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The Situation Room
Now, Critical Senate Showdown Vote Over Voting Rights Bill; Trump CFO May Be Nearing A Decision On Whether To Flip; Senate Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill In Showdown Vote; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Tells Colleagues She Will Name Select Committee To Probe January 6; Now: Final Hours Of Voting In Bruising NYC Mayoral Primary; Carl Nassib Becomes First Active NFL Player To Announce He's Gay. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 22, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right this minute, the U.S. Senate is voting on whether to debate and amend a sweeping election reform bill the Democrats have introduced, and CNN will bring you the results of these votes live in just minute. Until then you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. My besties can hit me at TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, a showdown vote over election reform and voting rights is underway in the U.S. Senate. Republicans poised to block the legislation even as Democrats unite in trying to move it forward.
We're getting new information on whether a trusted Trump organization insider may flip on the former president as prosecutors are getting closer and closer to a potential indictment and are widening their net.
And the NFL's Carl Nassib is now a trailblazer as the league's first active player to publically announce he's gay. We will talk about the impact on pro sports.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All right, let's go right to Capitol Hill, looking at live pictures from the U.S. Senate right now. Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is on the scene for us. Ryan, this Senate showdown over voting rights here in the United States is playing out right now. Tell our viewers what's going on.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't expect any surprises tonight, Wolf. The Senate right now voting on a motion to proceed a bill that would deal with a sweeping reform to voting rights across the country. This is something that Republicans are very much opposed to and Democrats considered to be a top priority.
The final vote we expect it to be 50/50. And in the United States Senate, that's not enough for the legislation to take the next step. It requires 60 votes to do so. And at this point, there doesn't appear to be one Republican who will vote in favor of moving the legislation forward.
And this is going to cause some angst for Democrats who really believe that voting rights is central to American democracy and creating a system where there are protections nationwide are imperative ahead of the 2022 midterms.
But, unfortunately, there is not enough will amongst Democrats, at least for supporters of this legislation, to break up the filibuster. Democrats like West Virginia's Joe Manchin, Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema have made it clear that they don't believe that voting rights legislation is enough to break the tradition of the filibuster because it could lead to consequences down the road that could be more damaging than not passing this legislation at this time.
So the question, Wolf, is how does the White House respond? What's the next step in this process? The White House continues to say that they believe voting rights are an important part of this process.
And one other note about the optics of what's happening on the Senate floor, you will note that the vice president, Kamala Harris, is sitting at the dais. She is presiding over these proceedings. She is, of course, the president of the Senate. She doesn't need to be in the Senate for this vote to take place. There isn't a tie that she's going to be able to break, but it is symbolic.
She, of course, has been given the responsibility of shepherding this voting rights legislation through the United States Congress. She's become the point person for the Biden administration. So that's the reason she is here today.
Wolf, that vote is ongoing. We're going to watch it closely and we will let you know what the final vote is once all the votes are cast.
BLITZER: On that note, Ryan, some Democrats, some progressives, some Democrats in the Senate and the House, they believe the White House, the president, the vice president have not necessarily done all they could to get this passed. What are you hearing on that front?
NOBLES: Yes, that's absolutely right, Wolf. In fact I talked to a progressive member of the House of Representatives today, Representative Mondaire Jones of New York. He's a freshman Democrat. He said that he is disappointed that President Biden himself has not done enough to be actively involved in this conversation. He said that the president hasn't said enough publically about his desire to see voting rights being passed.
And he also believes it is the president who should be encouraging these Senate Democrats, moderate Senate Democrats who are unwilling to break up the filibuster, he should be encouraging them to take that step. He believes that it is imperative to do so because this is the most important piece of legislation for democracy in the estimation of Jones and some other progressive Democrats.
You know, Jones went as far as to say to me that these other pieces of legislation that are hotly debated up here, things like police reform and in particular infrastructure, where there is actually some bipartisan progress, aren't important if voting rights legislation isn't passed, because everything, every policy proposal stems from the ability of every single American to have the easy access to the voting booth.
So, yes, there is some angst right now among Democrats. And the question is, Wolf, if the White House doesn't do more to try and get this over the finish line, could it hurt some of their other agenda items, especially in the House of Representatives where the margins are very tight.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, I want you to standby. We're going to to get to the Senate very soon as roll call is still going on. But, right now, I want to bring in our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, so where does the White House expect the fight over voting rights to go from here?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they expect the fight to continue, to some degree, Wolf, and they're not minimizing the stakes at all. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying earlier today that the president believes this issue itself will be the fight of his presidency, saying the president is, quote, absolutely revolted by some of the state level laws that have been put in place by Republicans over the course of the last several months.
But, Wolf, White House officials also made clear they can count. They understand what's going on in the Senate right now, and they understand that at least as it currently stands, they don't have a pathway to ten Republican votes. They don't currently see a pathway to one Republican vote. And I think that's why you're seeing the focus shift a little bit away from Congress in towards kind of efforts out in the country.
Obviously, as Ryan noted, Vice President Kamala Harris is the president's point person on this. She had the call with Senate Majority Chuck Schumer this weekend. She has also planned over the course of the next several weeks to work outside of Washington, D.C., trying to bring together coalitions for voter registration, to push back on those state-level laws.
I think that's the effort, the outside effort that the White House is looking at right now. But they are not, at least at the moment giving up on the effort on Capitol Hill. President Biden having a call with Senate Majority Chuck Schumer today to try to map out a pathway forward. The reality is, though, they know how this vote is going to end and there is no clear legislative path forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to keep an eye on that. Phil, we're going to get back to you as well.
There is other important news I want to share with my viewers right now as we await the final roll call in the U.S. Senate. The investigation into the Trump organization is nearing a critical juncture, we are now told. New information tonight, the chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, may, I repeat, may be nearing a decision on whether to cooperate with federal and local prosecutors.
Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. Jessica, are prosecutors there closing in on Weisselberg?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They could be, Wolf. And that means the final decision could come soon for Weisselberg. The question is, does he cooperate with prosecutors against former President Trump, or if he doesn't, potentially face criminal tax related charges on his own?
That's because a source is telling us that the tax investigation into Weisselberg from the Manhattan D.A.'s office and the New York A.G.'s office is at an advanced stage. And we're told the prosecutors could decide to seek an indictment against Weisselberg as soon as next month.
But Weisselberg could avoid these charges if he decides to tell all against Trump and that's because he's been with the Trump organization for nearly 40 years. He now serves as the chief financial officer. But crucially here, he could offer a wide window into how decisions were made at the Trump organization because that's the bigger probe here, if the Trump organization violated state laws by possibly manipulating property values for tax breaks and maybe even other financial crimes.
And if Weisselberg cooperates in that probe, his testimony could be critical here. That's because former President Trump notoriously doesn't use email and there are very few people who can provide that insight into how the Trump organization works and Weisselberg is one of the few. And since the current district attorney, Cy Vance, is leaving at the end of the year, it is expected he'll make a decision on whether to file those charges in the Trump organization case before then.
And what's interesting here, it is not just Weisselberg being scrutinized. We've actually learned that Trump's one time security guard, Matthew Calamari, he's being looked at for receiving subsidized rent and company cars from the Trump Organization, Wolf. So prosecutors are looking at a lot, a decision on some charges at least could come soon. Wolf?
BLITZER: A lot going on indeed. All right, Jessica, thank you very, very much.
Let's get some analysis on what's going on. Joining us now the former U.S. Attorney and CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Preet Bharara, also with us, CNN Senior Law Enforcement Officer, the former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. He's the author of the book entitled, The Threat of the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. Andrew, how much longer do you think prosecutors are going to wait to see if they're going to actually -- to see if Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, is going to cooperate?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it really depends, Wolf, on how essential the information he has is not only to their ability to charge but to their ongoing investigation of the activity of the former president and his organization. So if the D.A's office believes that they have enough to go forward with the charges without information from Mr. Weisselberg, they may do that. He may find himself charged and then, of course, he has the opportunity to cooperate later. But the time to strike to avoid getting charged is now, and I think that's the pressure you see coming down on him.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Preet, The Washington Post is reporting that Weisselberg is still going into the Trump Organization office in Manhattan, what are the chances do you believe, based on what we know and we certainly don't know everything, what are the chances of cooperation agreement, in your view?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So we don't know, as you pointed out. We don't know everything. We don't know a lot of things. Look, in an ideal world, Weisselberg would already have been cooperating. There are no doubt in conversations between the D.A.'s office and counsel for Allen Weisselberg where prosecutors have said and investigators have said, look, we have the goods on you, we're investigating this, that and the other.
We think we have strong evidence. Are you going to make us go to the grand jury? You shouldn't. Because the earlier you come in and the earlier you cooperate, the better it looks for you later, when you get charged, where you have to plead guilty at charges with respect to your sentencing.
So what we know so far is he looks like he's remaining loyal to the Trump Organization. He's still going in, as you say. That's not a great sign for prosecutors. And what will matter is how strong the charges are, that they bring, if they bring any, and what potential jail sentence that yields for Mr. Weisselberg.
You know sometimes people who are targets want to actually see the proof of the piece of paper that charges them. They don't believe threats and they want to see what it actually is. But it depends on his personality and the level of loyalty also.
BLITZER: And as you say, the earlier he agrees to cooperate, the better it is for him in case he is eventually charged with any crime.
BHARARA: Yes, absolutely. At the end of the day, people who committed crimes face a penalty. And one of the things that judges look at in deciding what the penalty should be in connection with cooperating witnesses who plead guilty and others is how early they came in, how quickly they pled guilty, how much remorse they have, how they tried to offset their bad conduct by helping prosecutors, giving them substantial assistance in their investigation and helping them hold other people accountable.
And all that goes into the mix. And timing is not the most important thing, it is not the only thing, but it is one of the things.
BLITZER: What happens, you know, Andrew, if he decides not to cooperate? What happens with the case?
MCCABE: So if he decides not to cooperate, the prosecutors have to go forward without whatever information he has to offer. So they have, as we know, from the coverage so far, they have tax records, years and years of records from accountants, from other experts. Other people will be called in to testify in front of the grand jury and eventually a trial if charges are brought and folks will go to trial.
I would expect that the Manhattan's D.A.'s office, with the amount of resources and the professionals they put in this, are assembling as strong a case as they possibly can. I'm sure they want Mr. Weisselberg's testimony to add to that. But if they don't get it, they have to make the critical decision of going forward without it.
It's important though, as Preet has mentioned, this isn't just Mr. Weisselberg playing a lottery ticket here to try to find the best point of advantage. If he's going to be a successful, convincing cooperator, he is much better positioned to come forward now. And it appears that he's trying to do the right thing of his own volition rather than have his arm twisted into that position, having been charged later.
BLITZER: That's an important point indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much, Andrew McCabe, Preet Bharara.
There's breaking news just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're waiting for the results of the Senate showdown. That's happening right now over voting rights bill. We're standing by for the results. We're going to bring them to you shortly.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. We're back with the breaking news, looking at live pictures from the Senate floor. We're waiting the final Senate vote and sweeping election reform and voting rights legislation.
Ryan Nobles is on the scene for us. Ryan, so set the scene for us once again right now, how close are we to getting the results of the roll call?
NOBLES: Very close, Wolf. And, in fact, we essentially know what the results are already. There are only four senators left to vote. And this has been broken down right along party line. No surprises at all, all Republicans voting against the legislation, all Democrats voting in favor. With only four votes left, that makes it clear there are ten Republican senators that are willing to push this vote forward. So, therefore, this bill has essentially been killed. It is not going to make it past this stage of the legislative process.
Again, this is not a surprise. And the question now is what do Democrats do now to try and get this legislation pushed forward? What type of pressure campaign do they put on that small group of Democratic senators that aren't willing to break up the filibuster in order to move this legislation forward? But we're very close to hearing that gavel bang and this vote complete. But at this point, we know what the vote looks like. And as we expected, Republicans have successfully blocked this For the People Act from moving forward. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, standby. We will get back to you very, very soon. Let's talk about it. Gloria Borger, let's discuss with you first. Give us a sense. It's a setback. It's a 50/50 U.S. Senate. 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans. But the Democrats at least all 50 were united on this procedural vote.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It would have been a huge embarrassment to them had they not been able to get every Democrat onboard for this legislation. And what they ended up doing was, of course, getting Joe Manchin onboard.
He proposed effectively an alternative legislation. And his legislation includes a voter I.D. requirement and also early voting, vote by mail, ethics reform, ending dark money, et cetera. But they did manage to get him onboard today in the 11th hour.
In the end, what I think they're going to do, and I don't think it's going to work, but what they're going to do is they're going to take what Manchin proposed and make that their new legislation and come back to deal with it on another day.
BLITZER: You know, David Chalian, there are some Democrats who think this whole issue is for all practical purposes a potential existential threat here in the United States and democracy.
Tell us what you think.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there are certainly some Democrats who believe that, Wolf, which then begs the question, well, then did Democrats do everything they needed to do to set this up for success? I mean, I remember when Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, was on CNN a couple months ago saying there are two top priorities above all else for this year for Democrats, infrastructure and this bill. That's one. Well, one of the two top priorities just went down in flames. It failed.
And so the question now is did Democrats approach this the right way? I don't know that we'll know the answer to that yet but they could have. Remember, this bill was something the House passed two years ago. But the situation and context for voting rights, Wolf, changed dramatically in the aftermath of the 2020 election and January 6th. But Democrats did not go back and try to craft a bill reflecting that reality in the hopes of bringing on Republicans. They went forward with a pretty partisan bill here, and it did not work to their success this time around.
As Gloria said, they may now try to take another crack at it but I think the other thing this exposes is the issue of filibuster reform, of course. Because if indeed, if indeed this is an existential crisis to American democracy, and clearly not everyone believes that, but then you've got to ask the question, well, if that's the case, Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, are you willing to change the rules in the filibuster to get this passed?
Their answer so far is no. And so that -- it is not just the Republican blockade that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden would like you to believe it is tonight, there is also the issue here of Democrats will start feeling more pressure to make Mitch McConnell moot by getting rid of the filibuster.
BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, there has been criticism that President Biden hasn't done enough to the bully pulpit to get this going, to get this passed other than naming the vice president, Kamala Harris, to be overseeing it. And she's there in the Senate. She's the President of the U.S. Senate. The Vice President of the United States is the President of the U.S. Senate. Has President Biden and the administration done enough to rally the country in favor of this kind of legislation?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Wolf, the God's honest truth is I don't think there is anything he could have done that would have materially changed what happened today. And, you know, the thing that the Biden administration, the Biden strategists in the White House have been very good at is keeping the focus on those things that are important to the American people --
BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on, David.
KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Madam President?
HARRIS: Mr. Majority Leader?
SCHUMER: Madam President, I want to be clear about what just happened on the Senate floor. Every single Senate Republican just voted against starting debates, starting debate on legislation to protect Americans' voting rights. Once again, the Senate Republican minority has launched a partisan blockade of a pressing issue here in the United States Senate, an issue no less fundamental than the right to vote. Could we have order, Madam President?
HARRIS: The Senate will be in order.
SCHUMER: I have laid out the facts for weeks. Republican state legislatures across the country are engaged in the most sweeping voter suppression in 80 years, capitalizing on and catalyzed by Donald Trump's big lie. These state governments are making it harder for younger, poorer, urban and non-white Americans to vote.
Earlier today, the Republican leader told reporters that, quote, regardless of what may be happening in some states, there is no rationale for federal intervention. The Republican leader flatly stated that no matter what the states do to undermine our democracy, voter suppression laws, phony audits, partisan takeovers of local election boards, the Senate should not act.
My colleagues, my colleagues, if senators 60 years ago held that the federal government should never intervene to protect voting rights, this body would have never passed the Voting Rights Act. The Republican leader uses the language and the logic of the southern senators in the '60s who defended states rights, and it is an indefensible position for any senator, any senator, let alone the minority leader to hold.
And, yet, that was the reason given for why Republicans voted in lockstep today, regardless of what may be happening in some states, there is no rational for federal intervention. That is both ridiculous and awful. All we wanted to do here on the floor was to bring up the issue of voting rights and debate how to combat these vicious, oftentimes discriminatory voting restrictions.
And today, every single Democratic senator stood together in the fight to protect the right to vote in America. The Democratic Party in the Senate will always stand united to defend our democracy. I spoke with President Biden earlier this afternoon as well. He has been unshakable in his support of S-1, and I want to thank the president and the vice president for their efforts. But regrettably, regrettably, our efforts were met by the unanimous opposition of the Senate minority.
Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history, alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression to their enduring disgrace. This vote, I'm ashamed to say, is further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the Republican Party.
Now, Republican senators may have prevented us from having a debate on voting rights today, but I want to be very clear about one thing, the fight to protect voting rights is not over, by no means. In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line. Let me say that again. In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line.
As many have noted, included my friend, Senator Warnock this morning, when John Lewis was about to cross that bridge in Selma, he didn't know what waited for him on the other side. He didn't know how long his march would be. And his ultimate success was never guaranteed but he started down that bridge anyway.
Today Democrats started our march to defend the voting rights of all Americans. It could be a long march, but it is one we are going to make. Today we made progress. For the first time in this Congress, we got all 50 Democrats unified behind moving forward on a strong and comprehensive voting rights bill.
And make no mistake about it, it will not be the last time that voting rights comes up for a debate in the Senate. Republicans may want to avoid the topic, hoping that their party's efforts to suppress votes and defend the big lie will go unnoticed. Democrats will not allow that. Democrats will never let this voter suppression be swept under the rug.
We have several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression. We are going to explore every last one of our options. We have to. Voting rights are too important, too fundamental. This concerns the very core of our democracy and what we are about as a nation. So we will not let it go. We will not let it die. This voter suppression cannot stand, and we are going to work tirelessly to see that it does not stand. I yield the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're clear to call the roll.
HARRIS: Ms. Baldwin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so there you have it, 50/50. 50 Democrats in favor of opening -- opening up the debate over voting rights legislation, 50 Republicans opposing. The Republicans were involved in a filibuster, meaning, they would need 60 votes in order to see the legislation, at least be debated. It was 50/50. That's the breakup in the Senate to begin with.
You know, Gloria, we heard Chuck Schumer say the fight is not over, but for now, unless they change the filibuster rule, the fight for all practical purposes is over.
BORGER: Right it is. And you also heard Chuck Schumer say that this has now become the official platform of the Republican Party. And Democrats are going to use this, obviously, against Republicans saying they were united against any kind of voter reform and tying it, of course, to the big lie that is going on in state legislatures across the country. You've heard Mitch McConnell refer to this bill as a power grab. And that is exactly how they are going to describe it.
Let me also say, though, that in terms of what David Chalian was saying earlier, you know, this original bill includes things like public financing of elections, which Democrats know that Republicans were never going to vote for, so it was quite broad.
What Joe Manchin came up with was something that was a little narrower. That will become their new vehicle, but Republicans will, no doubt, vote against that as well. And then you get to the question of the filibuster and what are Democrats going to do about that, what will Joe Manchin and Senator Sinema do about that.
CHALIAN: And, Wolf, I'll just add, there is a piece to voting rights legislation that isn't a part of this bill, which is this John Lewis Voting Rights Act, okay?
CHALIAN: And you'll notice the Democrats haven't moved forward with that yet. I think they're holding that in their back pocket so that they have something potentially to gather support on and be able to move forward. And that is, you recall back in 2013, the Supreme Court case that got rid of preclearance in terms of voting rules from certain states in terms of how they conduct their elections.
Ever since the Supreme Court sort of gutted that piece of the voting rights act, John Lewis, before he passed, was putting together this legislation to fix that. And today, today, we heard from Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski that she's potentially open to something like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. So I can also see the conversation moving from now the failed S-1 to other ways to try, from a Democratic perspective, to restore some of the protections that have been in place.
BORGER: And Manchin is in favor of the John Lewis Act as well.
BLITZER: Yes. You know David Axelrod, for all practical purposes, though, the states, the Republican-led states now that are passing new laws, making it more restrictive for some individuals to vote, for example, the federal government will not be able to do much about that unless new legislation is passed.
AXELROD: Yes, although the battles will probably, in some instances, shift to the courts. But just to sour the note of reality here about the prospects for this legislation, and I agree with everything that's said, they moved an 800-page bill that included public financing and a lot of other things that was never going to pass here.
I don't think the smaller versions are going to pass either. Senator McConnell has already said in advance that he doesn't support passing the Lewis bill either. I don't think this Congress is going to act on voting rights. I don't think -- we now have two Democratic senators who have declared they will not vote to change the filibuster, senator Sinema, as recently as today, in the pages of The Washington Post.
So, really, I think what you heard was not the starting shot of a debate in this Congress about voting rights, although we'll have some more. I think this was the shot of a mobilization campaign for Democratic voters in 2022, and there are a lot of Democratic voters who feel passionately about this issue. This is going to be a rallying cry for those voters and Chuck Schumer sounded --
BLITZER: Hold on, David Axelrod, I'm going to interrupt again. The vice president, Kamala Harris.
KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Hello. I'm here today, and I was here today because obviously this is one of the most critical issues that the United States Congress could take up, which is about the fundamental right to vote in our country. And I think it is clear, certainly, for the American people, that when we're talking about the right to vote, it is not a Republican concern or a Democratic concern, it is an American concern.
This is about the American people's right to vote, unfettered. It is about their access to the right to vote in a meaningful way. Because nobody is debating, I don't believe, whether all Americans have the right to vote. The issue here is their actual access to the voting process or is that being impeded? And the bottom line is that the president and I are very clear. We support S-1. We support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the fight is not over.
BLITZER: All right. So there you saw the vice president of the United States. She is in the chair of the Senate as her role as President of the Senate. She insists the fight is by no means over. David Axelrod, I hate to interrupt you twice, once for the actual vote and now for the vice president. But go ahead and make your point.
AXELROD: Yes. And I am not insulted by that. She does take precedent. But, look, I don't think -- it is very important for Chuck Schumer, who, by the way, is up in 202, and is always looking over his shoulder, and for all the leaders of the party to fight as hard as they can and be seen as fighting as hard as they can to pass this legislation, to fight back against what has been going on in some of these Republican legislatures. But the -- the -- you know, the chances of success are very, very limited. And that has to be said.
So I really think that as much as everything, they want to be seen as fighting and they want to use it as rocket fuel for organizing efforts around 2022. And that's what really began today.
BLITZER: Standby. Phil Mattingly is our White House Correspondent. You watched it very closely.
We heard the vice president make her point. This fight is, by no means over, Chuck Schumer said the same thing. But at least for now, at least for now it seems to be over.
MATTINGLY: Look, I think White House officials have made very clear, and I'm going to concur with what David Axelrod was just saying, they understand they need to publically have this battle. And they understand that they can't just throw in the towel on this issue.
They're going to make very clear from the president on down that they still want legislation. They're still pushing for legislation, and they will have no problem if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brings this bill up again or tries to moves forward and try to find a pathway on the John Lewis voting rights bill.
However, I think a crucial element of this, and when you talk to Vice President Harris's team and you recognize what her role is going to be in the weeks going forward, it is not going to be up on Capitol Hill trying to whip votes for this. It is going to be out in the country.
It is going to be trying to galvanize voters in terms from a registration perspective, galvanize outside groups to try and kind of build coalitions to try and push back against some of the state level laws. And I think you are going to see the administration reach out pretty regularly to Democrats in state legislatures where laws like this are moving forward on the Republican side of things and try to assist them if they can in their efforts to fight those laws.
One other element that we haven't talked about yet, but it is important, and that is the Justice Department. Obviously they have less of capability than they did before Shelby v. Holder, which is what David Chalian was talking about, but they still have a role here.
And Merrick Garland, the attorney general, announced last week they'll going to be looking very closely at what these Republican legislatures can do and see if there is any way they can push back, take them to court, fight some of these laws that have been put into place.
So I think, when you talk to administration officials, Wolf, they are very clear-eyed about what's going on Capitol Hill. They don't see ten Republicans for this bill and if they're being honest, and they have been, they don't see ten Republicans for the John Lewis bill as well. Does it mean they're going to stop legislatively but they grasp the fact that this is now a very serious rhetorical fight and a fight that they feel they can and will be taking out into the country.
BLITZER: The next big issue that President Biden has to deal with and the Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate involves infrastructure spending. This vote now, does it have an impact on how that will unfold?
MATTINGLY: You know, I think the most interesting element of, if you want to look broader agenda for President Biden, is what happened yesterday when he had a private phone call with Senator Joe Manchin. And in that call, they talked about infrastructure but they talk very clearly about this issue, on the voting rights issue.
And Joe Manchin eventually got onboard. It was a long process, it was an arduous process and it was process for some Democrats had to acknowledge that even some of his language they didn't like would be put up for a substitute amendment if they actually got to proceed to this bill.
But it underscored that the president, in one of the most crucial senators for his entire agenda, yes, the infrastructure package but even kind of the broader $4 trillion economic agenda, the president had some pull with Senator Manchin. And the president made clear that he heard Senator Manchin, he appreciated his efforts but he wanted him to come onboard.
And whether that was what ended up making it happen or not, Joe Manchin came on board. And so I think the element of having unity with Democrats and President Biden playing a role in that is important going forward on the broader agenda, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right standby. I want to bring in Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He's the Majority Whip, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Senator, thanks for joining us.
What's your reaction to this strictly 50/50 party line vote?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Disappointed but not surprised. I thought perhaps some of the Republicans would step up and say that this national strategy of changing state laws and making it more difficult to vote, was just wrong, but they didn't. They stood together.
BLITZER: The vice president, Kamala Harris, just said the White House supports this S-1, this resolution, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. You also have the, what's called the Manchin proposal. So what is your next step?
DURBIN: Well, Joe Manchin played a constructive role. There's no question about it. He disagreed with the original bill but he sat down, told us what he considers acceptable and then we negotiated a few other items. But he did it in good faith in a constructive way, and voted for the -- to at least move to debate the package at the end of the day. I think he's going to continue to play that role.
BLITZER: So what's going to happen next?
DURBIN: We'll we have the John Lewis Voting Rights Act sponsored by Senator Leahy that could come before our Senate Judiciary Committee, and perhaps that will happen a few months. And I think it can help, but it doesn't replace S-1. This bill that was defeated today on the floor of the United States Senate, it's an integral part of guaranteeing to Americans that their right to vote will be protected.
BLITZER: So if the next few months, nothing much is going to happen, you're just going to talk about it, is that right?
DURBIN: I think that's probably the case, but I wouldn't predict it. Senator Schumer on his remarks on the floor said that we were going look for every opportunity moving forward. So I would rule out returning to this issue soon. We consider this to be one of the most important civil rights issues at the moment across the United States.
BLITZER: The Republican Senator, moderate Senator, Susan Collins of Maine says this legislation, in her words, would sow more distrust, sow more distrust in elections than ease the partisan divisions.
Is there a path forward when that's the criticism coming from, even from someone like Susan Collins, a moderate Republican?
DURBIN: Well, I'm not going to pick on any individual Republican senator, but I will tell you this. I hope they understand, as we do, that going down in history as a party that is supporting voter suppression is not a good place. For many decades, the Democratic Party of the early 20th century was that party. I'm not proud of that moment, and I don't make any excuses for it. I don't want to be part of it in the future, and I hope many Republicans feel the same.
BLITZER: I know you and your fellow Democrats, you guys worked really hard to get Senator Joe Manchin onboard. He got onboard. He was with all the Democrats in this roll call. But was this more about getting Democrats in line for midterm messaging on voting rights than any real substantive legislative victory?
DURBIN: No, it was about a victory. And we were in it to win it. And I can tell you that --
BLITZER: But you need 60 votes.
DURBIN: Of course, we did.
BLITZER: Was there ever any chance you will get 60 votes to break a filibuster?
DURBIN: It wasn't clear until the closing days how the Republicans would vote. But we knew that we needed all 50 Democrats onboard before we can consider any possibility of victory. We did that. We solidified our position. We had our party together. The president led us in this effort. It's the right effort.
BLITZER: Speaking about the filibuster, we need 60 votes to go ahead on procedural votes, you have come out in support of filibuster reform. How realistic is it, Senator, that a moderate Democrat, let's say like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, will change their minds and support some change in the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate?
DURBIN: I think we have to come to them with specific proposals. Kyrsten Sinema, of course, had a guest column in The Washington Post this morning talking about her position on this issue.
BLITZER: She opposes any change.
DURBIN: That's right. And Senator Manchain has made it clear that he stands for the filibuster and believe it should continue. But I wonder if they'll be open to considering some different approaches to it. Even though it was solidly forward, lower the number votes necessary to break a filibuster from 67 to 60 the last time it was debated.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, thank you so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, I always appreciate having you.
DURBIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Gloria, so it looks like, at least on this issue, there is a pause.
BORGER: Yes, there is a pause. But I thought it was really interesting when he said, well, last time when there were negotiations about the filibuster, they lowered it from 67 to 60. Is he saying, well, maybe they would try to say to Manchin and Sinema, what if we lowered it to 55 or we tried to fool around with how you do a filibuster on the Senate floor? I mean, Senator Durbin seemed to be saying there might be a little give and they haven't started those negotiations yet with Manchin and Sinema. CHALIAN: Because as we were talking, just before you were talking to Senator Durbin, when Phil Mattingly was talking about the White House being keenly aware that there aren't votes to get on voting rights in this Congress, okay? But that's one avenue.
The other avenue is Chuck Schumer's passionate speech on the Senate floor, is that being delivered to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get them to change on the filibuster. Because, again, that if you saw the 50 Democrats today, which is the point that the Senate Democrats want to make that they're unified, they're not unified on filibuster reform. And what is the effort going to be underway for that so they could get these changes that they can believe are critical to our functioning democracy with just 50 votes.
BLITZER: Manu Raju, our Chief Congressional Correspondent, is getting some major breaking news up on Capitol Hill right now. Tell our viewers, Manu, what you are learning.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're learning that Democrats plan to move ahead with an investigation into the January 6th attack. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, just told her Democratic colleagues that she will move ahead and name a select committee to probe what happened on January 6th.
Now, this came in the aftermath of the failed effort by the Democrats in the Senate to try to get a bill to get an outside commission. That failed after Republicans blocked it in the Senate, it fell short of the 60 votes needed. 57 senators supported that outside commission, but they don't have 60 votes to move forward. So the questions about how they would proceed next.
Democrats wanted to create this evenly split outside commission, but now in the aftermath of the Republicans blocking it, they looked at other alternatives. What Pelosi just told her colleagues, this would be a Democratic-run select committee. Now, the question will be how this is made up. How many members would be appointed, who will be the chairman of that committee and exactly when they will start, when they will finish. But make no mistake about it, this significant announcement is a sign that Democrats are not done looking into what happened on January 6th.
They're concerned that the investigations that have happened so far have not been comprehensive, that they have done it in a piecemeal basis.
RAJU: This could be a comprehensive look led by the Democrats about exactly what happened on January 6. Republicans most certainly would have seats on this committee probably stacked. A majority would go to the Democrats, who likely have subpoena power. We'll wait for those details.
But at the moment, Pelosi making it very clear to her colleagues, I'm told, from multiple sources, she's prepared to name a select committee in the House to investigate January 6th -- Wolf. BLITZER: That's significant development indeed. Manu, thank you very much.
David Axelrod, let me get your reaction.
AXELROD: You know, it is not surprising. This has been in the works since the commission was voted down. But it does mean that this is not going away. And, you know, the Republicans were victorious today in blocking a debate on voting rights and a voting rights bill on the floor of the Senate. But it's clear they will not escape further debate and discussion on that in the months to come, and they will not be able to avoid debate and discussion about what happened on January 6th.
They will say this is partisan. This is, you know, motivated to try and embarrass Republicans and so on. Some of their supporters will believe that.
But if there are facts to be had. Those facts can be very damaging. I'm sure that, you know, while Republicans get to the battle stations that define what this is all about, there is also some sense of concern about what it might yield.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, the Democrats really wanted a bipartisan commission that was rejected by the Republicans, which would have been both sides. And now, the Democrats will be in charge of this select committee.
BORGER: Well, Republicans had an opportunity to have a nonpartisan commission like the 9/11 commission. And they didn't want that. And, so, as David is saying, this really isn't any surprise that Nancy Pelosi is now having a Democratic-run committee on this. And I think that it depends.
Let's see how many Republicans are on it. Let's see who is running it. Let's see how it progresses. There will obviously be complaints about it.
But this means that the story will continue to be out there because as we know because of the work that the FBI is doing that every day we learn more about what went on on January 6th and who was behind January 6th. And the fact that January 6th was not a walk in the park by a bunch of tourists.
BLITZER: That commission that was rejected by the Republicans, the Republicans didn't want it because they didn't want this to drag into next year midterm elections. But now the select committee, that's going to go on and on.
CHALIAN: Which they knew when they rejected the bipartisan deal that this was a possibility. They're just going to make this as partisan an effort as possible in the eyes of their supporters.
But, Wolf, the timing here is not accidental of Nancy Pelosi announcing this now just as the voting rights bill failed. First of all, the Democrats just suffered a defeat. So, here comes Speaker Pelosi saying we still have other work to do here.
But also, this is not disconnected from each other. What is January 6th about? It is about the real world danger when the fundamentals of our democracy, a free and fair election are lied about to the country.
And so, these two things are intrinsically connected, voting rights and what occurred on January 6th. And I think seeing the bill go down and Nancy Pelosi come out with an announcement right now, that was not accidental.
BLITZER: You are absolutely, positively correct in that analysis.
Everybody stand by, because there's other breaking news we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Breaking news out of New York tonight, the final hours of what's been a totally bruising mayoral primary.
Our national correspondent Athena Jones is in New York with the latest.
Athena, the polls will be closing there very soon. So, tell our viewers what we can expect.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
What you can expect and what has been called the most significant election in New York City in a generation is that we will have to wait a significant amount of time to learn who is the victor in this race. There are 13 candidates running for the Democratic nomination. About four names are kind of risen to the top.
In the recent scant public polling, we found that those are actually -- the names we've been hearing the most from the voters here at this polling location on the Upper West Side, people mentioning ranking Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner as number one, or Maya Wiley, the civil rights lawyer who was counseled to the current mayor, Bill de Blasio. We've also heard Eric Adams, the former NYPD police captain mentioned and Andrew Yang, the former businessman.
All of these are people being selected by the voters here. But the issue is ranked choice voting. For the first time, New York City is going to be using the ranked choice voting method in order to select the mayor. That means that each voter is allowed to rank up to five candidates in order of preference.
If no one wins more than a majority on the first round, the lowest vote getter is eliminated, their votes reallocated to the remaining candidates. This goes through several rounds. We understand this is going to take probably until mid-July.
Even though we may get some results about first choice votes for in person and early voters tonight, we won't know the final results for weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Athena Jones in New York for us. We will watch all of this very, very closely.
Let's get some analysis of this important race.
CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman is joining us. She's the Washington correspondent for "The New York Times."
Maggie, the race has taken a bit of an ugly turn in these final days, hasn't it?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really has, Wolf. It's one of the ugliest in a long time at least going back probably 20 years to when the 2001 mayoral race in New York City which Mike Bloomberg won in the general election. That was a very ugly general election. That was an ugly primary.
This one has gotten. You know, there are charges of racism. There have been questions about the residency of Eric Adams. There have been, you know, accusations made by Adams about Yang. There have been any number of back-and-forths between the candidates but at the end of the day, this is a really strange race in New York where again, every race sort of defined by racial charges in one way or another in this city.
But this is an unusual primary. It it's in June. There is ranked choice voting, as was just discussed. We don't know exactly what the turnout will look like.
It did not sound particularly heavy just a couple of hours ago. It has been raining in New York and we'll see what this sort of small percentage of New York City's voters look like weighing in on a race that will have, you know, national import in terms of how Democrats see where their party is heading on key crime.
BLITZER: How surprising is that after this year of the pandemic, the racial justice protests, this crime surge in New York indeed it going on all over the country right now seems to be top of the voters voters' minds.
HABERMAN: So, wolf, you're seeing this coming up in races in a couple cities. You know, there was a race for D.A. in Philadelphia where there was a question about whether concerns about crime would be over riding for voters. They didn't turn out to be the way that people who were concerned about crime had hoped they would be. It not clear what that would mean here.
It's unsurprising. This is New York coming out of a pandemic. There were massive shutdowns. There has been a spike in crime. No, the levels are not what they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago, but they have increased year to date over last year, particularly shootings. And so, that is a focus for some voters.
It is not necessarily a focus for all voters and because this is such a crowded primary field, you have a bunch of different candidates in each lane. You have a bunch of different candidates taking up the progressive lane. You have a bunch of candidates taking up the more moderate lane, although this is New York City and it's the Democratic primary most of the candidates are fairly liberal. But it's not entirely surprising. Again, crime is often an issue in
New York races. It just really had not been through the 2000s and through the last few mayoral races because crime had come down dramatically. We will see again how this plays out.
I think that if you see Eric Adams, the former police officer when he has talked about crime a lot and if you see him, you'll see people making the argument this shows something about where the electorate is elsewhere in the country. I'm not sure that's true. I think it is really easy to over read a low turnout race in New York City but we'll see.
BLITZER: We certainly will.
Maggie, always usual, thank you very much. Maggie Haberman helping us appreciate what's going on New York.
Other important news we're following tonight, the Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib is making history as the first active player to publicly come out as gay.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carl Nassib, a 6'7" 275- pound defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders has made history with this announcement on Instagram.
CARL NASSIB, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS DEFENSIVE END: I just want to take a quick moment to say that I am gay. I have been waiting to do this for a while now but I finally feel comfortable to get it off my chest.
TODD: Nassib becomes the first active player in NFL history to announce he is gay.
NASSIB: I just think that representation in visibility are so important. I actually hope one day, videos like this and the whole coming all process are just not necessary.
TODD: Nassib's team, the Raiders, tweeted their support. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, quote, the NFL family is proud of Carl for showing his truth. Representation matters.
Still some NFL players have not been supportive of gay players in the past.
SCOTT GLEESON, USA TODAY: The reality is homophobic culture does not die overnight. This is systematic. There is a macho-ism culture, this is a masculinity culture, there is so much to be said for there are gays and what's going on in locker rooms.
TODD: In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft. When he kissed his boyfriend in celebration, he was ridiculed by some current and former players.
Sam was cut by the St. Louis Rams before the season started and was never on an active NFL roster.
A year earlier, former NFL player Wade Davis, who is gay, said this about the NFL.
WADE DAVIS, GAY FORMER NFL PLAYER: The ideas of masculinity, you know, to prove that you are tough, to prove that you can be one of the guys, that notion is very present in the NFL and in the locker room.
TODD: Until now, only two male athletes who were active and professional sports teams had come out as gay. NBA player Jason Collins and Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers, both of whom came out in 2013. All other male professional athletes in major team sports who have come out did so after they retired.
Even if Carl Nassib's teammates and other players support him, one sports writer said, he's still likely to get backlash elsewhere.
GLEESON: I think we could see that with the fans particularly on social media where we have often had cases who people hide behind the screen and throw out homophobic, hurtful slurs.
TODD (on camera): Scott Gleeson says we should also keep an eye on how Carl Nassib's career goes on from this point on. Nassib is 20 years old and at the peak of his career. But Gleeson says it's possible in the future, NFL teams will maybe reluctant to put Carl Nassib on his roster not because of his playing ability but they might view him as a quote, distraction, that kind of subtle sidelining that also befell Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback, Wolf, when he took a stand on racial justice.
BLITZER: Lots going on this.
All right. Brian, thank you very, very much.
Let's get some analysis from Dr. Myron Rolle. He's a former NFL player himself. He is right now a neurosurgery resident at Harvard Massachusetts resident hospital.
Dr. Rolle, thank you so much for joining.
How big of a moment do you believe this potentially is for the NFL?
DR. MYRON ROLLE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, thanks for having me, Wolf. I think this is a very big moment for the NFL, for Carl, for the LGBTQ community, being pride month. It means a lot.
I saw this comment yesterday and first thing that jumped out to me was a bold and courageous move. You know, football, traditionally, is a place where it's alpha male and machismo sort of celebrated, afraid to be vulnerable and live his truth, speaking, out sharing on social media.
It took a lot of strength and I'm sure he ran it by family, friends, other people who support him in this network. So, that means a lot.
The NFL wants to be more inclusive of social justice issues, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Asian American hate crime, LGBTQ community has to be involved with that as well. And so, if you want to make this 2 percent progress forward and being inclusive league, then embrace somebody like Carl and this announcement matters.
BLITZER: It certainly does. Carl Nassib's announcement, as you know, Dr. Rolle, has been met with support from the NFL bill what does the league need to do right now specifically going forward to support gay athletes and continue to build a more tolerant culture?
ROLLE: Well, I think what they are doing right now is strong. They have matched the donations to the Trevor Project where they try to do crisis intervention for people who are having suicide thoughts. That support. I also think is creating a culturally space where players can speak out without the mental anguish of thinking they need to hide their truth, their identity to their teammates. I think that's important.
You know, as football players, we want a player on the football field who is going to be in the right align assignment, accountable when he is on the field so we could win the game, right? Our job is to win the football games. No matter who is there, we want a player that we can trust. And so, whatever your preferences are off the, field that is sort of secondary to what we are doing here.
So, I think players are believing that, our players our buying into. That you have a guy like Carl who is stepping forward and being very truthful about who he is. Michael Sam, for him. I think it all matters.
In the NFL, it just needs to continue to work towards making it more inclusive, giving a safe space for these players to feel comfortable in coming out like Carl did. I do not think he will be the last and I hope it sets up for future revelations in the future.
BLITZER: I hope so too. While I have you, Dr. Rolle, I want to get your reaction to Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley refusing to get vaccinated. You are on the front lines during the pandemic. We often spoke.
Should the NFL allow players to play without getting the vaccine?
ROLLE: I think they should because, you know, it is a player's prerogative on what they want to do. I heard Cole Beasley's stance on this and some other players. I'm hoping that the NFL continues to try to educate.
The thing you can do is show the stats, show the evidence, look at the research, see what we are doing in our hospital, what Cleveland Clinic, Mayor Clinic, the CDC, with other large academic research institutions are showing as far as data is concerned to convince these players, look, it's safe for you, it's safe for your family, it's safe for your coworkers, your teammates and other staff that are in that locker room to do this. And if you want to not get vaccinated, then you need to strictly
adhere to those behavior lifestyle modifications, and so, that's important and I believe that Cole and other players will follow suit.
BLITZER: Yeah, I hope he makes a phone call to you and get some advice from you because that could be potentially very, very significant.
Dr. Myron Rolle, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
ROLLE: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.