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Pfizer Claims Its COVID-19 Vaccine 100 Percent Effective in Adolescents; Trial of Ex-Minneapolis Police Officer in George Floyd's Death Resumes; President Biden Heads To Pittsburgh To Unveil His Newest Ambitious Plan To Boost The Economy; Republican Matt Gaetz Is Caught Right In The Middle Of A Sex Trafficking Investigation. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: (VIDEO MISSING) Is off this week. (VIDEO MISSING) now shows its COVID-19 vaccine is 100 percent effective, 100 percent, in adolescence. The drug giant plans to submit all that information to the FDA, push for an expanded Emergency Use Authorization for children ages 12 to 15. The vaccine is currently authorized in the U.S., of course, for people age 16 and older.

Let's talk about this news with Dr. Megan Ranney. She is an emergency physician at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, 100 percent effective, I mean, is there a precedent for that with a vaccine? Tell us the importance of this news.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, CO-FOUNDER, GETUSPPE.ORG: So the first thing, Jim, is that this is just stellar news for all of us. As parents, as society, we know we need to vaccinate kids in order to stop transmission, even though kids don't get super sick, having them vaccinated is just going to be so helpful for us getting this virus under control.

That said, a couple of caveats. There were only a few cases of COVID- 19, even in the placebo group. So the numbers are really small. And then of course, this is just a press release. We saw what happened last week with the AstraZeneca press release. So I'm holding my, like, bottles of champagne until I see the actual data. But, no, I have not seen a vaccine that is truly 100 percent effective.

One more thing is that they not only looked at cases. They also looked at antibody response. And because we know that kids are less likely to get symptomatic, that really strong antibody response is just, to me just as exciting as the prevention of the cases. It means that the kids are developing that immune response to protect themselves.

SCIUTTO: Great, OK. And to your point, right, this is early data. Let's look at this as an indicator as opposed to the final word. But a positive indicator.

Based on how these things work then, you need more data and then you go through other steps along the process. Here we are just about to enter April. Could this reach a point where you get many kids or most kids vaccinated prior to the start of the new school year in September?

RANNEY: Yes, I do expect that kids age 12 and up will be getting vaccinated by the end of the summer. How quickly we get every kid aged 12 and up vaccinated? That's up for debate, but I think there's a good chance that a strong proportion of children aged 12 and up who are the higher risk ones for COVID will be vaccinated before they go back to school, which is just amazing.

SCIUTTO: Speak to parents here because of course many parents, like myself, might say, OK, I'm willing to take this for myself, right? The risks are small. For my child, it's a different story here. So obviously the results here are very positive. Speak to parents about how they should absorb this information and how they should feel going forward about the possibility of vaccinating someone that young, 12 to 15.

RANNEY: Yes, so, Jim, I have a 12-year-old. So here is how I am thinking about it. The first is, I'm waiting for the full data. Again this is a press release. The next is, once this goes through, the full round of reviews by the FDA, right, so as a reminder, they have this independent advisory board. It also goes through the CDC's Council on Immunization Practices. Once it goes through all those steps, we will have assurance that it is safe and that it is effective.

This MRNA technology, although this is the first time it's been used for human-approved vaccines, has been in existence for decades. There's no evidence of it causing any harm. We've given it to millions and millions of adults across the world. I feel that once it goes through the FDA approval, it is absolutely safe for my 12-year-old, and I will encourage all of the parents who I know to get it for their 12, 13, 14, 15, 16-year-olds as well because it will protect them.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, listen, good to hear it, as you say. This is a step along the way. There are many steps in place. That's for a reason. But it's great news from this first step.

Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much for helping us out this morning.

RANNEY: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, to the trial still gripping this nation. Scared, desperate, threatened. Sad. Helpless. Kind of mad as well. That's how witnesses describe feeling as they watched George Floyd die under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer 10 months ago. One of those witnesses just 9 years old. Her testimony is moving.

The third day of former cop Derek Chauvin's murder trial will begin with more eyewitness testimony in the next hour. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge he is now facing.

Let's go to CNN's Omar Jimenez in Minneapolis. He's covering this live. [09:05:01]

So tell us who is on the docket today, who do we hear from and when?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, so we'll be getting back into court over the next hour or so. And as you mentioned, we're going to hear some more from the firefighter and trained EMT Genevieve Hansen. She was finishing up court testimony yesterday when court was dismissed for the day, I should say. So that's why we're picking back up with her. And towards the end of it, she was being questioned by the defense attorney for Derek Chauvin, and there were many, many tense exchanges.

And part of that was tied to whether she would have been able to do anything in the moment when she was steps away from George Floyd pinned under the knee of George -- Derek Chauvin, I should say. And when the defense was asking her questions, things grew contentious at times. It was emotional. And here's part of how that exchange went between the two sides.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Do you think it would make your job fighting the fire harder if someone started yelling at you and telling you that you were doing it wrong?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN, MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER: I am very confident in the training that I've been given, so I would not be concerned.

NELSON: What if they started calling you names?

HANSEN: Like I said, I know my job, and I would be confident in doing my job, and there's nothing anybody could say that would distract me.


JIMENEZ: Now that exchange is especially interesting because part of what the defense had argued in their opening statements is that because of the growing threat of the crowd, the perceived threat of the crowd that was growing in that moment, the defense was arguing that Chauvin became distracted and was no longer able to focus on the care of Mr. Floyd.

And so when you see that exchange, him seemingly trying to push her to see if any sort of crowd would have distracted her from the work she would have been doing, she's saying, no, I can stay focused on my job. So that will likely be what -- a preview of what we're going to hear when she gets back on the stand over this next hour or so, and as we continue into this week one of testimony.

SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, we know you'll bring us the news. Thanks very much.

With us now, Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst, a former federal prosecutor, and Charles Ramsey. He led police departments in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Thanks to both of you. Chief Ramsey, I want to start with you if I can

because the defense is taking aim at the crowd here, calling them both a distraction to the police here. Therefore, perhaps responsible for, or partially responsible for the fact that they couldn't give attention to George Floyd, but also even dangerous.

It's a remarkable argument to make given the cops are armed, right, and by the way, they have a man face down on the pavement there. But given your training, your experience, do you find this line of questioning, this line of argument at all credible?

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: No, I don't. And you have video to back it up that actually shows the actions of the crowd. You can hear the audio. Some of the names that were called, believe me, I've heard a whole lot worse than that over the course of my career. And I've seen hostile crowds, real hostile crowds. And that would not qualify to be considered hostile in my opinion.

As far as distraction goes, you know, you have to learn to stay -- you have to stay focused on the job at hand. He had nothing more important than the safety of the person he was trying to take into custody, period. Nothing else was more important than that. He failed in that responsibility. And I think what the defense is doing is just simply throwing as much stuff out as possible to try to make a weak excuse, but there is no excuse for what Derek Chauvin did.

SCIUTTO: Laura Coates, to that point, the defense has to defend. That's their job, right? And they are taking aim at not just the crowd. They're taking aim at some of the witnesses trying to discredit, it seemed, or even rile up Donald Williams, one of the witnesses there, Questioning even led to the judge scolding to some degree the EMT operator there.

You know how courtrooms work. Is this a strategy that is more damaging or more helpful to the defense?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's more damaging because of course, it makes them lose focus. And first of all, the earlier point, America and these jurors have seen what an angry crowd looks like recently. There is a recent reference point of people who overwhelmed the police. For example, the insurrectionists at the Capitol. They have this reference point in mind. The juxtaposition of this crowd of people reacting to what the officers are doing and not rendering aid to a dying man compared to what a hostile, overwhelming crowd looks like.

This is very clear as day in their mind. And so it's very difficult for jurors and the judge to be patient, frankly, with this notion of scapegoating the witnesses because, remember, the person who would be on trial here is who? Derek Chauvin. It's not George Floyd. It's not Donald Williams. It's not the Minneapolis firefighter or the -- any of the minors. It's not the 911 dispatcher or anyone else.


And so, unless they are making the argument that George Floyd provoked, taunted or was aggressive to require this level of force over a sustained period of time, it's a losing game. And the scapegoating of the crowd is highly (INAUDIBLE). And one more thing, what would they have the witnesses say? Should there be attaboys thrown in their direction or good for you? Would there be compliments thrown when you watch someone, as Donald Williams says, I believed I was witnessing a murder? What would they have said other than what they have said?

SCIUTTO: So let's talk if we can, Charles Ramsey, about force, as it was applied, while this crowd was around and, of course, George Floyd died eventually of this. A witness named Alyssa described the force and the length of time and the pressure from Chauvin on Floyd's neck. Have a listen to it.


A.F., WITNESS: At one point, I saw him put more and more weight onto him. The police officers didn't move, and Chauvin kept his knee on his neck the entire time, even when the paramedic was checking for a pulse.


SCIUTTO: That witness they did not show the face because it was a minor at the time, which is remarkable. Old enough to witness this but not to testify in court.

Tell us, what training would lead an officer to apply more pressure, right, over time? Is there any training to do so, given that, at the time, Floyd was not resisting at that point or at least not visibly so, according to witnesses?

RAMSEY: No, there's no training that really teaches that. As far as force goes, however, and this is something that most of the witnesses, if not all of them, probably didn't see. And that was in the initial encounter when they were bringing the -- George Floyd to the car and he didn't get in the car and they were trying to pull him into the car. That's force, OK?

But when you look at these cases, you have to look from the beginning of the contact all the way up to the end. And just because force was justified at one point doesn't make it justified at a later point in the encounter. Once they got him in a prone position, which, by itself, your training will tell you, you don't keep a person in that position very long.

And once they got him totally under control, he was handcuff, his legs weren't flailing or anything like that, the force has to stop, period. That's it. There was no reason to continue with the kind of force and pressure they were putting on him, whether it was his neck or back after he was no longer resisting. I mean, that's the training.

SCIUTTO: Laura Coates, one of the most remarkable things to me, as I watched this, right, is just the age, right, of some of these witnesses. And again, too young to have their faces shown in court but not too young to witness this. And I want to play one of them here. A 9-year-old girl. Listen to her voice how she told it. Have a listen.


J.R., WITNESS: I was sad and kind of mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tell us, why were you sad and mad?

J.R.: Because it felt like he was stopping breathing, and it is kind of like hurting him.

DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS: There's been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.


SCIUTTO: That was first the 9-year-old and then her teenaged cousin here. What is in your view to a jury to hear such young people, right? Not only bear witness, right, to this but also to talk about what they were feeling and what they felt they were watching as it happened.

COATES: It was striking. I mean, as a parent, I have an 8-year-old son, and I can only imagine when you send your child to the store to go get snacks and they return, you expect them to have Cheetos or crackers or cookies. But they have a story and a memory of a murder?

And imagine what the parents on that jury are thinking about what it would have been like for the children to see it and the amount of credibility you also assign to a child because, remember, unlike somebody who later down the road during the trial or might be attacked for credibility reasons or their vantage point or they have some sort of angle here or an agenda they're trying to push, what's the agenda of a 9-year-old girl who is witnessing with a Love T-shirt on? witnessing a man asphyxiated to death.

What's the angle of a then-17-year-old who is up at night apologizing, and there was an end of that clip, that people keep in mind, she says, I apologized to George Floyd at night. Apologized for not being able to do more to save his life. But then I realized it's not what I should have done. It's what he, Derek Chauvin, should have done. And it goes back to that moment in the opening of, in your custody is in your care. This is profoundly compelling testimony.

SCIUTTO: And as often happens in cases like this, there's more than one victim really over time.


Laura Coates, Charles Ramsey, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, President Biden set to unveil his multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan today. How does he propose paying for it? We have new details.

And Congressman Matt Gaetz denying a relationship with a 17-year-old girl after reports that his under investigation by the Department of Justice for trafficking. What he's saying. Stay with us.




SCIUTTO: Just hours from now President Biden will head to Pittsburgh to unveil his newest ambitious plan to boost the economy. This time a roughly $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan. It is the first of a two-part proposal. The first part aiming to revamp physical infrastructure, roads, bridges, manufacturing, the nation's electric grid.

Joining me now CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House and Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. Jeremy first to you, this is big, right? But fact is, Republican and Democratic administrations have been talking about an infrastructure plan for some time. Give us a sense of the details.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt. And what is notable here is how high on the list of priorities the Biden administration is putting this. Keep in mind, they just passed that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and item number two is indeed this big infrastructure package.

President Biden today unveiling this $2.25 trillion package that aims to address physical infrastructure needs, as you just mentioned, $650 billion to rebuild roads, bridges, tunnels, et cetera.

But also, $300 billion for housing infrastructure, $300 billion for manufacturing, the electric grid. And then there's also this aspect of the care economy with $400 billion target towards that economy and home caretakers, care for the elderly and the disabled.

So that is part of the -- President Biden's overall vision. And as you mentioned, this is going to be one of two parts of this overall infrastructure and jobs plan that the administration is referring to as the American Jobs Plan.

Now they are already facing some pushback from Republicans on Capitol Hill who are disagreeing with the Biden administration's plan to pay for this package with some increases in the corporate tax rates among others. And they're also some pushback from Democrats as well.

This is how Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary pushed backed on some of those concerns.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Did they not think that we should invest in infrastructure, that we should do a historic investment in infrastructure? Did they think that the number of people who are out of work is unacceptable -- is acceptable? Do they think it's OK that one-third of the country doesn't have broadband? If they agree we need to address these issues let's work together on

it. Let's figure out how we can pay for it. I mean, that's how you get legislation done. That's how democracy should work. So, we're open to having that conversation.


DIAMOND: And listen, White House officials have made very clear, they want to try and get this passed by this summer. But they are also mindful that the plan they are proposing now is likely not the one that will ultimately be passed into law. The are committed to working with Congress and they know that those discussions are going to go on for quite a while and could get quite contentious. Jim?

SCIUTTO: All right Christine, so $2 trillion, the Trump administration --


SCIUTTO: -- cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. This would give some though not all of it back.


SCIUTTO: Raise it up to 28 percent. Does that pay the bills? What other tax increases?

ROMANS: You know, it does. I mean, what they're looking at here is making a big investment in infrastructure, which is needed and which company's would benefit from, by asking the companies to help foot the bill. It would be about eight years of spending and 15 years of higher taxes for big companies.

Now Jim, you make a very good point. Corporate, you know, corporate money going into the Treasury every year is how that funds the American government, that percentage gets smaller and smaller. The corporate burden has been getting smaller and smaller over time.

So, they're going where the money is, really rich people and companies. Raising the corporate rate to 28 percent. Again, this is the starting line, right? This is the beginning of the negotiation and then ending some subsidies, closing some loopholes, finding some money other ways.

This White House thinks that the tax cuts in 2017 for big companies and for rich people were really tilted toward people who already had money and they weren't fair. They're trying to find some fairness. That's the way they're looking at it.

SCIUTTO: All right, Christine Romans, Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much. Joining me now to discuss what this all means, could mean, Mark Zandi Chief Economist for Moody's Analytics. Good to have you on Mark.

I mean, the fact is, infrastructure -- I mean, how many infrastructure weeks did we have during the Trump administration? Both Republican and Democratic administration have been talking about this for some time. It costs money, you've to pay for it.

You make the good point that historically the U.S. has invested less and less over time as a percentage of GDP in infrastructure. We have a graphic that shows that. Way down from the peaks we saw during the '50s, for instance there, to where it is today.

Is this number, as an economist, in your view particularly big, too big? And is this the right way to pay for it?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST MOODY'S ANALYTICS: It's big, it's $2.5 to $3 trillion in additional spending on infrastructure and tax credits. It's also help incent (ph) more infrastructure spending, particularly for housing and green energy. So, it's large.

But we've got a large problem. I mean, we've been slowly reducing the amount of infrastructure spending we've been doing as the size of our economy, as you point out, since the 1950s. And the current amount of investment we're doing is barely, barely enough to keep pace with just the maintenance of the infrastructure.


And we can all feel, right, when --


ZANDI: -- we're on roads and bridges and problems we're having with our water systems. And, of course, you saw what happened in Texas with the grid. And then, of course, we have climate change issues coming that make our infrastructure even more vulnerable and fragile.


ZANDI: So, the need is very large. The package is large, but the need is very large. It is paid for in large part through higher corporate taxes, not completely, so it does add to the deficit in that longer run, but it's modest in the grand scheme of things. And I think --

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because Republicans --


ZANDI: -- probably do something different. But, you know, given all the constraints here this feels pretty good to me.

SCIUTTO: Yes, negotiations come. Republicans argue when they cut taxes, right? Because cutting taxes adds to the deficit too. That they will argue those tax cuts are expensive but they stimulate the economy, right? Would an infrastructure investment do the same? I mean, what does the data show that? If you -- if you replace the bridges and you hire people to do that and roads and broadband, et cetera, does it have a stimulative effect as well?

ZANDI: It does. I mean, initially obviously you're going to hire people to go out and build out the infrastructure and this would be very helpful in the wake of the pandemic as we have -- we know we have several million people who have permanently lost their jobs because of the pandemic. They're in communities across the country that this infrastructure program would be helpful in getting them back to work relatively soon.

And then, even -- perhaps even more importantly long run it lifts the productivity growth and competitiveness of our business. I mean, our businesses are hamstrung by the fact that our ports and our airports and our roads and our tunnels just are inadequate in, you know, there's delays and there's congestion --


ZANDI: -- (inaudible) economy. Now, raising taxes, obviously all else being equal, there's a constraint on growth as well. But, I would argue that higher corporate taxes has a marginal negative effect. The benefit of the infrastructure spending. The net benefit of all this is very positive for the economy long run.

SCIUTTO: On those tax rates, because you, I mean, you hear the stories of major companies that pay zero tax, right, because it's easy for multinationals, right, to hide profits all around the world so they don't anything close to 21 percent of 28 if the rate were to go up to that. I mean, you know, who actually -- who's bearing the burden the, right? I wonder, like who's paying for everything?

ZANDI: Yes, exactly right. Now, you mentioned in the previous discussion with Christina that the marginal rate -- top marginal rates coming back, but one other big aspect of the tax increase that's being proposed is to increase taxes on foreign income.

So, if you're U.S. corp. making money over seas you're going to raise -- they're going to raise more money that way as well. So, it's trying to address the question you just -- or the concern that you just brought up, that you have a lot of American corporations that aren't paying a lot of tax.

And the effective tax rate, the actual amount of tax rate they're paying relative to the profits they're making has been steadily declining and is low as it's been since, well, since World War II.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they (ph) got a lot of lawyers and accountants, those companies, finding ways to hide that money from the IRS, legally, but still.

Mark Zandi, thanks very much.

ZANDI: Sure thing Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz caught in the middle of a sex trafficking investigation after he is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. How he's responding to that accusation ahead.

And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures are flat this morning ahead of the roll out of President Biden's sweeping infrastructure plan we were just discussing. Investors will be paying close attention for any movement on that. What's the political reaction.

The stocks closed in the red yesterday. The Dow retreating from records highs as Treasury yields climb. That's a worry about interest rates. We're going to be watching all of it. Stay with us.