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Floyd's Friend Invokes Fifth Amendment, Says He Won't Testify in Trial; Pfizer Vaccine Protection Lasts at Least Six Months after Second Dose; New York Times Reports, New York Prosecutors Subpoena Trump Org CFO's Personal Bank Records. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 1, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


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[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow has the day off.

This morning, we have learned the man who was sitting in a car with George Floyd when police approached and removed them from the vehicle will not testify in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Instead, Maurice Hall will invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Today, jurors in the Chauvin murder trial and to the fourth day of testimony with a clear understanding of exactly what happened on the day of Floyd's death. This comes after we heard for the first time the ex-police officer's first words as he was confronted by a witness who took issue with Chauvin's kneeling on Floyd's neck. More powerful testimony expected to come today. We're going to bring it to you live.

Let's begin in Minneapolis. CNN's Josh Campbell is there. Tell us what you've learned today, this witness not appearing. That is potentially significant.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We're looking forward to see who will be testifying today, Jim, as court gets under way here in Minneapolis. But as you mentioned, one person that we know who will not testifying is this friend of George Floyd who was allegedly in the vehicle with him on the day that he had that encounter with police. This according to a new court filing from his defense counsel saying that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment and will not testifying.

Again, we're looking today to see who will be called as witnesses. We know that yesterday was a very emotional day in court. We heard from a number of people who were there in and around the scene whenever the police encountered George Floyd, whenever he ultimately died. One of those witnesses, a 61-year-old resident here broke down in tears as prosecutors showed him this video camera footage of police interacting with George Floyd.

Now, we also heard from a 19-year-old former cashier who worked in the store next to where George Floyd died. He said he is now full of regret. Of course, we know that this all kicked off because George Floyd had allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill to the cashier, that ultimately leading to another store employee calling police. Again, that leading into this escalation, this ultimate confrontation that witness saying yesterday that he just feels regret now because of what transpired.

One person we're also waiting to hear from, and we don't yet know who will, is Derek Chauvin himself. We're waiting to see whether he will indeed testify. We heard from so many witnesses who just expressed their just heartbreaking grief about what transpired. Will Derek Chauvin testify? Will we hear from him about what was going through his mind?

So far, the only indication we have from him was in this video released yesterday by prosecutors in which he seemingly attempts to justify his actions by saying that George Floyd was apparently under the influence of some kind of substance. But, again, we're waiting to see whether or not he will actually take the witness stand. We will be focused on that today. Our CNN colleagues will be in the courtroom and we'll obviously continue to bring you the latest. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's remarkable to hear some of these witnesses express guilt, their own guilt they felt about not being able to do more. Josh Campbell outside the courthouse there, thanks very much.

We're also following breaking news this morning, if you could believe it, another mass shooting in America. Last night, four people, including a child, were killed when someone opened fire at an office complex in Orange, California, in the two weeks since the Atlanta area spa shooting that's left eight people dead, there have been, wait for it, at least 20, 20 mass shootings in the U.S. in two weeks.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is in Southern California this morning. Kyung, I know you're waiting for an update from police in just a couple of hours. What are we hoping to learn and what do we know so far?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, right now, we just don't have a lot of details about what led up to this, Jim. We're hoping to learn a little bit more about the suspect, motive, any connection, any possible connection to the people who died here. All we know right now is basically what we've seen.

The investigators, you can see them out front. This is the business park where the shooting took place last night. Investigators have been going in and out doing evidence collection. They remain here as they try to figure out what led up to all of this.

What neighbors here, there are apartments and houses all through this area surrounding this business park, say that they started hearing gunfire right around dinner time last night. Shortly after that, then the sound of sirens as the first responding officers arrived here. And then there was gunfire. The Orange Police say that that gunfire was exchanged between law enforcement and the suspect. The suspect was wounded and then transported to the hospital.

[10:05:01]

Investigators then made their way through this business park. There are six offices here in this business park and there were four people dead inside. We don't know exactly where but we do know that there are four people dead, one of them a child. We don't have the exact age. We just know that a child is among the dead. A fifth woman was also injured and taken to the hospital. She is in critical condition this morning.

We did meet somebody outside, Paul Tovar. He says that his brother and his niece, he has been calling them repeatedly through the night and they have not picked up. They are missing. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL TOVAR, NIECE AND BROTHER HAVE OFFICE IN COMPLEX: I'm just trying to find out his well-being. He's not answering his phone either, and my niece, I'm pretty scared and worried. I wish I knew more. I don't know. I ran out. I'm just praying really hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Yes. We just spoke of him again and he still doesn't have any more details. What police do say is that one gun was involved in this mass shooting.

And as you point out, Jim, it has been a violent two weeks. This is the 20th mass shooting and mass shooting being defined as four people critically wounded or killed in that single shooting. So this is the 20th in just two weeks. Jim?

SCIUTTO: The toll goes on. It just doesn't stop. Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

In Washington, a giant sales pitch coming. Just hours from now, President Biden will meet with his cabinet, all of them, for the first time of his presidency, just one day after unveiling his multitrillion dollar infrastructure and jobs proposal.

CNN's John Harwood is at the White House. John, we're expecting the president to use today's meeting as another step in promoting this plan. But the fact is, he's got opposition principally from Republicans but also members of his own party. What are the administration's hopes here of getting this through?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Full-court press, Jim, yes. There is some opposition within the party saying it's not large enough. There was some of that from the COVID-19 relief plan. Some people wanted a bigger plan. That is not going to be the operational constraint on this program. It's fundamentally going to be can they push through a plan of this size having pushed through $1.9 trillion of borrowed money with the COVID-19 relief bill? Can they push another very large price tag through and how much of that can they pay for with tax increases?

The president laid out a plan yesterday that had enormous amounts of spending, $621 billion for transportation, $400 million for care giving for the elderly and disabled, $300 billion for manufacturing, $100 billion to upgrade schools, lots more for the energy grid, for basic scientific research, very large spending and tax increases to pay for it over a longer timeframe, over 15 years.

And that's going to be the real challenge of getting the votes because we've seen that immediate resistance from Republicans to either borrowing or tax increases and certainly from the business community, which says, no, if you raise taxes, you're going to set back economic recovery.

SCIUTTO: Well, John, we know you're going to be following it closely. There's a lot to come here. We'll keep in touch.

Other news we're following this morning, Pfizer now has the data necessary to apply for full FDA authorization for its two-shot coronavirus vaccine. So far, it has emergency use authorization. The pharmaceutical giant announcing that fully vaccinated people based on its data have at least six months, at least being key there, six months of immunity and protection against variants as well. That is key because there are new variants out there, more transmissible.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins me now. And, Kristen, explain this six months figure here, because people might hear that and say, wait a second, I get the shot, I'm only protect for six months? I mean, the fact is the data here shows at least six months and the expectation it would be longer.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. And something to keep in mind here is that today is the best estimate that we have was actually 90 days. So this is a vast improvement. And this is really our first look at how long protection actually lasts.

I want to go through all the findings here. You touched on two of the key points, one, of course, being that it protects -- the protection lasts at least six months after the second dose. The second one you mentioned, protects against variants, that includes the South Africa variant that so many health providers that I talked to have been incredibly concerned about. So that is great news. Remains more than 91 percent effective against disease with any symptoms and 100 percent effective against severe disease.

So all of this is really positive information. It comes after we learned yesterday, and you and I talked about this, about those findings between 12 and 15-year-olds, that the vaccine had been 100 percent effective in that age-group. So all of this a positive step for us in this vaccine distribution process.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Okay, other development in the last 24 hours is production issue for the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, quality control, in effect, catching a problem could affect up to 15 million doses.

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Now, before I ask this question, I just want to make clear to people that the J&J doses out there already, they were produced overseas, there is no quality issue with them, but tell us the impact of this on just the rollout of vaccinations around the country in terms of supply and also is this a fixable problem?

HOLMES: Jim, I want to reiterate something you just you said because I think there is going to be a lot of questions about this. Anyone who has actually gotten the vaccine or if you are planning on getting the vaccine, you have an appointment to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you have nothing to be concerned about. This is a quality control issue that was caught inside the plant.

Now, that, of course, being said, it is absolutely devastating that potentially 15 million doses that could have gone into the arms of Americans now will not.

So what we heard from Johnson & Johnson is that in this plant in Baltimore, they did identify that one batch of drug substance didn't actually meet their standards. And, again, this potentially impacted 15 million doses. This is what Dr. Fauci had to say about this today.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Human errors do happen and you have checks and balances. And the good news about this, despite the fact that it's really quite unfortunate that about 15 million doses now are not going to be able to be used, but you do have checks and balances and you see that. And that's the reason why the good news is that it did get picked up.

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HOLMES: And to answer your question, Jim, about how this is going to affect distribution, the White House is essentially saying that it's not going to, that this doesn't affect Biden's goal to have every adult -- every adult able to get vaccinated, just vaccines available to every adult by May 1st. And Johnson & Johnson has said that this didn't affect their goal to get 20 million doses by the end of last month, which is a goal that they met.

But, again, of course, reading this is devastating when you think about the idea that 15 million doses that could have gone into the arms of Americans just simply won't.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Let's hope they get backfill it quickly. That's the challenge now. Kristen Holmes, thanks very much.

A quick programming note, be sure to join our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a journey to learn why some people are still afraid of vaccines. This new CNN special report, an important one, The Truth About Vaccines, begins Monday night at 9:00.

In minutes, a new round of testimony set to begin in the trial of Derek Chauvin. We're going to bring you those the moment they begin live. And New York prosecutors stepping up their investigation into former President Trump's finances. They have reportedly subpoenaed the personal bank records of the Trump organization's long time financial officer. Why is that significant? We'll have more coming next.

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SCIUTTO: This morning, The New York Times is reporting that state prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Trump's finances have now subpoenaed the personal bank records of long time Trump organization's CFO, Allen Weisselberg, the picture there, what appears to be an effort to get him to cooperate.

Should be made clear, Weisselberg he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins me now. Kara, you have new reporting this morning on how the former president tried over the years to kind of push responsibility for decisions he has made on valuing his properties on to Weisselberg. I mean, this is key, because if you overvalue property to try to get loans, you know, that could open you up to legal liability. What more can you tell us?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Jim, that's right, it can. And if you look just at this 2007 deposition where Trump was asked under oath how he came up for the values for some of his assets, he said he relied on Allen Weisselberg. Specifically, Trump said, he shows me what he ultimately comes up with and I'm not sure I ever said change this number or change that number. He shows me. We'll talk about it. He'll do it.

And twice in that deposition, Donald Trump was asked about values for two specific properties and both times he said, Mr. Weisselberg did that one.

But he also revealed that he did acknowledge that Trump said he inflated his own net worth. He said he inflated the value of his assets, that he exaggerates. He said everybody does, who wouldn't? Specifically he was asked about one property north of New York City, Seven Springs. It's a family estate. That property's valuation went one year from $80 million to $150 million the next year. Trump said that change was based on his opinion. He acknowledged under oath that he did not have an appraisal or any expert advice.

So the question that prosecutors are focusing in here is were these exaggerations or embellishments within the norms of New York real estate or did it cross the line into illegal activity? And that is where Allen Weisselberg fits in here. He's in the spotlight because he's been with the Trump organization for four years, he knows the former president very closely. The former president put him in charge of his company along with his adult sons when he went into office.

And that's why prosecutors are asking a lot of questions here. They have, as The New York Times reported, subpoenaed the bank records, they have also interviewed his former daughter-in-law multiple times. She told CNN that they asked questions about gifts and compensation they received.

So, prosecutors are looking for any bit leverage that they might find on Allen Weisselberg in order to get him to cooperate. And Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing. His lawyer has declined to comment on whether he would cooperate on any of these allegations.

But, Jim, if you look in 2015, Allen Weisselberg himself was deposed. And at the time, he was asked by an attorney, are you subject to Trump's ultimate control, and Weisselberg said, yes.

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SCIUTTO: That is what they call a contradiction, based on what they're both saying. Kara Scannell, thanks you so much. I know there will be more there.

Well, emotions are high at the Derek Chauvin murder trial resumes any moment from now. We're going to bring it to you live the moment that testimony begins again.

At this point jurors have now watched video of George Floyd's dying moments multiple times, from multiple different angles. And they've also heard the pain, the grief, the guilt even that several witnesses carry with them to this day.

Just moments ago, we learned some news. We learned that George Floyd's friend, the man who is seen sitting with him in the car when he was arrested, will not now testify.

Laura Coates and Charles Ramsey are back with me now as we begin day four.

Laura, I want to get your view on this development. So, Maurice Hall has informed the court he will, if he is still called to testify, invoke the Fifth Amendment. He, in effect, said, no need for me to come anymore. The defense has noted surveillance video that showed him, they allege, dropping something into the sewer drain on the street while Floyd was being taken into police custody here. Significance of this move?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This would be very significant if George Floyd were the one on trial, Jim, or this particular individual were the one on trial because, again, this is part of the kind of tertiary discussions here. It's tangentially related as to why the police officers were called, with respect to anyone else in the vehicle.

Remember, this trial, to refocus the audience and the greater community, this focus is about the interaction between Derek Chauvin, who is the defendant, and the dissident, George Floyd. And the conduct to focus on is what happened on the ground when the moment in time that reasonable use of force should no longer had been applied, turned into deadly and lethal force and was sustained even after the threat was neutralized. So the idea of a witness was in the car or maybe a person in the Cup Foods store, all of those things are going to be related to setting the scene but should really have no impact on the prosecution of Derek Chauvin for that particular moment in time.

SCIUTTO: Charles Ramsey, one development yesterday was the Chauvin body cam actually was another officer's body cam but Chauvin speaking here, in effect, trying to explain to one of the witnesses why he used the force he did. I want to play that again and then I have a question for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS OFFICER: We got to control this guy because he's a sizable guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) put him in the car.

CHAUVIN: It looks like he is probably on something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Sizable guy, looks like he is probably on something. You, like the jurors now, you've seen this video of this interaction over many, many, minutes. You know, it is caught on tape and you've heard the witness testimony. You're also a former police officer. You commanded police officers who have been in a lot of difficult, sometimes dangerous interactions. When you look at this interaction, do you look at that and say, this was a highly dangerous encounter, that force arguably could be justified?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, it's not justified at all. I mean, listen, George Floyd was a big guy. There is no question about that. I don't know, I heard that Chauvin is not that big. But remember, you got four policemen there. It's not a one-on-one situation. You got four cops there. He had already been handcuffed, so he was already restrained.

I mean all the factors figure in when you take a look at whether or not the use of force was necessary. And as Laura mentioned earlier, you know, the force was sustained well beyond the time it was actually needed.

One of the things when you're trained and you have a prolonged encounter like that, you know, you use the force that you need to use to deal with the situation at that moment. But you constantly reassess over and over. Is the struggle still taking place? If yes, then, obviously, you have to continue with the force. If not, you reassess. I don't need to use that force any longer and you stop.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that's going to be a question for the jury, both the use of the force and what was not done right, as Floyd became unresponsive.

I want to ask you, Laura, this is a jury trial. As we said in the last hour, jurors are human beings. They're reacting to this in real-time. And this took place in front of multiple witnesses, every moment of this. One juror yesterday needed a break.

Hold that thought. Hold that thought, Laura Coates. It does look like we're going to start a couple minutes early here. The first witness in this trial, let's listen in.

JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA: -- to keep your mask on. It is easier to hear you. If you feel a need, then you've got to put it back on. Feel free put it.

The important thing is that we'll be hear you. So what we're going to do is start to make sure we can be -- we can hear you. We're going to have you state your full name, spell each of your names.

COURTENEY BATYA ROSS: Okay. My name, Courtney, C-O-U-R-T-E-N-E-Y, Batya, B-A-T-Y-A, Ross, R-O-S-S.

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CAHILL: Okay, thank you. Mr. Frank?

MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you, your honor.

Ms. Ross, can you tell the jurors not your address but, generally, where you live?

ROSS: Yes. I live in Northeast Minneapolis.

FRANK: How long you have been in the Northeast Minneapolis area?

ROSS: My entire life. I was born and raised.

FRANK: And can you tell the jurors how old you are?

ROSS: I'm 45 years old.

FRANK: Seems like a strange question. There is a reason for it.

ROSS: Okay.

FRANK: And do you have any children?

ROSS: I have two boys.

FRANK: Okay. And, Ms. Ross, did you know George Floyd?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: When did you meet George Floyd?

ROSS: I met Floyd in August of 2017.

FRANK: And you refer to him as Floyd.

ROSS: All the time.

FRANK: That's how you just referred to him all the time? ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And, you know, in court, you prefer to use Mr. Floyd. So as much as you can, do that. I understand that's how you know him.

ROSS: Sure.

FRANK: And so when was it that you first met Mr. Floyd?

ROSS: May I tell the story?

FRANK: Sure.

ROSS: Okay. It's one of my favorite stories. Excuse me.

FRANK: And, Ms. Ross, just so you know, if you feel like you need to take a moment to collect yourself, feel free. We're in no rush here.

ROSS: Thank you.

FRANK: In August of 2017, I had gotten off work one night. I worked at a coffee shop for 22 years now, part time. And I was tired. And I just cleaned up and closed up the shop and I went to go visit my son's father, who was staying at Harbor Lights, the salvation army shelter. He had some difficulties and was staying there.

I entered Harbor Lights and when you visit there, you have to ask for a person to come down if you're visiting them. And so I had the receptionist call him down but he didn't seem to be coming down. So I waited in the lobby. And I wanted to talk to him about our son's birthday. Excuse me.

I was upset and I started fussing in the corner of the lobby. And at one point, Floyd came to me. Floyd had this great, deep southern voice, raspy. And he's like, sis, you okay, sis? And I wasn't okay. I'm just waiting for my son's father. Sorry.

He said, well, can I pray with you? I was tired. We had been through so much, my sons and I. And this kind person just to come up to me and say can I pray with you when I felt alone in this lobby. It was so sweet. And at the time, I had lost faith in God.

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FRANK: Ms. Ross? Sorry to interrupt.