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California to Fully Reopen Activities and Businesses on June 15; President Biden Reminds America Not Yet at the Finish Line of the Pandemic; Testimony Will Resume Today In The Chauvin Murder Trial; The New York Times Reporting Congressman Matt Gaetz Privately Sought Out A Presidential Pardon From Trump Before He Left Office. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:33]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. This morning the White House says the U.S. is on track to vaccinate half of all adults in this country by the weekend with at least one dose. But President Biden is warning Americans, listen, take time, be patient. The race is not over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The virus is spreading because we have too many people who see the end in sight, think we're at the finish line already. But let me be deadly earnest with you. We aren't at the finish line.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Getting closer but not there yet based on the data. It comes as a new study is raising concerns about the impacts, the broader impacts of this virus. It finds that a third of survivors are suffering from brain disease and psychiatric disorders within six months of their infections. Goodness. That's alarming, Poppy.

HARLOW: It is. Still the momentum on reopening across the country is gaining strength. California becoming the first state to shut down its economy during the pandemic is now planning to lift most of its restrictions by mid-June. We're live in Los Angeles in just a moment.

And just over an hour from now, a leading use of force expert witness in the Derek Chauvin trial takes the stand today. He says Chauvin used excessive force once George Floyd was taken to the ground. So we're following all of those developments and of course you'll see the trial live here as it begins.

But let's begin this hour with our colleague Stephanie Elam. She's in California for more on the state's reopening plan.

What can you tell us, Steph.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, it's being taken as very good news here in California, Poppy. When you take a look at the numbers overall, you can see why things are going the way they are here in California. But just to set the stage, let's look at the national picture as well.

As far as we know, about 33 percent of adults have at least one shot of the vaccine in the United States. And 19 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated according to the CDC. But Dr. Fauci making it very clear this is not the time to actually declare a victory here. And when you look at the rise in cases, that you look at the overall picture for the United States, you can see that while we have that big rise then we started to plateau, there is a little bit of a rise, too, in hospitalizations, up about 2.6 percent from the week before.

That's giving some concern. And when you look at a state like Michigan, seven of the 10 outbreaks last week of new cases per capita were in Michigan City. So that's part of the reason why you see some places pumping the brakes on what they're doing.

Here in California, however, Governor Gavin Newsom saying that come June 15th, the state will fully resume. Businesses, activities can resume as they once were with modifications in place in some cases. For example, you can still see vaccination and testing procedures still being used in, for example, schools. But they're saying that this is because of the low hospitalizations that we've seen in the state and also pointed to the fact that the stability of the virus.

I just took a look at the numbers that California reported yesterday. Only seven people were reported to have died yesterday. Just think about what that was like during that surge that we had here in California after the holidays here. Just so much of a different picture. More than 20 million doses of the vaccine have been given as of yesterday saying, as far as this weekend, it could be up to 30 million. All of that is going to make a big difference.

One last thing, though, Jim and Poppy, masks. They are sticking around. The governor saying that's the one thing that we've known could have stopped this pandemic. They're not going away here as far as the mask mandate is concerned.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's good to see those trend lines going down. I mean just a few weeks ago, Stephanie, we were talking. And they were heading the opposite direction. Some good news. Thank you.

HARLOW: The U.S. is making progress. We should be aware of that. But President Biden is making it clear that the battle is not over. We should also be aware of that.

HARLOW: Our White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us, along with senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Good morning to you, guys. Jeremy, let's begin with you. What more are the president and administration saying in terms of vaccination rates? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's this

really delicate balancing act under way at the White House. And we've seen it on display over the last couple of weeks, and that is to both balance the optimism that more Americans are getting vaccinated, about three million Americans getting vaccinated every day now, with also this threat of the coronavirus variants.

Those rising number of cases and the threat of potentially a fourth surge. And that is why you heard President Biden yesterday even as he was touting the fact that his administration has now vaccinated 150 million people since he came into office, there is also -- we still aren't at the finish line yet, the president said, urging Americans to continue following those public health measures.

[09:05:12]

We heard from Andy Slavitt yesterday, senior advise or the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, talking about just that. The fact that still, even as we have so many Americans vaccinated, there still are 100 million adults who haven't yet been. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven't been vaccinated. They're not there yet. And, you know, you don't win the war until you bring everybody over with you. And that's the spirit of this country. When we're at our best, Chris, I like to think we're the country that says we're going to bring everybody there with us. And even if that means we've got to slow down a little bit or we've got to prolong some of the things we're really eager for a little bit.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And now the White House is projecting that half of adults in the U.S. will have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of this weekend. But as that eligibility opens up to all adults within the next couple of weeks, President Biden yesterday making an appeal to those seniors 65 and over who haven't been yet vaccinated to do so now before those floodgates open up for everybody else.

SCIUTTO: No question. And why? You look at death rates among seniors, I mean, plummeting as vaccination rates have gone up. It works.

You know, Elizabeth, one difference here we're seeing based on a CNN analysis is just state by state differences in how far and wide they've vaccinated to this point. You look at states like New York -- they're going to do all willing adults by June. States like Alabama, Georgia and, by the way, D.C. where I live, way behind. Why is that happening? I mean, are they not getting enough supply or is this about delivery at the state level?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they should all be getting the same amount of supply based on their population so that's not it. Some states are, A, just doing a better job at the rollout because this really is a state-by-state operation. And also in some states, there are higher numbers of people who are just saying, no, I don't want it.

So let's take a look at how these states are doing. So here are a few examples. When you look at the daily rate for full vaccinations, New York is fully vaccinating 950 people per 100,000 people per day. 950 per 100,000 per day. In North Dakota, that number goes down to 570. That is a huge, huge difference. And in Georgia and Alabama, it's less than 300,000 per 100,000 per day.

So as I said in different states, there's different numbers of people who want to be vaccinated. So let's take a look at those numbers. In Massachusetts and Vermont, this is according to Census Bureau data, 92 percent of people say that they've either been vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated. In Georgia, that dips down to 75 percent. In North Dakota, only 68 percent of people have been or plan to get vaccinated.

That means that more than a third of the state just doesn't plan on getting vaccinated. Who knows that might change as time goes on? Now the big question is, when can every willing adult or every willing person over the age of 16, since the vaccines are approved only for people over -- vaccines are authorized for people over the age of 16, when could they get vaccinated?

In New York and North Dakota, at the rate they're going with the number of people they've vaccinated, they could be done by June. Vermont, early July, and Georgia, November -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth, wow, I mean, New York, that's 1 percent of the population is getting vaccinated per day. That's pretty remarkable.

Elizabeth Cohen, Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much to both of you.

Joining me now is Dr. Ashish Jha, he's dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, good to have you back.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Good morning. Thanks for having me back.

SCIUTTO: All right. Two competing pressures right now. Emergent spread of variants, right? More transmissible. That kind of thing. And then a higher and higher vaccination rate. Which of those two forces is winning out right now in this country?

JHA: Yes, so as you might imagine, it's playing out differently in different states. And that's why actually I think on a federal level we need to shift our strategy. In some states, vaccinations have gone very well. Variants are not quite as much of a problem. And case numbers are actually declining. California is one of them. Other states like Michigan, they are actually doing a perfectly good job on vaccinations. They have a huge surge.

And the third part of this is that there are actually states which are slowing down vaccinations because a lot of the hesitancy and building up stockpiles. So the federal strategy now has to be to shift more vaccines to places like Michigan that are surging so that they can use more vaccinations to really stop that surge and save lives.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK. CNN did an analysis, and I believe we have a graphic showing this that speaks to your point here about the differences between states like North Korea -- sorry, New York and North Dakota vaccinating all adults by June. Others behind, Georgia, Alabama. Those are big differences.

[09:10:04]

I wonder, if you have this disparity, right, nationally, where you have some places doing really well, other places behind and other places, by the way, lifting mitigation measures in the midst of this, and seeing commensurate rise in new infections, can the country as a whole quell the pandemic if you have that imbalance? You know, you could -- like whack-a-mole, right? You put it out here, but it's popping up here.

JHA: Yes. This is -- I mean, in some ways this has been a feature of the entire pandemic that we've had this patchwork response. Last year, largely because the federal government sort of decided to take the pandemic off and let every state figure it out on their own. This year, the federal government, obviously, trying to create a more uniformed response across the country, but a lot of states either not doing a great job on vaccinating people or with a lot of hesitant people or opening up too fast and letting surges happen.

The problem is we all live in one country. So if things are happening that are bad in one state, they will affect other people in other states.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Because then those people could come and infect you, right? I mean, it's not like -- it's not like there are big walls between these states.

Brown University, where you teach and work, is going to require all students to be vaccinated before coming to school in the fall. You're not alone. We're seeing some other places do this. I wonder, do you think that's a smart call, as schools, universities, parents and students, right, decide what they're going to do in the fall?

JHA: Yes, I've been a big advocate for it. I believe it is absolutely the right thing. And here's why. Look, we need -- students want to get back to in-person instruction, classrooms, laboratories, dorm rooms. That's essential to the college experience. And the question is how do we do that in a way that's safe? How do we do it in a way that's safe for students and do it that's safe for everybody else? And there's really only one way, which is to have high, high levels of vaccination.

We require vaccinations for measles, we require vaccinations for other diseases. COVID is, obviously, very important as a disease to prevent. I was very pleased with Brown's decision. SCIUTTO: Final question, get a little personal here and we have a

picture to put up on screen. You posted this yesterday saying that your vaccinated parents, they got to see your kids, their grandchildren, yesterday for the first time in 14 months. And I am sure that there are people watching this broadcast who've had similar reunions in recent weeks after they get vaccinated. And I have some friends who are lucky enough to say the same thing.

Tell us what that meant to you.

JHA: My God, it was so emotional for all of us. For my parents, certainly, for my kids, and in some ways, I don't know that I expected it to be as emotional. You know, they've been chatting with their grandparents, they've been Facetiming. But to be able to see each other and give each other hugs and to know that that is a safe thing to do. I mean, they could have done it before, but it would have been dangerous. That's why we didn't do it.

To know that it was safe was the most meaningful thing I've experienced in a very long time and I'm thrilled vaccines enabled it. It will enable it for everybody else as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Talked to a grandparent the other day who said they'd come to visit post-vaccine, and got to see the kids, picked them up from school and so on, staying with their children now and said, you know, I'm going to stay here until they kick me out.

(LAUGHTER)

SCIUTTO: So there's a lot of time to make up.

Dr. Ashish Jha, thanks very much.

JHA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up this hour, we are live outside the Minneapolis courthouse where we're about to hear more testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We're going to bring it to you the moment it starts. And we are getting a much clearer picture of the defense's strategy. We're going to break it down.

HARLOW: Also, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz under investigation right now over sex trafficking allegations, but now we're learning he asked then-President Trump for a blanket pardon just weeks before the Trump administration ended. The latest on that reporting.

And Senator Mitch McConnell tells companies speaking out against controversial voting laws, particularly in Georgia, you will face consequences for doing that. We're going to talk to one of the heads of those companies ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well next hour testimony resumes in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We expect to hear more from Los Angeles Police Sergeant and use-of-force expert, Jody Stiger.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: He joins a list of officers, a long one who have testified really in effect against Chauvin that the use-of-force against George Floyd was excessive, folks who serve alongside him in uniform. CNN's Josh Campbell joins us from outside the courtroom in Minneapolis.

Josh, that officer said the use-of-force should have stopped when Floyd stop resisting. And that's a consistent point you here, right, is that officers are trained to when the threat is removed in effect, when the person stops resisting you stop applying that force. What more do we expect to hear today?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there is a big mystery we're waiting to be resolved which we expect to hear more in the opening hours of today's testimony. Yesterday court ended abruptly during the questioning of this expert witness called by the prosecution, an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department. Now the attorneys went in to what's called a sidebar where they had a discussion and then the judge immediately adjourned.

We expect, based on what we've seen before that it's likely that the defense had objected to this witnesses knowledge, his participating here in this trial. But we're waiting for that to be resolved. But as you mentioned this idea of excessive use-of-force, a key topic here, we've heard from so many witnesses damning testimony talking about what they saw on that video, how that squares with the department's policy.

Take a listen to what one defensive tactic expert said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: Sir, is this an MPD trained neck restraint?

JOHNNY MERCIL, USE-OF-FORCE TRAINING INSTRUCTOR, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: No, sir.

UNKNOWN: Say, for example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?

[09:20:00]

MERCIL: I would say no.

UNKNOWN: And how long based on your training and experience does it typically take to render a person unconscious using a neck restraint?

MERCIL: My experiences, under 10 seconds.

UNKNOWN: Under 10 seconds.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMPBELL: Now that focus has been on excessive force. One other key topic the forensics we're still waiting to hear from a key witness here which will be the Medical Examiner. Of course the defense has been trying to show that it wasn't the actions of this officer but perhaps George Floyd being under the influence or some other reason that was the cause of death.

Of course we expect robust questioning from both the prosecution and the defense in the coming days. They got (ph) a key witness there, this Medical Examiner. Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Lots to watch everyday. As we said, we're going to bring it to you live the moment it starts. Josh Campbell outside the courtroom, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Let's bring in Laura Coates, Former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Senior Legal Analyst and Charles Ramsey our Law Enforcement Analyst and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner, former Washington D. C. Police Chief. Good morning to you both. It's great to have you and your expertise alongside us every morning ahead of this trial as we get into day eight.

Laura, if I ask you, you know, yesterday in court we heard the Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor brought up a lot. And I want you to help us understand why that matters so much given the testimony from multiple officers that Chauvin did not use a restraint that was inline with policy or inline with training.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well that was a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court based on excessive force allegations of an officer who mistakenly believed that somebody who was insulin shock had committed some sort of a robbery when he left a store abruptly unable to purchase orange juice. But the real crux of this issue in that case is the idea that the Supreme Court says listen we need to judge an officer's use-of-force based on a reasonableness standard, an objective reasonableness standard.

But it's not the objectivity of you and I or non-police officers instead you judge the use-of-force and its reasonableness through the lens and the eyes of another officer on the scene. And you take into account whether there is a severe crime at stake, whether the person is resisting or attempting to evade arrest or any threat that's being posed. So this is a very apropos case because it shows not only hey, reasonableness is always going to be the standard for excessive force but either through the lens of other officers there.

One on the scene who questioned not turning him over and other officers who then reviewed the use-of-force including a lieutenant, a sergeant, a Police Chief, a law enforcement 9-1-1 dispatcher; all though his actions were unreasonable. And you've taken that into account, combine that with the fact that he was not arresting the crime he was alleged to have committed, counterfeiting was not severe and there was no perceived threat that'd be reasonable.

You don't even - you're not even able to escape the idea of culpability through Graham v. Connor that says hey, this is what officers do.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: But there is a defense and the defense has a lower bar there, they just have to create a reasonable doubt and they're looking for cracks, right, in that unified front. And I wonder, Charles Ramsey, based on your experience what you believe their strategy is on this moment yesterday, I'm going to play it, when they talk about the use and placement of Officer Chauvin's knee on George Floyd. Have a listen to the sound and I want to get your sense of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC NELSON, DEFENCE ATTORNEY: Can you see in this photograph what appears to by the knee and shin placement of the officer?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: And would you agree that it appears that the knee is placed in the center between Mr. Floyd's shoulder blades?

MERCIL: It appears to be between his shoulder blades, sir, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Why is that important? It's important because the defense argues that his knee was on his shoulders which would be consistent with protocol. Is that a viable strategy? Is that a potential crack again knowing that the bar is lower for the defense in the prosecution case here?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well I mean it's important but I don't think it's relevant. I mean they (ph) overlooked the very important fact that George Floyd was handcuffed before he ever came in contact with Chauvin. This was not being done in the process of trying to handcuff an individual. Certainly during training, you know, the knee in the shoulder blade is part of the training. His knee was on the neck but he wasn't trying to handcuff him to begin with.

So I don't even think that's relevant and I really think that the prosecution could have done a better job in pushing back on that and a couple other points that the defense made yesterday. One being the photograph of the fentanyl and heroin, lethal overdoses overlooking tolerances, overlooking the fact that drug dealers dilute the product in order to make profits so you're not talking about full strength.

And also even the EMT talking about the hostility of a crowd. What do you do if you have a hostile crowd?

[09:25:00]

RAMSEY: You call for backup or you relocate. They did neither. And so I don't think the prosecution did a very good on redirect of really pushing back on those points. HARLOW: And the EMT, Laura, yesterday testifying look officers are trained to administer CPR, officers not just EMT. And that did not - Chauvin didn't do that. How does the defense counsel defend against that?

COATES: Well it's very difficult to do so because you remember the prosecution's theory is going to splinter in many ways. Not because they're not focused but because the evidence that comes they're going to have to for the reason that Charles is speaking about, be nimble. And so you got the idea of what did they know at the time. They knew that he did not - he was not resisting arrest. They suspected that he had - was under the (inaudible) substances.

We don't have a toxicology report at the time of the encounter, that's after the fact. But we also know that he was clearing under physical duress. And an officer when you have someone in your custody you owe them a duty of care. Much like an EMT you owe them a duty of care. And so once they realized he was under physical duress for what - from whatever reason, whether it was the pressure that they had placed on his body in a prone position or their suspected use of controlled substances they withheld that aid.

They did not provide the duty of care. And we heard from that E.R. doctor that talked about time is of the essence every moment they chose not to they contributed to his death.

SCIUTTO: Laura Coates, Charles Ramsey, we're gong to have a lot more questions for you. Thanks very much to both of you.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Another story we're following this morning. "The New York Times" is reporting that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, that he privately sought a blanket - blanket Presidential pardon from Donald Trump before he left office. This comes as we learn that the Justice Department is investigating Gaetz over allegations involving sex trafficking and prostitution. "The Times" does not report, does not know if Gaetz knew of that investigation when he asked for this pardon. We're going to discuss.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, taking a low at futures this morning, down just a little bit, pretty flat. Investors waiting on notes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting for any clues on any concern over inflation, the pace of economic recovery. Stocks closed lower yesterday. The Dow and the S&P 500 though did remain still in record territory.

We'll be right back.

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