, Ukraine, Middle East, where is it most important for Biden, do you believe to set a red line?
HAASS: I would say one thing would be interference with American, you know, with our cyber systems to push back against that. I think that is critical. That's potentially an act of war, and even be a weapon of mass destruction depending on the target. So I think there, we've got to get Putin to back off.
BLITZER: All right, Richard Haass, thank you very, very much. We're going to continue to watch what's happening here in Geneva set the scene for the upcoming summit.
There's other important news we're watching as well, including newly revealed e-mails that show how then President Trump and his top aides pressured the U.S. Justice Department to investigate his big lie about election fraud. We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, for the Biden Putin summit.
BLITZER: We're coming to you live from Geneva, Switzerland. And we have much more to come in tomorrow's summit between Presidents Biden and Putin. But we're also following very important news back in Washington.
Newly released e-mails reveal how President Trump and his top aides pressured the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Trump's big lie about fraud after the 2020 presidential election. Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, what are the e-mails precisely show?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they do show repeated efforts from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others at the White House to get the Justice Department to investigate what were sometimes outlandish claims of voter fraud. And the pressure really seemed to ramp up after then Attorney General Bill Barr was forced out after definitively saying there was no widespread election fraud.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, newly released e-mails reveal how President Donald Trump's allies pressured then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to investigate false allegations that the 2020 election had been stolen.
TRUMP: This election was stolen.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): As Trump repeatedly made the false claims in the weeks after the election, e-mail show repeated efforts from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to justice officials, asking them to probe questionable reports about voter fraud around the country and even a conspiracy theory floated by an ally of Rudy Giuliani that Italy was using military technology and satellites to somehow change votes.
Rosen rejected the efforts, e-mailing his deputy Richard Donoghue, "I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his witnesses and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this."
When Meadows later sent Rosen a YouTube link about the Italian satellite conspiracy, Rosen forwarded it to Donoghue with the words "pure insanity." The e-mails also show Meadows push DOJ to investigate fraud claims being made by Trump ally Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who is on that call with Trump January 2 when he pressured Georgia officials to find him votes.
TRUMP (via telephone): So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): One day before that call, Meadows e-mailed Rosen saying there were "allegations of signature match anomalies." In Fulton County, Georgia, asking justice officials to investigate. Rosen forwarded the e-mail to Donoghue and said "Can you believe this? I am not going to respond to the message below."
It wasn't just Meadows, the e-mail show Trump's assistant sent Rosen and Donoghue a document claiming voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan. And private attorney Kurt Olsen contacted DOJ with a draft lawsuit challenging the election results and asking for a meeting. His e-mail said "I've been instructed to report back to the president this afternoon after the meeting." It doesn't appear the meeting ever happened.
Days before the January 6 insurrection, after weeks of pushing back against claims from the President's allies, another DOJ official wrote in an e-mail, "It sounds like Rosen and the cause of justice won."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is on the Judiciary Committee and pledged an investigation into the efforts. REP. SHIELA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): They were using the power of the White House, the executive, but to undermine our separate but equal powers. We as a Congress cannot stand for that. And you can be assured a deep investigation may result in actions that will move this to a criminal realm.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But Republican Jim Jordan says the e-mails from Trump's allies were perfectly appropriate while the response wasn't.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): That is a problem. When the president -- when the chief of staff to the president United States asked someone in the executive branch to do something and they basically give him the finger, I think that's the problem we should be looking into. But that's not what the Democrats going to look into.
SCHNEIDER: So, despite Congressman Jordan's objections, the House Oversight Committee wants answers. Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney sent letters to Meadows, Donoghue and DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who was reported to have met with President Trump in the weeks after the election. Now, Congresswoman Maloney is seeking all of their testimony before the committee.
As for Mark Meadows, he declined to comment on those e-mails when our CNN Producer Ali Main spotted him at the Capitol today, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you very much. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, along with our CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
Preet, the White House aide's cronies of then President Trump sending what bogus voter fraud claims to the U.S. Justice Department. Is it an understatement to say that's not how investigations are supposed to work?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTTORNEY: Yes, it is an understatement. You have in case after case after case, stunning reporting that we just heard of allies of the president, the president himself, personal lawyers for the president, trying to weaponize the Justice Department for the president's political ends.
After the election was lost on the eve of it being certified in gambits, legal and factual gambits, that went against the law, that went against the facts, that went against reality, these investigations of any kind that the Justice Department undertakes are supposed to be done independently with detachment. You're not supposed to take one side or the other in a political fight.
Also, I don't know quite what they were thinking. With respect to the claims that they thought might lead to criminal investigation, that wouldn't have undone the election. And with respect to the claims that they thought might under the election, the Justice Department has no role to play in taking one campaign side versus another campaign side.
And by the way, that's not speculation. This is not third hand reporting. We have the e-mails, and we have the reactions by people high up in the Justice Department who were handpicked by the White House for those roles. And to the extent that they are saying, this was craziness, and this was insanity tells you all you need to know about the attempt.
BLITZER: You know, it's absolutely right, Gloria, because it seems that Trump will want top -- the top law enforcement officer in the country to push his big lie. How bad could this have been if those Department of Justice officials did Trump's bidding instead of standing their ground and avoiding that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, it could have been a threat to democracy. I mean, you know, this was an attempt to corrupt the Justice Department, to corrupt the courts. And those at the Justice Department said we are not going to do this. We're not going to pay attention to this.
And you know, you understand on the timing of this was one of the e- mails was just around the certification, Wolf. And so, you can imagine what was going on in the White House, right, at that point. The president was pushing and pushing and pushing and saying to Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, send this, send this, send this, tell you're an outside counsel, go to the Justice Department, meet with somebody.
And they were having none of it. So you have to give them credit for holding back the Trump White House, which was trading the Department of Justice like they were a bunch of lawyers that work for the Trump Organization.
BLITZER: You know, and as you say, Preet, it's incredible to see how top Department of Justice officials reacted calling it "pure insanity." But the former president and his supporters have embraced this insanity. How dangerous is that?
BHARARA: Well, you know, I think there's a tendency on the part of some folks, maybe to not think it's that dangerous because the former president has left office. There was this great concern, would he lead peacefully and allow Joe Biden to take office? But it's still incredibly dangerous, because people who believe insane things can perpetuate frauds and other folks. People who believe insane things participate in violence. People believe insane things, the big lie in particular, engage in interactions like they did on January 6, and that can happen again.
So, the continued perpetuation of the big lie fueled by other bigger lies, including insane stories about Italian satellites changing votes in the United States of America, for which there's no evidence that any reasonable person would not believe there to be any evidence in favor of, that causes people to engage in dangerous anti-democratic behavior. So it's incredibly dangerous going forward because they're perpetuating it still.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, Gloria Borger, guys, thank you very, very much. We'll stay on top of this story as well.
Coming up, a new national strategy to combat domestic terrorism and white supremacy. We have new details of the plan just announced by the Attorney General Merrick Garland. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're alive from Geneva.
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland. This, the eve of the historic first summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin and all eyes will be on their first meeting just hours from now. Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a key member of both the Intelligence Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. So what's the main message President Biden needs to deliver to Putin at tomorrow's summit?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I think that he needs to deliver the message that America is back, and that we are going to be closer to our allies, we're going to hold those who aim to do us harm, whether it's interfering in our elections, or harboring cyber criminals or, you know, pushing our allies around in Europe, that we are going to make sure there's a cost to be paid with all of those actions.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure that President Biden will deliver that message to Putin tomorrow. Let's talk about these highly unusual subpoenas of lawmakers, your colleagues sitting on the House Intelligence Committee during the Trump administration, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told CNN today, they are considering a subpoena for Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions. Is that a move you would support?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, I think that they should testify under oath. I think that Christopher Wray should also be testifying under oath. In his testimony before our Oversight Committee, I asked him about the FBI's involvement in these particular secret subpoenas.
And he, on the record, said that the FBI was involved. And he was the Director of the FBI, with regard to not only the initiation of the investigations back in 2018, but also the resumption of the investigation under Attorney General Barr in the 2020 timeframe. And so, he also has a lot of explaining to do.
BLITZER: How frustrating is it, Congressman, that the Department of Justice is not giving you clear answers on these highly, highly sensitive issues, at least not yet?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: It's very frustrating. In this particular instance, we learned the news of these secret subpoenas not from the Department of Justice, but from Apple. And not only that, but Apple sent a letter to us. And in some cases, they ended up in people's spam box. And so, people were fishing for that Apple notification, when, in fact, DOJ should have informed us as soon as they learned about these secret investigations earlier this year.
BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe you were subpoenaed?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know, we're still trying to track down that answer. But as you know, some of my colleagues were targets. But not only that, but staff members, not only on the Intelligence Committee, but in personal offices and family members, Wolf, and that is something that you'd expect in Putin's Russia, not in the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a pretty serious situation. Congressman Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much for joining us.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're learning more right now about Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Geneva.
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland for the upcoming summit between President Biden and Russian President Putin. Meanwhile, back in Washington today, the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a major new strategy to combat domestic terrorism.
CNN's Josh Campbell is joining us right now. So Josh, what is this new strategy involve?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the threat within, that is what the Biden administration is so concerned about that we witnessed firsthand this apparent rise in the threat of domestic terrorism in the United States and today, the Biden Justice Department announced a new series of efforts they will employ to try to stop the continued threat of violence.
Now let's take a look at what this entails as part of this new effort. The federal government will be doing a few things including a coordinated effort to understand, analyze and share intelligence with federal, state and local law enforcement partners.
Next, the strategy calls for $77 million for DHS to prevent domestic terrorism recruitment and mobilization within key communities to help communities become more resilient in their words, and prevent individuals from ever becoming radicalized in the first place. Now, next, an enhanced effort to counter online domestic terrorism, recruitment and mobilization.
We know that so much of the extremism we have seen lately has begun online and federal agents want to get a better grasp on these platforms being used for radicalization. And finally, Wolf, more than $100 million for DHS, FBI and the DOJ towards their anti-terrorism efforts.
Now, earlier today, and speaking about the nature of this ongoing threat, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland painted a very bleak picture. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The number of open FBI domestic terrorism investigations this year has increased significantly. According to an unclassified summary of the March intelligence assessment, the two most lethal elements of the domestic violence extremist threat are racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and militia violent extremists.
In the FBI's view, the top domestic violent extremist threat comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocated for the superiority of the white race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: Now, one thing missing from this new strategy is a law criminalizing domestic terrorism. This has been a contentious issue with civil liberties groups warning against giving the government new powers to tackle domestic hate. But one vocal proponent of such a new law has been the FBI Agents Association.
In a new statement today, they say, I'll read part of it, "Making domestic terrorism a federal crime would not result in the targeting of specific ideas or groups, it would ensure that perpetrators of political violence, regardless of ideology, face appropriate consequences".
Now, Wolf, the White House and the DOJ say that they will be studying this issue, they will attempt to determine whether new legislation is required in order to help stop this endless stream of hate. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. The Attorney General did not mince any words at all. Josh Campbell, thank you very much.
Let's discuss with the former Washington, D.C. Police Chief, the former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Chief Ramsey, thanks so much for joining us. Do you agree, first of all, with the Attorney General's assessment that white supremacist violence is right now in the United States, the most serious domestic security threat?
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: Well, he's the person in the position to make that determination. He has access to all the information. I think after January 6, it would be hard to argue that that's not a primary concern in our country right now. So I'm glad that they're taking it serious. I'm glad that they're really moving forward on this. But they do need to look at legislation.
BLITZER: When you say legislation, describe what you mean. RAMSEY: Well, federal legislation, that would actually make some of the actions on these extremist groups that engage in violent behavior, create a law that would actually, you know, enhance a penalty or certainly make it more difficult for them to operate the way they do now. I just think it's time for that. Clearly, we have a problem. It's been acknowledged. Why wouldn't we have a law of some kind to really deal effectively well (ph)?
The other issue that I think though has to be really enhanced, is communication between federal, state and local. That is a -- that's an issue, and it has to be addressed. Information doesn't always get to where it needs to go. You know, I think we, we learned that after January 6, even when it gets to a place where it's supposed to go, it doesn't always the internal communications within that agency is not always what it should be. So it's not just all on the federal --
RAMSEY: -- agencies, it's also on the local agencies to make sure that that information is shared.
BLITZER: Do you worry, Chief Ramsey, that the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was just the beginning of a disturbing trend of political violence in the United States?
RAMSEY: Well, you know, I hope that's not the case. But I fear that it may very well be if things certainly came to ahead on January 6, but we saw indications of that before with Charlottesville and some other things that have occurred. So this is something that we really should have paid closer attention to prior until now. But at least now, the federal government has recognized it, they're making solid progress toward trying to effectively deal with it.
Again, I think that the communication between Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the state and local agencies needs to be enhanced so that we can take action of some kind to at least try to avoid having a problem. And right now, that still a problem.
BLITZER: A huge problem indeed. Chief Ramsey, thanks so much for joining us.
There's other news we're following right now. Today, the Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene insisted it was her own decision to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum yesterday in Washington, D.C. That visit, as you know, led to a rare apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R-GA): -- and I have made a mistake, and it's really bothered me for a couple of weeks now. And so, I definitely want to own it. The horrors of the Holocaust are something that some people don't even believe happened and some people deny, but there is no comparison to the Holocaust. And there are words that I have said and remarks that I've made that I know are offensive. And for that, I want to apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to our CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill. Manu, do we know what the motivation was behind her surprise appearance yesterday?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, she did tell our colleague Ella Maine (ph) today that it was, quote, her -- my decision that she said, this was just something that I had thought about over time. But over time, she had come under withering criticism for comparing the House's mask mandate rules to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
And then going further, criticizing, comparing Democrats to the actions of Nazis during World War II and facing criticism across the political spectrum including Firma Marone (ph), Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who did criticize her remarks, but it comes as Democrats were moving to censure her for her remarks on the -- and trying to move with potentially a resolution to the House floor to call her out for those words.
And at the same time, Republicans trying to call out a Democrat for -- Ilhan Omar -- for comparing the actions of U.S. and Israel to the actions of the Taliban, the actions of Hamas, and that itself, Omar's words, got some criticism from House Democrats, but House Republicans have tried to single out Ilhan Omar.
So Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a sense, is trying to clean up her remarks and allow the Republicans to make a clear distinction between the two. Now this comes as Kevin McCarthy has tried to make the case that Omar should not be on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is threatened to try to force the House vote on the issue as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I think Nancy Pelosi should remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. This is an individual that has not once but on numerous occasions, been anti- Semitic. Her own entire Congress had to rebuke her in the last one. But she's just not anti-Semitic, she's anti-American now. She's acquainting America to Taliban, to Hamas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now it's still unclear whether McCarthy will actually force that vote but he could force a vote and Democrats are playing to try to move to table it or essentially killed that, that's what House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters earlier today. And, Wolf, Democrats I've talked to said they do plan to vote against it even if they were concerned about what Omar said. Wolf? B BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Coming up, there's more news we're following. The U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 600,000 people, even as the country's most populous state, California now is fully reopening.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Geneva.
BLITZER: We're coming to you live from Geneva, Switzerland just ahead of a crucial summit between President Biden and Russian President Putin. Meanwhile, a very sobering milestone in COVID-19 -- in the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. death toll has now topped 600,000 people. And tonight, there's growing concern about one virus variant.
Let's get some analysis from our chief -- from our CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She's an emergency room physician, also the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us. First of all, the CDC now says as you know that this so-called Delta variant is officially a variant of concern. Just how concerned should we be about this variant even given how many people in the U.S. are already vaccinated?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALSYT: We should be very concerned about this Delta variant. We've already seen that it's more contagious. And in the UK, it's crowded out the Alpha variant, which was already more contagious and more deadly than the wild-type normal strain that we had before. And in addition, this Delta variant appears to result in even more hospitalizations and be deadlier.
And so, it's something that we need to keep an eye on here in the U.S., especially because we have so many pockets of the country where there are large numbers of people who are unvaccinated and therefore do not have protection against this variant and the others that are circulating.
BLITZER: Yes, that's so true. Amidst all of this, Dr. Wen, some states with high vaccination rates, like California, New York, for example, are fully reopening today, is it safe to lift nearly all COVID restrictions in places where most people are vaccinated?
WEN: I think it's the right thing at this point to do especially because these states actually held off. They didn't just reopen without metrics, they actually looked at the percentage of people that needed to be vaccinated in order for reopening to occur. I think that these states and all states will be wise to continue testing. Because we don't want to make the same mistake that we did at the beginning of the pandemic.
My concern is that the pockets of the country that have low vaccination rates actually also don't have robust public health infrastructure. They're already scaling back testing and reporting on the number of new cases, which I think is a big mistake.
The last thing that we want is for -- is to have a repeat of the problems from earlier on to the pandemic, where every one case turned out to be the canary in the coal mine and meant that we were missing so many others. And so, reopening may be the right thing to do. I think it's good for us to resume our pre-pandemic lives, continue to increase vaccinations in the meantime, but also don't forget about testing, contact tracing and those basics that are really important to controlling this disease.
BLITZER: Absolutely right. Dr. Wen, thanks so much for joining us.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're counting down to the historic first summit between President Biden and Russia President Putin. We're learning new details right now about what to expect when their meeting begins just hours from now.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're alive from Geneva.
BLITZER: We're coming to you live from Geneva, Switzerland. Happening right now, President Biden just hours away from a pivotal showdown with one of his toughest adversaries, Russia's Vladimir Putin, recovering all the angles of their face off here in Geneva.
Also tonight, very disturbing new details on former President Trump's assault on Democracy. We're breaking down e-mails that show how Trump and his allies pressured the U.S. Justice Department to embrace the big lie about the 2020 election.