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President Biden Delivers First Prime-Time Address Tonight; Biden to Sign $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Plan into Law Tomorrow; Prince William Breaks His Silence Following Prince Harry and Meghan's Interview; Merrick Garland Arrives at DOJ for First Full Day as AG. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:24]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Thursday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Well, Prince William is now making his first public comments since his brother Prince Harry and sister-in-law Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave that bombshell interview raising allegations of racism in the royal family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, have you spoken to your brother since the interview?

PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: I haven't spoken to him yet, but I will do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And can you just let me know, is the royal family a racist family, sir?

PRINCE WILLIAM: We're very much not a racist family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Harry and Meghan, you may remember, told Oprah Winfrey that there were conversations about how dark their son's skin might be, but they did not repeal who in the royal family said it. They did say that it was not the Queen or Prince Phillip.

HARLOW: That's right. Let's go to Max Foster. He's been on top of this reporting from the beginning.

Max, good morning to you. These comments from Prince William came after the Queen released a statement saying the family would deal with the matter privately, also saying -- expressing her love for Harry and Meghan, saying they'd always be part of the family.

Are you surprised at all that Prince William answered those questions? MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to say, I

mean, for me this bit of video is one of the big moments of this whole narrative really. You know, there are -- you know, I think the Duchess of Sussex's issues with a lot of her experiences she had are with the systems in place and this speaks quite to how that system is now breaking down in a way off the back of that big interview.

So just for your context in these moments, they are arranged moments. They're often embargoed moments, meaning we can't really talk about them until they've happened for security reasons. So, you know, this was a reporter at a major network breaking a protocol which is not to throw questions out at senior royals in this way. So, number one, that's something that's broken down. Secondly, William, you know, is used to these moments.

He does ignore these moments and he decided to speak back. So he's not dealing with this privately as the Queen has asked. So that's significant as well. And then it's what he said and this -- you know, we got to this point in the story where a senior royal is being asked if his family is racist which is just quite extraordinary which is why it's gone down in such an extraordinary way in this country.

And just you wouldn't imagine to have got to this point really so quickly after this. So I think the broad context here is quite extraordinary, this moment of video and the way the system is breaking down around the monarchy. So we also heard there how Harry hasn't spoken to William, so that conversation, that private conversation, hasn't started. So I think that, you know, this is in many ways a very significant moment because they haven't been able to pull it all together since that big bombshell moment and, you know, the statement that came from the Queen in response.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. Max Foster, thank you very much.

Joining us now CNN royal commentator Kate Williams, CNN reporter Salma Abdelaziz.

And Salma, let me just begin with you because as Max laid out how significant this is for this story about the royal family, it's also really significant, is it not, for the issue of racism throughout the United Kingdom and the conversation that this is not sparking, but is emphasizing and important changes that need to be made?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Poppy. And I think you're right to say that it is sparking at least more conversations. I'll begin by telling you that an anti-racism activist will probably say that William is missing the point and that journalist asking the question is missing the point as well because this is not a matter of who is racist or who is not racist. Yes, there is an allegation of racism there that needs to be addressed, but what you're hearing from Meghan Markle, what you're hearing from Prince Harry is about a lived experience.

It is about the institution of racism. It is about the systems that are at play in this country, how they are made up, those elite institutions, and what role they play in perpetuating class systems in this country.

I was speaking to an anti-racism activist yesterday and she said, listen, I am tired of explaining the one, two, three's, the A, B, C's, the do, re, mis of racism. People need to educate themselves on what Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were speaking about in that interview. That's what that activist was telling me. She was saying this is an opportunity to do the right thing, to take a step back and understand that, again, racism is not about an individual incident, an isolated moment, it is bigger than that.

[09:05:03]

It is about systems at play, it is a conversation and a struggle that will not be won or will not be overcome in a single day or through a single interview. It is a longer journey than that. (INAUDIBLE) knows that and through all that screaming and shouting that you're hearing in this debate there should also be hopefully some learning and listening as well -- Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Kate, in the Queen's statement yesterday she said that the family will deal with this privately. It's clearly not private. I mean, you have Prince William being asked about it there, having to respond. I mean, the question Salma is talking about as it relates to the royal family are very public questions right now.

Can the palace maintain this or attempt to maintain this as a private conversation? It just doesn't seem that that's the reality right now.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, Jim, that's the question, isn't it? There was a lot of criticism of the statement of the Queen because it says that we're going to deal with this privately. Well, of course this is the head of state of Britain, a diverse country and many diverse countries in the commonwealth, Jamaica, Antigua, and also can it be dealt with privately at all? And what we have here is Megan said she made it very clear that she has suffered racism, lack of support, deferential treatment.

She is the one who's the biracial member of the royal family, she knows how it feels. I mean, it's not -- just as Salma was talking about, it's a big struggle, it's a big question, white people have to educate themselves. And is it for someone to say, no, there is no racism, no there's no racism at all? The Queen said it was concerning, dismissing it here. And I think a lot of people are saying well, one of the big problems that Meghan talks about very distressingly is that there were these false stories put out about her and no one defended her repeatedly.

So we might say this energy that William has for saying no, absolutely not, where was this energy to defend Meghan when she was being so criticized, all this, all for coverage and everyone told her sit back, you take it?

HARLOW: Yes. So it's harder, Salma, to investigate, you know, what someone said to -- what someone said to Harry multiple times. Meghan says about the questioning of the -- of their to be baby's skin color, if nothing is in writing, but there's all of this in writing at least Meghan says about her plea for help on the mental health front in the palace. That is something that I believe they are investigating, right, and would need to be presented to the public at some point.

Do you know anything about that?

ABDELAZIZ: We don't know anything beyond the statements that we have, which of course we had that official statement from the Queen a day ago saying this is a private family matter. So beyond that we don't know what's going on in terms of any internal investigation, but they did want to keep this private.

You heard there from Max that protocol has been broken, but to speak again to that experience of mental health issue and along the lines of what you're hearing there from Kate, many people in this country will say we often hear that racism does not exist in Britain because people look at America and they see police violence, they see black men being shot in the streets and they say well, that's not happening in Britain so racism doesn't exist here.

And what that interview did for a lot of people in this country is sort of end that gaslighting, say, yes, racism does exist. Beyond the individual allegations that we have that the palace does need to explore, racism exists in this country and we need to deal with it.

HARLOW: Salma, thank you for the reporting and to Kate as well, we appreciate it very, very much.

Also this, back in the United States, moments ago newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland arriving at the Department of Justice. He will be sworn in shortly before addressing the DOJ's 115,000 employees in virtual remarks.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Evan Perez is at the Justice Department.

Evan, you know, it's not an understatement to say that Bill Barr's tenure there sparked a lot of reaction and some of his positions, you know, sparked a lot of reaction as well. Merrick Garland, his intention is to reverse some of those positions and decisions. So what do we expect him to focus on in his first few days?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you're going to see the tone set very early today, Jim, with the fact that his first briefing as he said during his confirmation hearing he said that his first briefing was going to be on the Capitol riot cases, the January 6th insurrection. And so that's going to happen in the next couple of hours.

Right about now he's getting sworn in by a career Justice official. Thereafter at 10:00 he is going to address the 115,000 employees of the Justice Department around the country via live stream, as you pointed out, given the fact that it's COVID times. He can't do this in person in the great hall there at the Justice Department with a big crowd. And then he goes into this briefing that's going to be led by Christopher Wray, the FBI director, as well as Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney for -- the acting U.S. attorney, or rather he just left as acting U.S. attorney in D.C. [09:10:12]

They're leading the Capitol riot cases. He's also going to walk over there or rather drive over to the -- to the D.C. U.S. attorney's office to get a briefing and meet with those prosecutors. That's an office that he worked in and you remember the fact that this is a time when we're focused on domestic violent extremism. The last time he worked at the Justice Department Merrick Garland was leading the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing. Again, it's just a return to his roots at the Justice Department.

One of the things that you're going to see later today, he's going to be sworn in by Kamala Harris. It's an interesting thing, Jim, because, you know, back when Eric Holder took office he was sworn in ceremoniously -- the ceremony was done by Barack Obama, the president. They clearly have decided to use the vice president to do this swearing in because of the political overtones of everything happening at the Justice Department, including some sensitive investigations.

Of course, Joe Biden's son is under investigation at the Justice Department. So, again, they're trying to, you know, carefully thread the needle here as the new AG takes office.

HARLOW: That's a really interesting observation, Evan. A good point. Thank you very, very much. We will hear more from Merrick Garland a little bit later.

Still to come, President Biden makes his first primetime address to the nation, it is tonight. We have new details this morning about what he will say.

SCIUTTO: And there's new audio of former President Trump pressuring an election investigator in Georgia urging that person to find fraud. What are the legal implications for the former president?

Plus, there is a growing crisis on the border what's being called a surge in migrant children. Could be the next major challenge facing the Biden administration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

HARLOW: Just hours from now President Biden will deliver his first prime time address to the nation. This morning, we have new details about that speech. In it, he is expected to honor the more than 500,000 lost to COVID-19 in this country, he will also address the sacrifices made by so many Americans one year since the pandemic shut down so much of this country, and he will also -- we have learned, lay out a hopeful vision of the future.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: President Biden not surprisingly also expected to tout the passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The American rescue plan as it's called is largely popular among the American people, Democrats and Republicans, but it did not garner a single support from Republicans either in the house or the Senate. The president will sign that bill into law tomorrow. Joining us now, Margaret Hoover; host of "PBS'" "Firing Line", John Avlon, CNN's senior political analyst. Good morning to both of you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS' FIRING LINE: Good morning.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, a line in the speech talks about providing a hopeful vision of what is possible if we all come together. Listen, he was elected in part with a message of bipartisanship, we saw with the COVID bill, not a single Republican vote despite public support for many elements of the bill. I just wonder, is this a case of Biden referring to the Congress he wants rather than the Congress he has? I mean, is that vision possible in the current state of Washington?

HOOVER: I think it is possible, Jim. Look, there is a lot of behind- the-scenes that happened on this bill, and I think what we recognize, and I think it's OK that there were some Republicans that were trying to get to yes, and they just couldn't get there because of principle differences, not out of spite for the president or wanting him to fail or wanting him to be a one-term president. I don't -- I think the dynamics are fundamentally different than the script that's being replayed from the Obama years. I do think especially as we emerge from the virus, President Biden gives an optimistic vision for what's next coming down the pike if we get this next phase correct. He'll have political capital to spend, and frankly, Republicans are going to want to be part of a bipartisan solution if only we can get to this next phase of the pandemic and President Biden is credited with having navigated us there.

HARLOW: Yes. Hey, and some Republicans, John Avlon, who voted against this thing, like parts of it. Shall we go to Mississippi with Republican Senator Wicker who tweeted, "independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion worth of targeted relief. The funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping adapt their operations and keeping employees on their payrolls." So, of course, our Manu Raju asked him, all right, but you voted against him. He made what I think is a very fair point, I can like parts of it and not the whole $1.9 trillion. Does that give Biden a little bit more political capital as these lawmakers see the benefits of this money, granted they're concerned about where it puts our country down the road, but when they see it playing out in their state, does that give Biden more political capital on big other initiatives?

AVLON: Potentially. I mean, look, you know, back in the Obama era, we saw Republicans, you know, doing ribbon-cuttings for bills they voted against. Wicker is referring to the fact that he had been a strong supporter for the Restaurant Act, but at --

HARLOW: Yes --

AVLON: The end of the day, if you don't back the big bill, I'm not sure you get to take a victory lap for the elements you like. But there is a reservoir of good will, particularly if this bill works and has a big impact on the economy from a bottom up way. And the president is going to need to translate that and tease that tonight about still reaching out, despite this Heisman he got from Republicans in the Senate and the house on issues like infrastructure and immigration. There are future fights, but he is going to have to draw that line as all great speeches do from the past, to the present, to the future.

[09:20:00]

SCIUTTO: Guys, I love your optimism, I'm just not buying it.

AVLON: I love your passion, Jim --

HARLOW: Do it to us --

SCIUTTO: It didn't -- it didn't get a single Republican vote on handing out -- my -- I mean, with several things in --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: There that Republicans had supported in the past. And when you looked at Biden's agenda going forward, I mean, on background checks, God knows gun control is a hot button issue for Republicans, they worry about getting primaried if they have any vote against it, right? The Voting Rights Act is being attacked already, maybe infrastructure, but man, Margaret Hoover, we've been talking about the bipartisan effort on infrastructure since like the stone age. I don't -- I don't know. Tell me I'm wrong, but I'm skeptical that, you know, the agenda gets any bipartisan support --

HOOVER: Let me give you a couple, I'm going to give you -- yes, Jim, I'm going to push back. I'm going to push back, I do think there's a real chance of infrastructure. I do think if Biden navigates this next phase of the pandemic successfully, if he says, look, we are going to be independent from this virus by independence day, go get vaccinated, keep your masks on, and you know how much goodwill he's going to have? He can leverage that. He can exchange that, turn that into political capital which infrastructure is one of them.

I'm going to give you another one, the Equality Act has several Republicans who are on the sidelines --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HOOVER: Trying to figure out how to amend it so that it can balance religious freedom with LGBT protection. That would be extraordinary. I do think --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HOOVER: That there is real hope, but we've got to get through this next phase of the pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Well --

AVLON: But Jim --

SCIUTTO: From your lips to God's ears -- yes, sorry, John. AVLON: No, but I'll grant you this. You know, the fundamental problem

is representative democracy is supposed to represent the people. And when you have a bill that's got super majority support, including almost a majority of Republicans, and it doesn't get a single vote, that's a problem. That's a problem with Republicans being increasingly resistant --

HARLOW: Tell me about that --

AVLON: To the idea of --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

AVLON: Democracy and representative government, and they're going to have to bridge that, and it's because they're afraid of a primary to your point. They've got to get over that fear and do what they think is right.

SCIUTTO: It's the political incentives, right, and they are pointing in the opposite direction. You know, longer conversation, gerrymandering, you know, there's a reason --

AVLON: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Roy Blunt just left the Senate. But Margaret Hoover and John Avlon --

HOOVER: OK --

SCIUTTO: We love --

HOOVER: That's it --

SCIUTTO: Having you on. Appreciate it --

AVLON: OK, guys.

HARLOW: Yes, we do. Glass half full couple right there. OK, today marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The entire world has lived in the shadow of this virus ever since. Up next, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how we got to this point and what we have learned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:00]

HARLOW: It's been a year, one year ago today --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HARLOW: Life as we all knew it really in so many ways came to a standstill because a year ago today is when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic. Since then, more than 2.6 million people have died from it around the world, more than 529,000 right here in the United States. SCIUTTO: Millions more suffered the economic hardships of losing

their jobs, struggling to feed their families. There is hope on the horizon. Vaccines are ramping up in this country, much-needed financial relief on its way to millions of Americans. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how we got here and how we can move forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The World Health Organization is finally calling the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was March 11th, 2020, and this word "pandemic" came to define our very lives, but it was months earlier that the World Health Organization was first trying to get our attention.

TEDROS ADHANOM, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I'm declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE TECHNICAL LEAD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The importance of that is that you raise the alarm before you're in a situation where the world is in a pandemic.

GUPTA: Maria Van Kerkhove is the W.H.O.'s technical lead for the coronavirus response.

VAN KERKHOVE: The worrying trend now are increases in Europe.

GUPTA: Whether on our town halls or daily W.H.O. news conferences, for the last year she's been trying to change the trajectory of the pandemic.

(on camera): Did countries respond differently? Did they have more resources? What happens when the World Health Organization raises these alarms?

VAN KERKHOVE: Every country is unique. It wasn't about rich or poor countries, it was about experience. It was about those countries that knew the threat that this was, they heeded our warnings.

GUPTA: Van Kerkhove points to places like South Korea, Japan, Nigeria. They heeded those warnings and have managed to keep transmission relatively under control, but prepared or not, this novel coronavirus has been a tricky opponent.

VAN KERKHOVE: One of the important factors of learning about this virus was that people were most infectious at or around the time they developed symptoms. So the fact that people could spread this virus without feeling unwell was a game-changer in that sense.

GUPTA (voice-over): But while infectious disease outbreaks typically crush poorer countries, this novel coronavirus has disproportionately affected many of the world's wealthiest nations.

(on camera): Close to 9,000 cases per 100,000 people in the United States, 156 deaths per 100,000 people, compare that to India where it's about a tenth of that. Even though they have some of the most population dense areas in the world. What accounts for this huge disparity between wealthy and poor countries?

VAN KERKHOVE: You can have really good medical systems in countries, hospitals, you know, the best treatments in the world, but that doesn't make up for the fundamentals of public health. In public health, it's more about prevention, you know, what do you do to preven?