Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (ph) Pushes for Agenda Votes as Democrats Clash over Election Message; Ex-DOJ Who Pushed Big Lie Expected to Testify Tomorrow; 100-Plus Million Workers Face New Vaccine Mandate Deadline; Crowds Protests Racial Make-Up Of Jury In Arbery Murder Trial; Inside Sen. Joe Manchin's Power Over Biden Agenda. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 04, 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: You can fallow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. And if you ever missed an episode of the show, you know what, you can listen to "THE LEAD" wherever you get your podcasts.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is once again pushing for votes on the Biden agenda, perhaps within hours, the timing up in the air as Democrats clash over the bills and the direction of the party after stinging election results. I'll speak with a key player in all of this, the top House progressive, Representative Pramila Jayapal.
Also tonight, breaking news in the January 6th investigation, a former Trump Justice Department official who pushed the big lie is now expected to testify tomorrow. This as former President Trump's fight to keep secrets from the select committee is facing skepticism from a federal judge.
And the Biden administration sets a deadline for over 100 million workers to comply with the new COVID vaccine mandate. I'll ask the labor secretary, Marty Walsh, about the potential impact on businesses and the economy.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with the newest attempt by Democrats to pass President Biden's agenda after Tuesday's election results turned up the political heat.
Let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, Democrats are eager to move forward but they don't agree on path to take. So, where do things stand tonight? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're really still waiting to see because we know how Speaker Pelosi was telling their caucus behind closed doors. Earlier this morning, that she wanted to have a vote by tonight. But that is looking less and less likely as they are very much still hunting for the votes with the moderate Democrats saying they want to see the final financial impact of this bill before they are ready to say yes.
COLLINS (voice over): Still reeling from a major election night setback, Democrats are making an urgent push to get President Biden's agenda over the finish line.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The more results we could produce in a way that people understand in their lives, the better it is.
COLLINS: Aiming to show voters that Democrats can deliver, party leaders could move within hours to vote on the $1.75 trillion plan to expand the social safety net and fight climate change.
PELOSI: We're going to pass both bills. But in order to do so, we have to have votes for both bills, and that is where we are.
COLLINS: Moderate house Democrats say they want to see the true cost of the legislation before committing to a vote.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Those are the kind of things that we think are really important we make sure that we go through.
COLLINS: The final scope of the bill also remains to be seen after House Democrats added four weeks of paid leave back into the proposal despite opposition from Senator Joe Manchin.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let's get it done. That's exactly what I'm saying. Let's get done in regular order through the process.
PELOSI: I disagree. I think that this is appropriate for this legislation. It fits very comfortable with childcare, health care, home care.
COLLINS: After a series of bruising losses on election night, the Democratic Party is divided over the best path forward.
MANCHIN: We don't have the numbers that FDR had or that Lyndon Baines Johnson had in order to get some major, major legislation done. We don't have those.
COLLINS: One House Democrat facing re-election in Virginia, Abigail Spanberger, issuing a warning about Biden's sweeping agenda, telling The New York Times, nobody elected him to be FDR. They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos. The White House pushing back.
KARIN JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is not too much, this is what needs to happen and it should have happened decades ago. COLLINS: Republicans warning the decline in the president's approval ratings will have a drag on Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If you're a Democrat that President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you're in a competitive race next year. You are no longer safe.
COLLINS (on camera): Now, Wolf, when it comes to whether or not they're having the votes tonight, it remains to be seen because there are still several outstanding issues that they have not ironed out the details on when it comes to immigration, when it comes to negotiating drug pricing, local tax deductions. All of these are still things that are critical to actually getting that final vote to happen. And so we are waiting to see what Democrats are going to do tonight.
Though we did hear from Congresswoman Debbie Dingell earlier on CNN who said Democrats are not leaving town until they have a movement on both of these bills, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, I want to you stay with us. I also want to bring in our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean and our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny as well.
Jessica, Democrats have promised votes before, I laid it back down, it's happened a few times already. So what are you hearing right now from lawmakers up on Capitol Hill.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just heard a few moments ago from the Democratic leadership. We saw Steny Hoyer go to the floor and say they are breaking for dinner. So, there was kind of a floor of activity. Everyone exited the house floor. They're going to take a break for dinner and he said for members to stand by, that there could be a vote later tonight, that they will give them one hour's notice.
So right after that, we saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walk by our camera here just a few moments ago, she went right back into her office where they continue to try to finalize this deal. As Kaitlan noted, Wolf, there are still some outstanding issues over here, including immigration, drug price negotiations and state and local tax deductions that they are still trying to work out.
And they don't want to bring this to the floor until they have the votes, Wolf. And, currently, there is no exact plan to bring it to the floor just that they might. So that pretty much tells you everything you need to know in terms of where we are at this moment and that is we just aren't sure if there will be a vote on this tonight.
BLITZER: They want to vote on the $1.75 trillion social spending bill before the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate, is that right?
DEAN: Yes. That is exactly right. So they want to do Build Back Better first, and then do the bipartisan infrastructure bill tomorrow.
Now, Nancy Pelosi had said earlier today, she hoped to do Build Back Better today, do the infrastructure bill tomorrow. Whether or not that remains to be seen, we just don't know. And as you all have followed and we have reported, there was a lot of back and forth about which comes first and are they tied together, they've settled on Build Back Better first and then the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The question remains when those votes will happen.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, Democrats are still arguing with what is in and what is out of this bigger spending plan. Moderates and progressives are each taking different lessons from the Democrats' loss in Virginia, aren't they?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are, Wolf. I mean, there is a greater sense of urgency since the loss in Virginia. The Democratic former Virginia governor, of course, Terry McAuliffe, believes he lost and one of the reasons because the Democrats in Congress simply have been divided, there simply has not been any action.
So, yes, there is a bit more urgency, but as Jessica was pointed out there, I mean, this is hardly a new concept. This has been underway here for weeks and negotiations have been going on for months. So, it is really typifying (ph) this whole issue here, that the president and Democratic leaders have just simply been unable to corral they're leadership.
We do expect the vote. It certainly looks like it is getting closer than it has before, but, boy, this is not exactly how to run a railroad and this is one of the very reasons that voters simply, you know, think that Democrats don't necessarily have their act together. So, we'll see if they get this done. We'll see how the legislation actually looks.
But at this point, there is a sense of urgency but, really, why should there be urgency now. I mean, they've gone to this point? So, get it right, get it done. We'll actually see what happens. It is one of those open-ended questions here when or if it will get done tonight or in the coming days.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget how tight the Democratic majority --
ZELENY: They need everyone.
BLITZER: -- in the House is. They certainly do. 221 Democrats in House, 213 Republicans, one vacancy, they can't afford to lose three or four Democrats because the Republicans presumably aren't going to vote for this for the broader social spending bill. They will vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is going to -- which is clearly going pass the house and go to the president for signature.
Kaitlan, as you reported Moderate Democrat Abigail Spanberger says nobody elected President Biden to be FDR but hasn't the Biden's whole goal been to pass this truly transformational legislation and do it through reconciliation, a simple majority, 50 votes plus the vice president?
COLLINS: Well, I'm not sure if during the campaign the president was counting on using reconciliation to do it. That became clear obviously once he took office, how Republicans were completely opposed to this agenda that the president is trying to get through.
But that is kind in the White House pushback to those comments and that criticism from not only Abigail Spanberger but from other Democrats who were saying that this is a causing a drag on what's happening especially in these races that you saw Tuesday night.
And the White House is saying this is something that the president has said he was running on since he was a candidate. He has made clear that this is agenda he was going to pursue, he wanted to get these things done. Of course, several of his key campaign promises are not actually ending up in this bill as it stands right now, but that is the pushback from the White House.
Though, of course, we should note the climate here is what is under consideration by the Democrats, especially one like Abigail Spanberger, who are going to be up for re-election next year, who are concerned about things that are effecting Americans now that were not necessarily a major issue in there lives a year ago, including, of course, inflation, the supply chain issues, the shortages that you're seeing all across the nation, that the White House is also talking about. But Democrats are saying maybe we should be focusing more on this since it is a chief concern for these voters and less on the other.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, you heard the House speaker say she was very unhappy, her words, very unhappy, that they didn't pass the infrastructure bill last week. Do Democrats realize it is way past time to just get this done? They could have passed it in August when it passed the Senate with 69 votes, 19 Republicans, all 50 Democrats voted for it. They could have passed it in August when it first came to the House but they've been waiting and waiting and waiting.
ZELENY: Without a doubt. And this really has underscored this divide deeply within the Democratic Party. Progressives believe their only hope to getting the larger package was to hold off on the infrastructure. So, what that showed was there is no trust. There is no trust between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the moderate wing and the White House.
So, in doing so, it not only probably affected the Virginia governor's race but it certainly has affected President Biden's overall approval rating, which now is at the lowest of any president since former president -- his predecessor, Donald Trump.
So, this certainly is something that -- look, there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides but, certainly, there could have been a vote in August but progressives, some didn't trust the rest of their party to come along and do this. But now, as Kaitlan said, some of the very principles that the president campaigned on, like free community college, other matters are simply not in this bill.
So, I was speaking with one senior Democrat this morning who said, look the president has decided to get engaged in this legislative process. So, why not simply tell these members to vote. I need a vote on it right now. He's walked up to that line and asked them for their support. He's been on the Hill a couple of times but he's never said we need vote at this moment. So, that is what some of them are waiting for.
The White House, of course, weary to jump into all of this but it simply does not have a good look and we're seeing the effects of this in the country.
BLITZER: Yes. It is having an enormous impact indeed. All right, guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, Democrats clearly clashing over President Biden's spending bill as the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, urgently pushed for a vote. We're going to get the very latest on the state of play from the top House progressive, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She is standing by live. We will discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: All political eyes are up on Capitol Hill tonight where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing lawmakers to vote on President Biden's sweeping spending plans as soon as possible with Tuesday's stinging Democratic election losses fueling her sense of urgency.
Let's get the very latest with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker Pelosi wants a vote on this bigger spending bill tonight, the infrastructure bill tomorrow, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Do Democrats have the votes in the House?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Wolf, it is good to see you. We are working on that right now. The speaker has been working very hard on that. Each of us that lead different parts of the Democratic caucus have been working very hard on that. I would tell you that progressives are in the same place that we've been for a couple of days. We are ready to vote both bills through. Our friends in some of the other parts of the caucus are getting the information they need to become comfortable with everything that is in the bill. And we hope to be able to get that very quickly.
BLITZER: Why not pass the infrastructure bill, passed the Senate overwhelmingly, 69 votes, why not pass that tonight, send it to the president to his desk, let it be signed into law and then deal with the more complicated $1.75 trillion social spending bill?
JAYAPAL: Well, actually, Wolf, almost everybody is on board within the Democratic caucus with both bills. So we're just waiting for a handful. And I think we will get that handful and then we will pass both bills through the House.
BLITZER: But you definitely want the larger bill, the more controversial spending bill to go first, is that right?
JAYAPAL: Well, we just want that bill to be finished and we want to pass both bills through the House because we don't want any more delay on the things that are actually going to affect people's lives. And I think this election on Tuesday showed us how seriously we have to take these issues, these pocketbook issues.
And the reality is the Build Back Better act is going to reduce costs for poor families and working families. It is going to help with universal childcare, universal pre-k, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, cutting the cost of housing, making housing affordable and, of course, taking on climate change and taking care of immigrants who have been holding up this country.
So, I think that is why we are not willing to leave anybody behind. That's why we want to pass both bills together which, of course, as you know, Wolf, has been our position for months. And we are now ready to pass both bills through.
BLITZER: But one of the problems is with the bigger bill that was underscored, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, put paid family leave, for example, back into the larger spending bill. That is something, for example, that moderate Senator Joe Manchin opposes. You need all 50 Democrats in the Senate to pass it if it is going from the House to the Senate. If that provision is removed in the Senate, will you still vote for the bill when it is sent back to the House?
JAYAPAL: Well, look, it broke our hearts when paid family leave was not in the Biden framework that was unveiled last Thursday. And we have, of course, pushed extremely hard for that. We did endorse the framework as it was laid out and we are willing to vote for this bill and let's push paid family leave and see if we can get it.
But we understand where Senator Manchin is and it is not where the rest of us are, but at the end of the day, if we can't get that, that was the speaker decision, I applaud to it, to put paid family leave back in and, of course, we're very supportive of that.
So, I don't think that is the issue for the handful of people that are left. I think they really are just getting comfortable with what is in it and I think they are getting that information and hopefully we'll be able to pass it through very quickly.
BLITZER: What I found was interesting that Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a woman you know, rejects your takeaway from the Virginia election results. She said this. She said, I don't understand some of my more progressive colleagues saying that what we need to do is to get both of these bills done and shove even more progressive stuff in. What we're talking about is not resonating with voters. How do you respond to her? JAYAPAL: Well, look, I don't like to call anybody out. But what I would say is that if you look at each of the pieces of this bill, they are incredibly popular. Each piece is incredibly popular with voters.
And don't forget these aren't crazy progressive ideas that are out of the frame of what the president actually came to Capitol Hill and we all stood up and applauded him for. This is the president's agenda, it is what we ran on and it will reduce costs for poor families and working families, middle class families across the country.
It will take on climate change. It will give people the kind of security, economic security that I think they are desperately needing because we're still the throes of the worst recession, worst pandemic that we've had, something that we've been in for two years -- two-and- a-half years now.
And so it is really important that we answer the hurt that people have and these provisions are universally popular. And, again, this is what the president and all Democrats, progressive, conservative, whatever you want to call people, all of us ran on these proposals.
BLITZER: All right, there was obviously still disagreement. We're going to get -- we'll find out in the next day or so what happens. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, you have your hands full up there on Capitol Hill, thanks for taking a few moments in joining us.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning a key witness in the January 6 investigation is now expected to face the select committee in a matter of hours. We've got new information. We'll update you when we come back.
BLITZER: We just learned that a key witness in the January 6th investigation is now expected to testify before the select committee tomorrow. The former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, who pushed former President Trump's big lie, he's expected to show up. And this comes on the heels of a very high stakes hearing on Trump's efforts to keep secrets from the select committee.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid reports.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a high-stakes court hearing in Washington, Trump lawyers arguing the former president should be able to keep more than 700 pages of his White House records secret from lawmakers investigating the January 6th riot.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We fight, we fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country any more.
REID: But Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, at times, appear deeply skeptical about Trump's case. Are you really saying that the president's notes, talking points, telephone conversations on January 6 have no relation to the matter on which Congress is considering legislation? The January 6 riot happened in the Capitol. That is literally Congress's house.
The House select committee insists these records are essential to its investigation.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We want a document of a complete record of everything that was going on, really minute-by-minute during the day of the insurrection.
REID: President Biden, who, as the sitting president, has the power to withhold previous administration's documents, so far, has declined to do so, pointing to the extraordinary circumstances of January 6.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The former president's actions represented a unique and existential threat to our democracy, that we don't feel could be swept under the rug.
REID: Trump has asked the federal court to block the committee's request, arguing that the January 6th investigation is illegitimate, and that even as a former president, he should get control over access to his records.
The committee wants to see documents from top White House advisers, handwritten notes about January 6, Trump's daily schedule, White House visitor logs and call records. Trump's Lawyer Justin Clark arguing the requests are overly broad and that failure to block them would open up the door for the partisanship of document requests and blowing a hole in executive privilege that should concern everybody. While the judge asked Clark to dial down the rhetoric a bit, she challenged lawyers for the House committee on the breadth of the documents requested, saying, some of these requests seem very narrowly tailored, but some are alarmingly broad and there has to be some limit.
REID (on camera): This is a truly historic case with significant implications for the presidency and it is likely whatever decision the judge makes will be appealed. Right now, these documents are scheduled to be handed over next Friday and any delay could really hinder the committee's investigation.
But, Wolf, the chairman of the committee says he has signed about 20 additional subpoenas and those could go out as soon as tomorrow.
BLITZER: Yes. This is beginning to move potentially very rapidly. Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid reporting for us.
Let's get some analysis. Joining us, our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he's the Author of the book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Investigation of Donald Trump, also with us, our Senior Legal Analyst, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Jeffrey, this former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, is set to appear before the select committee tomorrow behind closed door but his testimony has been a moving target over the past couple of weeks, hasn't it?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. He changed lawyers, he delayed his initial appearance. We'll see if he actually shows up tomorrow. But if he does, one of the most important questions that he will be asked is who were you dealing with at the White House, who knew that you were engaged in this activity, who told you do to it.
It is not just about what he thinks about what happened, it's what his relationships were and what his conversations and potentially documents were related to what were they with other people, especially at the White House.
BLITZER: You know, Preet, you heard a little of what the judge had to say today in this hearing over Trump White House documents. How do you interpret that?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the key takeaway from that is that this judge and I think most reasonable judges would have the same view. She does not believe in the vast overbroad assertions of executive privilege because it is not based on law, it is not based on precedent. I think she has the view and she stated it very sort of plainly at the hearing in various junctures that she thinks the argument is overstated.
The other thing that I think is clear from her comments is she doesn't think that every single thing that's being asked for by the 1/6 committee is fair game. Remember there are two things going on here. There's -- what happened on January 6 and the planning of that event that led to the insurrection on 1/6 and then the committee's view, it seems, and the Democratic view at least, is that all of that a culmination of things that were going on for many, many months, all part of the big lie and the plan to challenge the election. But in her view, the further back you go in time, there is more of a question about whether or not documents from eight, nine, ten months earlier are relevant and appropriate to be produced.
BLITZER: You know, Preet, on a different issue, the Justice Department here in Washington has just filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over its new voting restrictions. I spoke earlier today with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Watch what he told me about this wave of restrictive new laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is no basis for the implementation of these measures. It is all based on the notion, the false notion that somehow, some way, there has been voter fraud and that these measures need to be put in place to fight that fraud. The fraud is none existent. These measures are put in place to retire the ability of people who are not Republicans, who are not conservatives, to retire their ability to get to the polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you expect the Justice Department to prevail, Preet, in this case?
BHARARA: I think it is too early to tell. I would like to associate myself with the comments of the former attorney general, with whom I serve in the Justice Department. I think it is on good footing. There's also the question of it was a very conservative court, the district courts in Texas within the fifth circuit, court of appeals. So, I think we'll see.
What your -- I think that the other takeaway before we get to the issue of whether or not they'll prevail, which will take some time, is that the Justice Department is being very aggressive with respect to not only voting rights but also rights of reproductive rights. They've also file suite with respect to that law SB-8 in Texas. So you have a very active Justice Department in its civil rights division and we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: All right.
TOOBIN: That is certainly true. The problem is, especially when it comes to voting rights, even before all three Trump justices receded, the Roberts court has restricted voting rights and I think this case has an uphill battle.
BLITZER: We shall see. All right, Jeffrey, Preet, guys, thank you very much. And stay with CNN for a special report, Trumping Democracy, an American Coup, anchored by our Jake Tapper, it premieres tomorrow at 9:00 P.M. eastern only here on CNN.
Just ahead, the Biden administration now sets a deadline for millions of U.S. workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
BLITZER: The Biden administration is set a January 4th deadline for millions of U.S. workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 including certain health care workers, federal contractors and people who work for companies with 100 or more employees.
Joining us now to talk about this, the labor secretary, Marty Walsh. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
You're getting some pushback right now. The national retail federation, and I'm quoting, calls it burdensome and unnecessary, the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group said it is likely to increase costs for the American public. How do you respond to this? MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it is certainly not going to increase costs to the American public. And what this standard is, it is a process of getting people vaccinated. And if people choose not to get vaccinated, they get tested. It is that simple. And we want to make sure that we keep American workers safe in the workplaces. Some of the folks that aren't coming back to work are still in fear of the virus and we want to get as many people vaccinated and people that choose not to get vaccinated, making sure we know people are safe and not bringing the coronavirus into the workplace.
BLITZER: As you know, OSHA says, and I'm being specific now, that they'll fine companies $14,000 per violation. People don't do what they're supposed to be doing, according to this new mandate. They say the mandate covers 80 million workers in the U.S. So, how would OSHA actually enforce this?
WALSH: OSHA has done this for over 50 years so they certainly have the enforcement mechanism down. But I'm not looking -- I've got the question a lot today, I'm not looking at the negative side of this. I'm looking at the positive side. We've seen many companies in America that have brought in the mandate. They have about 85 percent to 90 percent of their employees getting vaccinated already. And what we want to do is just encourage people to get vaccinated, if they choose not to get vaccinated, or ask them they are going to get tested and then in the workplace, when they are around other people, they're going to wear a mask.
This is not a mandate. It really is about how do we going to get the American workforce safe. President Biden announced this in September, asked OSHA to come back with a standard. We came back with a standard today and that is what we're going to move forward on.
BLITZER: As you know, some states are already threatening to sue to prevent you guys from doing this.
How confident are you that you have the legal status to go ahead and get this done?
WALSH: Yes. We're confident in this. And to be honest with you, I was thinking back stage before I came out with you, the first time I was on with you was when I was Mayor of Boston and we were talking about the coronavirus and the amount of people that died in Boston that particular day and the amount of people that got infected from that particular day. From that day until today we have 745,000 Americans that have lost their life. People are still testing positive. What we want to do is get to the other side of the virus. This is one step in moving there, making sure we have safety in the workplace and encouraging people to get vaccinated, and if they choose not to, to test.
BLITZER: Yes. Just to be precise, the John Hopkins University now says more than 750,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 over the past, what, nearly two years right now. More Americans have died from COVID than in any other country in the world. WALSH: And that is a pretty big number. It is a jaunting number when you think about it. And when I was down at the Washington Monument a couple of weeks ago and we saw the white flags. And when you look at the white flags and you see the amount of loss of life that people, families in this country have face due to COVID-19, it is devastating for families. And we want to do is prevent other deaths and how do we do it, making sure that workplace are safe.
BLITZER: On a political issue, you were the former mayor of Boston, you were mayor of Boston for seven years. Michelle Wu has just become the first woman, the first person of color to become mayor of Boston. What do you think?
WALSH: Yes. I worked with Michelle in -- with the mayor-elect when she was a city councilman in Boston. You know, it is a great day for Boston, it is exciting. It was a good race. Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle had a very spirited race for mayor and Michelle ran a brilliant campaign.
And I talked to her yesterday, and I offered my support to her. The Boston is one of the greatest cities -- I better fix that. Boston is the greatest city in the world. I got myself in trouble as Labor Secretary. But it is and it is a great city to be mayor of and I wish Michelle all of the luck in the world.
BLITZER: You have got a football team over there, as I've heard, as well.
WALSH: And we have a quarterback now again.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, thanks very much for joining us.
WALSH: Thank you.
BLITZER: I appreciate it, the labor secretary, Marty Walsh.
Coming up, a nearly all-white jury chosen to decide to racially charge murder trial of the three white men accused of killing black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
BLITZER: This just into THE SITUATION ROOM, the judge in the trial of three white men charged in the killing of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery has announced that opening statements will begin tomorrow.
CNN's Martin Savidge reports. There's controversy over the jury that has been selected to hear the case.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, reaction to the overwhelmingly white jury ranges from disappointment to outrage.
SAVIDGE: Eleven white jurors and one African-American will decide the fate of the three white men accused of killing the 25-year-old black man Ahmaud Arbery while he was out jogging. The jury chosen at the end of a grueling two and a half week selection process that had originally summoned a thousand residents, drawn from a county where a quarter of the population is black.
JASON SHEFFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: We're pleased that we have been able to select now 16 members of this community.
SAVIDGE: The revelation immediately drawing emotion from the prosecution, suggesting that the defense's decision to remove eight African-Americans from jury consideration was based solely on race.
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: So African-American jurors made up one- quarter of the jury panel. But the actual jury that was selected has only one African-American male on it.
SAVIDGE: Defense attorneys vehemently denied that, arguing their decisions to strike black potential jurors were based on what they called race neutral reasons, saying they removed them because they didn't believe they'd be impartial.
Then the judge spoke, at first, seeming to side with the prosecution.
JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination.
SAVIDGE: But ultimately ruling based on the defense's statements the case could go forward with the selected jurors.
WALMSLEY: They have been able to explain to the court why separate from race, those individuals were in fact struck from the panel.
SAVIDGE: The case has been racially charged from the start with the three white men accused of pursuing and killing a young black man jogging through their neighborhood in 2020 suspecting that he committed a crime.
An armed Gregory McMichael and his son Travis chased an unarmed 25- year-old Arbery in a truck eventually confronting him. In the resulting struggle prosecutors say Travis McMichael shot Arbery three times with a shotgun.
Their neighbor William Bryan authorities say joining the pursuit, recording the incident on his cell phone.
It wasn't until two months after the shooting when the video was made public that the men were arrested.
SAVIDGE (on camera): All three men have entered pleas of not guilty. But there are late breaking news for you, Wolf, and it concerns that jury. Just as court was going to into recess, the judge announced one of the jurors have been struck. The reason that the juror -- or the judge said that the juror was removed was due to health reasons and he stated that now alternate number one has joined the 12-member panel.
Many were concerned, well who is this juror that's struck. The judge would only identify that person as a white female and that she has been replaced with a white female. But what this means now even before testimony begins, the number of alternates that were before with down to three in a time of COVID -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Martin Savidge, reporting for us, a good report. Thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson is joining us.
Joey, what's your reaction to the racial makeup of this jury?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's problematic. I think certainly there are issues with respect to who is on that jury when you look at the demographics of the community. Seventy percent white, 25 percent or 27 percent African-American, and you have one of the 12 jurors, right, 11 being white.
So, I think that's a major concern, and I think it leads to the distrust that people hold for the system, particularly when you have the judge, Wolf, saying it appears there is intentional discrimination, but let's start the trial, anyway, and not giving any real remedy to the defense to remedy that situation.
BLITZER: What does the law say, Joey, about racial discrimination during the jury selection process?
JACKSON: It says it's not permitted. What happens is you have the prosecution in order to get a conviction. Here, you have the reverse, which is called a reverse-Batson challenge where you have defense which seems to be, or appears to have done, right, a systematic preclusion/exclusion of African-Americans.
So, the law says you can exclude a juror for any reason or no reason as long as, Wolf, it's not discriminatory. You have a judge uttering the words of apparent discrimination, and no way to remedy that, that's disturbing.
BLITZER: Could the selection, the make up of this jury potentially be the basis for some sort of appeal?
JACKSON: It cannot and I'll tell you why. What happens is that generally speaking, the appeal is left to the defense following a conviction. In event, as in this instance, that the jury assist in gaining an acquittal, acquittals cannot be appealed, convictions can.
So, it inures to the benefit of the defense here, to the extent that they have apparently the defendants, the jury they want, so what would they be appealing, right? If there's an acquittal, they got what they want. The only way you can appeal is if someone is convicted.
BLITZER: Our legal analyst Joey Jackson helping us, as he always does, thank you very much.
J ahead, we're going to pull back the curtain on Senator Joe Manchin and the enormous power he has within the Democratic Party right now.
BLITZER: Tonight as Democrats are hoping to get another shot at passing President Biden's agenda, Senator Joe Manchin remains a powerful force in deciding whether or not the legislation actually moves forward.
Our Brian is taking a closer look at Senator Manchin and his influence.
Brian, very interesting, the West Virginia Democrat has put himself right in the center of this political battle.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly has, Wolf. You know, after about a decade when frankly he didn't make a lot of headlines as a senator, Joe Manchin is seen tonight as one of the most powerful people in Washington, at least for the moment.
TODD (voice-over): On a recent sunny morning across the waterfront in Washington, protesters in boats showed autopsy at Senator Joe Manchin's houseboat, the Almost Heaven. They baited him to come out, and when he did, they gave him an earful.
PROTESTER: We need you to stand with us!
TODD: The protesters were upset that Manchin, possibly the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, was holding up passage of President Biden's agenda pack page. Senator Manchin came to the deck, engaged the protesters for a minute, even gave out his office number and invited them to Capitol Hill.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Come to the office, you know you're welcome.
TODD: Observers say that's Joe Manchin in a nutshell, fiercely independent, often stubborn, but in the end, likable.
MANCHIN: There's no president going to tell me how to vote.
TODD: What nobody doubts for a moment is the leverage the 6'3" 74- year-old descendant of Italian and Czechoslovak immigrant currently wields in the nation's Capitol.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Manchin is certainly powerful. He's arguably one of the most powerful people in D.C. right now.
TODD: That's because Manchin and fellow Democrat Kristen Sinema are the lone Democratic holdouts to passing Biden's bill. Manchin is pushing back against the overall spending number, wants to pare down the Medicare expansion and paid family leave portions of the bill and is against some of the clean energy provisions that might harm the coal industry in his home state of West Virginia.
MANCHIN: I'm reaching out to both sides of the aisle talking to them. They know exactly where I stand. The problem is we're divided.
TODD: How much of a pain in the neck has Manchin been to Biden and the progressives in this process?
BARRON-LOPEZ: There have been Democrats that are very frustrated at how long the process is taking.
TODD: Joe Manchin was born in a small coal-mining town in West Virginia to a politically active family that owned carpet and furniture stores. He went to West Virginia university on a football scholarship, later ran a coal brokerage firm, served at West Virginia's governor for about five years and then ran a successful Senate campaign with the message that a Democrat can connect with hard-line red state voters.
And I'll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill.
TODD: But even as a conservative Democrat, how has Manchin managed to win in a state where Donald Trump destroyed his Democratic opponents in the last two presidential elections?
PROF. JOHN KILWEIN, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY: He's a very approachable guy and West Virginia is a small state and it depends heavily on retail politics and he handles that role well.
TODD: How will Manchin get through this maelstrom politically? Analysts say he should weather any possible primary challenge when he's up for reelection in 2024. But it may be hard to win in the general election, Wolf, in three years.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens.
Brian Todd, thank you very much.
I'll be back tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for CNN coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's funeral at the National Cathedral here in Washington. I'll be reporting from the National Cathedral.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.