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Emotional Testimony from Six Witnesses in Chauvin Trial; White House Pushes Back on W.H.O. Report; Several U.S. States Ignore Calls to Renew Restrictions; Countries Concerned by W.H.O. Study on COVID Origins; Biden Set to Unveil Massive Infrastructure Plan; Court Documents: Alleged Rioter Made Racist Threats. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a U.S. jury hears heart breaking testimony from bystanders who witnessed George Floyd's death, one was just nine years old.

Better information and greater transparency, the White House joins the push back against the World Health Organization's report into the origins of the coronavirus.

And Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz strongly denies having a relationship with a 17-year-old girl after reports the Justice Department is looking into it.

Well, day three in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will get under way several hours from now. Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd last year by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest. On Tuesday six bystanders, one just nine years old, told the court about their feelings of horror and fear as they watched Floyd's final moments.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has details from Minneapolis. His piece contains images you may find disturbing.


PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, JUDGE: Good morning, members of the jury.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story of what happened May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis told today through the lens of eyewitnesses.

GENEVIEVE CLARA HANSEN, MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER: I had already assessed that he had an altered level of consciousness. What I needed to know is whether or not he had a pulse anymore.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Genevieve Hansen is an EMT and was off duty on a walk when she ended up feet from George Floyd as he was pinned under the knee of Derek Chauvin and wanted to help with, at the very least, chest compressions.

MATTHEW FRANK, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: And when you couldn't do that, how did that make you feel?

HANSEN: Totally distressed.

FRANK: Were you frustrated?


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Donald Williams was standing right next to her.

DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: I believed I witnessed a murder.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): After Floyd's seemingly unresponsive body was loaded into the ambulance that day, Williams called the police on the police he had just witnessed, in particular Derek Chauvin. That 9-1-1 audio was played in court.

WILLIAMS: He just pretty much just killed this guy that wasn't resisting arrest.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Williams didn't feel he could talk to the officers at the scene.

LAWYER: Did you, well, believe that they were involved?

WILLIAMS: Yes, totally.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But the most contentious exchange of the trial so far --


WILLIAMS: Is that what you heard?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): -- was between Williams and Chauvin's attorney during cross-examination when he questioned Williams about what he called Chauvin that day.

NELSON: You called him a bum at least 13 times. Those terms grew more and more angry. Would you agree with that?

WILLIAMS: They grew more and more pleading for life.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The defense emphasizing a point it made during opening statements, that the perceived threat from a growing crowd caused Chauvin to direct his attention away from Floyd's care.

The next witnesses appeared by audio only, since they were under 18 at the time of Floyd's death, including a 9-year-old and her now 18-year- old cousin, only identified as D.F. She's the one who filmed the now infamous cell phone video scene around the world.

D.F., WITNESS: I seen a man on the ground, and I see a cop kneeling down on him.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): She was asked to identify Derek Chauvin in court.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Are able to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury if you know who this man is? You can take your time.

D.F.: Yes. Yes.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): She said she felt threatened by the police there, including Chauvin that day, a day she can't let go of, even close to a year later.

D.F.: When I look at George Floyd, I look at -- I look at my dad. I look at my brothers.


It's been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): And of Chauvin.

D.F.: It's not what I should have done. It's what he should have done.

JIMENEZ: And this was the most emotional and contentious day of testimony we've seen yet over the course of this trial. In fact, the final witness called for the day, the EMT, was actually scolded by the judge for arguing with Chauvin's defense attorney. And her testimony is where the day ended on Tuesday. So Wednesday morning, when court resumes, we're going to pick things back up with her testimony as part of trying to establish the record of what happened and why on May 25th, 2020, from those closest to the story.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


CHURCH: A top U.S. health official says the country's COVID vaccine rollout is providing a lot of hope for Americans, but the head of the CDC also warns that hope is tempered by a rising infection rate. This past week the U.S. averaged more than 65,000 new cases per day, a 22 percent increase from the week before.

Well despite this several states are easing COVID restrictions and ignoring calls from the White House to renew mask mandates. CNN's Alexandra Field has the details.



ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Biden administration mounting pressure on governors across the country. SLAVITT: I think the governors know that they're not helping the

cause, that they're actually weighting down the cause and they may think it's a popular thing to do.

FIELD (voice-over): Administration officials and the president himself asking all states to pause reopenings as new COVID-19 infection numbers spark increasing alarm. Nearly 70,000 new cases reported Monday, bringing the daily average up by almost a quarter nationwide since last week.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, FORMER DETROIT HEALTH COMMISSIONER: You look at the fact that in more than half of states numbers are ticking up and public officials keep making decisions to continue to rescind the kinds of protective policies that had kept it from spreading in the first place and you realize we have a perfect storm.

FIELD (voice-over): Alabama's governor still plans to rescind her state's mask mandate next week.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): At that time it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate.

FIELD (voice-over): New Jersey and Delaware still planning to allow for bigger outdoor gatherings while states like Texas and Florida which have abandoned virtually all COVID-related restrictions are seeing for the first time in a long time cases climbing.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Interesting thing is hospitalizations of young adults are going up. There's a notion out there that these young adults are somehow immune, we are not going to get affected, but hospitalizations of those folks in those age groups are going up.

FIELD (voice-over): That's the disturbing trend in Michigan, the state with the highest average of new weekly cases.

DR. GARY ROTH, MICHIGAN HEALTH AND HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: The younger group tends to believe that they are not as likely to be affected, that they are not at risk and as such they are putting themselves much more so in harm's way.

FIELD (voice-over): President Biden says 90 percent of adults will be eligible for vaccines within just three weeks. The federal government still working on guidelines for those in the private sector who plan to develop vaccine passports which would verify whether someone has been fully vaccinated. But if you're traveling to Florida you can leave that vaccine passport at home.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.


CHURCH: Alexandra Field with that report.

Well wealth experts warn the spread of COVID variants is significantly hampering the recovery efforts. Earlier CNN spoke about it with Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: Well, unfortunately we have a number of road maps to follow. Right now the countries in the world that actually have the highest rates of disease, which are just really skyrocketing, are in east central Europe. All due to B.1.1.7. We've watched it go through Europe. We're watching it around the world right now and in each instance we see what it's doing.

And it's, in fact, causing much more severe illness in 20 to 49-year- olds than we saw with the other strains. And because kids are readily spreading it we now actually see a number of 20 to 49-year-olds getting infect that had we didn't see before. So this is in a sense rewriting the playbook.


CHURCH: Well the U.S. state of Arkansas is lifting its requirement for people to wear masks indoors. The mandate was put in place by the governor in July last year.


Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged states to stick to public health guidelines even if COVID rates are falling and vaccines are being given out more widely. Arkansas is also extending COVID vaccinations to everyone over 16.

President Joe Biden has called on the whole country to do so by May 1st and all 50 states now have a strategy in place. Some states like Alaska and Mississippi are well under way in giving shots out to adults. Others like New Jersey and Wisconsin plan to wait until the end of April.

Well, the U.S. isn't fully buying a new report from the World Health Organization on the origin of COVID-19. The White House says the study isn't a complete picture and President Biden thinks Americans deserve better.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The report lacks crucial data, information and access. It represents a partial and incomplete picture.

I think he believes that the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors, all of the people who have been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones all deserve greater transparency, they deserve better information. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Well, the U.S. is one of more than a dozen countries now calling for an independent review, the 120-page report says the coronavirus was very likely passed from one animal to another before infecting humans. The study also found the idea the virus came from a lab unlikely, but even the head of the W.H.O. thinks more needs to be done.

He says this, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.

And CNN's Steven Jiang is tracking developments. He joins us now live from Beijing. Good to see you Steven. So even the W.H.O. chief questions his own organization's COVID origin report and more than a dozen nations are calling for an independent review but how can that be done given China's pushing back with all of this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's a good question, Rosemary, but it's remarkable to hear Dr. Tedros the head of the W.H.O. considered pro-Beijing by critics to make these surprisingly critical remarks about China. Not only he said more data and studies are needed for the Wuhan lab leak theory. He also said the agency's experts encountered difficulty in accessing raw Chinese data during their investigation in the country. And he said he expected more timely and comprehensive data sharing during future collaborations. Really echoing and reinforcing the message you mentioned by the U.S. and 13 other governments in their join statement really calling for unfettered access to Chinese data by independent experts.

Now for its part, the Beijing government has responded to this report saying actually is the result of close collaboration between Chinese international experts and demonstrating the country's open and transparent and responsible attitude. But they also called for more investigations to be conducted in other countries with officials here often pointing fingers at the U.S., especially this U.S. military-run lab in Maryland, without presenting any concrete evidence. Now, the irony here, Rosemary, is even though the foreign ministry has denounced attempts to politicize this issue but according to many analysts that's exactly what the Chinese government is doing -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Steven Jiang joining us live from Beijing.

Well, Professor Marion Koopmans is a virologist who was part of the W.H.O. team and an author of the report and she spoke with CNN about her experience investigating the virus. Take a listen.


MARION KOOPMANS, VIROLOGIST: I think that skepticism and this opinion was already circulating before the report ever came out and that is a concern from the group that feels like the virus came from a lab and that that needs to be investigated. Now, what we did is work with our Chinese colleagues to collect,

discuss, aggregate, analyze all the information that is available based on a long list of studies that were done and that's not an inspection, that's not an audit, it's a joint study. I think there's some misunderstanding about how this was set up.

And did we discuss the responsibility of a laboratory leak? Yes, we did, with all the labs that were involved in the early response. We were there, we visited them, we discussed the bio security, we discussed their programs of work, the training of their staff, the testing of their staff and we did not find any indication or a lead for further follow-up.


CHURCH: Professor Marion Koopmans there.

Well President Biden will be unveiling a massive infrastructure plan, but will his proposal garner enough support from Republicans in Congress?


We'll have a live report next.


CHURCH: Well later today President Joe Biden is set to unveil a massive proposal to improve America's infrastructure. The first part of the plan is estimated at over $2 trillion and would be financed in large part through corporate tax increases. Part two of the proposal, which is likely to include childcare, early education and health care funding will be announced in April. Here is more from the White House press secretary.


PSAKI: And he has a plan to pay for it which he will propose. But right now once he proposes that our focus is also on having that engagement and discussion with members of Congress. If they share a goal of building our infrastructure for the future, but don't like the way he's going to propose to pay for it we're happy to look at their proposals. If they don't want to pay for it, I guess they can propose that, too.


CHURCH: For more on this let's bring in CNN's John Defterios joining us live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you John. So how will markets likely react to Biden's massive infrastructure plan and will Republicans support it? Doesn't sound that way.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes, it looks like that will be a struggle on Capitol Hill, Rosemary. But let's get to that in just a moment.

The markets are keeping their powder dry waiting to see what actually emerges over the next couple of months. The timeline is pretty aggressive, though, they'd like to get the legislation done at the White House by the end of May. Working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Look at this as Joe Biden's New Deal, if you will, in the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 1933 to 1939 after the Great Recession. He's going to launch it in Pittsburgh, the former steel town, the heartland of America, which has made the transition to research and development and into technology at the same time.

So what's the real priority here? Number one is to renew America's infrastructure, road and rails, for example, American manufacturing, very importantly making the energy transition to solar, wind, hydrogen, energy and away from oil and gas. Remove the tax benefits to the oil and gas sector at the same time.

Then you have to ask how do you pay for it? We heard from Jen Psaki saying they have a plan, it's really in the corporate level. Let's take a look. At 28 percent moving the rate up to that level, wiping out the tax cuts by Donald Trump, which was taken down to 21 percent. A global minimum tax on corporations and also trying to close the loopholes for what they call offshoring of capital. At one point the American companies had $2.5 trillion overseas to avoid the higher corporate rate. So let's see if they can tighten those loopholes or not.

It's also interesting to note, I think, Rosemary, that Donald Trump tried an infrastructure plan of a trillion dollars. This is up to four times that level on the first and second rounds entirely, two times the level of the stimulus package that Joe Biden got through as well and that failed. Because there's the regional rivalries that we have to watch out for on Capitol Hill with various Senators and Congressmen and women looking to get money back to their districts and to their states, as you know. So there's going to be a lot of bargaining, Rosemary, but it's ambitious and I would say as an American well- needed, our infrastructure is quite creaking, if you will.

CHURCH: Yes, cities crumbling in parts of the country. John Defterios joining us live from Abu Dhabi, many thanks.

Two U.S. Capitol police officers injured in the January 6th riot are suing former President Donald Trump for inciting the crowd. The officers are the first police to sue in court following the riot. They claim they suffered physical and emotional damages and blame Trump for aiding and abetting their assault.

One of the officers says he was crushed against doors and sprayed with chemicals. The other says he was slammed against a stone column, injuring his head and back, all while his assailants abused him with racist slurs. Trump hasn't publicly responded to the suit, although he's previously denied having a role in the attack.

Well we are learning more about what happened during the January insurrection and those involved through court filings. Our Brian Todd reports there are new signs some of the violence was racially motivated.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New information on the pure hate that was mixed with the violence on January 6th. Prosecutors allege rioter Garrett Miller in the days after the Capitol attack identified a black police officer and posted messages online threatening to lynch him.

He is a prize to be taken, Miller said, according to court filings. Prosecutors say Miller threatened to, quote, hug his neck with a nice rope. He will swing. Former Police Chief Cedric Alexander believes that officer could still be in danger.

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: It puts them certainly in the target of someone who could be so hateful and bigoted that they could potentially do them harm.

TODD (voice-over): Prosecutors say Garrett Miller posted those threats believing the officer in question shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt, though there is no indication that Miller correctly identified the officer who shot her. Court documents also allege Miller threatened to assassinate Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Miller has not entered a plea. His lawyer has said his messages were, quote, misguided political hyperbole and that Miller regrets what he did.

Another officer dealing with the fallout from that day, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone who was dragged down the steps of the Capitol, tased, beaten with a flagpole, suffered a heart attack, a concussion, traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

MICHAEL FANONE, WASHINGTON, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I was just beaten from like every direction.

TODD (voice-over): Fanone's mother has spoken out telling CNN she's outraged at former President Trump's recent comments that rioters presented zero threat and were, quote, hugging and kissing police.


TERRY FANONE, MOTHER OF OFFICER INJURED IN INSURRECTION: Whatever fine these people or whatever jail sentence somebody might incur it doesn't even begin, it doesn't begin to repair the damage that has been done to not only Michael but all these other people who really were -- they were the ones that were persecuted.

TODD (voice-over): This comes as two leaders of the far-right pro- Trump group the Proud Boys are making new claims to try to avoid being jailed before their trials. Ethan Nordean now says in court filings that the Proud Boys were disorganized on January 6th and that he himself was only planning to stage a private concert at an Airbnb that day. Nordean is charged with multiple counts including conspiracy along with fellow Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs who is now claiming the FBI checked in on him several times in the recent years and he regularly spoke to local and federal law enforcement about protests he knew of or was planning.

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It does not actually mean that the government did not view him as a threat in any other way. Sometimes law enforcement checks in on individuals who are subjects of their investigation for the purpose of just kind of keeping in touch with them.

TODD: Joseph Biggs and his attorneys claim last year Biggs met with FBI agents who they say were interested in his knowledge of the left- wing group Antifa and wanted to know what Biggs was seeing on the ground. The Justice Department and the FBI have not responded to Joseph Biggs's assertions.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Well increasing numbers of migrants are trying to make the dangerous journey from Central America to the United States. Thousands of people including families with young children were setting out from Honduras hoping to escape poverty made worse by the pandemic. Some of them were turned back by Honduran police for lacking proper identification papers and proof of negative coronavirus tests.

U.S. media got a first look at some of the alarming levels of overcrowding in U.S. border camps. These images are from a temporary customs and border protection facility in Donna, Texas. It's already well over capacity currently holding more than 4,000 migrants. Most of the migrants there are unaccompanied children and some of them have been there more than 15 days. The legal limit is just 72 hours.

Ahead on CNN, a Republican Congressman denies allegations of sexual misconduct. Matt Gaetz says he is a victim of extortion. The details from Washington. That's next.