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CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Marking 50 Million COVID Shots Under His Administration; Biden Says, For God's Sake Wear A Mask; Sources Say Trump Is Plotting 2024 Run; Interview with Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), House Voting on COVID Relief Bill Tomorrow; Lady Gaga's Dog Walker Shot, French Bulldog Stolen. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've also started to send vaccines directly to community health centers. To help the hard to reach folks in cities to small towns, rural communities in black, Latino, Native American communities that have higher rates of COVID infections and deaths than any other groups.

As a result of these round the clock efforts in five weeks America's administered the most shots of any country in the world, any country in the world. We're among the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated. That's progress we promised.

It's also true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID cases and hospitalizations are coming down. But I need to be honest with you. Cases and hospitalizations could go back up with new variants as they emerge.

So, I want to make something really very clear. This is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced, and for god's sake, wear a mask. Some of our progress in this fight is because so many Americans are stepping up and doing those things.

The worst thing we could do now is let our guard down. Of course, it's my hope to come back in the next report that after we've done another 50 million shots before the end of my first 100 days.

But here's the critical point. As hard as it is now to believe, we're going to hit a phase in this effort maybe as late as April or May where many predict that instead of long lines of people waiting to get a shot, we'll face a very different scenario. We'll have the vaccine waiting, we'll have ramped-up vaccine supplies. We'll have folks to administer the shots to most of the people who aren't eager to get the shots.

At least that's been the prediction, I don't think that's going to happen. I think poor people see other people getting the shots, it's going to build confidence. But you know, at the same time there are people who live in hard-to-reach areas who can't get them. And there are folks who are hesitant to take the shot in the first place.

We all know there's a history in this country of subjecting certain communities to terrible medical and scientific abuse. But if there is one message that needs to cut through, it's this. The vaccines are safe and effective.

And I believe as you see your neighbor, your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter getting it, that you will be much more inclined to get it. Listen to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the scientists who develop these vaccines and the extensive and rigorous review that it went through. I did. I took my shots publicly to demonstrate to the American people that it's safe and effective.

But the time is coming, maybe 60 to 90 days when the supply is adequate but not enough people can access the shots or not want them. To address that challenge, we're going to launch a massive campaign to educate people about vaccines that they are safe and effective and where to go to get those shots in the first place.

And we're going to bring together leaders of all segments of our society to educate and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated. So I hope the Senate will soon confirm a key leader to that effort. My nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, who did so well in this hearing this week.

I hope Congress passes the American Rescue Plan which I've been pushing, which provides funds for everything we need to do to beat this pandemic and to get the economy going again.

Now critics say the plan is too big. That it cost too much. But let me ask a rhetorical question. What would you have me cut? What would you have me cut out? On vaccines alone if we don't invest $20 billion to vaccinate the nation, doesn't that make sense? Or 160 billion in total towards the pandemic for testing, to protective gear, to vaccine production, and distribution?

I'm ready to hear any ideas on what would make the American Rescue Plan better, stronger, and effective. But we'll have to answer who will get helped and who will get hurt.

I want to close with this. The question I'm asked most often is when will things get back to normal? My answer is always honest and straightforward. I can't give you a date. I can only promise that we'll work as hard as we can to make that day come as soon as possible.

[15:35:00]

While things are improving and we're going from a mess we inherited to moving in the right direction at a significant speed, this is not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day when everything gets back to normal depends on all of us.

It depends on Congress passing the American Recovery Act, research plan, recovery plan. And also for us to remain vigilant to look out for one another. I've said it before. Wash your hands, stay socially distanced. Wear a mask. Get the vaccine when it's your turn. When your friend or neighbor or loved one is eligible, encourage them to get vaccinated.

And when all -- above all, remember we can do this. This is the United States of America. There's nothing we can't do when we do it together. So it's not over yet. But we're getting close. And God willing if we do all we know we have to do, we're going to beat this, beat it sooner than later. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, whatever happened seven weeks ago that if Democrats flipped the Senate, the checks were going out the door?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, Peter, thank you. Bye, bye, thank you.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: OK. Grabbing his mask. Dr. Sanjay Gupta let's just dive right into the conversation. A couple of headlines there. But I just want to start with you more or less on a gut check. Just you know, halfway through hearing the president saying, this is not a time to relax for god's sake, wear a mask. What did you think of that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think it's the right message, Brooke. I feel like it's a message, you know, we've been talking about, I think certainly in the media for a long time. But, you know, the idea that as much as we talk about the vaccines, and it's incredible really. The scientific achievement of the vaccines should never be minimized. It should be celebrated.

But Brooke, one can't help but think that had we worn masks diligently earlier on, and even now if we wore masks high filtration masks when we are out in high-risk areas, you know, with a lot of people around, that would probably be more effective more quickly than even the vaccines. I mean just think about that.

We've been beating the drum on that for so long. And I feel like a broken record. But I'm glad he says it because I think the high-tech, you know, sort of victory with these vaccines needs to be coupled with basic public health measures that are still important and will remain important for some time to come. And if there's ever a pandemic again, that may be one of the biggest lessons of all.

BALDWIN: Yes, I don't want to have that conversation. Let's just get this thing done, right? The question I was actually asking about before we went to the president was just about the two-pronged battle that is any sort of global pandemic. Number one, as you point out, the smart science and the manufacturing of the vaccines. And then number two, it's getting the shots in arms.

And I jotted down my note after of course, you know, touting all these vaccines and let's cross our fingers over Johnson & Johnson, right, the FDA meets tomorrow on potential emergency use authorization. But he also said, 3.8 billion will go to states to create, you know, vaccination centers or they'll ramp up existing ones like houses of worship, like football stadiums, parking lots.

So will that mean that the infrastructure will be in place, that there will be bodies available to, you know, inject these vaccines that really truly we can all be vaccinated by this summer?

GUPTA: I really do think so, Brooke. And I don't say that lightly. I mean, I've been reporting on this for a long time, talking to a lot of folks who are helping organize that. And I really think so. I mean if you think about the numbers, obviously today, 50 million doses in 36 days, call it. We're now at 1.5 million doses a day. We could get 100 million more doses in the next 64 days. And that's if we stay at this pace. That's not even counting on Johnson & Johnson and increasing the pace of vaccinations.

I think the most interesting thing that really, you know, I think the point that the president was making, and I think is really important, is that greater than 60 percent of people over the age of 75 have now received the vaccine. 75 percent of people in long-term care facilities have received the vaccine. The reason that's important, Brooke, is just basic math. Who is most likely to get sick and require hospitalization --

BALDWIN: Those folks. Those folks.

[15:40:00]

GUPTA: Those folks. So they need to be at the front of the line. I mean, the herd immunity and getting to the 75, 80 percent that we keep hearing about is important. But remember, Brooke, 35 percent of the deaths in this country came from people living in these closely clustered long-term care facilities. You'll have an outsized impact in terms of the effectiveness of the vaccine on our society by vaccinating people who are the most vulnerable, and that is happening.

So there's other areas where people are vulnerable. They don't have access to the big chain pharmacies that we're talking about. And we got to make sure that those community centers and some of these other sorts of sites that you're describing are opened up to be able to access those people.

But, Brooke, for someone like you, I think for a lot of people who are watching right now, being able to call your pharmacy or your doctor's office, make an appointment, go get your vaccine, that is slowly becoming a reality. It's not there yet for a lot of places around the country, but it'll become a reality. But don't forget the people who don't have that access. I think that's the point he was making.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes, and saying not everyone -- we take for granted that we have a CVS or a Walgreens down the street. Not everyone has that luxury. Sanjay Gupta, you are the best. Thank you so much.

GUPTA: Talk to you soon. BALDWIN: Former President Trump is preparing his return to the

political stage this weekend. And sources are telling CNN he is also plotting revenge. That's next.

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[15:45:00]

BALDWIN: With just over five weeks since leaving his post as commander in chief, multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that former President Trump is actively plotting his revenge and his return to the political stage.

He is tracking who is with him and who is against him within his own party. And this is happening as the GOP's biggest annual gathering the Conservative Political Action Conference known as CPAC, it kicks off today with President Trump set to give the marquee speech this Sunday.

And CNN's Kate Bennett is at Washington for it, she worked so hard on getting this extraordinary scoop in her piece. You got to read it, go to CNN.com. Kate, what have you discovered about the former president's 2024 ambitions?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brooke, everyone I spoke to, and these are people who have talked directly to the president, indicates that he does want to run again in 2024 and that he intends to, whether that's quixotic or not at this point, we don't know yet.

There are things obviously today's news about the tax returns. There are investigations going on. But in Donald Trump's mind and in Donald Trump's fan base, he will run again. And this is what he's aiming for.

He's going to drill down on the midterms in 2022. His son Don Jr. is going to get out there on the campaign trail and help with that.

But right now he's really sort of taking stock of where the Republican Party is. And it's, quite frankly, not in a very solidified place. We saw this moment between House Minority Leader McCarthy and Liz Cheney the other day saying I think it it's OK for Trump to speak at CPAC, and Liz Cheney saying I don't think he should be part of this party. I mean there's clearly division.

And that's where Donald Trump sees that he still has a movement that he can sort of charge up and get going here. And in the meantime, Brooke, we know this is a man who keeps track of who's been loyal and who's been disloyal and whether or not it's a fair practice or a justified practice or even an efficient or workable practice, this is how he operates.

It has always been the case. You owe me, I owe you. And this is how he plans to get back into politics, again, looking forward to 2024. A lot could happen in the meantime of course. But in terms of who he's talking to when he's out there on the golf course talking on the phone, he's thinking far ahead and he's thinking about the White House once again -- Brooke. BALDWIN: How you described his golf cart as essentially his mobile office and all the various people golfing with him and his naughty and nice list, it is extraordinary reporting. Kate Bennett, we shall as you would like us to stay tuned. Thank you.

President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill is set to be voted in the House tomorrow it. It includes $1,400 stimulus checks, more unemployment benefits, childcare assistance, a boost to the federal minimum wage up to $15 an hour among other items.

Now critics are calling foul on the bill, arguing it's wasteful, poorly targeted, and packed with Democratic wishes largely unrelated to COVID.

Democratic Representative of California Jimmy Gomez is with me now. Congressman Gomez, nice to have you on, sir, welcome.

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: So, full House vote tomorrow. It's a big day. At this point not a single House Republican has signaled support for this bill. Obviously sinking the president's hopes for a bipartisan agreement. Is there any part of you that's worried that this bill goes too far and that it could hurt your party politically?

GOMEZ: Not at all. I'm not concerned about that one bit. And the reason why is that the American people are struggling. They're still hurting. My district has one of the highest infection rates in the country. It also has one of the highest employments. People are struggling to make ends meet. So this is something that they desperately want.

They want to make sure that they have additional weeks of unemployment, direct stimulus checks, making sure that they actually have access to COVID vaccine. So this is a big deal.

And no bill is perfect. I will say that straight up. No bill is perfect. But I think that this is a good bill and we've got to pass it tomorrow and make sure it gets implemented as soon as possible.

[15:50:00]

BALDWIN: What about the potential imperfection though in the fact that the federal minimum wage hike is included in this COVID-19 relief bill, you know, wanting to raise it to $15 an hour.

You know, you don't even have support from everyone in your own party. Why not take that piece of it out, you know, and then you talk about your constituents who so badly need this money and this help, get the stimulus bill through.

GOMEZ: As someone who actually worked minimum wage jobs for early in my life, I graduated from high school and wasn't going to college and I worked at Subway and Target. I worked from not 9:00 to 5:00, I worked from 5:00 in the afternoon to 9:00 the next day. First, I worked at Subway from 5:00 to 10:30 and then from midnight to 9:00 in the morning I worked at Target.

I was getting paid $5.50 an hour at Subway and $6.10 an hour at Target. And after like four or five months living at home trying to save every penny, I saved like $800.

So it is not just having a job that maters, it is having a good paying job that matters. And increasing the minimum wage will get that money up. So that people actually can make ends meet a little easier.

I know there is concerns, but California, we passed an increase in the minimum wage. We scaled it up. We made sure that it was evened out. You know what? I think it is still doable. I want to make sure that it is included and that is --

BALDWIN: Hang on, hang one, Congressman, let me just jump in. Because listen and I hear you and what privileged perches we both sit to have a conversation about upping the minimum wage. Let me just say that. But you've seen the CBO reporting, right. The CBO says, it's a matter does the good outweigh the bad. The CBO says that a rise in the minimum wage up to $15 would actually ultimately lead to the loss of 1.4 million jobs by 2025. Your response.

GOMEZ: My point is, if you're working three to four jobs a week, every single hour to make ends meet, is that worth it? Right.

My parents -- I was never taken care of when my parents were working four jobs a week to make ends meet because they were always gone. So paying people a higher wage, a livable wage is something that has so many profound benefits when it comes to the family, when it comes to the stress, when it comes to just the overall disposition of people in our communities.

So I believe it is completely worth it in order to raise the minimum wage. And oftentimes those job losses are replaced in the medium and long-term and that's what we saw in California. People say that the sky was going to fall in and that did not happen. What happened is that people can work less jobs in order to make ends meet for their families.

BALDWIN: Appreciate all of your hard work and it sounds like your family's hard work to get you where you are. Congressman Jimmy Gomez, thank you. And listen, we'll watching to see how this vote goes down in the House tomorrow. Appreciate you sir.

GOMEZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: How about this story today, the search is on for Lady Gaga's dogs after someone shot her dog walker and took two of her French bulldogs. Lady Gaga is now offering half a million dollars no questions asked for their safe return. We've got that for you next.

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[15:55:00]

BALDWIN: Doctors say Tiger Woods' recovery will be long, uncertain and riddled with challenges. Woods remains hospitalized but is conscious after sustaining those injuries to his leg that required a rod and screws and pins.

He told doctors he actually doesn't remember his car accident. Meantime L.A. County Sherriff's officials say Woods will not be charged. There was no evidence at all that he was intoxicated. They are calling it an unfortunate accident, but that speed may have been a factor. The investigation is ongoing.

And a search is underway for a gunman who shot Lady Gaga's dog walker and then stole two of her three French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav in Hollywood last night.

L.A. Police say Lady Gaga's dog walker is now recovering in the hospital in stable condition, but he was shot with a semi-automatic handgun and now the singer is offering a half a million dollars for her dog's safe return, no questions asked.

Cheryl Dorsey is a retired L.A. Police Department police sergeant and the author of "Black and Blue." Cheryl, nice to see you. You know, I know you spent two decades with the LAPD, is this a thing are celebrity dog kidnappings common? Have you ever seen a case like this?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED L.A. POLICE DEPARTMENT POLICE SERGEANT: Well, you know, everything is cyclical. You know, I think right now, it's reported that this particular breed is the fourth most popular in the U.S. according to the American Kennel Club.

And so, you know, people become complacent. I'm sure that this dog walker probably does this every day at the same time, obviously the perpetrators knew. They came armed and prepared to hurt him in order to get these dogs.

I'm certain that the dogs are chipped. It is only a matter of time before they find the perpetrators. And while Lady Gaga may not have questions, I guarantee you robbery homicide will. Because this is not just a theft of an animal, someone was seriously injured and may have long-term repercussions as a result of this gunshot wound.

BALDWIN: It's interesting, so you're saying because the dog walker probably does this all of the time around the same time, your guess just based upon your experience that this was premeditated, this wasn't some one-off. They saw some, you know, French bulldogs, they knew what they were doing.

DORSEY: Well, and I don't know obviously to say that they knew that these dogs belonged to Lady Gaga, but you understand she lives in a high rent district and while they may not have known it was her dog, they certainly knew that it belonged to somebody with a little bit of coin in their pocket.

And so they target this person. They came with a weapon. They meant business. And so you have to be mindful. It's never a problem until it's a problem. You should guard everything and everything you care about with great care and caution. BALDWIN: Here is the piece that, you know, some folks are saying, is

this really that smart? Lady Gaga, obviously she wants her precious dogs back, right, so she's offering this giant half a million dollar reward. She's saying, you don't have to tell me anything, I'm not asking an questions, just give me my dogs. Is that a good idea or does that set a dangerous precedent?

DORSEY: Well, she wants her animals back and they mean a lot to her and it is no different than when a human is kidnapped and there is a, you know, ransom that's requested. I don't think it's going to encourage others to do that because great penalty comes with what occurred.

But she's serious about wanting to ger her dogs back and I believe that she will. Where do you take them? Who do you give them to? Somebody knows. Somebody participated in this and there's probably some surveillance cameras in the area that will be helpful. I believe the police know a lot more than what they are letting on, rightfully so.

BALDWIN: Good, as they look for these two dogs. And this is, you know, this is the story what everyone's talking about today and obviously we wish her dog walker well. The fact that there was this semi-automatic handgun involved and hopefully this dog walker will be OK, and the dogs will be returned.

Cheryl Dorsey, thank you so, so much. We'll keep everyone posted on that.

Thank you all so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.