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Tonight: President Biden Delivers First Prime-Time Address; Attorney General Garland Delivers First Speech to DOJ; Prince William: Royals are "Very Much Not a Racist Family". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us at this hour.

Tonight, President Biden will be delivering his first primetime address to the nation. He's going to be marking a landmark moment in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and one year since everything changed.

It was one year ago this week when Donald Trump announced the travel ban from Europe. The NBA started canceling games and actor Tom Hanks announced that he had coronavirus, really putting a public face to the virus that would eventually transform all of our lives.

Since then it's almost impossible to calculate the personal and collective loss that we have all faced and suffered. Nearly 29 million Americans have been infected by the virus. More than 529,000 Americans have died, the highest death toll of any nation in the world, and nearly 2,000 people in the United States are still dying each day. This isn't over.

And those numbers don't, though, tell the whole story. It is the lives interrupted, the families suddenly broken, so many people left to die and grieve alone that really hit -- that does hit the hardest and cannot be forgotten. Mothers and fathers and brothers, sisters and friends and coworkers, so many taken too soon.

I know I'm going to remember Michelle Acito. She's a nurse whose brother-in-law, sister-in-law and mother in law were all admitted to her hospital and she was the only person able to hold her mother-in- law Edna Acito's hand as she passed.


MICHELLE ACITO, NURSE WHO LOST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW TO COVID-19: Unlike in a normal circumstance where you would be together gathering as a family, you know, we've all had to work through this separately.


BOLDUAN: And then there is also Danielle Lopez whose uncle, Tommy Messias (ph), was killed by the virus last summer.


DANIELLE LOPEZ, UNCLE KILLED BY COVID-19: It just -- I'm sorry, I'm trying to even process that -- all that this is happening. It is just all so surreal.


BOLDUAN: That was also how surreal it is is also how Maureen Fagan described it as she talks about her heartbreaks every time she thinks about her sister, Dr. Adeline Fagan, who died at 28 years old from the virus.


MAUREEN FAGAN, LOST SISTER TO COVID-19: My heart breaks every time I look at something and I remember Adeline and I wake up in the morning and I for -- I realize that she's not here and I'm going to have to do that for years and years and years.


BOLDUAN: And there is Lizanne Jennings. She lost her mother, Linda Jennings, and her husband Dennis Davis within days of each other.


LIZANNE JENNINGS, LOST HER HUSBAND & MOTHER TO COVID-19: This is so wrong. You know, sometimes I'm grieving for my husband and then I realize that my mom is gone, you know, and that I'm grieving for my mom.


BOLDUAN: You can't capture that loss in just the numbers that we talk about each day. In addition to the loss of lives, there are the millions and millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, creating ones of the largest economic crisis in U.S. history and tens of thousands of businesses forced to shut down, many of which are never going to reopen, and families struggling to put food on the table. So many of them going to food banks for the time and flooding food banks like never before.

And then the millions of children who have spent the last year unable to attend class in person, cut off from friends and classmates, doing their best with their parents right alongside of them with the virtual learning forced upon them.

All of that together is the magnitude of the loss that this country has suffered. There is, though, hope on the horizon. So, now, as we look at today and going forward, how is President Biden going to speak to both of these things tonight.

Joining me right now is CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's live at the White House. Jeremy, what are you hearing about -- about the president's speech


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think exactly as you said, Kate, the effort that the president will make this evening is to capture this moment in time. Not only the loss that this country and the world has suffered over the last year, but also where things stand right now with the vaccination effort and really trying to offer a sign of hope on the horizon as he begins to look towards reopening the country and returning to some sense of normalcy. The president in looking back over the last year will honor the lives of those nearly 530,000 Americans who have lost their lives and the millions more whose lives have been impacted by this coronavirus pandemic.

He will also look at what -- he is expected to look at what is termed the greatest operational challenge this country has faced in the vaccination effort, talking about the challenges and what his administration has done to really accelerate the pace of vaccinations that we have seen over these last several weeks. And then it will be about looking forward, toward the next steps of getting this pandemic under control.


Talking not only about what his administration intends to do in the coming weeks and months to get the country back to normal but also talking about what Americans still need to do. And that really has been the message in this administration, is to not take your foot off the gas just yet. Even as so many of these states including Texas, Mississippi and most recently Maryland have begun to relax so many of the coronavirus restrictions, the president will remind Americans that we are not there yet in terms of being able to return to normal.

But once again, pointing towards the future and the possibility of that return to normal. Of course, the president is expected to sign that nearly $2 trillion coronavirus legislation tomorrow. And what you'll hear from him tonight will be the first effort, of course, to begin to sell that legislation and to talk about it, and you'll see more of that, of course, in the weeks to come -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Jeremy, thank you so much.

Now, congress has passed the $1.9 trillion relief bill, the focus shifts to how do you get all of this money where it needs to go and quickly and urgently as it's clearly needed. It is a huge task and the White House seems to know that. Listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: His focus now is on the details, the details, the details, when do people get their checks and when do schools get funding and how do people know if they need more unemployment insurance. This is the really important piece now is the implementation.


BOLDUAN: You better believe it. John Harwood is joining me with more.

So, John, in addition to getting the federal agencies to push this on the way they need to, the president is focused on explaining the bill, selling the relief package to the American people.

How is he planning to do that?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is such a water shed moment. One year point, reflection on the loss during the pandemic. You've now got the promise that science has given us an end to the pandemic vaccines. But this bill now has a rushing river of money to tide American people over and tide American businesses over, and what Joe Biden wants to do over the next couple of weeks is to make clear exactly how this money is going to help them.

Jen O'Malley Dillon, the deputy White House chief of staff, sent out a memo yesterday saying we're going to show in a tangible way how it is affecting people's lives. Some of that is not difficult because when $1,400 per person check lands in your bank account through direct deposit, people will notice it, but other parts have to be explained. Child tax credits, earned income tax credit and aid to the small businesses, and the Small Business Administration is going to have to stand up with new procedures in order to vet exactly who qualifies to try to get some of that small business money to small businesses in underserved areas that may not have been benefited from previous rounds, and also, big slugs of money for the restaurant industry.

Interestingly, you have a Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi who did not vote for the bill as did all of the Republican senators and House members not vote for the bill. He's touting that provision because that is something that he had advocated for and when Brian Deese, the National Economic Council director was on the air earlier today, he didn't criticize Roger Wicker for taking credit for that. He offered that as evidence of the bipartisanship of elements of the legislation, not only many Republicans around the country, but some Republican ideas incorporated into the plan.

That is going to inform White House strategy going forward as they go to the next plan, the recovery act, the rebuilding America act that the president wants to put together. They're going to, whether or not they get Republican votes, they're going to look for Republican support in the country and to incorporate some of the Republican ideas and there was a Pew poll out yesterday showing that the American people are crediting Joe Biden with having attempted to reach out to Republicans, more than Republicans to him, so that is something that is informative from that episode from Roger Wicker in the last 24 hours.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, a perfect example of even if he's not voting for it or supports the whole package, they can't deny there are Republican supported elements in the bill now. That is plain and simple.

On one aspect of this, the distribution of vaccines and talking about vaccines, and getting more people vaccinated, President Biden is getting help from former presidents. What are they doing?

HARWOOD: They're putting out videos urging people to get vaccinated. They're trying to combat the lingering elements of vaccine resistance. We're seeing the American people as vaccinations have ramped up, some of the vaccine resistance has receded. More people are willing to get it.

But the -- it is important for the country and for the safety of everybody for a wider swath of Americans to get vaccinated as their able to. These former presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, are pushing to get that done.

Interestingly, the previous president, Donald Trump, who was vaccinated without telling the American people before leaving office, he is not part of this video.


And it's an indication that that club of ex-presidents may be even more exclusive than it appears sometimes.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, John. Thank you.

Also happening today, President Biden's newly sworn in Attorney General Merrick Garland just started his first day on the job. He wrapped up a speech just a short time ago in which he outlined the immense challenges that are facing the department at this moment. Number one, on his list, on that list, is ensuring equal justice for all. Listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: All of us are united by our commitment to the rule of law and to seeking equal justice under law. We are united by our commitment to protecting our country, as our oath says, from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and by our commitment to enforcing our country's laws and to ensuring the civil rights and the civil liberties of our people.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is CNN's Evan Perez.

Evan, talk about the agenda, what's on the agenda, what fazes the new attorney general on this important moment when he comes in.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I think you could hear from his words during that brief speech that there is two things that are on his mind. One of them is trying to restore to the Justice Department this idea that there is equal justice. It doesn't matter whether your friends with the president, you're not going to be treated differently and that is an important thing because there are some political sensitive investigations that are ongoing. In this case, it is the son of the president, Hunter Biden, who is currently under investigation and everybody is going to be closely watching to make sure that there are no politics involved in the way that is handled.

And then secondly, you heard him talk about civil rights. That is going to be frankly a flash point between Merrick Garland and Republicans. Twenty of them voted for his confirmation, but quickly you're going to hear a lot of criticism them when the Justice Department decides what to do about some of the legislation you're hearing around the country from Republican legislatures trying to restrict voting access. That is an outgrowth obviously of the very divisive 2020 election.

And so, one of the things that I think Garland is going to be facing is how to tackle that as well as the issue of domestic extremism. He's right now getting a briefing from the FBI Director Chris Wray. He's going to go over to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington where the prosecutors are leading this investigation of the January 6th Capitol riot. So, all of those things, coming all on one day on his first day in office.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, quite a thing to start with.

It is good to see you, Evan. Thank you. Appreciate it.

PEREZ: You, too. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Prince William is the first member of the royal family to respond directly to the allegations of racism that were leveled by his brother Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. What he said and what it means for the monarchy going forward.

Plus, a long awaited change for thousands of Americans families with a loved one in a long-term care facility, in a nursing home. The restrictions are now being lifted by the Biden administration.



BOLDUAN: This morning, we're now hearing the first member of the royal family to directly address the allegations of racism leveled by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Let me play it for you, is Harry's brother, Prince William, at a public event this morning.


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

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

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

PRINCE WILLIAM: No, we're very much not a racist family.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Now the palace is facing a once in a generation crisis as we've seen, leaving very big questions where does the monarchy go from here.

Joining me right now, once again, is Katie Nicholl, royal correspondent for "The Vanity Fair", and author of "Harry and Meghan: Life, Lost and Love".

Katie, thanks for coming back in.

The royal family is pretty good at not taking questions when they don't want to. I mean, were you surprised that William responded?

KATIE NICHOLL, AUTHOR, "HARRY AND MEGHAN: LIFE, LOSS AND LOVE": I was, actually. On those engagements with William, we're told not to call out to him, he doesn't like it. So I was not surprised that the Sky News reporter called it out because they were doing their job and I was surprised that William responded, not only once but twice and he chuckled at the beginning.

So, you know, obviously, we know he hasn't spoken to harry and he's going to but I think it is the second comment that was so important and this is not a racist family. He will be more than aware that the royal family is at the center of a major storm by suggestions that there is racism at the heart of the institution. And his name has been if the frame, over what has become a international guessing game over who was the royal to make that comment about the color of Archie's skin.

BOLDUAN: And also, Katie, and what you mentioned when he said he hadn't spoke tone his brother yet, I was left wondering, what is the holdup? Under these circumstances, would you expect them to have connected by now and you see -- I mean, what the palace is facing?

NICHOLL: Well, sometimes, it is better to sleep on things, isn't it, especially if you're angry and you're upset. Maybe take a breath, take a moment and then perhaps make that call when you are a little cooler.

I mean, I know -- what I know of William's character, he can lose his temper, and I think he will be feeling angry.


And I think he'll be feeling very, very hurt by the part that Harry and Meghan have gone down because the royal family is now finding itself in a major moment of crisis. And, of course, this all played out while the Queen is 94. Prince Philip is in the hospital.

We're in a COVID pandemic. I mean, the work that the duke and duchess were doing today to visit a school to see a mental health program at work there. Mental health is an important part of what they do.

And, you know, there are very serious questions about why Meghan wasn't listened to. So they don't come out looking good, full stop.

BOLDUAN: Full stop, I mean, and the fact that that is a question, an appropriate question to be asking a royal at the public event, is just a perfect encapsulation of what kind of problem that the palace is facing in this moment. I mean, these public appearances by the royals, you know them, they're highly coordinated. It is not like William was approached by someone on the street somewhere.

Does it tell you how the family -- the royal family is planning to handle the fallout?

NICHOLL: Well, you know what, Kate, I think this statement from the queen tells you everything you need to know about how the royal family plans to handle this. They are -- I don't think we could expect to hear an actual official palace statement any time soon. The queen has made it clear she wants this to be dealt with in house as a family. That it is not going to be swept under the carpet and she wants to find out what and went which and how and it is clearly important the context of the conversation.

But I imagine this was on the -- on the hook for Prince William. And, listen, he's a very experienced hand at these engagements. I don't think he would turn up not expecting someone to call something out and possibly had a response up his sleeve, but whatever. It was obviously important to him that he had his say, because up until now, no one has been able to answer back.

Interestingly when Prince Charles was asked about the interview, the day after it screened here in the U.K., he chose not to even acknowledge the question, even if he wanted to.

BOLDUAN: That is a little bit of what I took of it. And just so everyone could be reminded of that part of the statement from the queen when she said some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. And I'm wondering with what we just saw from Prince William, what if he doesn't expect to respond and it was off the cuff.

NICHOLL: You mean the comment that he made this afternoon.


NICHOLL: I think it was -- I think it was -- I think it was off the cuff. I think he's probably ready for something to happen but I think he made up his mind if he was asked, he was going to answer and I think that gives you an indication as to where his mood is, where he is emotionally. I think he's -- I think he's pretty angry.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. It is good to see you, Katie. Thank you for coming on again.

NICHOLL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it has been one year since coronavirus changed everything. Now, hope is on the horizon. But the country is clearly not yet there with nearly 1,500 people still dying every day.



BOLDUAN: Today marked one year since the coronavirus outbreak became the pandemic. And it is clear that there are two sides of this coin right now. Across the country, about 2 million vaccine doses are being administered daily. Amazing. Yet there are still nearly 2,000 people dying from coronavirus every day.

And people are very clearly at the same time very ready to move on. Here are some examples of what is changing. For the first time since September, you could visit inside with grandparents or loved ones who are living in nursing homes. That is according to new federal guidance that just came out. And there is also then baseball season. With that -- with baseball season just around the corner, the Texas Rangers have announced they plan to open the 40,000 seat stadium to full capacity on opening day.

And Disney World is announcing it sold out at each of the four parks, each of the four parks for next week. Sold out reservations.

It is clear things are changing. But is some of this too much, too soon?

Joining me right now is Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency room physician at Brown University.

It is great to see you again, Dr. Ranney. If I get -- I want to take these in pieces if I could. Reopening a stadium with full capacity at 40,000 fans about to be coming in potentially, Disney World sold out for the next week, and more and more people are getting vaccinated, that is true, but is it time -- is it time for these things?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BROWN UNIVERSITY: You know, Kate, as with so much in this pandemic, it is about nuance. We can't go from fully closed to fully open. We can't say all baseball greats are great or horrible.

Let's break it down. So baseball, terrific, right? It's outdoors, there is wind, it is a relatively safe activity.

But when you put 40,000 people in that stadium, the same way they were pre-COVID, shoulder to shoulder, without masks presumably in Texas, shouting, drinking, standing in line for restrooms, yes, we have one out of four Americans vaccinated.