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Key Witnesses Testify at Derek Chauvin's Trial; Biden Moves Up Vaccine Eligibility Deadline to April 19; Oxford Pauses AstraZeneca Pediatric Vaccine Trial; EU to Announce Update on AstraZeneca Vaccine; Republicans Keep Distance from Matt Gaetz, McConnell Warns Corporate America to Stay Out of Politics. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2021 - 04:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Another dramatic day of testimony at Derek Chauvin's trial as a use of force instructor says kneeling on George Floyd's neck was not a trained restraint tactic.

U.S. President Joe Biden says all adults in the U.S. will be eligible for a COVID vaccine in just 12 days.

And --


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect them when they make that judgment and I support whatever judgment they make.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I just think it's stupid.


NEWTON: Now the president and the Senate's top Republican have, as you can see, very different views on the companies weighing in on Georgia's voting law.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States, Canada and right around the world. I'm Paula Newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

So in just a few hours court resumes for Derek Chauvin's trial, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd. And an expert police witness is expected to be back on the stand. On Tuesday, an officer who trained Chauvin testified that he did not use a proper neck restraint when holding Floyd down. CNN's Omar Jimenez has more from Minneapolis.



LT. JOHNNY MERCIL, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT USE OF FORCE INSTRUCTOR: Well, you want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than 20 witnesses have been called in the trial for Derek Chauvin. Many of them officers.

OFFICER NICOLE MCKENZIE, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT MEDICAL SUPPORT COORDINATOR: If you don't have a pulse on a person, you'll immediately start CPR. Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But week two of testimony has largely focused on training. Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil is a use-of-force instructor with the Training Division at the Minneapolis Police Department.

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

MERCIL: No, sir.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Mercil admitted though there are scenarios where a knee on the neck does happen in times of aggressive resistance, but --

SCHLEICHER: For example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?

MERCIL: I would say no.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense for Derek Chauvin pushing the Lieutenant to their central argument --

GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe.

JIMENEZ (voice over): -- that George Floyd died largely from drugs and his medical history, asking about drugs and adrenaline, which the Lieutenant said can speed up the process of going unconscious from a neck restraint.

MERCIL: The higher your blood rate or your respiration and heart rate is generally the faster a neck restraint affects somebody.

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

MERCIL: My experience is under 10 seconds.

SCHLEICHER: Under 10 seconds?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Lieutenant Mercil is among multiple senior level officers at the Minneapolis Police Department to testify in recent days on topics like use of force and crisis intervention. The court Tuesday also focused on Chauvin's exact knee placement, which the defense argued was more on Floyd's back at points.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Does this appear to be a prone hold that an officer may apply with his knee?


JIMENEZ (voice over): While prosecutors argued the exact placement matters less than what they argue it led to, especially since Floyd was already under control.

SCHLEICHER: You talked about the prone position in and of itself being something that can lead to positional asphyxia, is that right?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

SCHLEICHER: Could that risk be increased by the addition of body weight?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

JIMENEZ (voice over): And later in the day, the defense returned to one of their central arguments that a loud crowd was a distraction for Chauvin.

NELSON: Does it make it more difficult to assess a patient?


NELSON: Does it make it more likely that you may miss signs that a patient is experiencing something?


NELSON: And so the distraction can actually harm the potential care of the patient.


JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense plans to bring Officer Nicole Mackenzie back as a witness. Among those the defense also wants to call Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd prior to his arrest. The defense wants to ask him about allegations that he supplied Floyd with drugs and that counterfeit $20 bill. But Hall's attorney says he'll invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.


JIMENEZ: The final witness called over the course of Tuesday was a police sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, and he was testifying as a use of force expert. But court ended abruptly in the middle of his testimony after a sidebar discussion. So that's where testimony will pick back up when court gets back into session Wednesday morning.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Now George Floyd's family held a prayer vigil outside the courthouse Tuesday. Floyd's brother is hopeful for a conviction saying when it comes the family will finally be able to breathe. Counsel for the Floyd family says even in Derek Chauvin is convicted, it's not necessarily justice.


JUSTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: I've said before justice is an amorphous concept, right. You know, if Derek Chauvin gets 30 years in jail is that justice? George Floyd is still dead. You know if the family received, you know, some compensation for what they lost is that justice? You know, George Floyd is still dead. You put that all together and what we come up with and what we have is that George Floyd will never come back, and their family member is gone. I think it will be the most justice they can receive if Derek Chauvin is convicted of these crimes, but it still won't be full justice because you can never get somebody back.


NEWTON: CNN will continue to bring you coverage of the trial when it resumes later today.

President Biden is taking another aggressive step in the U.S. battle against COVID-19. He has moved up the date on which all states must make vaccines available to every adult. That new deadline is April 19th. That's almost two weeks earlier than his previous goal.


BIDEN: I'm announcing today that we're moving that date up from May 1st to April 19th nationwide. That means by no later than April 19th in every part of this country every adult over the age of 18 or older, will be eligible to be vaccinated.


NEWTON: OK, but here is the thing, many states are already way ahead of him, already inviting everyone age 16 and older to get vaccinations. Overall the U.S. vaccination program is strong, and the vaccines appear to be providing protection as well after people get their shots. Alexandra Field has more from New York.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Proof its vaccine is working as well as expected out here in the real world, Moderna announcing data shows its vaccine is still highly effective for at least six months after the second shot. That right on the heels of a similar announcement from Pfizer last week. Sure signs of progress in the fight against COVID, while the spread of infection still fuels fears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America appears to be done with the pandemic, unfortunately the virus is not done with us.

FIELD (voice-over): President Biden pushing to expand excess to those critical vaccines even faster. Biden announcing all adults will be eligible for a shot by April 19th, that's ahead of his original date, May 1st.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I understand the desire to get back. If people can hold on for a few more weeks I think we are going to be in a very good place.

FIELD (voice-over): 40 percent of adults have received at least one shot, the race to keep up the pace intensifying as more people take steps to return to normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside globe life field.

FIELD (voice-over): The Texas rangers filling their stadium to capacity with nearly 40,000 fans for their first home game. While there are new signs of spread among younger people, from spring breakers to school children.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we're finding out that it's the team sports where kids are getting together. Obviously, many without masks that are driving it rather than in the classroom spread. When you go back and take a look and try to track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school it's just that.

FIELD (voice-over): Michigan is reporting more than 80 outbreaks tied to schools. New cases there keep climbing.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, FORMER DETROIT HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Early reopening, aggressive reopening, more eat-in dining, more athletics, more gyms reopening, and all of those things together are sending the message to folks that well COVID is over, but it's nearly not.

FIELD (voice-over): Michigan also second in the nation with the number of cases of the more transmissible variant first detected in the U.K.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR ST. LUKE'S MCNAIR CAMPUS: Michigan isn't an island in silo by itself, it's connected to the rest of the United States and we need to use this as a warning and heed what's going on there in order to prevent that surge from happening in other parts of the country.

FIELD (voice-over): The CDC says that variant has now been detected in all 50 states.

FIELD: The big focus right now remaining of course on expanding eligibility for vaccines for all adults because vaccines are not yet authorized for children. But a new Axios/Ipsos Poll does find that a majority of parents, just over half, about 52 percent say they are likely to get their child vaccinated as soon as a vaccine becomes available for that age group.

In New York, Alexandra Field, CNN.



NEWTON: Now, even as millions of Americans are getting vaccinated, millions more, of course, are still waiting and until herd immunity is reached officials are urging people to leave no unvaccinated American behind. Here is the White House COVID adviser speaking to our Chris Cuomo.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FRO COVID RESPONSE: We do have to remember that there are 100 million plus adults that still haven't been vaccinated. They are 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 are at our best, Chris, I like to think we are the country that says we are going to bring everybody there with us. Even if that means we have to slow down a little bit or we've got to prolong some of the things we're really eager for a little bit, then we're going to have to do that. For our part either way our job is to get it done as fast as possible.


NEWTON: Now, we're learning as well that COVID may have, unfortunately, a new and disturbing impact after the primary infection has passed. Now, a new study finds that one in three people who have had COVID-19 may actually suffer brain disease. Researchers writing in the lancet psychiatry journal say 34 percent of COVID survivors, a third, received a neurological or psychological diagnosis within six months of infection. Anxiety and mood disorders were the two most diagnosed ailments. The conditions were most severe in hospitalized patients but also common in outpatients. The study examined the electronic health records of 230,000 patients making it one of the largest data sets yet.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is facing yet another setback. The University is pausing its pediatric trial in the U.K. as regulators there review a possible -- I say possible link to blood clots in adults who have been inoculated. Now a spokesperson says no safety concerns have been raised regarding the children's trial.

Meantime European regulators are once again reviewing the vaccine and are expected to release their findings sometime this week. For more on all the latest developments Melissa Bell is standing by for us in Paris. But first we go to Salma Abdelaziz in London. Salma, of course a lot on the line here for AstraZeneca but also for the U.K. and other European countries. You know, this is really their best shot to try to get over this pandemic. What's at stake here as we wait for more information on AstraZeneca?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Paula, I'm going to expand that a little bit. It's not just about the U.K. and the EU, there's a lot of excitement around the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine when it first came out because it's one of the cheapest ones. It only costs about $4. It is cheaper than your cup of coffee and it doesn't need to be stored at extra cold temperatures. So this was the vaccine that people were excited about for use in developing countries, for use in hard to reach places.

But it's been plagued by negative headline, after negative headline, after negative headline, the latest of course now this, the pausing of these pediatric trials. These few hundred children and teenagers, those trials paused while they await information from the U.K. medicine's regulator which is reviewing this link, this possible link between these very severe blood clots and the use of the Oxford University and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But I'm going to tell you, Paula, experts will say it's extremely difficult to identify what's going on here. You only had about 30 cases of their very, very rare blood clots happen among 18 million people who had been vaccinated with this vaccine in the U.K. and about seven of those people unfortunately died. But you are talking about a very small sample of people there, for experts and researchers to try to find the common ground, to try to find the common issue.

And again, you hear the World Health Organization, you hear U.K. officials saying, listen, the benefits outweigh the risks at this point. You need to continue to just follow what medicines regulators are doing, to follow what experts are saying, but this is not the only vaccine out there, Paula. That's why some countries have taken the steps to limit its use in certain age groups and maybe that's what it comes down to.

You see Germany banning the use of this vaccine in under 65s, that might be what it is. That might be what it comes down to. Where and how and when do you use this Oxford University vaccine versus others -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and a reminder it has not been approved here in the United States and there are literally tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca waiting to be used here in the United States and elsewhere. To that issue, Melissa, in France. There has been essentially an anemic vaccine rollout. I mean, how has the country been left so vulnerable to this latest wave now?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been two things really, Paula, at once the faster and more dangerous spread of the new variants, and more specifically the first one identified in the United Kingdom which has been a game changer in the European Union. So many countries that had seen falling infection rates, falling hospitalizations, falling entries into ICUs, suddenly saw that trend reverse and very suddenly and very brutally. Hence the restrictions that have tended to be increased in Europe these last weeks.

It's been a sort of race against time.


First of all, against those new variants which many European countries have essentially been losing these last few weeks, and at the same time trying to get enough people vaccinated that that could be a game changer in the fight against future variants or these ones.

And of course, on that front as well, European member states have struggled. And it's been a combination of factors. First of all, there has been -- as Salma was saying --that a conflicting and changing advice in a number of European countries about the groups to whom the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given. Initially it was only to younger people, then that changed. It's now essentially older populations that are encouraged to take it in many European countries. And all the while we're waiting to hear what the European Medicines Agency had to say.

It was back at the end of January, Paula, that the EMA first approved AstraZeneca in the middle of that row with the EU about deliveries, it has approved it for all age groups. Then individual member states some people reporting these issues with blood clots member states deciding to suspend its rollout all together while that was investigated.

You'll remember that Back in mid-March in the middle of this crisis the EMA has said look, they'd have this press conference, we believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. But we hadn't had the full conclusion of their investigation, that is what we expect today, to find out what the EMA thinks approximate a possible link between people who have developed blood clots after being inoculated and the vaccine itself. We heard earlier this week from an official form the EMA saying that he expected the EMA to announce that there is a link. It is simply that the nature of the link is not properly understood. So all eyes very much on what the European Medicines Agency has once again to say about the AstraZeneca vaccine later today -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, you hit the nail on the head there once again, right? The flip-flops have been difficult for everyone to track. Melissa Bell for us in Paris, really appreciate it.

Now earlier I spoke with Sterghios Moschos. He is an associate professor of molecular virology at Northumbria University. Now he wrote down what the science is saying so far about the risk of getting blood clots from that COVID vaccine.


STERGHIOS MOSCHOS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR IN CELLULAR & MOLECULAR SCIENCES, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY: If you look at the frequency of blood clots amongst people vaccinated with AstraZeneca, again, that is 0.0002 percent. The difference therefore here is not how frequent the clot occurred. They occurred just the same frequency as everyone else. But this sort of characteristic of the clotting being unusual compared to the general statistics.

So, what we need to work out now is whether or not there is an elevated risk or not. But you know, roughly 18 million people have been vaccinated. It looks like that risk is very, very small. And you compared to the risk of getting a clot if you get a COVID, which is 10,000 times higher. Now which one is worse? It's a simple answer to that mathematical question. And I think the answer if you get COVID you get a much higher chance of getting a stroke. So, let's put things into perspective here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: OK. Not many House Republicans are rushing to defend their colleague Matt Gaetz as he is under a possible investigation. A report from "The New York Times" says the embattled Congressman may have turned to a long-time ally for help.

Plus top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is warning corporate America to stay out of politics as more businesses weigh in on Georgia's controversial new voting law. Critics are calling his comments hypocritical. We'll explain.



NEWTON: "The New York Times" reports House Republican Matt Gaetz privately sought preemptive pardons in the final weeks of the Trump presidency. Now two people familiar with the discussion tell the "Times" Gaetz pursued blanket pardons for multiple people. The request was ultimately never granted, and the report comes as sources say Gaetz is under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and prostitution including a charge involving a minor. Now a spokesperson for Gaetz said that the Congressman at that time publicly called for numerous people to be pardoned including himself. The spokesperson added it had nothing to do with the current allegations which Gaetz denies.

Now it's been one week since the public learned of the possible federal investigation into Gaetz and almost all of his fellow house Republicans are keeping their distance. CNN's Jessica Dean reports from Capitol Hill.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to Representative Matt Gaetz and the Justice Department's investigation into allegations of sex trafficking, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been largely silent. And House Republican leadership has not said much either.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Those are serious implications, if it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case.

DEAN (voice-over): McCarthy has not spoken about Gaetz publicly since last week, and his office did not respond when asked by CNN if he had spoken with Gaetz about the allegations. Only two House Republicans have offered public support for Gaetz, Representatives Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene who like Gaetz are fierce defenders of former President Donald Trump.

Aside from these comments, Republican response on the Hill has been pretty universal in its silence, a silence former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent says sends a clear message.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The fact that many Republican house members have not spoken out against him does not hide the fact that I suspect many are gleefully experiencing feelings of schadenfreude right now. Many of them are taking great delight in his misery.

DEAN (voice-over): The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz engaged in a relationship with a 17 year old, and whether his involvement with other young women broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of an extortion plot.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It's a horrible allegation and it is a lie.

DEAN (voice-over): Gaetz has the reputation of being a man apart on Capitol Hill, better known for his stunts than for his close relationships with his colleagues. He wore a gas mask on the House floor during a vote on a COVID-19 relief package, and during the first impeachment inquiry against former President Trump, Gaetz led a group of Republicans who stormed a secure room where a closed-door depositions was taking place.

Dent, who served with Gaetz, says Gaetz is now politically isolated.


DENT: He is in a situation again where he is isolated, he's marginalized, no friends, and those are just the Republicans.

DEAN (voice-over): Earlier this year, Gaetz attacked the leadership of his own party, traveling to Wyoming where he railed against Representative Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House, after she voted to impeach former President Trump.

GAETZ: We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, and I intend to win it.

DEAN (voice-over): While Gaetz has acted as one of Trump's strongest defenders, the former president has so far not offered any support to the former Florida congressman. A source tells CNN Trump brought up the Gaetz situation in a recent conversation with an ally, talking as if he was genuinely fishing about whether he should weigh in. The response was he should stay far away from the situation.

DEAN: A senior house GOP source tells CNN that Gaetz is unlikely to lose his seat on the House Judiciary Committee unless he is indicted. In fact, conference rules do state that if he is indicted he will be forced to give up his seat. But so far because he's denied the allegations and also because they are based on news reports he's been able to keep his seat on that committee.

Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NEWTON: U.S. President Joe Biden is applauding businesses for condemning restrictive voting laws. His administration has heavily criticized Georgia's sweeping new election rules. Earlier this week he voiced support for major league baseball's decision to pull the all- star game from the state. And several major Georgia-based companies also have criticized the law. While Mr. Biden warned corporations about the impact their views might have on local workers, he spoke about the importance of speaking up.


BIDEN: It is reassuring to see that for-profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are.


NEWTON: Now we go across the aisle and many Republicans are having the quite the opposite reaction. The Senate minority leader is slamming companies for taking a stand against Georgia's new voting law even though Mitch McConnell has been a forceful advocate of businesses donating money to political campaigns. He is slamming them for using, quote, economic blackmail to influence voting laws and he's warning they would face, in his words, serious consequences.


MCCONNELL: My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics. It's not what you are designed for. Republicans buy stock and fly on planes and drink Coca-Cola, too. So what I'm saying here is I think this is quite stupid io jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue.


NEWTON: Now, is there a chance to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal? Negotiators for the major signatories include Iran and the U.S. and they're hashing it all out this week. We will have the latest on the talks live from Vienna.

Plus, two very different stories are emerging in Russia about the health and treatment of imprisoned Putin critic Alexey Navalny.