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Murder Trial Of Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin Resumes Tomorrow; Hunter Biden Opens Up On Addiction And Family; Dr. Fauci Defends Dr. Birx; The Origins Of QAnon. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 4, 2021 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. And we begin with the criminal trial that's being closely watched not just across the United States but around the world, the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, Derek Chauvin's trial resumes tomorrow.

The first week of testimony in this trial put in the record not only the words of witnesses who watched George Floyd die but several video recordings that had not been yet been made public. About an hour of police body cam footage that showed Floyd's arrest and the scene around him.

George Floyd's sister addressed a crowd of supporters yesterday at a rally for justice and policing bill that bears her brother's name.


BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: We go through a lot of pain. We go through a lot of grief. Every single day. Nobody knows what my niece go through not having her father anymore. That officer didn't know that he had a daughter that he didn't go home to. He would never see again.


ACOSTA: I'm going to talk to the Floyd family attorney, Benjamin Crump, in just a moment. But first, let's talk to CNN Sara Sidner in Minneapolis. Sara, the trial continues tomorrow. You will be there, as you have been. You say this is completely unlike any trial that you've covered as a journalist. Tell us why.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Partly because of COVID. Partly because this is the very first time that an entire trial gavel to gavel is being allowed to be broadcast from the courtroom. That's never happened here in Minnesota before, and so that's different.

But it is also a very strange place in some ways because it is so extremely quiet and everyone's attention is on each and every witness. You can't even hear paper rustling inside of that court.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: On May 25th of 2020, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force up on the body of Mr. George Floyd.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: That Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19- year career. The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.

The defense and prosecution's dueling arguments in a case the world is watching.

UNKNOWN: What do you want?

GEORGE FLOYD, KILLED IN POLICE CUSTODY: I can't breathe. Knees on my neck.

SIDNER (voice-over): The first week of testimony in the former officer's murder trial began with jurors seeing the entire bystander video. That was followed by a long line of eye witnesses.

JENA LEE SCURRY, 911 DISPATCHER: My instincts were telling me that something is wrong.

SIDNER (voice-over): Jena Lee Scurry, a 911 dispatcher called a police supervisor as she watched officers' treatment of George Floyd on a street surveillance camera.

DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: I did call the police on the police.

UNKNOWN: All right. And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

SIDNER (voice-over): Donald Williams was watching from the sidewalk. The professionally trained MMA fighter was overcome with emotion as he heard his own call to 911.

WILLIAMS (via telephone): You all murderous bro. You all murderous -- he was going to kill yourself.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sixty-one-year-old eyewitness Charles McMillian was there.

UNKNOWN: You can't win.

FLOYD: I am not trying to win.

SIDNER (voice-over): He says he begged Floyd to comply.

FLOYD: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

UNKNOWN: Stop moving. FLOYD: Mama. Mama!

SIDNER (voice-over): McMillian dissolved into sobs when he saw the video from that day.

CHARLES MCMILLIAN, WITNESS: I feel helpless. I don't have a mama either, but I understand him.

SIDNER (voice-over): An off-duty firefighter, an EMT walking by on May 25, 2020, testified she begged officers to let her check Floyd's pulse or check it themselves.

GENEVIEVE HANSON, EYEWITNESS & FIREFIGHTER: There is a man being killed, and I would have -- had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that.

SIDNER (voice-over): Some witnesses' faces were shielded from the public. Only the jury saw them because they were all minors when they witnessed Floyd's death. The teen who took the video that went viral, and her 9-year-old cousin who testified anonymously.


UNKNOWN: It's been nights, I stayed up apologizing and, and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.

SIDNER (voice-over): I saw the officer put a knee on the neck of George Floyd. I was sad and kind of mad.

SIDNER (voice-over): A former cashier who accused Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill testified, too.

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, EYEWITNESS: I took it. I knew what it is and I was planning to just put it on my tab until I second-guessed myself. And as you can see in the video I kept examining it and then I eventually told my manager.

SIDNER (voice-over): Soon after police were called.

MARTIN: George was motionless, limp, and Chauvin seemed very -- he was in a resting state.

UNKNOWN: We saw you standing there with your hands on your head for a while, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

UNKNOWN: What was going through your mind during that time period?

UNKNOWN: Disbelief. And guilt.

SIDNER (voice-over): None of the bystanders knew George Floyd at the time, only one person who testified this week did. They met at his job years ago when he noticed she was crying. COURTENEY ROSS, GEORGE FLOYD'S GIRLFRIEND: Floyd had this great deep

southern voice, raspy. And he's like, sis, you okay, sis? And I wasn't okay.

SIDNER (voice-over): They dated for nearly three years. She testified that they shared many things, including an addiction to pain killers.

ROSS: Floyd and I both suffered with an opioid addiction. We got addicted. And tried really hard to break that addiction, many times.

SIDNER (voice-over): Chauvin's attorney pounced, pointing out Floyd's drug use. His argument? Floyd didn't die from Chauvin's actions but his own drug use and pre-existing medical issues.

NELSON: It was your belief that Mr. Floyd started using again about two weeks prior to his death, correct?

ROSS: I noticed a change in his behavior, yes.

SIDNER (voice-over): The jury also heard from a slew of EMTs and police, both current and former. When EMT Derek Smith arrived on the scene, Chauvin was still on Floyd even though Floyd was unresponsive.

DEREK SMITH, WITNESS: I thought he was dead.

SIDNER (voice-over): But Smith said that he and his partner along with an officer worked to treat Floyd. Two officers criticized their fellow officer's treatment of Mr. Floyd.

UNKNOWN: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?


UNKNOWN: What is it?

PLOEGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.

UNKNOWN: What is your, you know, your view of that use of force during that time period?


SIDNER (voice-over): Lieutenant Richard Zimmermann testified he is the most senior member of the Minneapolis police force. He's been there 35 years, now the head of homicide. Chauvin's attorney intimated that the lieutenant may not be in the best position to judge patrol officer's decisions.

NELSON: You are not out patrolling the streets, making arrests, things of that nature?


NELSON: All right. And it's fair to say then that your experience with the use of force of late has been primarily through training?


SIDNER (voice-over): He shows up on scenes after an incident occurs. Still, with all his years of experience, he did not mince words when asked if the officers used excessive force that day.

ZIMMERMAN: Pulling him down to the ground, facedown, and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that's what they felt. And that's what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.


SIDNER (on camera): There has been extremely powerful testimony from those who saw what happened to George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and from some of the officers, the fellow officers of then Officer Derek Chauvin who says this just wasn't right.

But we have to remember, this is the prosecution's case. And in this country, when you are accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And we have yet to hear the defense's case. Jim?

ACOSTA: That's right. Sara Sidner, but a powerful week of testimony. Thanks for recapping it for us. Just a painful thing to watch all over again. Sara Sidner thanks so much.

And joining us now, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. He represents the Floyd family and has handled so many cases like this in the past. We have seen how difficult it's been, Ben, for those who witnessed Floyd's death to relive it in Sara Sidner's piece.


I can't imagine how excruciating this week has been for those who knew him, those who loved him. How is the Floyd family? Just to start off, how are they doing after that week of testimony?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FLOYD FAMILY: Well, they are obviously very emotional like most people in America, especially black people in America. And Jim, let me say Happy Easter to you. For many in the black faith community, we call this resurrection day.

And we are all praying, many of us, that George Floyd's killing during this trial of officer Derek Chauvin will be a resurrection for equal justice for marginalized minorities in America, that as you said, has often not been something that we have received in the American justice system.

ACOSTA: And Happy Easter to you as well. And you make a great point. And, you know, just watching from home -- I have been watching. I mean, this has been powerful, but it's also been heart breaking. It's been gut-wrenching. You have been in the courtroom. What's it been like in the courtroom to watch this unfold? Sara Sidner was mentioning a few moments ago, it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop. What's it like in there?

CRUMP: Well, it's obviously just emotional on another level. It's been heart wrenching. When you think about the compelling case that Attorney Keith Ellison, the first African-American attorney general in the state of Minnesota, who has a track record as a champion for civil rights -- his team have been literally doing such a strategic job in making sure that Derek Chauvin will be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd.

When you think about the first day during opening arguments, Jim, where they educated us all that it wasn't eight minutes and 46 seconds. It was actually nine minutes and 29 seconds that Derek Chauvin tortured George Floyd to death by keeping his knee on his neck. And then they went moment by moment through each phase of that tragedy. And many members of George Floyd's family as we were in court, they couldn't take it, they had to leave.

ACOSTA: I can understand. That makes perfect sense. And Ben, was there a moment last week when you thought to yourself there is no way that Derek Chauvin can be acquitted or do you have in the back of your mind after you've done so many of these cases, after you've handled so many cases like this, that there is still a chance that Derek Chauvin could be acquitted?

CRUMP: Well, Jim Acosta, I have been a civil rights lawyer all of my professional life, but I have been black for all of my life. And what that has taught me is we can never ever take for granted that a police officer will be held accountable for killing a black person in America unjustifiably, no matter how much evidence we have.

But I do believe in my heart that he will be convicted in this matter. But my heart has been broken before dealing with the American legal system.

And the one thing that I thought was so compelling in this case was on the first day, the first witness, that 911 dispatcher, which had that bombshell testimony right from the beginning when she said, I was watching the video and I called my sergeant and I said, I don't want to be a snitch, but what I'm seeing is not right.

And then at the end of day one, Jim, when this young brother, Donald Williams, talked about going fishing, and then having so much humanity within him after he watched the fish suffocate and die from lack of breath and air, he then had to get out and take a walk and get some fresh air, happened upon Cup Foods where he saw this human being being deprived by oxygen by the police' knee on his neck.

And the humanity in him would not let him be quiet. And he lashed out at him. And the only person, Jim, who did not have humanity -- when you look at all those bystanders -- you look at the fire fighter, you look at Darnell and you look at the little 9-year-old girl -- the one person who did not have any humanity was Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on his neck and put his hand in his pocket and watched George Floyd die underneath his knee.

[17:15:04] ACOSTA: Let me ask you this because you know the defense team is going to have their chance. And it is obvious now they are going the use Floyd's alleged drug use and his girlfriend talked about that during the last week of the trial, to defend Chauvin's actions. What do you make of that tactic and how is that going to impact the Floyd family?

CRUMP: Obviously, it's going to antagonize them over and over when they try to tell them that his cause of death was not what they saw in this video, but some trace amount of drugs that was found in his system. Now, it's what we expect. I have told all of his brothers and sisters, all of his family they are going to assassinate his character.

They are going to call him everything but a child of god. They are trying to blame it on this trace amount of drugs. They are going to try to blame it on his health condition. They shocked me when they said they started blaming the crowd, these angry black people, even though there was not all black people out there, and trying to say, oh, they are the reason why he couldn't take his knee off his neck.

But with that said, I just want to be clear on the record, Jim, the only thing that killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force. And listen to what the police officers are even saying. They said it was completely unnecessary. They said a knee on a person's neck can kill them.

Now, we know that's common sense, but it says something when you have the highest-ranking police officials in Minneapolis Police Department also sayings this is a bridge too far. This is nothing we can justify and we expect to hear from the chief of police to come in and say that this was a violation of policy, that it wasn't just about humanity and respect.

But this was about your training, too. You knew you weren't supposed to keep a human being facedown like that where they could not breathe. And yet you did it, and you did it even after he had become unconscious.

ACOSTA: All right, Benjamin Crump, I think you laid it out perfectly there. And, you know, I think when you talk about all of the emotional testimony that we saw during last week's portion of the trial, to have those police officers, as you said at the very end of the week, come in and talk about how this was an excessive use of force and do so just passionately. I thought that made a huge impact.

Benjamin Crump, great to have you on. We appreciate it and Happy Easter to you as well. Hope you enjoy some time with your family this evening and we'll have you on again soon. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

CRUMP: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. And coming up, the president's son, Hunter Biden, opens up about addiction and that mysterious laptop tied to him that became a focus during the 2020 campaign.



ACOSTA: Ahead of the release of his new memoir, President Biden's sob, Hunter, is opening up about his struggle with addiction. And that includes an emotional moment with his father, who tried to stage an intervention. Let's watch.


ANTHONY MASON, CBS NEWS HOST: And your father chased you?

HUNTER BIDEN, SON OF PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, because I tried to get into -- I tried to go to my car and my girls literally blocked the door to my car. They said dad, dad, please. You can't, no, no.


BIDEN: This was the hardest part of the book to write. And he grabbed me in a hug. And grabbed me, gave me a bear hug. And he said -- and just cried and said I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do.


ACOSTA: And joining me now is CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN political commentator and host of PBS' "Firing Line," Margaret Hoover. John and Margaret, thanks for doing this. It's great to be with you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy Easter, Jim, and congrats.

ACOSTA: That clip -- and to you as well. Thanks so much. No, I appreciate it, and thanks for doing this. That Hunter Biden clip, it is really, it's a gut punch. I mean, this really humanizes something that former President Trump and the right tried to exploit.

I mean, we saw what happened during that campaign. They were trying to bring up Hunter Biden time and again. And Hunter Biden would just sit stoically at, you know, debates and, you know, the Democratic convention and so on. And we'd see him in these, you know, places where, you know, he is being talked about and yet wouldn't really speak out. Now he's getting his chance to speak out.

AVLON: Yes. Look, it is a -- it is heart wrenching. It is a pretty unvarnished look at addiction. And one of the things I think that that kind of bracing almost awkward honesty does is not only humanizes Hunter Biden. But I think it puts a point on Joe Biden's refusal during the campaign to distance himself from his only surviving son, let alone denounce him.

It reminds us that addiction is something that has touched almost every American family. This is an extreme example to be clear. And he doesn't seem to be pulling any punches about it. But I think it's an important conversation to have because we're all broken in some way. And this is just a recognition of that fact that forces us to take away the myth and the veneer around presidential families.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Honestly, Jim, I'd say it is extreme, as John said, only in so much as it's the son of the president, or the son of a candidate running for president. But it's actually not that extreme because so many people in this country are touched by addiction and their families are touched by addiction.


And it's become far more apparent to the American public how sadly normal and how many people in your lives are touched by addiction in relative years, especially in the wake of the opioid epidemic. People -- your neighbors, your next door neighbors. You know, even Republicans, even Trump supporters.

You know, nobody is immune from addiction. And that's the thing that I think truly does humanize Hunter Biden. On the other hand I would say he could take a note from Patty Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, right, who spent her dad's presidency protesting her dad's presidency.

And on reflection, thought maybe the best thing she could have done during those years was go to New Zealand and be quiet. There is something about taking the stage when you're the child of a president that doesn't help the president's agenda.

ACOSTA: No question.

HOOVER: And so while I wish Hunter Biden the best, and I hope that he triumphs over his addiction, I don't know if it's helpful to anybody's agenda in this moment that he takes the spotlight.

ACOSTA: And John, let me ask you this, because Hunter Biden is not the only one with a book coming out. I think we were talking about this just before the segment got started. There are some very cheeky excerpts from a book by former Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, well-known around Washington for his love of merlot and so on. I believe he might have had a glass when recording the audio book version of this.

AVLON: It sounds that way.

ACOSTA: Let's listen to an example of this where he talks about the tea party wave (inaudible) -- I will read it out for you. "You could be a total moron, he writes in this book, and get elected just by having an R next to your name -- and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category."

In he goes on to say, "By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn't even a House member.

There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a-hole, I don't use the exact word here, who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz." John, I won't even set it up with a question. What do you think of what John Boehner had to say there?

AVLON: I mean, I'm a little sad we didn't read his -- the full context of his comments on Ted Cruz.

HOOVER: And to be clear, that was the most G-rated version of the audio book you could have possibly recited back to us.


ACOSTA: Right.

AVLON: I mean, look, you know, Boehner is clearly capitalizing -- he is owning his reputation for being brazing and honest. And this is like a very difficult to do. Obviously, he's Speaker of the House. You're hurting cats or as he likes to call it, the knuckle dragging aspect of his caucus.

But it really recasts a lot of the stories of that tea party wave and the Obama presidency. Because even the Republican Speaker of the House recognized that the lunatics were kind of running the asylum he was trying to take control of and it was difficult to get things done let alone work with a Democratic president because everybody thought that is disloyalty and they wanted to blow up Washington and not try to solve problems or push an agenda. So, look, I think it's great that he is being unfiltered.

ACOSTA: That he saw a lot of this coming.

AVLON: What's that?

ACOSTA: It's like he saw a lot of this coming. I mean, he kind of saw what the excesses of the Trump era would bring and writes about it.

AVLON: No question about it. I mean, all this stuff doesn't happen overnight. Donald Trump comes out of that. The Fox-ification of Trump. Matt Gaetz is an extension of that insanity and nonsense.

HOOVER: I just want to say, that's the key point here, right? For all the people who say Trump corrupted the Republican Party, I mean, this is the exhibit A that Trump didn't corrupt the party. Trump was a symptom of a larger sickness that had happened in the party.

AVLON: Not the cause, yes.

HOOVER: And Boehner is writing about sort of the foundation that was already sort of fertile for somebody like Sarah Palin and Trump and others to sort of harness that populist nativist outrage that became the Trump presidency.

ACOSTA: And guys, I've got to get your quick --

AVLON: And also Fox News was trying to be sort of a destroyer to get attention in hyper partisan media rather than having any interest in actually, you know, governing.

HOOVER: And that's right. ACOSTA: Absolutely. And I want to squeeze this in because this has

been I think perhaps the most bizarre thing that I have seen in the last 48 hours. I want to get your take on this tweet by Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green. She's probably not mentioned in the Boehner book, but if he writes a sequel she would be.

AVLON: But anticipated perhaps.

ACOSTA: It's a video of her working out with the caption, "This is my COVID protection. It's time to fire Fauci." What is -- what is going on here?

AVLON: Oh, I could make a number of jokes that probably wouldn't be wise.

HOOVER: Look, I don't know if it's even worth. I mean, what Marjorie Taylor Green is a QAnon adherence.


Somebody who has bought into conspiracy theories, who is basically cornered a district in northwest Georgia that is a plus A district where people are going -- plus AR district, right -- where it's going to be very, very difficult for Republicans even really, you know, there are reasonable Republicans who would wish to replace her and it's going to be very difficult for them to even do it because, look, she sadly has -- represents a sickness in the Republican Party that is a common theme in American politics, the paranoid style of American politics that existed at least a century. And she is the worst of our political tradition.

AVLON: Yes. But let's just be clear here, you know, while we're talking about sickness. This is about COVID denial, right.

ACOSTA: Right.

AVLON: And she's great that she is in great shape and she puts out a tweet and it's going to go viral. But here's the point, going to the gym doesn't stop you to get COVID --

ACOSTA: Doing squats at the gym is not going the prevent COVID-19.

AVLON: Exactly.

HOOVER: Thank you.

AVLON: Like, not even a little bit. And you know, the fact that she and Jim Jordan are rallying around Matt Gaetz is about as much as you need to know, but that wing nut wing of the Republican Party is far too powerful. They suck up far too much oxygen. They are a core part of the problem. They are not even resembling a solution.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, great talking to you guys and we'll do it again sometime soon.

AVLON: We will. ACOSTA: We appreciate it. Thanks so much.

HOOVER: Congrats. Jim.

AVLON: Take care, man.

HOOVER: Happy Easter.

ACOSTA: Hey, thanks a lot. And Happy Easter to you as well. I appreciate it.

Coming up, Dr. Anthony Fauci defends his former colleague as she faces criticism for not speaking out more during Trump's time in office. My conversation with him coming up next.



ACOSTA: It was an astonishing claim from Dr. Deborah Birx right here on CNN. That was after all of those COVID deaths, after that initial surge here in the U.S., she said nearly a half million could have been mitigated or decreased substantially. That's astonishing in part because Dr. Deborah Birx as we know, was overseeing the U.S. coronavirus response when the majority of those deaths happened.

I spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci this weekend about the criticism Birx has faced and his take on it, asked for his take on it. Here's part of that conversation.


ACOSTA: Is that correct, in your view, that we lost nearly a half million people in this country who we didn't need to lose?

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, what Dr. Birx was saying, it could have been mitigated. She didn't say we would have avoided all of those deaths. What she was saying is that when we knew what was going on--

ACOSTA: Well, a good number of those deaths.

FAUCI: Well, yes. What was she saying when we finally knew what we were dealing with, we clearly could have and should have had a much more strong adherence to the guidelines.

ACOSTA: And what about this criticism, Dr. Fauci, that had she spoken out while she was at the White House, that that would have made a difference? Do you buy that?

FACUI: Well, you know, in some respects, yes. But in most respects, no. If you are in there in the White House, I believe, in fairness to her. I mean, I know her. She's a good friend for decades. She was in a very difficult position because she was living there in the White House. She had an office on the ground floor of the West Wing. So she had to live in that situation. She didn't have the opportunity of being away from it, being able to

give advice and then not have to sit there and live with it. So you can criticize her if you want but I like to cut her some slack.

ACOSTA: But let me ask you about that, doctor, when you say cut her some slack, you know, I wonder, you know, she is somebody who was in a position where she could have gone out in front of the cameras and said, you know, President Trump should not be saying people should inject themselves with disinfectants, that, you know, this business about hydroxychloroquine is nuts. It hasn't been proven.

You know, she didn't do those things. She didn't make those decisions. And I know you know this because you're mindful of this, but there are so many Americans out there who say, you know, my goodness, if Dr. Birx had just gone out there and warned people and said, you know, might have cost her her job, and said President Trump doesn't know what he's talking about, that that might have made a difference. You don't agree with that?

FAUCI: You know, no, I don't agree or disagree. I'm just telling you she was in a very difficult position. Of course, if you analyze it and go back and say what she could have done or should have done, you are right, but you also need to appreciate that she was really in a tough position.


ACOSTA: And Dr. Anthony Fauci went on the say during our interview that people at home just need to be patient with this pandemic. He understands a lot of people are frustrated, want to get on with their lives but that these vaccines that are being administered across the country are going to make a difference and get this pandemic under control so we can move on with our lives. And I want to thank Dr. Anthony Fauci for joining us.

Coming up next, pulling the curtain back on QAnon. Who is the mysterious person whose cryptic posts have brainwashed millions? A new HBO series claims to have that answer.



ACOSTA: It started as a single fringe conspiracy theory found in the dark corner of the internet. But QAnon has since ballooned and now its followers spread multiple conspiracy theories from saying there is a deep state within the U.S. government, to falsely claiming that 5g cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus. A news docu-series "Q: Into the Storm" attempts to pull back the curtain on the people behind this dangerous movement.


UNKNOWN: Ronald Watkins has been posting that the coronavirus is a bioweapon for months. He's believed it for months. He probably still believes it. And then we are supposed to believe that when Q backs his exact belief, that he suddenly just has a change of heart? No.

What really happened is Ronald was posting as Q, looking for things to post. He went a little too far, the mask slipped a little bit too much. He got scared and then he decided to backtrack on his public account to, you know, look less like Q, but that made him look more like Q.

He has the power to write Q drops, I know he does, because I know the software really well. And to think that he hasn't written at least one is very naive. I still think that Q is just as dangerous if not more so during this pandemic. And I think he is going to get people killed with his bioweapon theory.



ACOSTA: And that disturbing series airs on HBO and HBO Max, which are owned by Warner Media, the same parent company as CNN. With me now is the director of "Q: Into the Storm," Cullen Hoback. Cullen, the final two episodes air tonight. It has been amazing to watch. I've been tuning in. Are you going to answer the question of who is Q?

CULLEN HOBACK, DIRECTOR, Q: INTO THE STORM: Well, I think the series paints a very compelling case for who is behind Q. Of course, we try to craft it in such a way that the audience can really play the role of investigator and sort of experience the same journey that I experienced along the way. But I think by the end of episode six, yes, we make a very compelling case for who is Q.

ACOSTA: And, you know, this has been going on for some time, I think, undetected by much of the American people. I want to play a part of a video that I took on my iPhone from a Trump rally that I covered back in July of 2018. Let's take a quick peek at this.


ACOSTA: And you could see the Q signs there. I saw another Q sign at the same rally. This is back in July of 2018. Cullen, did we miss the warning signs of how mainstream QAnon was becoming at that time and how it was seeping in our politics?

HOBACK: Yes. I mean, for you to have been back in 2018 with a cell phone would place you at the, you know, sort of the very first time that we saw one of these moon cycles for Q. And actually, you know, what piqued my interest in Q was when Reddit banned Q. And it made me wonder if maybe banning, censoring might actually have the opposite of its intended effect.

It might actually turn more people on the Q. So yes, I mean you caught on very early. And I also was starting to wonder if Q was going to be the kind of ultimate test of the limits of free speech. So I jumped in kind of with that question and of course with this bigger question of who is behind Q, thinking if we demystified the whole thing, it might bring to it a logical conclusion. ACOSTA: Right. And you explore the association between some Trump

supporters and QAnon. I want to play another clip from the series where you dive into that. Let's watch.


UNKNOWN: If Q was Trump and his group, after the election results are over, if Trump loses, Q will go away, Q will literally go away if Trump loses. They will -- they will erase this. They will erase my company. We'll probably die. I mean that's how serious they will erase it. If Trump wins the election and he's Q, then Q will just stop because he won't have any interest in it anymore. Why bother wasting any brain cells on that? Why?


ACOSTA: Yes, Cullen, give us an idea of why QAnon got connected to Trump supporters. I remember being at some of these rallies and I would hear Trump supporters say where we go one, we go all, you know, one of the mantras of the QAnon movement. How did it get, you know, how did it develop a symbiotic relationship with Trump supporters?

HOBACK: Well, from very early on, not the first Q drops, but once it got a little later in the Q narrative, sort of Trump's inner circle and Q's narrative were really intertwined.

And for most people who believe in QAnon, they believe that Trump is working on this secret plan, this false but secret plans behind the scenes in order to rid the world of an evil global cabal.

So, Q presented a narrative that contradicted everything, sort of their eyes and ears were telling them, and it gave them a lot of sort of false hope. And we see that false hope manifest on January 6th.

ACOSTA: Interesting. All right. Well, this is fascinating stuff, Cullen. Thanks so much for joining us. The final two episodes of "Q: Into the Storm" air tonight on HBO beginning at 9:00 p.m. eastern, and we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: The economic recovery from the pandemic is picking up speed. Here is Christine Romans with your "Before the Bell Report."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. Wall Street will react to the March jobs report tomorrow since markets were closed on Friday. It painted an optimistic picture. The U.S. economy added back nearly 1 million jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6 percent. That's a pandemic low.

This week reports on the service sector and factory orders are due. Investors will also watch for signs of inflation in the March producer price index and comb through minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting. Investors kicked off the second quarter by hitting a new milestone. The S&P 500 closed above 4,000 for the first time ever last week. The Dow soared nearly 7 percent in March, its best month since November. All three major indexes rose in the first quarter. April tends to be a positive month for the market. It finished higher more than 64 percent of the time with an average gain of more than 4 percent in the up months. In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

ACOSTA: Thanks so much, Christine. That's the news.


Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I will see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. We leave you with a look high above D.C.'s famous cherry blossoms. They have been beautiful. They are blooming earlier than predicted this spring.