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Jury Selection Begins in Derek Chauvin Trial; House of Representatives to Vote on Relief Bill Tomorrow; States Ease Restrictions Despite CDC Warnings of Threat from Variants; Harry and Meghan Detail Royal Struggles, from Discussions of Baby's Skin Tone to Suicidal Thoughts; Biden Opposes Gutting Filibuster Despite Slim Senate Majority; Futures Mixed As Inflation Fears Put Pressure on Global Markets. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:23]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

The very latest this morning, the House is poised to vote on a stimulus bill that will provide relief for tens of millions of Americans, and you may have heard of it, a remarkable interview, where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry discussed in bleak, honest terms what they say is racism in the royal family.

But first, a city is on edge as a jury selection begins for the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd.

HARLOW: That's right. That is Officer Derek Chauvin. He faces second degree murder and manslaughter charges for kneeling on Floyd's next for nearly eight minutes. Floyd's killing sparked months of protests across the country. More demonstrations are expected today, demanding justice for George Floyd.

So let's begin there in Minneapolis, with our colleague Omar Jimenez.

Omar, you were there for weeks and weeks following the killing of George Floyd, the protests, all of it. Tell us what we can expect in court today and also the mood of the city, what the people who live there are saying to you?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and Jim, this is the beginning of a process that's been a long time coming, stemming back to, of course, the protests that we are in May and over the summer in the wake of George Floyd's death. When you talk about the passion that we are seeing now, you look no further than behind me.

This is outside the Hennepin County Government Center, which is where the trial for Derek Chauvin, one of the former officers charged in this case, will be taking place. Right now at this point in the morning, they are beginning motions in that courtroom. While all of this plays on outside, this fencing, these barricades, were not here of course prior to preparing for this particular.

But the city and those in operation here felt that it was necessary keeping what happened in May in mind, but also keeping what happened in January in the U.S. Capitol in mind, feeling that they did not want this location to be overrun by any similar set of emotions. So as far as we can expect in court, I mentioned those motions begin, jury selection, that is of course the main part of today, begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time and goes until 6:00 p.m. as they try to begin the difficult process of whittling down to 12 jurors in this.

As a reminder, Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter, and there's potential talk of bringing back in a third degree charge. It is third degree murder charge is what Judge Peter Cahill should be looking at according to an appeals court judge. He has pleaded not guilty to all of these charges. But again today begins the process of what has been a longtime coming in the case of George Floyd.

HARLOW: Yes. OK. Omar, thank you very much for the reporting. We'll obviously, obviously follow this trial very, very closely.

Well, it is a crucial 24 hours in the push to provide economic relief to tens of millions of Americans. The Democratic-led House hopes to pass the Senate's version of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill perhaps on Tuesday. That means the president could sign it into law before Sunday and Sunday is when a lot of those topped up unemployment benefits would have ended.

SCIUTTO: CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox joins us now from Capitol Hill.

So Democrats have kept to the schedule that they talked ability. Right? They needed this all done before March 14th, hitting each of those, although some delays, Friday into Saturday, which you were up late covering. Based on what we know, are they going to get these through and those checks out before March 14th?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, that's certainly correct. You know, there was a little heartburn on Friday, as senators, Democrats specifically, were watching their colleague Senator Joe Manchin. They had to negotiate something on that unemployment provision. But yes, there are going to be a few procedural steps in the House of Representatives tonight and then the goal from leadership is to have this final vote tomorrow.

And we have heard from both Clyburn and other Democrats including Ro Khanna who spoke on our air just a little while ago, saying that they are very confident that the votes are going to be there. Yes. Progressives are frustrated that the $15 minimum wage wasn't included. Yes, there is some frustration about the last-minute negotiation with Senator Joe Manchin on the progressive side of things. But, overall, Democrats feel like this bill is a step in the right

direction. Not to mention the fact that it is Joe Biden's first big legislative push on Capitol Hill and there is no room for error here. But there also is really a sense that they want to give the president a big win, especially given the fact that not a single Republican has voted for this proposal yet.

[09:05:03]

We don't expect that to change tomorrow. But like you said, the goal is to have this signed by the president with days to spare before those unemployment benefits run out over the weekend -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Certainly shows the difficulty of governing with that 50-50 split in the Senate.

Lauren Fox on the Hill, thanks very much.

So what exactly are the real world impacts from this COVID relief bill? Because fact is, Poppy, I mean, we call it a COVID relief bill, but there's a lot of stuff in here that goes beyond the pandemic.

HARLOW: You're right. You're right. And that was a complaint of a number of Republicans who voted against it.

Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent, knows more about it than -- certainly than we do and most anyone does.

What I find really important that didn't get rejection from a lot of Republicans is how much this does to reduce poverty, namely child poverty. I think I read 93 percent of children in America get helped by this.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is really remarkable. And this is a real anti-poverty piece of legislation here. And in fact, that part of things, families going to feel more than even those stimulus checks. Right? I mean, you're talking about payments every month for children 6 and under. That's $300 a month and for 7 and up, that'll be $250 a month.

It phases out the more money you make. But this is about getting money into the pockets of Americans every month. Not just when they file their taxes and it could be thousands and thousands of dollars. You know, I looked at a family of two, for example, that earns less than $100,000 a year with a couple of kids, you add in the stimulus checks. You add in the child tax credit.

We're talking almost $12,000 in relief for that working family and that's real money that's expected to get out the door pretty soon. Now the Treasury Department has been tasked if this is signed into law, of course has been tasked with getting the money to people very regularly in terms of that child tax credit, you guys. And that should start with monthly payments beginning in July going through next year.

But this is a really, really big deal, the child poverty part of this. There's also an extension of those bigger food stamps, you know, SNAP benefits cards, that goes through September. There's a bunch of other stuff in here that I think is really important. Health insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Ways to get money to people right away so that struggling families can survive coronavirus, frankly.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it fits the Democrats' argument, right, that the best way to boost the economy is to help the lower end of the income spectrum as opposed to the higher end, which of course is a focus of the tax relief in 2017.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a great --

SCIUTTO: We're seeing the numbers.

HARLOW: It's a great point.

ROMANS: It's a very different approaches when you think about that and when you look at the child poverty curve, the chart of child poverty, what coronavirus has done to that. There was no bend in that curve because of tax cuts for corporations in 2017. There's a forecast to be a bend in that curve because of these direct payments to families.

HARLOW: Yes. And will they make them permanent like the Democrats want to do?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ROMANS: That's the Democrat hope.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you very much.

Millions of Americans are struggling. We just talked about it, just to stay afloat financially. Some health experts see possible trouble in the fight against the pandemic at this stage as well. Cases have pretty much stopped the climbing. Infection numbers have plateaued at high levels, with the U.S. averaging 60,000 new cases a day in the last week.

SCIUTTO: But even amid those concerns, there is a whole bunch of reasons to be optimistic now. One is the acceleration in the rate of vaccinations per day, now averaging more than two million per day. Dr. Anthony Fauci says fully vaccinated Americans should now receive guidelines as to what they can do, what they can't do in the coming days. That been a big question.

Let's bring in Brown University emergency physician, Dr. Megan Ranney.

And, you know, you look at these numbers, you know, as they say, you know, their lives, damn lives and statistics. I wonder, did you share the concerns about plateauing rates there in terms of new infections and how do you balance that out against accelerating rate of vaccination?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Yes. I do think that we're in a tug-of-war right now between two things. One is those novel variants. We're seeing the rate of infections with that B- 117 variant that was first identified in the U.K. It's just skyrocketing in many states across the country. On the other hand, we have this rapidly expanding vaccination program. Today I saw data that over 65 percent of folks who are age 75-plus, so those were highest risk for hospitalization or death have been vaccinated. That's great news.

But we're in this tug-of-war between the two of them. And it's not yet clear which is going to win out. And let me remind you that that level of daily infections, hospitalizations and deaths is similar to what we were seeing in the summer last year when we were all horrified by the levels of infection in a surge. So this is better. But not something to celebrate.

[09:10:12]

HARLOW: Why do you think we don't, Doctor, yet have guidance from the CDC on what people can do when they're fully vaccinated? I ask not to be critical but because so many are wondering and we knew we'd get to this point. Right?

RANNEY: We did. I mean, once again in this pandemic, we are trying to provide guidance before the data is fully present and so my bet is that there is a tension within the CDC about stating what we think we know versus off of the data versus anything definitive. The science strongly supports that once you are vaccinated, the chance of you bit just getting sick but also chance of you catching and transmitting the virus to someone else is infinitesimally low, which means that once you're vaccinated, you can hang out around other people and not worry that you're going to get them sick.

But the data is not 100 percent. And the CDC likes to operate in that 100 percent realm. That's my guess for why we're a little delayed but gosh, I hope we see it soon. We really need that excitement to help encourage people to get that shot in the arm and to hold on a little longer until they're there.

SCIUTTO: How do you rate the Biden administration's management of the vaccine rollout? They've been doing things like opening up more mass vaccination centers in sports stadiums, et cetera. That's made a bit of a difference. I just wonder what are they doing right at this point? What do they still need to do better?

RANNEY: So I give them about an eight out of 10, although I'll also ask compared to what? But if you look at Israel and what they have done, where they've taken mobile vans and literally gone neighborhood to neighborhood, not miss folks. Israel gets like a 9.5 out of 10. The U.S. right now we're about an 8. What we've done great is that the Biden administration has both gotten us the data on how many vaccines are there. Has worked hard to increase our supplies and support states and municipalities in the logistics in that last mile. Where we are still struggling is around equity. The data continues to

show that black and brown Americans are being vaccinated at like half the rate of white Americans. That's just not acceptable.

HARLOW: But yesterday we did get news, I totally agree it's unacceptable. I hope it gets better. It needs to get better every day with these numbers. But the fact that 2.9 million Americans were vaccinated in a single day? It's great, right?

RANNEY: It is amazing. And that's when I say compared to what? We're rating the Biden administration to compare to what we have before they took over, we're at a 10 out of 10. What they've created in the last month-and-a-half is nothing short of remarkable. Where we are, we have vaccinated. We are among the top countries in the world in terms of percent of our country vaccinated. It's really terrific. And this is the end, this is the end of the tunnel in sight as more and more people get vaccines in arms.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's nice to hear some good news. I think we all need it.

Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much.

And, to our discussion, with Dr. Ranney, we just got word from our Elizabeth Cohen that the CDC will release guidelines for fully vaccinated people at an 11:00 a.m. briefing today. As we were discussing, these are questions folks want answered. And when we get that information we're going to keep you updated.

Still to come this hour, shocking revelations in a remarkable interview. Meghan Markle says that at one point she contemplated suicide due to a deep depression when she and Harry lived in the U.K. And did a member of the royal family asked how dark -- this is amazing to hear -- their unborn child's skin would be? Details on that conversation next.

Plus, with a razor thin victory on his coronavirus stimulus bill, President Biden's legislative agenda faces real changes going forward. What is the path forward?

HARLOW: Also women in the work force have been hit especially hard during this pandemic. What is the Biden administration plan to get them back to work? The first interview with the Commerce secretary is coming up.

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[09:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Well, you might have heard of -- about a big interview last night. And this morning, a lot of the world is talking about just shocking revelations from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle accused the U.K. press of blatant racism and the palace of not supporting them. The couple also revealed that conversations were had about what their child Archie would look like because Meghan is biracial. I mean, this is one of the most shocking parts of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we had in tandem the conversation of he won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he is born.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK-SHOW HOST & TELEVISION PRODUCER: There is a conversation -- hold up --

MARKLE: There were several conversations.

WINFREY: There's a conversation with you.

MARKLE: With Harry.

WINFREY: About how dark your baby is going to be?

MARKLE: Potentially and what that would mean or look like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Wow, Oprah was stunned. I think everyone was stunned hearing that. And there are major questions, who brought it up multiple times, why? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY: He did not share the identity with me, but he wanted to make sure that I knew, and if I had an opportunity to share it, that it was not his grandmother nor his grandfather that were a part of those conversations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:20:00]

HARLOW: Let's bring in our royal correspondent Max Foster, also a CNN anchor and CNN royal commentator Kate Williams. Good morning to you both, Max. So, you -- I mean, you have covered the royal family for a very long time.

Harry has vowed not to share who brought up any concerns about baby Archie's skin color. But just the fact that there is -- according to both of them, this ongoing blatant racism, not only in the U.K. "Tabloid" press, but in the family. Your thoughts this morning.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we've heard a lot about the attacks in the "Tabloid" media, and then we've heard a bit about how Meghan and Harry felt that they were left undefended by the palace. This is on a completely different level, accusing the palace of

racism, accusing the family of racism as well. So, it's a major charge to be leveled against the royal family. We haven't had a statement from the palace today, I imagine, they're trying to get all of the information in this interview together and trying to pull together some sort of responses.

It's very difficult to imagine how they can disagree or challenge what Meghan has said. I mean, it's her experience, and she's convinced that there was racism linked with these decisions. I think they will pull her up on whether or not Archie was entitled to a title, was entitled to security. But those sorts of things, the by-the-by, is really about this idea that she feels as a diverse member of the senior royal family ranks that she was discriminated against.

SCIUTTO: You know, Kate, one striking thing beyond that, right, was the effect of these rifts on very personal relationships. For the prince, he said that he is now speaking to his father again, Prince Charles, but he says openly that there's a lot of repair that needs to be done. And when he -- as asked to describe his relationship with his brother, William, space is the word that he used. I mean, these are deep rifts it appears.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, exactly, so Jim, that's what we saw, he expressed a lot of affection for his grandmother, for the queen, but really, when it came to Charles and William, our future kings, he was -- he really should have let down, he felt by Charles that when Harry and Meghan were trying to plan their next step, half in, half out is what they wanted.

They were denied this. The he said Charles stopped taking my calls, and that's really -- I mean, that's a big thing to put a phone off your child. And there have been some new clips released by "CBS" today, and one of them was when Oprah asked Harry, did -- have people apologized to you? Have royal family members apologized to you for what has gone on?

And Harry said, no, they haven't. I haven't at all. And clearly, it's a rift, it's every other hurt, and it's particularly painful because of course Harry lost his mother, and now he's distant --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

WILLIAMS: From his father, he's distant from his brother, and is very clear, they said they tried everything they could to stay in the royal family, both the business and the family. But it was impossible by what the abuse that Meghan was suffering.

HARLOW: Max, the fact that Meghan was so open with her struggle with deep depression and suicidal thoughts. And that Harry weighed in on the mental health aspect is really important for so many people to hear who have the same struggles and are doing them -- and are trying to get through it alone like they were. The fact that she alleges the palace refused to let her get medical help at a hospital anywhere is stunning. I know the palace hasn't replied yet, but can you speak to the significance -- claim? FOSTER: I think, you know, that's one element they -- to reply on.

Meghan saying she went to a senior official, also someone in the H.R. department expressing how concerned she was about her mental health. Genuinely concerned. She was told by the H.R. department that you are not an employee, there's nothing I can do, but I do sympathize with your case.

This is a vulnerable woman who wasn't been supported by the institution that she worked for. There's another major charge, and I think it's a -- there's an element of hypocrisy as well to it because the royal family has campaigned for years on ridding the world of this stigma that it has with mental health, trying to put it on a par with physical health.

So, it's a big problem. Again, we need to hear the palace's point of view on this, but why didn't the H.R. department follow up on it, it's a huge question.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Kate, the royal family as you know has been through crisis before. You think of the blowing up of the relationship between Charles and Diana, of course, losing Diana, but even more recently -- I just wonder though, given the seriousness of the -- criticism and almost abandonment that Meghan and Harry describe here, is this a turning point in terms of the public view of the royals in the U.K.?

[09:25:00]

WILLIAMS: I think it is a turning point. I think it's very significant. I think the royal family is going to have a job to pull this back. Diana's interview really increased anti-monarchy sentiment here. And certainly, Andrea's interview in which he talked about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and playing with these terrible alibis for the accusations against him.

But I think people thought he's you know -- he's done bad things, but is not -- he's separate in the monarchy. And yet, we have a situation now where really between what Meghan was talking about, this is a -- there are lots of problems within the institution. People are not supported.

Meghan was not supported. There was racism within the royal family, this is more than just one individual committing acts, and these acts are seen as criminal acts. This is more. This is a big situation and Princess Diana talked about the men in grey suits and being blocked. Meghan and Harry have been much more explicit and much more explicit about why they had to go, and why there was no choice, and this leaves us to saying the royal family with a lot of big questions to answer.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. And hats off to Oprah for the way she interviewed them with some challenging questions, but also giving them space to come forward with their truth, that had to be incredibly hard to do. Kate Williams, Max Foster, thank you very much. President Biden is on the verge of beginning his presidency with a big win on COVID economic relief. But with the administration signaling it opposes gutting the filibuster, what does it mean for the rest of his legislative agenda?

SCIUTTO: We're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. U.S. futures mixed this morning after a passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. There are inflation fears causing concern among some in the global markets. We're going to see how the markets open. Please stay with us.

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