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Pfizer Trial Shows COVID-19 Vaccine 100 Percent Effective in Adolescents; Today, Biden Heads to Pittsburgh to Unveil Massive Infrastructure Plan; Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Denies Relationship with 17-Year-Old, Claims Extortion Attempt. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Let's go straight to CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is in Minneapolis. Omar, we're just minutes away. Tell us how today is going to play out.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. So, in just a few minutes, lawyers and the judge will file back into court and they're going to handle a few legal matters, we're not sure what those are going to be but we'll find out shortly. And then 30 minutes after that is when testimony is going to resume. And it's going to resume with that firefighter and trained EMT Genevieve Hansen, who was in the middle of testimony yesterday when court ended for the day.

And she was part of cross-examination by the defense, which means she was called by prosecutors and this was a chance for the defense attorney, for Derek Chauvin, to ask her questions about what happened on May 25th, 2020. And when the defense attorney had the chance to cross-examine, not just her, but others, that was when things got a little bit more contentious. So we'll watch for that over the course of today.

But she wasn't the only one that testified yesterday. We also heard from Donald Williams, who was feet away from George Floyd as he was pinned under the knee of Derek Chauvin, an MMA trainer, as he testified, also Genevieve, but also four witnesses under 18 at the time of George Floyd's death. So they were not shown on camera, only their audio. Included in that, Darnella Frazier, who shot that now infamous cell phone video that sparked this entire story and her nine- year-old cousin.

Now, again, when we get back later this morning with Genevieve, it will be the cross-examination portion of this. After that, we don't know which witnesses are going to come to the stand. The court has withheld that for security reasons. But we can imagine that if it is in that same line of eyewitness testimony, it likely will be just as emotional and potentially just as contentious, though the judge has seemed to try and tamp down on the latter to try and keep things as professional and as smooth as possible.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. It seems to be part of the defense strategy. Omar Jimenez in Minneapolis, thanks very much. Well, there's big news and some good news in the push to vaccinate America. Pfizer now says that its vaccine is 100 percent effective in children ages 12 to 15. Clinical trials revealing that young people have a much better immune response to the vaccination than adults do.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes here with the details. Kristen, these numbers are huge. 100 percent efficacy is really off the charts to some degree. But we should note, this is the first step in these trials.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. First of all, this is a strong data showing, as you said. We're already hearing from members of the medical community who are saying this is likely to be a green light to start vaccinating this younger group.

So let's start with what the data actually shows. As you mentioned, this was done on a group of 12 to 15-year-olds, 100 percent efficacy, a huge number there. The vaccine elicited strong antibody response and it was well tolerated.

Now, in terms of side effects, what it showed was the same as what we've seen in the age group of 16 to 25, which meant a little bit pain at the injection site, some fever, some fatigue, all a strong showing positive step.

However, as you noted, this is just the first step in a long line of steps before we actually start opening up this eligible to this younger group. First of all, this has to get approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization.

The company has said that they plan on submitting this data as soon as possible. But even once that happens, we know it's not a done deal. We have to see several panels to review this, talk about who exactly can get this, if there are any restrictions on this vaccine, as we have seen with all of these other vaccines as they go through this process.

But this is a very positive step, and it's really a pivotal step as we continue to have this conversation about reopening schools in the fall.

SCIUTTO: No question. Kristen Holmes, good news. It's nice to hear it. Thanks for coming on.

Joining me now to discuss further, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, she's the chief clinical officer at Providence Health System. Dr. Compton- Phillips, always good to have you on.

React to this data. As you look at this, based on what you're seeing give the size of the trial, about 1,000 participants, does it give you confidence that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children 12 to 15?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, PROVIDENCE HEALTH SYSTEM: Well, it's certainly a great data point. The fact that we have had this vaccine, the one today, the Pfizer vaccine, able to be used in kids down to the age of 16, now with this data showing it really is safe and effective down to the age of 12 gives us great hope that the school age population which, in order to open back up the country, we have to really got the school age population of kids vaccinated, we're really getting close to this. So it is a great step in the right direction.

SCIUTTO: Based on the steps, the other panels that would have to approve this, the FDA and so on, and based on what we've seen with the similar process with the previous vaccines for adults and others, could kids be vaccinated by the start of the coming school year?

[10:05:00]

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: They really could be. So they have not only this data now, which, by the way, it's been released by the company, not to any kind of peer review and not to the FDA yet, so we still have several more steps, but we also are expecting other studies from Moderna and from AstraZeneca to come out this summer as well. And if we can get those -- that data reviewed, that data approved then by the FDA, we can start over the summer getting kids vaccinated and really have kids ready and safe as well as keeping the teachers safe for school this fall.

SCIUTTO: Okay, that's great to hear. I want to talk about what we're seeing happening in Europe, but also some of the data points here on this country on a rise in new infections. The concern seems to be focused on the U.K. variant, certainly in Europe, more transmissible. That's leading to a whole host of responses there. What threat do you see from this variant here in the U.S. and what does this mean going forward? Are we, in your view, in the midst of a fourth surge of this?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We have potential to be in the midst of a fourth surge. So the challenge is that, as we've got people vaccinated, as we have warmer weather, we have loosening restrictions, opening things up, people are itching to get out there, and they are ready to take off the masks and to resume normal life. And the problem is, until we get to herd immunity, there's real risk to resuming normal life.

And so we just have to have that little bit of patience, hang on that little bit longer, as we talked about before, 26-mile marathon, we're on mile 24. We have got to hang in for the next couple miles. Keep the masks on, keep the distancing until we get to herd immunity so that we don't get the surge. Right now, we're neck and neck, we're at risk for outpacing the virus beyond the vaccines.

SCIUTTO: So, that's the doctor's advice, hold on a bit longer, we're so close. But the facts all around us, you and I, we see it in the streets, people are out, they're eating, you see it in the airports, people are flying, you see it in some -- even more concerning scenes, right, like all the partying you saw down in South Florida over spring break, et cetera.

Given that that's the reality, where is that going to leave us? I mean, can the increase in vaccination speed outweigh, right, the reduction in people being careful in these mitigation measures?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We can. It's going to take people participating, right? We know we have the skills, we have the capability to get a surge under control. Think about what life was like for us here in the states over the holidays, over Christmas, over New Year's, right? We had the virus deeply into the communities and we all put on masks and we all washed our hands and we all socially distanced and we got it under control. We know how to get this under control. We just have to do that bit of mitigation. And it's not like we have to completely stop life but we have to be sensible. Keep that mask on.

And then this summer, I'll all have great mask burning parties. I'll be the first one there with you. Until then, we just have to hang on a little bit longer.

SCIUTTO: I mean, like you say, we're so close. We are so close. Just give it a little bit more time.

Tell us specifically about what we know about how far this U.K. variant of COVID-19 is now present here in the U.S. Because we're often at a disadvantage here because we don't test to the degree, right, that we really should to help track these variants.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We don't have the same kind of surveillance that actually sequences the genome of the virus in different communities to the same degree that some other countries do. But we do know that in the places that we have been sequencing, that there is increasing percentages of the variants that are coming into the country which implies that they're more infectious, that they're winning the tug of war between the different types of virus that are in circulation. And so -- and particularly in places like New York that really, we believe, is fueling the uptick in infections.

And because of that, because of this increased infectiousness, we have to be -- double-down on the prevention methods.

SCIUTTO: Please do, folks. It's the right thing to do for you, your families and everyone else. Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, thanks so much for coming on.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, in minutes, compelling testimony will continue from an off duty firefighter who witnessed the death of George Floyd, tried to help but couldn't. We'll have an update on the trial of Derek Chauvin just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:10:00]

SCIUTTO: We're now just minutes away from the third day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis. A firefighter EMT who said she pleaded with Chauvin to let her treat George Floyd will take the stand again today, Genevieve Hansen, her testimony compelling. Once the trial begins, we are going to bring it to you live.

Meanwhile, partisan fight potentially taking shape as President Biden gets set to announce his next big plan to bolster the economy. He'll soon head to Pittsburgh to unveil part one of a multitrillion dollar infrastructure and jobs plan. Republicans already signaling they will not support tax hikes on corporations to pay for the plan.

Joining me is CNN's Jeremy Diamond, he's at the White House. Tell us the details, what's in it, but also how the Biden administration proposes at least paying for it.

[10:15:00]

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, President Biden today is going to unveil the first part of this nearly $4 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, and that is with a focus on the physical infrastructure and the care economy today with a $2.25 trillion proposal.

Let me show you right now how this $2.25 trillion proposal breaks down. The majority of it -- or most of it goes to physical infrastructure, rebuilding roads, bridges, airports, $650 billion there. You then see $300 billion each to housing infrastructure, manufacturing and the electric grid. And then also $400 billion to help improve access to caretakers for the elderly and the disabled and also to increase the wages of some of those caretakers.

Now ,the Biden administration is moving forward with this proposal despite the fact that it is already beginning to face Republican opposition to how it is proposing to pay for it. The Biden administration says that they want to increase the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. That is still lower than what it was before President Trump reduced that corporate tax rate through his tax cuts that were enacted during his time in office. They're also proposing other changes, including the taxing system for multinational corporations.

Here is how the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, responded this morning to some of the early criticism that the White House is facing, not only from Republicans, but also from some Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Do they not think that we should invest in infrastructure, that we should do a historic investment in infrastructure? Do they think that the number of people out of work is acceptable? Do they think it's okay 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 and that's how democracy should work.

So we're open to having that conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And, look, Jim, the White House is laying out a very ambitious timeline to try and push this infrastructure package through. They want to get it done this very same summer. But, of course, they know that they're going to have to work with congress on this and they know that it is going to be an arduous road ahead. A lot of negotiations are going to take place over the coming months.

But what is notable about the White House's push for infrastructure versus what we saw under the Trump administration, even the Obama administration, is how upon the list of priorities this falls for the White House. They just passed that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and next, they are attacking this big, nearly $4 trillion infrastructure and jobs package. It is their number two item on the agenda right after the coronavirus. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Understood. And the margin thin even among Democratic votes, right? They can't lose a lot of Democratic votes and get this through. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks very much.

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is denying ever having a sexual relationship with a minor while claiming to be the victim of an extortion plot, this after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether the Republican representative paid for a 17-year-old girl to travel with him, this as part of a wider sex trafficking investigation by the DOJ involving others.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins me now from Capitol Hill. So, Lauren, tell us the details of what The Times is reporting here but also Gaetz's claim really about a separate extortion plot related to the information about the investigation.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Jim. Look, there are two separate issues happening here. The first one is the fact that The New York Times reported yesterday that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Gaetz had a relationship with a 17-year-old and whether or not he traveled with her across state lines. That is a potential charge, of course, of human or sex trafficking. And I think that that is one of the key questions that investigators are looking at.

Now, Gaetz has denied these allegations, saying that he never took part in that relationship, nor did he travel with this woman across state lines. But I think it's important to remember that in denying these allegations, Gaetz is also alleging something else. He is saying that a former prosecutor for the department actually tried to extort him and his family, arguing that they could make this case go away if Gaetz gave them a certain amount of money.

Now, Gaetz and his father say that they were so worried about this that they went to the FBI and that his father was willing to wear a wire. Last night on Fox News, Gaetz actually announced the name of this individual. And I want to read a statement, because David McGee, the individual that Gaetz named, did gave a statement to The Washington Post. CNN has also tried to get the statement. And it says, quote, it is completely false. It is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he is under investigation for sex trafficking of minors. I have no connection with the case at all other than one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors. Now, it's important to point out that this investigation from the Department of Justice had started as an investigation into another politician in the state of Florida, and that these concerns about Gaetz grew out of that investigation.

[10:20:08]

It's also important to note that this began during the Trump administration, when Bill Barr was still the attorney general. Gaetz, of course, a close ally of the former president, someone who stood by his side multiple times on Capitol Hill, whether it was related to former President Trump calling the election rigged, to the first impeachment, to the second impeachment, Gaetz has been by the former president's side, so, obviously notable that this investigation began when Trump was still in office. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Understood. Lauren Fox, thanks for keeping us on top of it.

Any minute now, we are expecting to continue to hear from an off duty firefighter who said she felt frustrated and helpless as she watched George Floyd take his final breathes. We're going to bring your her testimony live the moment it begins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Any moment now, testimony will resume in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We will bring it to you live as soon as it begins.

The day begins where it left off yesterday, with the testimony of the off duty firefighter seen here on the right there who begged to help the officers as she watched George Floyd take his final breathes.

With me now, Laura Coates, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former prosecutor, Charles Ramsey as well, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and former Washington, D.C. Police Chief. Thanks to both of you.

Laura, a thought occurred to me during the break, and that is there were three other officers involved here now, not charged as Chauvin is. I wonder what's going through their minds as they're watching this and what's next for them.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Remember, their trial, they were supposed to be tried all together as before. But as co-defendants in this case whose liability is largely contingent on this particular conviction or acquittal of this officer, because, remember, they're being charged with going along with it as an accessory, as accomplice liability, informed to say that, hey, we were going along with the principal actor here.

And so they're going to be watching on really abated breath to figure out what type of statements are coming in through the witnesses that might be able to be used in their own defense there, statements, for example, of the Minneapolis firefighter who is going to continue her testimony today, where she talks about essentially falling in line in the sense that she did not intervene. She knew not to intervene with the police officers.

This might be something that actually comes up later with the next trial of these officers to suggest that, look, we ourselves, as on duty officers, with the power dynamic at play, felt the same thing. We were unclear about it.

They're also going to be looking to see about this defense strategy of using the crowd as a scapegoating technique. Remember, there is -- in the video we've already seen, Jim, we see in the video Officer Thao at least saying, I'm dealing with you, I'm busy dealing with the crowd at his back as towards what was happening. It's likely he'll try to use to use the statements about the idea of what he perceived as an unruly crowd to try to buttress his own defense. I'm looking for those sort of parallels that their attorneys are going to trying to use.

And, finally, will they testify? I mean, we had a lot of things going on that already had been a surprise, particularly the fact that that eight-minute and 46-second rallying cry was actually nine minutes and, what 29 seconds. I bet the prosecution has more tricks up their sleeve, including perhaps an officer testifying.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. That's notable. Okay, fair enough. We will watch closely. There could be surprises. Charles Ramsey, the essential line of the eyewitness testimony from this off duty EMT was she could have helped, right, perhaps saved George Floyd's life. That offer of help was refused. Now, the police say they already called another ambulance. It was late, but that's not on them, arguably. I just wonder what is the police training there if you have someone who is exhibiting health issues? And do they have some obligation, are they taught to take that offer of help if it comes?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, they wouldn't at the time really know the background that she has, the extent of her training. She would not have had any medical equipment with her. When you look at the video, it doesn't look like she has any medical equipment with her. Their first responsibility is to call for EMS, and they did that part.

And just a comment about this whole thing about intervening, it is the difference between a citizen trying to intervene during an active arrest and a police officer intervening during the course of the arrest. It's different. And many departments now have affirmative policies in place making it a duty to intervene if you see some misconduct or acts of aggression on the part of an officer. You have a responsibility to intervene in that particular situation.

SCIUTTO: That's a notable change, no question. Charles, on the issue of the crowd, because this is something the defense brought up repeatedly, this idea the crowd, not just a distraction to those officers, therefore, mitigating any blame for Floyd's death, but a danger to the officers. Do you find that credible?

RAMSEY: No, I don't find that credible. I think Laura in the last segment that we did really did highlight that. I mean, you want to see a hostile crowd, look at January 6th and look at the crowd today. I mean, there was no comparison at all.

[10:30:02]

I have seen hostile crowds, believe me. This would not qualify to be a hostile crowd.

One just last comment around the EMT.