Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
AZ "Audit" Contractors Expect To Finish Reviewing Ballots By Thursday; New Information On DOJ Leak Probe; Supreme Court Ruling Opens The Door For Some Kind Of Payments To College Athletes. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired June 21, 2021 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight.
In this hour of 360, tomorrow's effort by Senate Democrat, just to start debating a voting rights bill, also the apparently unified Republican opposition to it. That, and the unwillingness for at least one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to end the practice, requiring 60 votes, for measures like this, to even get to the floor.
Today, President Obama weighed in on the vote, and what's at stake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, at least, Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the "For the People Act" from even being debated.
Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line, and many of these same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacies in our most recent election, they are suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate. They don't even want to talk about voting. And that's not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The former president warned in his words that we can't take "Democracy for granted," end quote, and he speaks to more than just a Senate vote.
This week sees Arizona bracing for potential violence, as that group of so-called ballot auditors wraps up their so-called work. And in Georgia, version of that kind of sham audit is right now in front of a judge.
CNN's Sara Murray is in Atlanta for us tonight.
So what's the latest in this fight over Fulton County's absentee ballots? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look, a judge heard hours of arguments today from Fulton County government entities that are looking to dismiss at least some of this lawsuit.
This is brought by a group of folks, who believe there might have been some election fraud. They want to examine nearly 150,000 absentee ballots.
Ultimately, after these hours of discussion today, the judge didn't decide whether or not to dismiss some or all of this case. He's still ruminating on the arguments. So, this is kind of hanging in limbo, at least for now, Anderson.
COOPER: How exactly do the plaintiffs want to examine the ballots? And what are they looking for?
MURRAY: Well, they have given an inkling in court, they want to use high-powered microscopes to look at these absentee ballots.
They say they want to look at things like the creases, and the paper stock, and the way that the bubbles have been filled in, to determine if they were filled in by hand or by a machine. And again, these are folks, who believe that there are somehow counterfeit ballots that are in the mix of these absentee ballots.
Of course, we should note that the ballots, here in Atlanta, have been counted, they've been recounted, they've been audited, by election officials, who have found no evidence of widespread fraud.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, this is exactly what they're allegedly doing in Arizona, in the sham audit.
If this does proceed, I mean, it's going to be something similar to what is happening in Maricopa County.
MURRAY: Well, I will say the one thing that about this potential audit of the Fulton County ballots is the judge is trying to build in guardrails, if it does go forward.
He has made clear in previous proceedings, that if they move forward with this ballot examination, he wants the folks who want to examine these ballots just submit their protocols to the court, ahead of time. He's not just going to hand the ballots over to these folks. They're going to remain in the care and in the security of Fulton County.
And it's also possible he's going to require them to submit their findings to the court before they go out and talk about them publicly. So, he's trying to put some guardrails in place, if it proceeds. But obviously, it's going to be quite a spectacle, no matter what.
COOPER: Yes, Sara Murray, appreciate it.
Now, the effort that election doubters in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, have modeled, their so-called would-be audits after, in our last hour, we heard from Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, about her concerns, as the audit there wraps up. Joining us now is Maricopa County Recorder, and Republican, Stephen
Mr. Richer, appreciate you being with us.
What is your understanding of what's going to happen when the so- called these "Results" come out from the so-called audit in Arizona? And what exactly is the process for returning the ballots?
STEPHEN RICHER, (R) MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: Yes, well, thank you very much, for having me on, Anderson. I really appreciate it.
And part of the problem has been that we haven't gotten clarity about this process. We don't know exactly what to expect. But we do understand that there will be some sort of report, and that might be issued in late July, but it might take longer than that.
But look, we think that the Arizona Senate boarded this train without knowledge of where it was going. And I don't think it's going to a good place.
COOPER: The fact, I mean, you're - we talked to Katie Hobbs, in the last hour. She's Democrat. You're a Republican.
This is, it's unbelievable to me, or I guess not, I shouldn't say unbelievable, but disturbing to me that there are politicians, from around the country, coming to Maricopa County, taking tours of this audit, so-called, run by this private company that our reporters seem to have gone to Florida, and found that they actually don't really have an office, or offices, and have no actual experience in doing an audit like this. And this is somehow the model that other states are, or other various actors in states are wanting to replicate!
As somebody who cares about voting fraud, and a proper vote, as you do, in your career, what's it like to see people from coming around the country, wanting to repeat this mishegoss?
RICHER: Yes, no, that's the right word for it. This is insane, just from a competence standpoint. We've had 13 other states visit. And I would say to them, "This is not the audit you want." This is far from the gold standard of audits.
This - you're looking for the Ernst & Young of accounting, or the Latham & Watkins of law firms. You're not looking for a newbie company, who has never done this before, who, as CNN very capably showed, doesn't even have office space, and is sending the data off to a mysterious house in Montana? That's not the gold standard.
You want to do better from that, just from a competency standpoint, and so that you can talk to more than just the "Stop the Steal" crowd. Let's be honest, this Arizona audit isn't going to convince anyone outside of the crowd that already believes the election was stolen.
COOPER: Yes. And I mean, just listening to you point out that they're sending ballots, to some guy in Montana, we think, to his house, where I don't know what he's doing with it, in the comfort of his own home.
And it's funny, on one hand, because it's so ludicrous, as you say. And yet, there's really nothing funny about it, because a lot of good and decent people are taking this thing seriously, because they have been lied to and misled.
RICHER: You're absolutely right. And the people who are working there, most of them are good, decent people, who just want to be helping out the State. But look, it goes back to why on earth would you choose the Cyber Ninjas?
And I just don't have an explanation for that, unless you were feeling just such immense pressure from the "Stop the Steal" crowd that you caved, or that you knew that the Cyber Ninjas were going to deliver the results that you wanted, or you didn't do any due diligence on the Cyber Ninjas. And none of those are good looks.
COOPER: As far as I can tell, there's one so-called Cyber Ninja, because all the voicemail for everybody in the Cyber Ninjas, according to Kyung Lah, ultimately goes to this one guy's voicemail, who is apparently in Maricopa County.
Anyway, I mentioned you're a Republican. Does the person who's leading the charge in this, the Republican Leader, of the State Senate there, named Karen Fann, does she communicate with you? Because she seems to be - she's fully backing this thing.
RICHER: The last I communicated with Senate President Fann was when the audit accused me, and my staff, of breaking the law, and of unlawfully spoiling evidence. And I texted her, I said, "Karen, do you really want to accuse me of breaking the law? That seems a little bit strange. I'm your fellow partisan ally."
And she said she didn't have control over the account. And she had no idea what was going on with that. And I just thought that was - that was dumbfounding to me. And that's what precipitated our involvement, because we had to defend our good name, and we had to defend the name of the hard-working people of Maricopa County.
But if she doesn't know what's going on with the audit account, she doesn't know what's going on with that Twitter account, what does she know what's going on with the rest of the process? And who has control over this?
COOPER: Well, also, I mean, it's just pathetic, that, you know, you seem like a decent guy. The people who work for you, they're not--
RICHER: Thank you.
COOPER: --they're not looking for fame and fortune.
They're doing a job that's incredibly essential to our democracy. And to suddenly be subjected to this vitriol from the QAnon folks and the "Stop the Steal" folks so-called, and all these other people, it's just depressing.
And it seems like what is to stop this from just being the future now that every election partisans, if Republicans win, folks who are out on the far fringes, on the Left, are going to - what's to stop them from doing this?
RICHER: Or you don't even have to have a close election. I mean, there is no good reason for doing this.
So, if you lost by 15 percent, why wouldn't you throw that into doubt, too, because some of the allegations that are being made about 200,000 ballots being brought in from China, that would swing not just a close race, but a race that had a wide margin of victory. So no, it's very frustrating.
You're right. We are glorified bean counters, but we're bean counters who care about this democratic process. And we just want to go about doing that.
And I'm really worried about our ability to recruit sufficient poll workers, for the 2022 election, because yes, we still are going to have a 2022 election, even though we're still talking about the 2020 election.
COOPER: I'm all for glorifying bean counters, because bean counters are essential, and it's not an easy job to do. And your team deserves kudos for it.
By the way, putting together and running the most successful election of just in terms of turnout, in terms of involvement, I mean, that's the - that's one of the crimes of this.
It's not that the election was stolen. It's that the reality of the election was stolen, the reality being this was an election, in which more Americans cast ballots, and it was - there was no widespread voter fraud.
And this was a successful election, and a model. I mean, that's for both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans did great across the country in this election.
RICHER: So Anderson, here's the real irony, in the coup de grace, in our situation is I can't even take credit for this.
My team can, but I can't, because I was simply a candidate on the ballot. And on that same ballot, I unseated the former Democrat Chief Elections official of Maricopa County. Yes, I beat the Democrat on the ballots that were supposedly rigged.
COOPER: Stephen Richer, I really appreciate what you do. And I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
RICHER: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
COOPER: Now, tomorrow's Senate vote to begin debate on what's been called the "For the People Act," again, that's just to start talking, 60 votes, meaning 10 Republican votes that all but certainly will not be there, which raises the question, what's next for voting rights, and for those who say that some form of legislation is needed for this health of this democracy.
Joining us now, a lead sponsor of the bill, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon.
Senator Merkley, appreciate you being with us.
There's very little mystery on how the vote to advance debate on this Act is going to go tomorrow. Even if Democrats are able to get Senator Manchin on board and voting unison, you're still not going to break the filibuster.
What do you and other Democrats hope to accomplish with the vote?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, we hope tomorrow we'll see that the Democrats and Independents are united, 50 senators saying that this should be on the floor being debated.
And we're hopeful that maybe a couple Republicans will possibly part with Mitch McConnell, and say they too want to defend the Constitution. They too don't think billionaires should buy elections that we should have a debate on this. They too want to defend the right to vote and end gerrymandering. We're not expecting that.
But just to have this vote tomorrow is to start kind of this accelerated, intensive process of saying, "If we're going to save the vision of our Constitution, we really have to get these national election standards in place before the end of this summer, so that the elections next year can be based with those elections standards."
COOPER: So, where do things stand, as far as you understand with Senator Manchin right now? I mean, are you confident he may end up voting with Democrats?
MERKLEY: He's been engaged for the last two weeks, laying out areas of the bill that he has concerns about, laying out his vision of what could look like a bill that could honor these basic four goals that - of the integrity of our elections that might be able to bring Republicans on.
We're working. We are working through the weekend with his team, and the Senate leadership, and the Rules Committee, and my team, on seeing what that could look like.
I think the next thing that happens is we come to an understanding of what this bill looks like that would have the 50 votes. And then, we attempt to find another chance to see if there's any Republicans, who want to join us in this.
When there are not, then that triggers the next phase, which is to say, how are we going to get this bill to the floor, and how are we going to get to a final vote, because we have to defend the integrity of our Constitution. COOPER: And, I mean, it seems like the only way you do that is if there's action on the filibuster, which seems, again, to go back to Senator Manchin, no?
MERKLEY: Yes, the Senate has had this basic social contract, which is the majority doesn't run over the minority, gets full chance to participate in debate, to offer amendments, to delay things, in order to seek a compromise. But in the end, the majority gets to a vote. It's that second half of the social contract that has been completely broken by Mitch McConnell.
And so, I think the conversation among the 50 senators, if we don't have any Republican partners, is how are we going to defend that vision of fair chance for Republicans to participate, but we get to a final vote?
There's various ways that have been proposed to do that. Reverse the 1975 rule change, which created the no-show obstruction that we now call a filibuster, but it doesn't require actually speaking any more.
MERKLEY: There's the Senator Harkin version of lowering the number, every week or so, until you reach a simple majority to close debate.
There's a variety of ways we can approach it. 50 senators are going to have to decide on which version of strengthening, or restoring the filibuster, the purpose of it, we're going to pursue.
COOPER: Senator Jeff Merkley, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
MERKLEY: Thank you.
COOPER: Still to come, there's new information on that DOJ leak probe. Just what were the former president's investigators looking for, and why was information from two Democrats, on the House Intelligence Committee, targeted? We're finally starting to get some answers.
And later, a live report from West Virginia, Democrats sounding off on Senator Joe Manchin, and his tactics, when 360 continues.
COOPER: Some new information now emerging about that Justice Department leak probe conducted by the previous administration that swept up information from Democratic lawmakers, and the then White House Counsel, and that also targeted reporters of The New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN.
Sources tell CNN, the subpoena used to obtain information, from the Democrats, was the result of an investigation that included a focus on a senior aide, on the House Intelligence Committee. The source says the White House Counsel's records were swept up, as part of a separate investigation, which just adds another layer of mystery.
Joined now by someone who felt the fury of the previous administration, but also has experienced in just these sort of leak probes, involving Congress, former FBI Deputy Director, and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, Andrew McCabe.
Andrew, thanks for being here.
The idea that this investigation was not first and foremost about Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell themselves, does it make it any less egregious, in your mind, that their personal communications data were secretly seized by the government? I mean, what questions still need to get answered?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Anderson, there are a lot of good questions.
I think the - what we're learning now that the investigation apparently began targeting a staffer, or a member of the Committee, and not the members themselves, seems reasonable, but the reasonableness kind of ends there.
Typically, what would happen is you would begin with the target. And you would then identify all of that person's contacts, their email contacts, their telephone contacts, and then you'd have to figure out who those contacts were. One way to do that is to drop a subpoena, like we've heard about, that got served on Apple, in this case, to uncover the subscriber records of all those contacts.
Well, in this case, knowing that you were grabbing the subscriber records of all of the contacts, of a senior staffer, on the House Intelligence Committee, you had every reason in the world to know that you would scoop up in that subpoena the records of Members of Congress, and their staffers.
And that is not the kind of step that would typically be taken by an agent in the field, or a line AUSA, in some U.S. Attorney's Office. That's something that would have very high-level involvement and approval from the highest levels of both the FBI and DOJ.
COOPER: I mean, if the focus - if the case was focused on a staffer, at least initially, is it odd that Apple was under a prolonged gag order? And that Congressman Schiff and Swalwell only found out just recently that their records had been subpoenaed?
MCCABE: Well, the purpose of a gag order, in a case like this, and I can tell you, from my own experience, supervising, overseeing many of them in the FBI, is to ensure that the target of the investigation isn't notified about the investigative activity that's taking place. And that's pretty legitimate.
The question here is how long did those gag orders - were those gag orders maintained and renewed, even after the investigation moved on, and they apparently were no longer interested in this staffer?
That raises serious questions of about were they using the gag orders to hide the existence of these subpoenas, knowing that they would kick up this sort of very legitimate controversy? And that's something we just don't know yet.
COOPER: There's also the question of the former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, and why his data was seized by the Trump Justice Department. Do you have any better sense, tonight, of what sort of case could have swept up the personal information of a high-ranking Republican White House official?
MCCABE: Yes, not really, right, because we don't have much of an indication yet of who the target was, of that case, in which Don McGahn, and apparently his wife's records were swept up.
But that would be something that the Justice Department - look, at this point, they should be revealing these facts to the public, to try to throw some transparency, on what is an embarrassing and a potentially very damaging set of facts for them to deal with.
It is time we heard from the Justice Department as to what was going on here. And I think waiting a year for the I.G. to do his work, a year or more, is not satisfactory.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, do you think that - is it possible that having the I.G. investigate is also a way to give the Department of Justice a pass for all the time it takes for the I.G. to investigate? They can say, "Well, look, there's an active investigation underway."
MCCABE: It definitely gives the Department and, I should say, the FBI, kind of a very convenient excuse not to participate in any of these efforts, at transparency, to say, "Well, there's an ongoing investigation, therefore, we can't say anything about it." And that's really a bit frustrating.
If these underlying investigations of the House staffer, and whoever they were investigating, about Don McGahn, if those cases are closed, they should feel free to come out, and talk about them, and answer some of those questions right now.
COOPER: You talked about this, needing high-level approval. Given now what we know, as you - I mean former attorney Barr - former Attorney General, I should say, Bill Barr, he's said that he didn't recall being briefed, on these things.
If that was indeed the case, that initially focused on the congressional staffer, not lawmakers, would it be plausible that Barr wasn't aware? Does it - would it go that high?
MCCABE: Absolutely, it would go that high.
So, I can tell you this, again, based on my own experience, handling leak cases, understanding very sensitive leak cases, like ones that might stray into the congressional area, these are things that are discussed at the Attorney General, and the FBI Director level. They are definitely briefed repeatedly, to the Deputy Director of the
FBI, who, at this time, would have been David Bowdich, and of course, the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.
So, the idea that none of these people can remember hearing anything about these cases is really very, very suspicious to me. Like I said, it's unlikely that legal process, in cases of this level of sensitivity, they, in my experience, would have had some very high- level discussions and approval.
And of course, if that took place, the Attorney General doesn't get information about a case by himself. It comes up in updates and documents that go through his staff. It takes place in meetings, in which staff are present.
I think all of those folks, and the very large Attorney General and Director staff, Deputy Director staff, that sort of thing, should be brought in and asked, "Were you ever present when these cases were discussed? And if so, what did you hear?"
Those people should have access to their notes, and notebooks that they no doubtedly took, memorialized some of the details of those meetings in.
COOPER: Yes, there's a trail.
MCCABE: And it's only through that process that we'll actually get some real answers.
COOPER: Yes, Andrew McCabe, I appreciate it. Thanks.
MCCABE: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Next, is it time for college athletes to actually get paid to play for the universities, which reap billions from their performances on the field? The Supreme Court ruling today laid the groundwork for exactly that.
We'll have details when we come back.
COOPER: In a carefully watched case, the Supreme Court said today, the nation's student athletes could receive education-related payments, separate and apart from the tuition and fees that are covered for most already.
It was a unanimous ruling and, of course, could change the entire landscape of college athletics. For decades, major colleges have relied principally on revenues from football, and basketball, without paying the athletes, who are the star attractions.
In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the NCAA, the umbrella group for college athletics, was in essence, quote, acting above the law, and not paying its workers, what he called a fair market rate.
Joining me now is Christine Brennan, Sports Columnist for "USA Today," and a CNN Sports Analyst, and CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
So Christine, the NCAA makes billions of dollars a year. What will be the immediate impact of this ruling for college athletes? And how much of those billions, in revenue, are they actually likely to see?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, maybe we want to check back on this, Anderson, at about 20 years or 30 years, and see where this story goes.
I do believe this is a signal, for the future, in terms of athletes having the opportunity to make some money, on their name, image and likeness. I don't know that we'll ever get to the point of paying athletes. And of course, if you're paying the football players, you need to pay the field hockey players.
There's something called "Title IX," which celebrates its 49th anniversary on Wednesday, the law that opened the floodgates for women, and girls, to play sports. So you've got to be very aware. We're not just paying the men. You're also paying the women, so.
But I do think, obviously the legal issue is there, but right now, this is about laptops and internships. This is a very narrow look, at a huge issue, in college sports, the issue in college sports, and one of the biggest issues in sports in general, in our country.
I think it shows us where we're headed. And when we get there, as I said, 20 years to 30 years from now, Anderson, we will look at this as one of those key stepping stones to the point where student athletes are paid in some way for, as I said, the name, image and likeness, is the most likely example.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, Christine, I don't see this as 20 years or 30 years. I see this as a lot sooner.
The main opinion - the opinion for the court was written by Neil Gorsuch. It was a concurring opinion, written by Brett Kavanaugh. And Brett Kavanaugh has all but said, "You can't do this anymore."
You can't have a system, where Nick Saban, the Coach of the University of Alabama football team gets $9 million a year, from the University. And the football players, who put their health on the line, are not even allowed to get minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. I think this is--
TOOBIN: --Justice Kavanaugh was all but inviting more lawsuits, saying that this system has to be torn up from the ground. And I don't think it's going to be--
COOPER: So, Jeff?
TOOBIN: 20 years or 30 years. COOPER: So, Jeff, how do you see that--
COOPER: --how do you see that, I mean, working? I mean, this was unanimous, by the way, all nine justices agreeing. Is it, as Christine was saying, just images, and likenesses, and T-shirts or, and how would it work?
Because I mean, there's a lot of different, you know, there's crew teams, there's field hockey teams, there's all sorts of teams that don't necessarily make the kind of income that a football or a basketball team make.
TOOBIN: In fact, and that's one of the NCAA's big arguments is that the revenue from football and basketball subsidize wrestling, and cross-country, and crew, and all the sports that don't bring in any revenue. There are lots of proposals in the works.
And I'm - and again, I'm not entirely sure that Title IX would require every athlete to get the exact same amount of money. I mean, I don't have a fully thought-out plan for how these athletes are going to be compensated. But I'm telling you, they are going to be compensated. There are laws in the States.
COOPER: So, Christine?
COOPER: How do you see it work?
TOOBIN: There it's just--
TOOBIN: --it's going to change.
BRENNAN: Oh, no doubt about that, Jeff.
And what I was saying was, when we get to a settled place, in 20 years to 30 years, which I think it's going to take a while, to get to that place, if we are paying athletes completely.
But then we already have pro sports, of course. So, do we want another level of minor leagues pro sports, and what is their college situation look like? And what do people want in their college sports?
Those are the issues that are going to be going on over the next, as I said, I think, 20 years to 30 years, of where we will end up. But absolutely, in terms of the name, image and likeness, that is not an incidental conversation, as I know Jeff and Anderson, you know.
Think about gymnastics. Think about the Instagram accounts of all these gymnasts, and they go viral with their routines. Look at the women's softball. This is not just - usually this conversation ends up being about men's basketball and football.
But in this case, you could have - I was just covering the Olympic swimming trials, in Omaha. Katie Ledecky had to turn pro, two years, into her college swimming career, at Stanford.
If she is allowed to make money on her name, image and likeness, which is the big issue - six states right now are poised as of July 1, to unleash these laws. And the NCAA is not leading sports anymore. The States, and the governors, and obviously the Supreme Court, and the courts are leading the way on this.
But Katie Ledecky could have stayed a swimmer at Stanford, and also started to make money, moving towards the Olympic Games, in terms of endorsements. And I think this is the landscape that we're going to see.
Paying athletes completely, I mean, literally just playing everyone, I don't know that we're going to get there. If we do get there, if you like scandal, get ready, because the amount of money floating around those athletes, and boosters, well, there would be a lot of stories to write, and a lot of--
TOOBIN: But it's, I mean, the scandals are already happening. I mean, the money is changing hands. It's just under the table now. And the athletes by and large aren't getting it. Television networks are getting it. Commissioners are getting it. Administrators are getting it. But it's not the athletes are getting it.
TOOBIN: And that's the way things have to move. It's just, I mean, this opinion, where a Supreme Court that disagrees on a lot of things, all nine justices agreeing here? The system stinks.
TOOBIN: And it's got to change.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Christine Brennan, fascinating. It's great to have you on, Christine. Thanks.
BRENNAN: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, the Senator who says he hates his role in Washington, but has never been so pivotal, Joe Manchin, ahead of tomorrow's Senate action on voting rights, seen by some of the folks, back home.
[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: It'd be tempting to call Senator Joe Manchin, Washington's man of the hour. Given his chosen role, and the number of Democratic ambitions he could either enable or snuff out, the description doesn't seem quite adequate.
In any case, having already heard plenty from Democrats, inside the beltway, we thought it might be nice for a change to hear what some of his Democratic constituents, back home, have to say about the Senator.
Gary Tuchman tonight has more.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three West Virginia Democrats being asked about their Democratic U.S. Senator.
TUCHMAN (on camera): On a one to 10 scale, at this time, right now, how do you think Senator Manchin is doing for the state, this country, and the Democratic Party?
SHANE ASSADZANDI, CHAIR, MONONGALIA COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I would give it a two.
RACHEL BYRNE, FIRST VICE CHAIR, MONONGALIA COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I would also give him a two.
ARYANNA ISLAM, PRESIDENT, COLLEGE DEMOCRATS OF WEST VIRGINIA: Also a two.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Those twos are particularly notable, because these aren't just any Democrats. They are County Democratic leaders.
Shane Assadzandi is the Chair of the Monongalia County, West Virginia Democratic Party.
ASSADZANDI: He did vote for the American Rescue Plan. So, I'm willing to bump it up from a one to a two for that.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rachel Byrne is the first Vice Chair of the County Democratic Party.
BYRNE: I think he is, in the way that he has been going about legislation right now, he's not good for the progress of our country.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Aryanna Islam is the President of the College Democrats of West Virginia, and says she used to be a page for Senator Manchin.
ISLAM: I think that young people, like myself, want to see Congress take, some action, while the Democrats have control. And he's very much kind of just in the way.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Mr. President, I could speak to the resolution. TUCHMAN (voice-over): All of them offended that their fellow Democrat won't back the elimination of the filibuster, which they, and many others, believe is unfairly stunting priorities of the Democratic- controlled Senate.
TUCHMAN (on camera): How does it make you feel that Joe Manchin doesn't want to get rid of the filibuster?
ASSADZANDI: Oh, I'm very disappointed, bordering on angry.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Monongalia County, commonly called Mon County, for short, is the only one of West Virginia's counties that Joe Biden almost won on Election Day. Some describe the county seat in college town of Morgantown as a liberal bubble of sorts.
But there is still a feeling among some everyday Democrats here that Joe Manchin needs to continue to play it cautious, in order not to lose the State's only Democrat in a congressional seat.
ALEX CAPPADONA, WEST VIRGINIA DEMOCRAT: I think, given the alternatives, he's doing as good of a job as he can.
SIMONE CAMEON, WEST VIRGINIA DEMOCRAT: I understand what he's trying to do, and trying to stay, I guess, elected in West Virginia, seeing how Red the state is, it's shocking that he's been able to stay in the Senate, all these years.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Last month, Senator Manchin, who often talks about bipartisanship, was asked this, before the vote on the Capitol Insurrection Commission.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you be willing to break the filibuster in order to get this passed? The family is pleading.
MANCHIN: I'm not ready to destroy our government. I'm not willing to destroy our government. No. I think that they will come together.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Senate Republicans ended up blocking the bill. And that lack of bipartisanship is exactly what's wrong with Senator Manchin's position, according to these Democratic leaders.
ASSADZANDI: However, I think that this pursuit that he has for this - this pursuit of this mythology of congressional bipartisanship, I think is ultimately going to be very damaging to this country, if it continues.
TUCHMAN: Anderson, nobody thinks that Joe Manchin's general philosophies will be changing. He's been doing this a long time.
But the Democratic leaders we spoke with today say on individual issues, they think he can be flexible, provided that he still gets pressure from Democratic colleagues. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. Want to get perspective now from CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, you've covered Senator Manchin. You've interviewed him. Do you think he's actually going to be worried about hearing from the few Democrats that exists in the State of West Virginia?
If anything, isn't that kind of helpful for Joe Manchin? I mean, that state voted overwhelmingly for the former president. He needs to appeal to Republicans in his state, to stay in power.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He does. It's a Ruby Red state.
First of all, I have my question about whether Joe Manchin is even going to run for reelection again. He's up in 2024. At that time, he'll be, I believe, 77-years-old. So maybe he's doing this Anderson, because he actually believes that the filibuster - keeping the filibuster compels moderation. It doesn't make Democrats feel any happier.
And one thing I would point out, is that Republicans aren't giving Joe Manchin any love either, you know? He wanted that January 6th commission. They said "No."
He said to them, "You know what? On voting rights, what if I said, let's have voter ID? I'll give you that." Stacey Abrams said, "Yes, that's a good idea." And then Republicans came out the next day and said "No," to both of them.
So, he's given a lot of love to Republicans, honestly. But I don't know what he's getting in return from them.
COOPER: Gloria, 77, he's just getting started. I mean, this day and age?
BORGER: Yes, I know. You're right.
COOPER: 77 is like you have to be--
BORGER: You're right.
COOPER: --at least 77 to run. What does Manchin get--
BORGER: And he lives on a houseboat.
COOPER: I know.
COOPER: Which was the most fascinating thing in Evan Osnos' - not one of the most--
COOPER: --but an interesting detail in his report in "The New Yorker." BORGER: Exactly.
COOPER: What does Manchin get by holding out on the voting rights bill? I mean other items? Is it - I mean, obviously, there's his political viability, in a conservative state, which you can't ignore.
BORGER: Sure. Sure. And there are lots of things in the bill. He thinks it's way too broad.
Look, the President spoke with him today. And the White House put out this perfunctory note saying, "You know, we had a good discussion about how important voting rights are, to Joe Biden."
And I think Manchin is, from talking to people, who work with him, sort of trying to find a way to get to yes, whether - and to get some Republicans on board. I think that's something that's not going to happen right now. And, but he says he's going to keep trying until, and I think this still has to play out.
He has a relationship with the President, a very long relationship. And he's always said in the past, it's very hard for him to turn Joe Biden down, on certain things. So, let's see where this ends up. It's not going to be tomorrow.
BORGER: It's not going to be tomorrow. But I think there's a lot of string on this, yet to go.
COOPER: All right. Gloria Borger, we'll see, thanks.
Just ahead, a bad Juneteenth for the Senator, who, once tried to block it, as a federal holiday. Why Wisconsin voters booed Republican Ron Johnson, Saturday, when we continue.
COOPER: While trying to celebrate the newly-christened federal holiday of Juneteenth, in Wisconsin, on Saturday, Republican Senator Ron Johnson got an earful from voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): This is not how you heal this nation, you know, so?
JOHNSON: You come down here, and you're trying to interact with people, you.
JOHNSON: You'd be nice to people? (CROWD BOOS)
JOHNSON: This isn't very nice, is it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, we can't say for certain why people booed him.
It could have been for previously blocking Juneteenth from becoming a holiday, or for questioning the safety of COVID vaccines, or for downplaying and trying to rewrite what happened during the Capitol riot, questioning whether people were rioting, they were, and if it was actually an armed insurrection, and it was.
What we do know is what one attendee told the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," "Ron Johnson's politics are not for us."
I'm joined now by someone deeply familiar with the Senator's politics, Mark Becker, a former Republican County Chairman, in Wisconsin.
So Mark, you've known Senator Johnson for many years, through your involvement in Wisconsin politics.
Does it make any sense to you why he thought it was a good idea to head to Milwaukee, this weekend, for their Juneteenth celebration? I mean, he last year, blocked a legislation that would have made the day a federal holiday.
Were you surprised of the reception?
MARK BECKER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, BROWN COUNTY, WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN PARTY: Oh, no, I wasn't surprised at the reception at all. But I was surprised at the decision to go. But I mean it's really just another example of Ron Johnson doing his very best Ron Johnson impression.
He has such a laundry list of gaffes, and flubs, and lies, and it's embarrassment after embarrassment. He really is the most embarrassing thing to come out of Wisconsin, politically, since Joe McCarthy. It's - it is truthfully, unacceptable.
COOPER: You've described Senator Johnson as post-truth.
And I know shortly after the election, you claimed the Senator called you, told you he knew Joe Biden had won fair and square, but he couldn't say that publicly, for political reasons.
He later more or less denied telling you that. Is that what you mean by post-truth?
BECKER: Oh, well, that and I mean, you can look at the fact that he lies to the American people, insinuating that thousands of people have died from the COVID vaccine, and you should take Hydroxychloroquine to, you know, for preventative measures, and, the fact that Trump won.
But the fact is Ron Johnson, to my knowledge, he didn't say that the story was untrue. He just said that I was a weasel or something like that. So, he can't say it's not true, because it is.
And the fact is I did have a long conversation with him. And he did admit that he knew it. But the fact is, he is more worried about how he looks to his base here, in Wisconsin, than how - than telling the truth--
BECKER: --to the people that elected him.
COOPER: And that's really - you say, that's really what it's about, for him that he's just, he wants to stay in power. He's worried about - I mean, if that's true, does him going and getting booed, at a Juneteenth event, actually help him with his constituents?
BECKER: I think it's red meat to them, you know?
And he's going to have to do a lot of mending offenses, because in 2010, he told everybody that, "I believe in term limits. I'm not going to run more than two times." And he said, again, in 2016, "This is my last time running, I'm not running again."
And so now, as he prepares for another run, he again, Ron Johnson, being all Ron Johnson, he's going to lie to the people of Wisconsin again, and seek another term.
Because what he's seeing is he's seeing, you know, he's seeing the loss of the power that he has. And he also sees the fact that he felt close to the power, when Donald Trump was in office. So he just, you know, I don't know, it's - this is just red meat, really, to his base.
COOPER: I mean, if he said that to you about he knew Joe Biden was the legitimate president, was elected, I mean, it makes the lies, he's telling all the worse.
I mean, if he was a true believer, who was deluded, or just factually wrong, or just believed these things, that would be one thing. The idea that he knows a number of them, or at least, in this case, what he told you, is not true, I mean, that just makes it - it takes it to a whole other level.
BECKER: It's terrible. And when you look at - look at vaccines, look at that he's a United States Senator. They have the act - they have access to more information than you and I do, and to see the efficacy of these things, to see that's the golden ticket to get out of this thing.
And yet, he goes on national television, and talks about how he's not going to get the vaccine, and how people are dying. That's disqualifying, right? He's a Senator that is not worthy of that title.
And yes, when it comes to this election, it is disgusting because I mean, this is the big lie. The integrity of the election, what are we going to say about his election, you know? It really is unconscionable, the things that he's been doing.
COOPER: Yes. Mark Becker, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
BECKER: Happy Father's Day.
COOPER: You too.
Just ahead, normalcy returns to a sold-out Madison Square Garden, here in New York City. We'll be right back.
COOPER: In New York, nothing says "Back to normal" like a big sold-out show at the Garden. That is what happened Sunday night, capacity crowd, a maskless capacity crowd, there to see Foo Fighters. All you needed was the ticket price and proof of vaccination.
This was the first concert at Madison Square Garden, since the Pandemic shut down the city. Remarkable sight to see! Frontman Dave Grohl stopped several times to ask the crowd, "Did you miss it?" He also had a surprise guest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO - DAVE GROHL, DAVE CHAPPELLE ROCK IN FIRST CONCERT AT MSG)
(END VIDEO CLIP)