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The Situation Room

Biden Returns From Putin "Face-Off;" GOP Tries To Rewrite History Of January 6 Capitol Siege; Supreme Courts Rejects Conservative Challenge To Obamacare, Upholds Law For The Third Time; Biden Signs Into Law Juneteenth Federal Holiday Commemorating End Of Slavery In U.S.; Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Potential Signs Of Progress On Stalled Dem Priorities Of Infrastructure, Voting Rights, Police Reform; U.S. Cities On Alert Amid Alarming Crime Surge. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden is back home facing his next showdown. We're tracking new movement on his stall domestic agenda after his confrontation with Vladimir Putin overseas.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejects a third conservative challenge to Obamacare. The 44th President is now declaring the landmark law that bears his name. He's saying it's here to stay.

And the GOP whitewash of the January 6 insurrection clearly worsens with some Republicans now spreading the wild and baseless theory that the FBI orchestrated the insurrection.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Biden fresh from his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva now turning back to his challenge domestic agenda facing Republican opposition and a divided Democratic Party.

Our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now.

Kaitlan, tonight, there are some signs of progress on the President's top priorities. What do you learn?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are signs of progress, Wolf, because we know President Biden returned to Washington with a full to do list. And while he was in Europe, those negotiations on an infrastructure package continued.

There is new momentum gaining behind a proposal, potentially a bipartisan one on Capitol Hill. But Wolf, that also comes as Senate Democrats are weighing, going in alone with their own massive package.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden is turning the focus to his domestic agenda tonight as a new bipartisan infrastructure pitch is gaining steam.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Our focus is on a bipartisan proposal that focuses on true infrastructure and doesn't raise taxes.

COLLINS (voice-over): Spearheaded by Senator Mitt Romney and others, the new proposal calls for $1.2 trillion in total spending on roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure, with roughly 579 billion in new spending. One sign of progress, 21 senators including 11 Republicans are now on board.

Aides briefed President Biden on the proposal today after he struck an optimistic tone in Switzerland.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I'm still hoping we can put together two bookends here.

COLLINS (voice-over): Whether lawmakers can remains to be seen. Liberal Democrats are already dismissing the plan as inadequate.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): If they really, really, really want this bipartisan deal so that, you know, they can go out and champion that, then we're going to have to really talk about Medicare, wages, unionization and climate, especially climate.

COLLINS (voice-over): Top Senate Democrats are vowing to move ahead with their own ambitious package as bipartisan talks drag on.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Discussions about infrastructure are moving forward along two tracks. One is bipartisan.

COLLINS (voice-over): Senator Chuck Schumer making it clear that Democrats are proceeding with using a fast track process known as budget reconciliation.

SCHUMER: Yesterday, I convened all 11 members of the Senate Budget Committee to discuss the reconciliation track.

COLLINS (voice-over): Also tonight, progress on voting rights after Senator Joe Manchin outlined demands on legislation that could create an opening for compromise, like mandating two weeks of early voting, while also backing I.D. requirements.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's always a big hill around here. Just remember, the person who's talking the mountain didn't fall there, OK?

COLLINS (voice-over): Stacey Abrams, offering a major endorsement.

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: If Joe Manchin and the U.S. senators who support this legislation are willing to come together on a compromise, then we will make progress.

COLLINS (voice-over): But Senator Mitch McConnell is slamming Manchin's proposal and offering this warning.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate. All Republicans, I think, will oppose that as well.

COLLINS (voice-over): One area of bipartisanship is a new bill on the President's desk today, making Juneteenth a federal holiday in commemorating the end of slavery.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Juneteenth has been known by many names, Jubilee day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today, a national holiday.

BIDEN: I need this to go down for me, one of the greatest honors I will have as president.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, have as they noted during that signing ceremony here at the White House, every member of the Senate voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, but 14 Republicans in the House voted against it. Of course, it became law anyway. You saw President Biden sign it there earlier today.

And we should note, this is going to go into effect already immediately, essentially, because given that Juneteenth does fall on a Saturday this year, you are going to see federal workers off work. Most of them tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss.

We're also hearing from some of the Republicans who were largely silent about former President Trump's open admiration of Russia's Vladimir Putin over those four years. One of them is actually, now get this, he's accusing President Biden of giving Putin a pass. Let's go to our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.


Manu, with the President back here on U.S. soil, how are Republicans responding to his overseas summit with Putin?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's the House Republican leaders are saying. They're saying that Joe Biden, in fact, gave Vladimir Putin a pass. They say he did not stand up to him. They say that he did not detail his demands sufficient enough. And they say that he is showing weakness.

That is the view of the top Republicans Kevin McCarthy as well as Steve Scalise, the number two Republican. Other Republicans have echoed that.

Even though the same Republicans were quiet when Donald Trump stood beside Vladimir Putin in 2018 in that Helsinki summit. Donald Trump, at the time, sided with Russia over to the U.S. Intelligence Agency's determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. But Republicans at the time, many of whom were very -- we're not -- did not speak out, were silent or even defended Donald Trump. But after the summit with Joe -- with Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy did issue a statement going after the President saying, "President Biden should have used today's summit to stand up for our national interest and send a message to the world that the United States will hold Russia accountable for its long list of transgressions. Unfortunately, President Biden gave Vladimir Putin a pass."

Part of which, didn't say this explicitly, but seems to be referring to the fact that Donald Trump or that Joe Biden did not stand alongside Vladimir Putin at a press conference like we saw it happened in 2018, did not call out Vladimir Putin standing next to him on the same stage.

But the President did not want to do that, give the Russian President a platform. But one reason why they don't want to stand side by side with Vladimir Putin. But nevertheless, Republicans are showing what they believe here. They believe that in their view, Joe Biden was weak, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, I want you to stay with us as well.

I also want to bring in our CNN Political Director, David Chalian. Kaitlan is still with us, as well.

You know, David, does the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is he suffering from a case of amnesia, given the way that the former President Trump behaved with Putin over those four years? And now, he's suggesting that President Biden, you know, gave Putin a pass.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. I mean, here's the problem. We wouldn't expect anything else except sort of knee jerk opposition from the Republican leader what the President did overseas, right? And we've seen that when the parties have flipped.

Here's the problem, it's your point. Where were you when Donald Trump was truly giving Vladimir Putin a free pass, choosing Vladimir Putin's, you know, line of events over the Intelligence Community here? You were pretty quiet. And so, you just lose credibility if you're Kevin McCarthy, that this critique of Joe Biden's performance in the summit is going to be taken seriously.

So, to me, you know, when I saw the statement this morning, the hypocrisy, obviously, is front and center. There's no doubt about that. But it's also just, how do you take the critique seriously given his own history when Donald Trump had the presidency?

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kaitlan, because McCarthy once joked that he thought Vladimir Putin was paying Donald Trump. And now, he wants to get tough on Russia, there's a new president in town. What are you hearing over there? What's the reaction?

COLLINS: I think the White House pretty much agrees with what David just said that it is incredibly hypocritical to hear any Republican criticism of what President Biden is doing when it comes to Russia and to President Putin, given the fact that President Trump was so chummy with him and often back slapping him, embracing him over U.S. intelligence agencies. It's a criticism that doesn't really have anywhere to go around here.

The other thing, though, is there are actual legitimate criticisms and questions about President Biden's Russia policy when it comes to waiving sanctions on the company behind Nord Stream 2, that pipeline that they've said is going to empower Russia, it is going to essentially sidestep Ukraine. Those are real questions that you could actually ask of President Biden and his top national security aides.

But when it's coming from people like Kevin McCarthy, who stood by for four years while President Trump allowed President Putin to essentially get away with whatever he wanted to without condemning him publicly, it doesn't really make sense.

And we do know from what President Biden told us yesterday, when we were in Geneva at that press conference is that he did bring several matters the White House believes is important up with President Putin. Including human rights, election interference, these ransomware hacks, we've seen other cyberattacks, those are really important.

The question is whether or not anything fundamentally changes from him bringing it up. But him bringing it up at all in a way that is not ceding to President Putin's false claims that he is not involved with this at all is progress in and of itself, because we know President Trump often refused to do that in front of cameras.

BLITZER: He certainly did. And I was in Helsinki, you we're in Helsinki at the time, and we were pretty stunned when we saw that he sided with Putin as opposed to the U.S. Intelligence Community.


And you know, Manu, it's not only the Trump Putin relationship that Republicans are trying to whitewash. It's also the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. One Republican congressman refused to even shake hands with one of the officers who was beaten unconscious that day. So, what sort of reaction are you getting up there on Capitol Hill?

RAJU: Yes, that was Congressman Andrew Clyde. He's the same one who said that January 6 was like a, quote, "normal tourist visit," downplaying what happened on January 6, and refusing, according to the account of Michael Fanone, the Metro Police officer, would not shake his hands, would not talked to him while Officer Fanone was in the Capitol yesterday.

And that came in the aftermath of Clyde joining with 20 other Republicans in the House to vote against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the people who fought valiantly on that day, the U.S. Capitol Police, the Metro Police.

But those Republicans who voted against it, some of them said they did not support it because, in their view, it was not an insurrection on that day despite the video evidence, despite what everybody saw, despite the Trump supporters coming into this Capitol, the riot that occurred, the death that occurred, the death -- eventual death of one U.S. Capitol police officer and dozens of others being injured.

There's still this belief among the faction of House Republicans in particular who do not believe the events of that day amounted to an insurrection, which is why some of them ultimately voted against that legislation. But you are seeing a pocket of Republicans saying that this is not nearly as bad as what everything we have seen here.

And we're not seeing much pushback from the Republican leadership on that narrative, even though they disagree with that, and they disagree with that in the past, they -- like -- which is pretty clear, Wolf, when they

voted to block moving forward with creating an outside commission to investigate everything that happened on January 6 in large part because it would bring this issue back into the fore, divide their party and distract, they believe, from their election year message.

BLITZER: Yes, this is new video we're showing our viewers, video that the Justice Department has just released. Clearly, a very dangerous situation.

You know, David, the police officers, they risked their lives to protect these lawmakers. Some of these lawmakers are now saying, well, you know, it could have been just the FBI plot or whatever.

How dangerous potentially is this to our democracy?

CHALIAN: Well, I think pretty dangerous as any time an event in history happens, if there is an active effort to try and erase that, well, then it's impossible to learn from it and to prevent it from happening again. Now, which member of Congress doesn't want to learn from this experience and make sure that it never happens again? I hope none of them.

But if you are going to just tell lies about -- look, I mean, you just saw that video that you were talking about that the Justice Department put out? Did that look like tourists going through the Capitol to you?


CHALIAN: No, that does not look like that. So, when you're just going to be committed to a series of lies and try to erase what actually happened, that means you're not committed to the healing and future protection of our democracy.

BLITZER: I started the day in Geneva, Kaitlan did as well. And you know, you speak to people over there and they say they have a hard time believing what's going on right now in the United States of America.

Kaitlan, are you feeling OK? I know you've had a long day so far. Starting today in Geneva, you're back here in Washington right now. How you doing?

COLLINS: As I said, Wolf, if you can do it, I can certainly do it as well.

BLITZER: We're both doing well. It was a good flight.

All right, thanks, guys, very, very much.

Coming up, Obamacare wins again in the U.S. Supreme Court. Standby for details of a ruling supported by seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Now, we'll also take a closer look at what's wrong with a new conspiracy theory that some Republicans are pushing about the riot at the U.S. Capitol.



BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of very important rulings today, one involving religious rights, another turning back another Republican challenge to Obamacare. Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Let's start, Jessica, with this Obamacare ruling. It's pretty significant.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, you know. And as the former president, Obama proclaimed on Twitter today, this means that the 31 plus million Americans who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, they'll get to keep it despite the really uncertain fate of this law for the past several years as Republicans have been challenging it in the lower courts. And they won at the lower courts.

But today at the Supreme Court in a seven to two decision, the justice is saying that there was no standing for these Republicans to even bring this lawsuit effectively upholding the ACA. It's the third time the Supreme Court has upheld it since its inception.

The vote count here especially interesting, Wolf, seven to two, the three liberals were joined with four conservative justices to say that the 18 Republican led states and two individual plaintiffs who brought this suit, they just didn't have the legal standing the injury to bring this suit. And that's because Justice Breyer, in his opinion, said that they didn't have the injury here because Congress had zeroed out the penalty to $0 for not having insurance, therefore, there was no harm.

But what was interesting as well, was the dissent here. Samuel Alito was joined by Neil Gorsuch, and they basically railed against the Supreme Court, the other justices for upholding this. In fact, finding every way -- any way they could to uphold it. Justice Alito wrote in the dissent, the court has pulled off an improbable rescue. And really vented that these other seven justices twisted themselves into a pretzel of sorts to save the law.

BLITZER: Seven to two decision is very significant.

The Supreme Court also ruled on another case involving same sex couples who wanted to care for foster children. Tell us about that.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And that was a unanimous decision. In that case, the Supreme Court saying that the city of Philadelphia had violated the First Amendment rights of this Catholic foster agency when the city of Philadelphia cancelled its contract with the agency because the Catholic agency would not recruit same sex couples. The city of Philadelphia said that that violated the city's nondiscrimination laws.


But the Catholic foster agency had said that no same sex couples had ever applied and that same sex couples could actually look elsewhere to other foster agencies. In this case, Justice Roberts wrote the opinion. And he said, because there was a provision in the contract that allowed the city of Philadelphia to make exceptions for other agencies, possibly for other reasons that they should have made an exception for this case. And because they didn't, they violated the Catholic foster agency's rights here.

This was a narrow ruling, the court didn't go as far as to determine whether or not religious institutions cannot -- can essentially discriminate against same sex couples. That may be an issue for another day. But for now, religious liberty advocates are claiming victory here.

BLITZER: All right. That was a unanimous decision, as well.


BLITZER: All right, thank you very much, Jessica for that.

Let's discuss this and more with the House Majority Whip, the South Carolina Democratic Representative James Clyburn.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to ask you about the Affordable Care Act in just a moment. But first, you just returned from the White House where President Biden just signed the Juneteenth federal holiday into law, commemorating the abolition of slavery. This holiday is more than 150 years in the making. So, what was it like being there for this historic moment?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me.

You know, I said on the floor yesterday, when we were debating this bill, this holiday should give us an opportunity every year to reflect on how bad it is you fail to communicate.

The Juneteenth took place in 1865. Slavery was outlawed by the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863. For two and a half years, nobody communicated to these people that they have been free. That to tell us something by keeping the lines of communication open.

And so, I have been using this experience to say to my colleagues, it's time for us learn to communicate. If we communicate with each other, we could do better on behalf of the American people.

BLITZER: That's a good point.

CLYBURN: Some celebrating not just a new holiday, but celebrating the fact of how valuable it is to communicate.

BLITZER: Let's also talk about Obamacare, Congressmen, the former president, Barack Obama, just tweeted, "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay." Is this new U.S. Supreme Court ruling, do you believe, the final word?

CLYBURN: I would hope so. This is the third time. And I think that we almost the trends here. The first time Supreme Court spoke on this decision was five to four, today, it's seven to two. And the majority of the seven happened to be -- considered to be conservatives on the court.

So, I think that it is here to stay. What we ought to do now is look at how we can make it a better, make the Affordable Act better for the American people and more expensive. We've got what? A dozen states, South Carolina being one of them that has refused to expand Medicaid.

It will have so many more people covered by health care if we were to expand Medicaid. So many more jobs created in the health care industry. So, this is what we ought to be doing. Stop this foolishness. Stop wasting time, spending money and sit down around the table and communicate.

BLITZER: The -- there is movement, as you know, Congressmen, President Biden's major agenda items including infrastructure is this latest Senate proposal, which has the support of 11 Republicans right now. A real step forward or another false start?

CLYBURN: I think is a real step forward. I think that people are getting beyond the notion that infrastructure can only be about traditional stuff that people are now realizing that if we are going to have a good health care delivery system, good educational system, we got to have broadband as an integral part of infrastructure. And so, people are now realizing that if you're going to only do what's traditional, you're always looking back.

We got to start looking forward. The future of this country means that infrastructure, it's got to be about high speed rail. It's got to be about affordable, accessible broadband for everybody. It's got to be about making businesses more effective.


You and I both know that after this experience we've had to COVID-19 and the workforce is going to be operating differently going forward. And so, I suspect that this economy is crying out for us to make broadband an integral part of infrastructure.

So, I think, these 11 people are coming to grips with the fact that we can't keep looking back if we're going to prepare our children and grandchildren for the future. BLITZER: Let's see what happens. There is movement potentially, important movement indeed.

Representative James Clyburn, thanks as usual for joining us.

CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Up next, that alarming crime surge in cities across the United States right now including a shocking rise in gun violence.

Plus, a bizarre new conspiracy theory about the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Some Republicans now falsely claiming the FBI was behind it.



BLITZER: Cities across the United States are on alert tonight in an alarming crime surge. CNN National Correspondent Natasha Chen is working the story for us. Natasha, gun violence in particular, rose even during the pandemic, and sadly it continues to rise. What's the latest?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, analysts will point to many factors as to why we're seeing that surge. But at the end of the day, every single one of those deaths is truly affecting a community of like the one behind us here in Decatur, Georgia, where a supermarket cashier was shot and killed on Monday, after she told a customer to pull his mask up. Police say he refused, left the store, came back and shot her.


CHEN (voice-over): From coast-to-coast, a plague of gun violence has cities on high alert. Here are just a few of the shootings from the last few days. In Chicago Tuesday morning, four people were killed in a shooting at a home. One of the victims was set to graduate this week. In West Baltimore Wednesday afternoon, police described a, quote, brazen shooting when gunman fired indiscriminately and hit six people killing one of them.

Accidental shootings are happening too. Authorities say a six-year-old boy unintentionally shot and killed himself in Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday night. According to the Gun Violence Archive gun deaths in the U.S., not including suicides, are about 19 percent higher than at this point in 2020 and about 38 percent higher than this point in 2019. Brian Lemek from The Brady PAC says this is an imperfect storm.

BRIAN LEMEK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE BRADY PAC: The rise in background checks that we saw and the rise of new firearms flooding the market exacerbates all of those challenges that we've once faced before. We know that the loopholes that exist at gun shows, the loopholes that exist with online sales, and the introduction of ghost guns and 3D printed guns are a real problem for us. CHEN (voice-over): Three weeks after a disgruntled employee shot and killed nine colleagues at a San Jose rail yard, San Jose has become the latest city to mandate filming of all retail gun purchases beginning in September with footage to be kept for at least 30 days.

MAYOR SAM LICCARDO, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA: These measures are primarily focused on ensuring that those with criminal records, those who are the subject of restraining orders with domestic violence, et cetera, are not able to get guns.

CHEN (voice-over): On the other end of the gun policy spectrum, in September, Texas will allow people 21 and older who can legally possess firearms in the state to carry handguns in public without permits. In Atlanta, where police say there have been nearly 60 percent more murders this year compared to the same period in 2020, City Council members pressed police for answers at a public safety meeting this week.

CLETA WINSLOW, ATLANTA COUNCILWOMAN: We're all concerned about the guns and violence happening not only in the city of Atlanta, but metro-wide. You know, I think we're always just seeing something different that's a little more frightening where these people are trying to take over our city and send a message.

CHIEF TODD COYT, ATLANTA POLICE ASSISTANT: I wish I had that answer. Unfortunately, this is something that's happening, not just in the state of Georgia, but nationwide.


CHEN: And that assistant police chief also said in that meeting that he's having daily calls with other law enforcement across the country, from cities small and large, as they all try to answer that question, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, CNN's Natasha Chen reporting from Decatur, thank you so much.

Joining us now, the Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. Chief Acevedo, thank you so much for joining us. A very disturbing information we're getting. What are you and your fellow law enforcement officers up against right now?

ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE CHIEF: Well, we're up against a perfect storm. I mean, from, you know, COVID, the proliferation of firearms. So many farms have sold in the last year in this country. Courts have been shut down. An exodus by police officers from law enforcement because of what's going on in terms of the temperature in this nation, and lacks gun laws, and lacks prosecution nationwide. And so, we got a lot of work ahead of us but it's going to take all hands on deck not just the police, including the community itself needs to come out, speak up and speak out when they see a crime being committed.

BLITZER: Chief, do you have any sense of what else is driving this awful surge in crime across the country?


ACEVEDO: Can you repeat that, Wolf, I barely heard --

BLITZER: Do you have any sense --yes. Do you have any sense of what else is driving this surge in crime across the country?

ACEVEDO: We're seeing, at least what I'm seeing after 35 years of policing is a lot of young people, a lot of people in their teens, a lot of suspects that are 16, 17 years of age, that are things on social media that they find offensive. And the next thing you know, they're going somewhere with AK-47s and other assault rifles and just opening up on crowds of people. That is something we've never seen in the past, like we've seen now.

And so again, it's not just the number of guns, it's the guns in the wrong hands. It's people having easy access to guns, it's lack of prosecutions, lack of courts being open across the country. And it's young people today that don't think about the consequences, and have very little respect for the sanctity of life in too many places in our country.

BLITZER: Yes. And what is the most important thing from your perspective down there in Miami, let's say, that needs to be done right now, to try to alleviate this?

ACEVEDO: Well, I think first of all, we need to have law enforcement do everything we can in terms of having resources out. We've got a lot of resources in the city -- we, in our county. We start operation summer heat with our partners. But we also got to get the courts up and running.

We've got to get these courts up and running across the nation. We've got to get the wheels of justice running. And then ultimately, we've got to get our legislature, our Congress that have been silent about this and have not dealt with the gun show loophole and have not done any legislation to impact gun violence.

And because until we do all of that, we're not going to see a significant reduction. We're going to see a lot of families and a lot of lives shattered because of the gun violence.

BLITZER: The Texas Governor Greg Abbott just signed a law allowing Texans to carry a firearm without a license or training for that matter. What kind of effect will laws like that have on your ability to fight gun violence?

ACEVEDO: You know, it's sad to see a state like Texas that is a state that is filled with responsible gun owners. It's sad to see a governor that did exactly the opposite of what law enforcement, law enforcement labor, law enforcement leaders in the community itself, gun carrying and gun enthusiasts and people that are serious gun owners in Texas were against it. I think we're going to seize people that had no business carrying firearms.

Now, law enforcement won't even be able to check on them to see what their intentions are, because they just made it where anyone 18 and older can carry a gun, regardless of the character. And that goes against common sense and goes against everything that most Texas wanted, including law enforcement. So it says -- I think it says a lot about the governor's priorities. And it's not -- and it's seriously not gun safety or public safety in this regard.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Art Acevedo, the Miami Police Chief, thanks as usual for joining us.

ACEVEDO: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. I hope (ph) you stay with us. We're looking into a new conspiracy theory about the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol. Even though it's gaining traction among some Republicans, there's absolutely no truth to it.

Also ahead, we'll be joined by President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He'll be joining. We got a lot of questions for him, what happened in the summit. We'll be right.



BLITZER: Tonight we have newly released video showing the intensity of the violence during the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol. The clips are from the government's case against the man accused of assaulting police in a tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol Building. This comes as some Republican lawmakers and members of the right-wing media are pushing a new totally baseless claim about the riot.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has been looking into all of these for us. So Paula, what's the latest conspiracy theory that some are using to try to rewrite what actually happened on January 6th?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, millions of people have now heard (ph) this unfounded theory that originated in Article Monday on the right-wing website Revolver News. Here's the crux of the conspiracy and several indictments against Capitol rioters who are accused of planning the attack with extremist groups include references to unindicted co-conspirators. Now, the article claims those co-conspirators could be FBI informants, or undercover agents who infiltrated the groups.

But, Wolf, there is no evidence of this. A co-conspirator is usually someone who participated in a conspiracy, who has not yet been charged. Now it's common to see in conspiracy cases, but this theory, it shows an ignorance of the legal process, but it was picked up by Fox News and Tucker Carlson devoted considerable time to it this week. Let's take a listen to what he said.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: But wait, here's the interesting thing. Person two and person three were organizers of the riot. The government knows who they are, but the government has not charged them. Why is that? You know why. They were almost certainly working for the FBI.


REID: Says who? In the case he is referencing, statements in Core Documents indicate that person two is most likely the defendant's wife, but Republican lawmakers like Congressman Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, they've tweeted giving this oxygen off. It's just the latest example of right-wing figures trying to deflect responsibility for the deadly Capitol riot away from former President Trump and his supporters.

BLITZER: These lies, these attempts, Paula, to rewrite what actually happened on January 6th, how is it sitting with Capitol Police who saw who were there, whose lives were endangered who saw all this unfold firsthand?

REID: It's a great question, Wolf. Michael Fanone who is stun gun several times and beaten with a flagpole during the riot. He spoke to CNN earlier today about all of this, it's going on. Here's what he said.



OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: I'm not here to make this a political issue, it just so happens that one party is lying about, you know, what, thousands of officers experienced that day on Capitol Hill. I'm going to confront anyone that lies about that day because, you know, while these members are betraying their oath, thousands of D.C. police officers and U.S. Capitol Police officers were fulfilling their oath and continue to do so every day.


REID: He also discussed how Congressman Andrew Clyde who has compared the Capitol attack to a normal tourist visit despite being photographed barricading the doors of the House Chamber with law enforcement on the day of the attack. Fanone says the lawmaker refused to even shake his hand when they met at the Capitol Wednesday. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's totally disgusting. All right, Paula, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, why the U.S. appears unlikely to meet President Biden's July 4th vaccination goal and what it means for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.



BLITZER: Right now it looks like the United States will not meet President Biden's goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the country against COVID-19 by July 4th, although the White House is not directly acknowledging that. Let's talk about that in more with Dr. Paul Offit, the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

He's also a key member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee. Dr. Offit, thanks so much for joining us. President Biden's goal of 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4th. First of all, how important is that benchmark?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Critical. I think vaccines are only way out of this unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of this population as soon as we can. Certainly before winter hits, you're going to see more spread and then the creation of more variants which will only make this task all the more difficult.

BLITZER: As the dangerous Delta variant seems to be gaining traction here in the United States, Dr. Fauci and other experts say it's not the vaccinated, but the unvaccinated Americans that they're so worried about right now, do you agree?

OFFIT: Completely. The Delta variant is seems to be more contagious. But if you've been vaccinated, you are going to be protected against severe critical disease. So, all the more reason to get vaccinated. You would have thought at the beginning of all this, knowing that vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic, that the hardest part would have been figuring out how to construct these vaccines, how to mass produce them, how to mass administer them, but it's not. The hardest part is convincing people to get it, which is just remarkable.

So what to do? What do we do if a critical percentage of this population chooses not to get vaccinated, and thus chooses to allow this virus to continue to spread, continue to hurt themselves and others and continue to create variants which become all the more contagious and all the more difficult to contain?

BLITZER: They just got to get that shot, as all of us have been doing. As companies are trying to lure employees back to the office, Dr. Offit, the CEO of Morgan Stanley put it this way earlier this week. And I'm quoting right now, if you could go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. So what do you make of that?

OFFIT: Well, I mean, I think if you're going to be indoors with people who you don't, you know, who you don't know whether or not they're vaccinated, I think you should wear a mask until we've gotten on top of this pandemic. And we haven't quite gotten on top of it yet. We're definitely doing better. But remember, it's summer, you still have often at least 10,000 people who are infected every day. And those are just the number of people who've been tested and found to be infected.

And you still have hundreds of people dying every day. We're not there yet. If you're indoors, and you're choosing not to wear a mask, make sure that everybody else you're coming in contact with has been vaccinated.

BLITZER: Yes, that's -- you try to do that, I certainly tried to do that. There's a push up on Capitol Hill right now to establish a 9/11- style commission to investigate both the origins of the virus and how the United States responded to it. Do you think something like that is necessary?

OFFIT: Yes, I certainly think figuring out how this virus originated is critical because this is not going to be the last pandemic. I mean, we had the SARS one pandemic around 2003, you had MERS in 2012. And when you have this virus now in 2019, I think you can assume there's going to be another pandemic. So the more we learn about the origins of these viruses, I think the quicker we'll be able to pick it up and respond to it.

BLITZER: Let's talk about boosters for a moment, booster shots. So when do you expect -- will know when exactly people are going to need them? Let's say you got two shots, you're fully vaccinated, when do you think we might need a booster down the road?

OFFIT: I think what's good about these vaccines is it looks like although immunity my fate (ph) for protection against mild disease are asymptomatic infection or even low moderate disease, I think protection against severe critical disease will probably be relatively long lasting, meaning, for a few years.

So -- but we'll know if we go, I mean, we already have roughly six months of data, soon we'll have a year worth of data. And we'll see whether or not people are no longer protected against severe critical disease. That would be surprising because the so-called cellular immune response induced by these vaccines appears to be excellent. So I'm optimistic that if we do need boosters, it would be every few years.

BLITZER: Yes, I got a flu shot every year so I'm ready to get a booster shot every few years if that is absolutely necessary. Dr. Offit, thanks so much for joining us.

OFFIT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, some signs of congressional progress on President Biden's top priorities as he returns to his struggling domestic agenda following his summit with Vladimir Putin. We're going to talk about the meeting and the aftermath.


His National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who participated in the summit with President Biden, is standing by live. We've got lots to discuss.


BLITZER: Happening now, new challenges for President Biden at a critical moment for a stalled domestic agenda and with the Putin summit behind him. I'll ask his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, what's next for the rather tense U.S.-Russia relationship. The U.S. Supreme Court just upheld Obamacare for a third time preserving health insurance for millions of Americans and rejecting a challenge backed by former President Trump.