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More Than Four Million Vaccinations Administered In The U.S. On Friday; Average Of New Cases Is Rising Above 60,000 Once Again In The U.S.; Pope: Churches Hold Easter Services Amid Pandemic Concerns; Capitol Attack; Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo Expected To Testify; This Week: Biden Launches Push On $2.27 Trillion American Jobs Plan; Jordan's Former Crown Prince Accused In Plot Against King; Holiday Comes Amid Time Of Crisis And Tragedy In America. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 4, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


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[14:00:24]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. thank you so much for joining me. Happy Easter.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this Easter Sunday with a race to vaccinate amid troubling new signs that the U.S. may be entering a new COVID surge. This at a time when more Americans exhibit an anxiousness for a return to normalcy.

Family and friends gathering to celebrate the holiday. Churches like at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York seeing long lines of people waiting to get in to attend mass at 50 percent capacity.

There is reason for optimism. More than four million vaccinations were administered in the U.S. on Friday, setting a new record, and bringing the seven-day average past three million a day.

However, the average of new cases is rising above 60,000 once again. And as the U.S. closes in on 555,000 deaths from the disease, health experts warn we are not in the clear just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: At this time we really are in a category 5 hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world. At this point we will see in the next two weeks the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic.

In terms of the United States we're just at the beginning of this surge. We haven't even really begun to see it yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. Another reason health experts are worried, millions of traveling Americans. The TSA reporting a record number of air passengers on Friday.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is at LaGuardia Airport in New York. So Evan, we're seeing a lot of travelers this holiday weekend, even as these new coronavirus cases are on the rise. What are you seeing there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred.

Well yesterday was the 24th straight day of more than a million air travelers in the United States, which is record numbers since when this pandemic began.

Now I'm here at LaGuardia, and you can see it's pretty quiet at the airport right now, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that today is a busy travel day as well.

Delta Air lines has been keeping all of its middle seats unoccupied for social distancing throughout the entire pandemic, but today announcing that that policy that was supposed to end on May 1st is now going to end today to help with some capacity problems that they're having as they had to cancel a bunch of flights today for a number of reasons including staffing problem.

So people are busy. They want to get to the airport. They want to get planes and now those middle seats are back open to them.

All this is happening while this pandemic, as you mentioned, is still very much with us. I want to show you a couple of graphics that can help you illustrate where we are at right now.

The first is a map of cases in the United States of cases rising and falling. As you can see, it's kind of a multicolored map right now. We've seen it and sometimes be all one color.

Right now, it's all over the place. But there are a lot of states where those cases are going up. It's the kind of thing that made people nervous about that third surge.

The second thing is, the number of vaccinations are rising. We're talking a lot about record numbers of vaccinations and right now, though, only about 18 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Now, the CDC says if you're fully vaccinated you can travel safely but they tell people please don't travel unless you absolutely have to because of these spreading COVID numbers.

So here at the airport is a perfect place to sort of put those two things together, the idea of the desire to travel, wanting to be out there and back to normal, and the CDC guidelines saying that you can't travel. So I asked some people today about that, including one mother who is traveling home to Virginia visiting her daughter, about what she thought about the CDC guidelines and how they affected her traveling decisions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): The CDC says if you have the vaccine it's safe to travel but they're asking people not to travel that much if they don't have to. Does that still factor into the decisions that you make when you think about making travel decisions?

STEPHANIE MORRELL, VIRGINIA RESIDENT: Can I say not so much? Not so much. I mean we'll be vaccinated. We're scheduled. So that -- I guess will alleviate some worries for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So the answer here, Fred, obviously is people need to go out there and get their vaccinations. That woman was -- told me that she had her vaccine scheduled in the coming weeks. Experts are saying states are making these vaccines more available, and if you want to travel, as much as clearly Americans want to travel, they should get those vaccines so you can maybe, maybe, maybe keep that third surge at bay and if not make it so it's not as bad as it could be, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much in New York.

All right. So this pandemic is not stopping Christians from celebrating Easter. CNN's Natasha Chen is in Marietta, Georgia, suburb of Atlanta where services took place this morning.

Natasha, many churches were closed this time last year, so how are churches opening up for service today?

[14:05:02]

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very different from a year ago, Fred. St. Ann's here in Marietta, they just finished up their last service of the day. They had about 40 percent of their typical easter attendance compared to pre-COVID times. But think about the fact that last year, like a lot of churches, they were completely virtual.

It was the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone was trying to stay home.

And there's as lot more optimism today. We talked to Father Ray Cadran who said that he is really preaching about this renewal and keeping people optimistic despite also acknowledging that there are still challenges here.

Here's what he said to us when he reflected on last year's service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. RAYMOND CADRAN, ST. ANN'S CHURCH: It was, in a sense, like there was something so missing from your normal experience of things that it really reshaped easter for me. But I do want people to return. I think a community needs to be able to celebrate with each other. And console one another because there are many difficulties that have taken place in families over the year With people having lost loved ones, and not having been able to be there when the losses took place. There are --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And keep in mind that for this particular church they can't even have indoor services at 25 percent capacity because they are trying to keep a certain amount of distance between parties.

And when they released the reserved seating online, I'm told that those spots were snatched up really quickly, so the people who came out of the services, the indoor services today, told me they had to act quickly to reserve those spots. A few of them told me they are now fully vaccinated and that gave them so much joy just to be able to join their families, in one case for the first time doing an in-person service since the pandemic began, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Yes. Many churches are being very inventive on this day. I mean I passed a church on the way in this morning and they had their service outdoors, people brought their own fold-up chair so that they could still be at the congregation that they're accustomed to. But this time Easter service outside.

All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

All right. Let's talk more about all of this. I'm joined now by epidemiologist and former Detroit health commissioner Dr. Abdul El- Sayed. So good to see you, Dr. El-Sayed.

So what do you think? I mean a lot more people are traveling, folks are going back to their churches in larger numbers now. Yet the number of COVID cases seems to be on the rise yet again. What are your concerns?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOTIST: Yes, good to see you, Fred. And Happy Easter to everyone out there.

The challenge right now is we're in this middle period where the same sorts of recommendations don't necessarily apply to everyone. We've got the situation where people are vaccinated and the number being vaccinated increase every day. And for them the things that are safe look very different than for folks who are not vaccinated.

The challenge though, is that people are hearing a message that, you know, COVID is on its way out and so we can start to do the things that we've been missing for so long. And I know all of us want to get to that but it's really important to condition whether or not we do those things based on whether or not those things are safe for us, based on whether or not we've gotten our vaccine.

And it's great news that we've got more vaccinations on the way, more vaccine being delivered to states every single day, more and more people getting vaccinated. But it's really important to hold on and make sure that in a rush to start moving forward with our lives we're not inadvertently prolonging this pandemic as we're seeing in states across the country unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: And here are some of the numbers of those -- you know, the record vaccinations. The U.S. set a new record for vaccinations administered over four million in a single day. The seven-day average for vaccinations is now over three million.

And if vaccines really are the key to getting the society closer to normal how do you encourage yet still a significant segment of the population who is hesitant for a variety of reasons to get a vaccine?

DR. EL-SAYED: Well, I really think one of the most important things that we can do is come on out there, whether it's the CDC, or states to issue guidelines about the kinds of things that are safe, when a certain number of people have gotten vaccinated, right.

When you think about opening up gyms, for example, or opening up dining and eating. These kind of things we know are linked to a higher risk of COVID-19, and whether or not people can do them has everything to do with whether or not people are getting vaccinated.

And we know that the thing about vaccines is that they don't just work for the people who get vaccinated. They confer an added benefit to the rest of society through this idea of herd immunity.

And so I think it's really important to create an incentive where we say, listen, if we can get to 30 percent, if we can get to 50 percent, if we can get to 70 percent -- here are all the things that we can enjoy. Here's the kind of normal we can go back to. And I think it's really important to put that signal out there, so that folks have an incentive, something to work for when it comes to getting vaccinated and making that choice.

[14:09:57]

DR. EL-SAYED: And the last point I want to say on this is that we're getting to the point now where the number of vaccinations -- vaccines that are available are going to outstrip the demand and that's the dangerous point because now that's the point where vaccine hesitancy starts to kick in, and it's really important that we start to take that on.

WHITFIELD: All right.

There's also been a lot of discussion about the transmission of coronavirus among those who have been fully vaccinated. Here's what Dr. Fauci told CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. FAUCI: It's looking like the data are gradually getting to the point where it's going to be an extremely low likelihood that a vaccinated person will be able to transmit to a person who is unvaccinated and not infected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So do you think protective measures like mask wearing, continuing to wash hands, distance between people will have to remain in place for a very long time despite the fact that more people are getting vaccinated?

DR. EL-SAYED: Well, slowly but surely we can start to go back to a sort of normal where wearing a mask isn't required and being so vigilant about how far away you are from people isn't so required.

At the same time I want to be clear about something. You know, when we think about the risk it's all a function of how many people are vaccinated. If one person is vaccinated, and 75 percent of the people around them are also vaccinated the risk that any one person is going to pass that on is so low because the number of people who are susceptible are low.

So it really is a moving target. And we've got, I think, to get to a point where we are doing the easy things, and starting to get back to a level of normal.

I know that there's a lot of politicization around masks and a lot of folks who see it as a real affront to their civil liberties.

Let's be clear. It's a piece of cloth that you put on your face, it's not that hard. And so I think what we should be doing is erring on the side of caution while we start engaging in the things that we know and love. And knowing that we're doing those things safely, both for ourselves and the people around us.

And the most important thing here is get your vaccination, get your vaccination, get your vaccination.

WHITFIELD: That's right.

All right, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, thank you so much. And even if we over time are discarding the masks let's hope that everyone at a very minimum continues to wash their hands. That's just a good idea anyway.

DR. EL-SAYED: Absolutely right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much. Happy Easter to you.

DR. EL-SAYED: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: A Capitol Hill police officer injured in Friday's deadly assault is now out of the hospital. The officer was injured when a man rammed into a police barricade outside the Capitol building, then got out of the car with a knife. Officer William Evans, an 18-year veteran of the Capitol police was killed. A black draping now hangs over the doors of Capitol police headquarters in honor of Officer Evans.

CNN's Marshall Cohen joining us now.

So Marshall, the Capitol Union Police chairman is now calling on Congress to hire hundreds of new police officers at the Capitol. MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka. Good morning.

The union head for the U.S. Capitol police, they're saying in no uncertain terms "we need help". They released a statement yesterday in the wake of this terrible attack. I want to show you a quote from that statement.

The head of the union said, quote, "We are struggling to meet existing mission requirements even with the officers working massive amounts of forced overtime."

Right, nobody wants to work massive amounts of forced overtime. But this is what they say they need to do to meet the incredibly high demands from lawmakers, from the public, you know, from the experts that have reviewed this to say -- to show them what they need to do to keep a secure premises.

Number one thing that they want, hundreds of additional officers to be hired and the reason why they want that is because they think that their ranks are going to, frankly, collapse. They think people are going to retire.

The union head said in that statement that people are telling him that they want to move to other agencies. They don't want to continue working at the capitol. It's not exactly a safe place. They've lost three of their own this year.

So that's what they say they need. Obviously it's a work in progress for the safety at the seat of our own government, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then what more are you learning about the suspect, his possible motive?

COHEN: Yes, the suspect, Noah Green, a young man from Virginia in his early 20s. We have been going through his social media. The feds, the authorities, the investigators, they haven't said anything in terms of what his motive may have been. They have said that it wasn't probably some sort of international terrorism. But his social media does sort of paint a picture of somebody, a man in crisis, a man who is not necessarily of a very stable mental state.

Some of the social media posts mentioned that he believed that he was the victim of mind control from the FBI or the CIA that had been targeting him for years. He also mentioned that he believed people were drugging his food and poisoning his water. You know, really delusional stuff, Fredricka.

[14:14:52]

COHEN: And also one of the more alarming posts just a few hours before the attack that we believe is attributable to the attacker was a message of the "Nation of Islam" leader Louis Farrakhan, a very hateful message from this person that's well-known for his bigotry and racism and the message said that the U.S. government is the number one enemy of black people in this country. The feds, the authorities, they haven't said that this is why it happened. They're going to continue looking at it. But these are the clues that

are being dredged up from the social media accounts for this attacker, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Marshall Cohen, keep us updated. Thank you so much.

All right. Coming up the Minneapolis police chief is expected to take the stand in the Derek Chauvin trial. How significant will his testimony be and how will the experts influence the jury, potentially?

Plus, can President Biden sell his American Jobs Plan to Congress? Find out why Senator Bernie Sanders says more work needs to be done.

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[14:20:03]

WHITFIELD: Tomorrow morning testimony resumes in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd. After days of tearful eyewitness accounts detailing the horror of watching Floyd struggle under the knee of Chauvin, this week will likely be just as difficult to watch.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter charges. He could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Joining me right now to discuss is Elliot Williams, a CNN legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor. Elliot, so good to see you and Happy Easter.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So where do you expect prosecutors to go next this week?

WILLIAMS: Well, as you teased before the break, Fred, the police chief of Minneapolis is going to testify at some point, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point during the week. That's profound for a number of reasons. You very rarely see police officers at that level testifying, number one, chiefs.

Number two, the chief is testifying as a prosecution witness and not in the defense of one of his former officers.

And number three, Chief Arradondo, as an individual, is simply a compelling figure, something like a 30 or 40-year career on the police force and a person of color, he's black. All of these reasons point to it being quite historic, quite significant testimony.

And the strategy behind the prosecution calling witnesses like that, I mean the homicide detective, the lieutenant, he too, you know, was -- gave and delivered testimony that is far more helpful to the prosecution than it would be for the defense.

WILLIAMS: Right, they want to make the case that Chauvin was an outlier among members of the Minneapolis police force, that they did have standards, and you know, they will go through and I believe the Minneapolis police department's standards book or whatever will be part of the record at trial.

But Chauvin deviated from those, and that deviation alone crossed from the level of force that would be permissible for a police officer to use into being criminally actionable conduct. And there's probably no better witness to that than the chief of police who was responsible for putting in place or at least overseeing these guidelines as to what's permissible, when officers engage people on the street.

And we've heard, I mean very emotional testimony, eyewitnesses who all were on one accord. They watched a man die under the knee of Derek Chauvin. However, you say it still doesn't speak to the central legal question which is whether or not Derek Chauvin is legally responsible for the death of George Floyd.

Why do you feel like that has not been established, even though the eyewitnesses say, you know, we saw him alive, we saw him slowly die until he was dead under --

WILLIAMS: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- you know, the knee of this one officer.

WILLIAMS: Well, the question ultimately in the statute that's at issue here is, was Chauvin's action the substantial causal factor in Floyd's death?

Now, what's remarkable is that every single eyewitness is in agreement as to what they saw. They saw someone alive. They saw a knee on his neck and then they saw someone dead. And from them and frankly for all of us watching it seems as a matter of common sense that the knee was what was -- what ended George Floyd's life.

Unfortunately, or fortunately -- for whatever -- for what it's worth, in order to establish that to the jury the prosecutors have to make a causal link between the knee and the death.

And that will require looking at toxicology reports, autopsy reports and so on. It might make sense, again as a total matter of common sense, but if the defense can establish that some other factor might have contributed to Floyd's death, whether that was they're saying an overdose or other chemicals in his system, then -- but then -- you know, then the outcome might be different.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Yes and the defense has intimated that that is exactly where they're going, that his -- you know, behavior, his past habits were contributing factors to his death.

WILLIAMS: Right, right. And when I say it wasn't relevant to that question, this was all powerful testimony, and could succeed in winning over the jury, getting in their hearts and minds, all of us watch this -- or many of us watched this -- I'm sure I did watch it and was really, you know, feeling the emotion behind the testimony.

It just doesn't establish what the cause of death was for Floyd but again there's still a place for it and a purpose for it and they're speaking to some extent -- some of this emotional testimony spoke for a nation that is grieving over, one, the loss of life of one man, but also its long-term failure to address inequalities in our criminal justice system and racism generally. And you could hear traces of that in a lot of the testimony we heard last week.

[14:24:55]

WHITFIELD: A real microcosm of this country. Elliot Williams, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, President Biden's infrastructure plan is welcome news for people in Jackson, Mississippi many of whom have been without clean running water for a month. The city's mayor joining me live, next.

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[14:29:41]

WHITFIELD: The Biden administration is making the case for the president's massive $2 trillion American Jobs Plan. The infrastructure package includes funding for road repairs, job training, upgrades to public schools and hospitals and expansions to broadband Internet access.

And in order to pay for it Biden wants to increase the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent.

[14:30:06]

Arlette Saenz joining me right now.

So, Arlette, how is the White House planning to sell this plan to the country and a rather skeptical Republican Party?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this is where the hard work begins for President Biden as he starts to talk about this plan with lawmakers up on Capitol Hill. The president has indicated that he's planning to host both Democratic and Republican lawmakers here at the White House at some point after this Easter holiday to talk about this massive infrastructure and jobs proposal.

He has also deployed five of his cabinet secretaries, the White House is calling his so-called Jobs Cabinet, to talk directly to lawmakers up in Congress, and also to sell this plan to the public. And this morning, you heard the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talking about the president's desire for this to be a bipartisan bill but also insisting that they will be ready to act if not.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: The president really believes in a bipartisan approach, and it's one of the reasons I'm constantly having conversations with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle gathering ideas. Bottom line is we've got to deliver for the American people and we can't let politics slow this down to where it doesn't actually happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: And Republicans have been very quick in their opposition to this proposal that the president unveiled just on Wednesday. You've heard Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he is ready to fight the president every step of the way. And this morning, there was a Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi who said that the immediate inclusion of that hike in the corporate tax rate, that is not a bipartisan gesture, trying to undo something Republicans did back in 2017.

But one thing, when I talked to officials here at the White House, is that it's not just about getting bipartisan lawmakers getting Republicans to sign on but they believe that they can get bipartisan support out in the country, and that is what you saw with the American Rescue Plan as they were able to gain a support in polls from Republicans and Democrats even though no Republican lawmakers signed on to that COVID relief package.

Now, it is not just about getting Republicans on board. The president also needs to ensure that he can keep his Democratic Party in line, and you've already heard there's some things that moderates would like to see different in this package. You've heard progressives saying they believe the president needs to go bolder.

This morning, Senator Bernie Sanders talking about how he wants to see more investments in human infrastructure, talking about child care and education. Now, that is all part of a package that the president will be unveiling a little bit later in the month but it will also be critical for him to ensure that he can keep his Democratic Party in line with this proposal as the White House is hoping to get it passed this summer -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz at the White House, thanks so much and happy Easter.

SAENZ: You too.

WHITFIELD: All right. Biden's plan also calls for $45 billion in upgrades to water utilities nationwide.

I want to bring in Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.

Good to see you again, Mr. Mayor.

Your city has been having a real tough time ever since that big winter storm in February. You and I spoke then. Many people have lost power, and even water. And is it still the case that there are a lot of people without good, clean drinking water?

MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA (D), JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: Well, first and foremost, it's a pleasure to speak with you again, Fredricka.

And the state of affairs presently is that water has been restored to our residents. And the boil water notice has been lifted. But I would still qualify us as having -- or still remaining in a crisis because it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when we will suffer such catastrophic events again if we don't have the resources to address our aging and failing infrastructure.

WHITFIELD: How do you see this infrastructure plan potentially coming to the rescue to address some of those things you just mentioned?

CHOKWE: Well, while I don't know all of the details surrounding the plan, I am optimistic concerning the plan. The need to address our aging infrastructure across the country is long overdue, as we were -- as I was listening to the various factors or the various areas in which the plan is attempting to address, it's almost like it's reading the city of Jackson's mail.

We need infrastructure support for our water, our roads and bridges, for waste water, for human infrastructure as well. And so this is something that really presents an opportunity to create a dignity economy which reflects investments in sustainable development goals such as that which supports sustainable and equitable infrastructure that people depend on.

[14:35:04]

WHITFIELD: And just today, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves was on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" and asked about Biden's infrastructure plan and Mississippi's need for help at roads and troubled water systems. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: There's no doubt that Mississippi could use our fair share of $100 billion. The problem with this particular plan, though, is although the Biden administration is calling it an infrastructure plan, it looks like a $2 trillion tax hike plan to me.

That's going to lead significant challenges in our economy. It's going to lead to slowing GDP and it's going to lose to -- it's going to lead to Americans losing significant numbers of jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, so Mr. Mayor, if the governor sees this plan as mostly a tax hike and doesn't necessarily support this infrastructure plan, what are you going to do? I mean, what does that say to the potential hope for cities like yours? LUMUMBA: Well, I think that nothing runs businesses out of cities like

Jackson, Mississippi, more than an infrastructure which cannot support them, and an infrastructure which cannot support the quality of life of the individuals who are employed by those businesses.

And so I think that we have to take a more well-rounded view of what the building of sustainable infrastructure ultimately provides. It provides -- more sustained communities, better sustained communities, it provides an opportunity for economic development. We want to turn our crumbling infrastructure into an economic frontier and we need the resources to be able to accomplish that feat.

WHITFIELD: The Republican state house killed a local sales tax initiative that would have given you money for an upgrade to the water system. What's your reaction to that?

LUMUMBA: I think that they failed to hear the cry of mothers and fathers, of grandparents, of children who are in need of dependable water. And so I think that as we continue to punt the ball, we have to realize that we will never solve our problems with the same level of thinking it created. We need the state to join in with us. We need resources from the federal government.

And unfortunately, Jackson is not a narrative all by itself. There are communities that resemble Jackson, communities that have demographic makeup, the issue of legacy cities and the issue of aging infrastructure that all need to be addressed. We need operational unity that focuses how we support one another through providing that to the people.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, thank you so much for your time. And happy Easter to you, all the best.

LUMUMBA: Happy Easter, thank you.

WHITFIELD: On to Florida now, an imminent flood of toxic waste water is forcing hundreds of residents from their homes. Governor Ron DeSantis says today that everything is being done to keep people safe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation.

The public health and safety is the top priority. Obviously, we want to protect that in a way that minimizes any of the environmental impacts but the goal is to ensure the integrity of the stack system as quickly as possible, in order to minimize impacts to local residents, and to prevent an uncontrolled discharge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, the problem is at a decommissioned phosphate plant in Manatee County. Nearly 500 million gallons of waste water is stored at the facility and officials fear the wall holding that back could collapse. Manatee County is currently under a state of emergency.

All right, still to come, details emerge about a bizarre plot to destabilize the government of a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:43:03]

WHITFIELD: In Jordan, today, a former crown prince is accused of being part of an alleged plot to destabilize the country and unseat the king.

Jordan is a close U.S. ally in the Middle East and as of yesterday, authorities say nearly 20 people have been arrested in the plot. Former crown prince who is the eldest son of Jordan's late King Hussein and his American-born wife Queen Nor, denies the allegations.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Istanbul for us right now.

So, Jomana, what do we know?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it's been a dramatic 24 hours in Jordan that we have been following this started on Saturday evening with reports coming out that several high profile figures in the country had been arrested, that the former crown prince, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, the half brother of King Abdullah, he was the former crown prince up until 2004, that he was under a house arrest.

And what followed, Fred, was really stunning, a video statement from the crown prince that he sent out to several media organizations, one in English and one in Arabic, explaining the circumstances saying that the chief of the military had told him that he's not allowed to leave his home, that he should stay at home, that his communication had been cut off, that he had lost his security, that people around him had been detained, and that he was warning that we might not hear from him for a while.

And what followed was really unprecedented. I have covered and lived in Jordan for a very long time, and I have never seen anything like this, Fred, you've got a member of the royal family who came out lashing out at the country's leadership, accusing the country's rulers of corruption and mismanagement, blaming them for the state that the country is in.

[14:45:02]

And as you mentioned, we heard from the government today coming out and saying, basically, accusing the former crown prince, people around him, and also a former associate of King Abdullah, too, of being in communication with foreign entities of some sort of a plan to try and destabilize the country.

They said that the country's security apparatus had been following the communications for a while. They also accused the crown prince of trying to incite activities within the country as they say to undermine national security.

And what's interesting in those videos we saw emerging yesterday from the former crown prince, Prince Hamzah, he addressed the accusations of a foreign plot. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMZAH BIN HUSSEIN, JORDAN'S FORMER CROWN PRINCE: I'm making this recording to make it clear that I'm not part of any conspiracy or any nefarious organization or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARADSHEH: You know, Fred, there's still a lot of confusion despite what we've heard from the government. No one really knows what is actually going on in Jordan right now, what these activities, what this plan really was.

This is, of course, a country that is known for its stability, a key U.S. ally. We have heard from the State Department on Saturday evening saying that they are closely following the situation, they're in contact with Jordanian officials, and again, reaffirming their support for King Abdullah.

WHITIFELD: Yeah, it's quite extraordinary, I read, too, that King Abdullah and the Queen Rania are not even leaving the palace, their compound, because of safety concerns.

Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

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WHITFIELD: All right. This Easter Sunday mass, Pope Francis today condemned scandalous armed conflicts around the world, citing specifically Myanmar, and the Tigray region. This is the second year in a row crowds were not able to gather at the Vatican for the service because of the pandemic.

And the pope's words come at a particularly challenging time in the U.S. This country witnessing two mass shootings in two weeks, rising hate crimes against Asian-Americans and the devastating testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial which has witnesses and the country for that matter reliving the agonizing killing of George Floyd last year.

I want to bring in now, Father Beck -- Father Edward Beck.

So, good to see you, Father. Happy Easter to you.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You too. Happy Easter, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. So many people have felt very taxed particularly

this week, and really for the entire year for that matter. What do you say to people who feel like they're losing hope, how do they look to hope on this Easter Sunday?

BECK: Well, I think I'm finding hope and I know others are, Fred, in seeing that people can affect real change. I mean, a big part of the Easter message is that the disciples were empowered. I mean, at first, they were fearful. They hid. They were divided, I mean racially, ethnically.

But then they were empowered when they came together because of the message of Jesus.

So, you mention the George Floyd trial right now. Well, as a result of George Floyd's killing, 15 million people in this country protested in mass demonstrations, the largest ever in the United States, more than all of the civil rights movement protests put together. So, real people fed up, and affecting change. I mean, that's part of the message.

I mean, vaccines with COVID-19 -- I mean, we finally have these vaccines arriving now, and millions are lining up, from frontline workers to 80-year-old grandmothers. I mean, there's hope that change is possible there.

WHITFIELD: And in this year of a pandemic, even though so many people have felt very isolated, I mean, you really are underscoring how people are also in unison. I mean, they have found a way in which to be together even if they can't be physically.

BECK: Yeah, you know, Fred, I said Easter mass this morning, and we were at full capacity given COVID restrictions. I had a woman come up to me after mass and she said, Father, I just cannot do another Zoom service.

WHITFIELD: Yeah.

BECK: I mean, you know, community is part of our makeup, Fred. We lean on the shoulders of others. And we have felt very isolated and very disconnected.

So, part of Easter message is about renewal and rebirth and resurrection. I think people are really ready to reclaim their lives and community is a big part of that. So, they're doing everything they can to be safe but they want to get back out here and they want to connect again.

WHITFIELD: And then what do you say to people, on this Easter Sunday, who really have lost faith, because they are calculating how much they have lost in a year? Whether it's a loved one, their home, their jobs, you know, their finances?

[14:55:06]

BECK: Well, you know, I mean, my faith has been tested too. I mean, this has been a long Good Friday. And we're ready for Easter.

But I guess what I would say to people is that it's not the final word, that that's why we're talking today on Easter, that grace that lasts. And people are becoming more aware of a racial divide, of the #metoo movement, which has allowed victims of sexual abuse to finally speak up. COVID-19 is being vanquished by vaccines.

So, you can doubt and I doubt and people of faith doubt. But I guess I'd say don't let it rob you of the promise, the promise that renewal and rebirth is possible. That's what today is really about.

WHITFIELD: Rebirth, indeed.

Father Edward Beck, thank you so much. Happy Easter to you.

BECK: Happy Easter, Fred. Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: Thank you, you as well.

BECK: Corporate America, fighting back against new voter restrictions. But could it hurt business? The senior vice president of Uber joining me live coming up.

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