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Chauvin Investigator Changes Mind on Witness Stand; U.K. Regulator: AstraZeneca Stumble Could Cause More Vaccine Hesitancy; Biden to Announce Executive Actions on Gun Control; Boehner Says Trump Incited "Bloody Insurrection"; Sources: Rep. Matt Gaetz Sought Preemptive Pardon. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 8, 2021 - 04:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: A lead investigator in the Derek Chauvin case changes his mind on the witness stand about what George Floyd said moments before his death.

The former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, lays the blame for the Capitol insurrection firmly at the feet of Donald Trump.

And Joe Biden overturns a Trump-era policy. The U.S. will give more than $200 million in renewed financial support to the U.N.'s Palestinian Refugee Agency.

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

So the ninth day of testimony is just hours away in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the alleged killing of George Floyd. Now witnesses yesterday detailed what Floyd may have said just moments before he died, both the defense and prosecution asked the lead investigator what he believes Floyd was saying in a clip of police body cam footage. The answer wasn't all that clear. CNN's Omar Jimenez is following the case from Minneapolis.


JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY DISTRICT: Sergeant, just a reminder, you're still under oath.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today's testimony, more cops taking the stand against former officer Derek Chauvin.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: In your opinion, does defendant's use of force during that time period need to be reasonable within the entire time period?


JIMENEZ (voice over): But one of the more significant exchanges came when Special Agent James Reyerson took the stand, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that led the investigation into the events of May 25th.

The defense played him video from the scene.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Published Exhibit 1007. And I'm going to ask you, sir, to listen to Mr. Floyd's voice.



NELSON: Did you hear that?


NELSON: Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, "I ate too many drugs."

RYERSON: Yes, it did.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But minutes later, prosecutors played a longer clip from the same video.

SCHLEICHER: Having heard it in context, are you able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there.

REYERSON: Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd is saying "I ain't doing no drugs."

SCHLEICHER: So it's a little different than what you're asked about when you only saw a portion of the video correct?

REYERSON: Yes, sir.

JIMENEZ (voice over): A key moment as one of the defense's main theories is that Floyd died largely from drugs in his system, combined with his medical history.

Earlier in the day, Sergeant Jody Stiger with the Los Angeles Police Department was called by prosecutors as a use of force expert and testified like others have, the force Derek Chauvin used on George Floyd was excessive.

SGT. JODY STIGER, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was in the prone position. He was handcuffed. He was not attempting to resist. He was not attempting to assault the officers, kick, punch or anything of that nature.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But Chauvin's attorney during cross examination focused on what could have happened, specifically one of their central arguments that the growing crowd became a perceived threat and distracted Chauvin. NELSON: And when someone starts threatening you, it's a possible -- possibility that an officer can view that as a potential deadly assault that's about to happen. That's what they're trained.


NELSON: That's what they're trained.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But during prosecutor questioning --

STIGER: I did not perceive them as being a threat.

SCHLEICHER: And why is that?

STIGER: Because they were merely filming, and they were -- most of it was their concern for Mr. Floyd.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense also moved to show there were points where Chauvin's knee may not have been on the neck, but on some portions of the shoulder. Prosecutors called the placement irrelevant.

SCHLEICHER: Is the risk related to the pressure on the neck or the pressure on the body?

STIGER: The pressure on the body -- any additional pressure on the body complicates breathing more so than if there was no pressure at all.

JIMENEZ (voice over): And the final portion of the day, forensic experts testified about drugs found in the police squad car as well as Floyd's vehicle including illicit drugs in pill form.

MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTOR: And what were the results of the testing?


FRANK: Are you able at the BCA lab to quantify how much methamphetamine or fentanyl are in those pills?


GILES: For methamphetamine, yes. For fentanyl, no.

JIMENEZ: And we do know based on the autopsy some of those same drugs were found in George Floyd's system. But when you look at what's really important here, is it's really the jurors were able to hear what was found at the scene in these vehicles for the first time and they are the ones that really matter in this. And based on reports that we've gotten from inside the court it does seem that this week has been a little more difficult to give their full attention, especially when you compare this week's expert testimony with last week's more emotional testimony.

Nonetheless they do still seem to be taking notes, even conferring with one another at points and they all paid attention over the course of Wednesday during that exchange about whether George Floyd actually said "I ate too many drugs" or not.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.


NEWTON: So we learned a lot from Omar's report there. What you need to know is that both sides in the Chauvin trial are attempting to establish a substantial causal factor which led to George Floyd's death. That means outside of any other factors, what could have caused Floyd's death just by itself. Could Derek Chauvin's knee have done that, or drugs, or even something else? CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams explained the defense's strategy when he spoke with my colleague, Chris Cuomo.


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: These are terms that mean -- make total sense to us in English but they're complicated legal terms. Now, it doesn't -- under the law in Minnesota it doesn't have to be the sole thing that caused an individual's death but just as you said, the substantial causal factor. Now, it's hard to watch that video from where we sit and see how Chauvin's knee was not the substantial causal factor.

But, again, what the defense has been doing is putting up any number of factors and this came up a lot today, this question of drug use and did he have drugs in his system, did he have drugs in the police car and so on, that might have complicated this question of what caused his death. The defense has a very high burden. The dense doesn't have a burden but the defense's work is cut out for it in light of the video.


NEWTON: That was CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces.

Let's take a look now at what's driving COVID-19 case numbers in the United States. Data from Johns Hopkins University indicates just five states are reporting almost half of the country's new cases. New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and they account for less than one quarter of the U.S. population. Now the CDC projects as many as 588,000 Americans will have lost their lives to the coronavirus by May 1st.

Now, as horrible as that is it's fewer than earlier estimates because the CDC is now expecting the death rate to slow down during the next few weeks. The number of people who have lost their lives to the virus each day here is in fact, 22 percent -- pardon me, down 22 percent last week over the week before. Now, the CDC director credits vaccinations but has a warning. Listen.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: In the context of vaccination we still need to have our case counts be really low to stop circulating virus, to stop the emergence of variants, to stop hospitalizations and ultimately to stop deaths. I'm really encouraged by these decreased numbers of deaths that I believe to be an impact of vaccination, especially the vaccination of our elderly communities, but I think we are way too high to be thinking that we have won this race.


NEWTON: Now, the U.S. is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases among young people. America's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke earlier with CNN's Anderson Cooper and explained how vaccinations are now playing a role.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you look at the entire population, there's relatively more protection among older individuals as opposed to younger individuals. So what we're seeing now is what appears to be, but it's actually the reality of a disproportionately more infections in younger individuals. You combine that with what you just mentioned what Dr. Walensky said about clusters of cases in day care as well as school sports, particularly team sports which people engage in close contact without masks, I think that is what is explaining these surges of cases in young individuals, driven by the variant.


NEWTON: OK. There are new setbacks for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as the U.K.'s drug regulator says there is a possible link between the shot and rare cases of blood clots. Health officials say more research must still be done but for now the U.K.'s vaccine committee is advising the AstraZeneca shot not be given to those under 30 years old.


Now the U.K. health secretary looked to reassure the public that the vaccine rollout was moving forward in, quote, the safest way possible.

Meantime, regulators in the European Union also found a possible link between the inoculations and the very rare blood clots, but they concluded the benefits of the vaccine do still outweigh the risks. CNN correspondents have been tracking these developments, Salma Abdelaziz is in London. But we begin with Melissa Bell standing by for us in Paris. Melissa, you know, the word from the EU seems to be less definitive really than most wanted and hardly the vote of confidence that this vaccine needs right now.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, especially after several weeks where national European member states, their national health agencies, have been changing their advice pretty regularly. Remember that to begin with just after it was approved by the European Medicines Agency the advice had been that it should only be used for younger populations then to be paused all together, that is the rollout of the vaccine. Only now for a number of European countries and a growing number after that announcement yesterday by the European Medicines Agency announcing that it should be restricted and only given to older populations.

So that of course plays out on a continent that is famous for its vaccine hesitancy. Here in France in particular when all of this began, Paula, polls showed only one in two people intended to get vaccinated. Now one of the big questions will be what impact this has on actual vaccine rollout. When you look at the French figures, about 9 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered, 2.5 million of the AstraZeneca.

Now part of that is because of the delivery shortfalls of the European Union have complained about. We know that they badly impacted the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the number of member states. But there is the question of how much is that is down to vaccine hesitancy and choice.

Now the "Le Monde" newspaper reports based on anecdotal evidence speaking to doctors, that a number of doctors are reporting that up to 30 percent of their AstraZeneca appointments have been canceled since the beginning of April. And that gives you some idea of some of the fear that appears to be setting into European populations -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, very stark that statistic you just gave given how, you know, urgent it is for everyone to get a vaccine. Melissa I appreciate that update.

Salma, you just heard Melissa talk about the fact that there is that hesitancy. Now the guidance in the U.K. has changed, that's a fact. Even if this is being super cautious, I would imagine it is unnerving.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: It is absolutely a bit worrying, Paula, to say the least. The U.K. health secretary was just on air a short time ago saying that this shows that the mechanisms, the safety procedure, the processes behind vaccine approval are working.

The fact that they were able to identify this very, very, very rare incident just to give you an idea, again, 79 cases out of over 20 million people that received this vaccine, 79 people had these very rare blood clots. Unfortunately 19 of them died. But, again, it gives you an idea of just how rare it is, how difficult it is to even study this one U.K. health official describing it as vanishingly rare.

But even with that, Paula, just watching that press conference yesterday where health officials were saying, if you are under 30 as an adult, we're going to recommend you take a different vaccine. And someone asking, well what if I'm 31? What if I'm 32? How did you come up with that age group? What if you're pregnant? What if you have a family history of clotting? All of a sudden there's all of these questions, Paula, and this means that there's more debate, more controversy, more people picking up the phone to call their grandparents and figure out their history and to call their GP and find out whether or not they should take that vaccine. And all of that creates a delay, creates hesitancy. These vaccines are rolling out at breakneck speed, Paula, and this could cause people to take a step to pause to slow down.

NEWTON: Yes, and a reminder that the vaccine isn't even approved here in the U.S. and yet the U.S. has millions of doses waiting really to be dispatched if and when it is approved. I want to thank both you, Melissa Bell in Paris and Salma Abdelaziz in London, thanks, appreciate it.

Now in the day ahead, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to announce his first executive actions on gun control. The measures are expected to tighten some restrictions, but they fall short of the sweeping actions he promised on the campaign trail. CNN's Phil Mattingly has details.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the wake of multiple mass shootings causing significant death, particularly in the places of Colorado and Georgia over the course of last several weeks, President Biden made clear he wants action. He's pushing for action on legislative proposals to expand background checks on Capitol Hill. But his administration has also been working for weeks behind the scenes on taking executive action, unilateral actions the president can take to try and address at least a small part of the gun violence issue.

Now the president is ready to roll those actions out. On Thursday, he is expected to roll out a series of executive actions underscoring something he said in the wake of the shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future.

MATTINGLY: Now the details of those actions are still somewhat unclear. One thing administration officials have been working on behind the scenes is declaring so-called ghost guns. Basically guns that can be assembled without serial numbers as firearms, therefore, making a background check a requirement. Something to keep an eye on that may be coming forward.

But the administration is expected to roll out several different executive actions. Again, it's not the full answer White House officials and gun control advocates are looking for here, that can only come from one place, Capitol Hill. And right now there is simply no path forward, at least none that can be seen to 60 votes in the United States Senate to pass any type of sweeping background checks law.

Democrats are certainly working towards that proposal. The president is pushing for that proposal. So for now unilateral action from the president. A promise he made that he would come through on starting that process on Thursday. As to what comes next, well, that's largely in the hands of lawmakers.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


NEWTON: Now President Biden is also set to nominate a gun control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. David Chipman has a long history at the agency which is tasked with enforcing the nation's gun laws. He spent 25 years as a special agent there. He has also worked as a senior policy adviser of a gun control organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. If confirmed, he would be the agency's first permanent director since 2015.

Now a Republican former Speaker of the U.S. House is now blasting Donald Trump for his role in January's Capitol riot. Hear what John Boehner is saying about the former president. That's next.

Plus, Donald Trump is also responding to new reports that Congressman Matt Gaetz asked for a pardon. We'll explain.



NEWTON: A scathing rebuke of former president Donald Trump from Republican former House Speaker John Boehner. According to a copy of his new book Boehner says Trump incited the bloody insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and says his false election claims cost Republicans control of Congress. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former House Speaker John Boehner getting candid and unleashing on the former president from his own party in his new memoire, writing that Trump:

Incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the BS he had been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November.

The excerpts were obtained by "The New York Times" and Boehner blasts Trump's repeated insistence that the election was rigged writing:

He claimed voter fraud without any evidence and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust paced in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.

Trump shot back in his signature style, calling Boehner a swamp creature through his spokesperson in a statement to CNN.

Boehner's biting remarks were echoed by retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore at an event Tuesday night. Honore led the security review at the Capitol after January 6th, and now says the capitol attack was the result of a disinformation campaign led by then President Trump.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET), LED REVIEW OF U.S. CAPITOL SECURITY: And people who wanted to believe that message that the election was stolen, and they rode with it and they continue to ride with it. I think we've been had by a little propaganda, and a superb use of information operation, which is an offensive weapon to shape people's minds. And again, just tell them with a little BS about what they want to hear, a sliver of truth, never a maximum.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Meanwhile, 10 members of Congress who were in the House gallery when the Capitol was breached have joined a lawsuit against Trump and Rudy Giuliani and the far-right extremist groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys accusing them of conspiring to incite the insurrection.

It was filed in February by top Democrat Bennie Thompson. But now 10 more Democrats are sharing their stories of how they fled the House floor and huddled in their offices for hours. Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen described clutching a baseball bat in his pitch black office preparing for the worst.

As I sat in my office on January 6th with rioters roaming the hallways, I feared for my life and thought I was going to die.

The civil lawsuit is seeking unspecified money damages from Trump and the other defendants. Trump's spokesperson previously said Trump played no part inciting the riot at the Capitol. More than 300 people have been charged for their role in the capitol attack and they're still appearing in court almost daily, but prosecutors have told a judge they are close to a plea deal with at least one defendant, John Shaffer.

JOHN SHAFFER, ALLEGED CAPITOL RIOTER: My name is John Shaffer, I'm from Indiana.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A 53-year-old heavy metal guitarist with ties with extremist groups. Shaffer allegedly charged at police and is still now sitting in jail.

SCHNEIDER: And we've learned that at least one defendant has flipped against the Proud Boys agreeing to provide information that could allow prosecutors to bring more severe charges against the extremist group's leadership. Several members have already been charged with conspiracy.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: Former U.S. President Donald Trump released a statement Wednesday saying that Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz never personally asked him for a pardon. Now, two people familiar with the matter tell CNN the Congressman privately asked the White House for a preemptive pardon for himself for the end of Trump's presidency at about the same time the Justice Department was just beginning to investigate whether the Congressman had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Something he denies.

The sources also tell us that the request wasn't taken seriously really because the White House decided preemptive pardons were off the table. CNN's Ryan Nobles picks up the story.



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz in search of support, and getting a returned favor for the man he spent years defending and praising.

REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): President Trump sometimes raises his voice and a ruckus, he knows that's what it takes to raise an army of patriots, who love America and will protect her.

NOBLES (voice-over): In his short time in Washington, the Florida congressman has gone out of his way to attach himself to Trump, as demonstrated in the 2020 HBO documentary, "The Swamp".

GAETZ: Hey, Mr. President, it's Matt Gaetz. I don't need anything sir, just calling you to tell you did a great job today, don't let these people get you down. We're going to keep fighting for you with all we got.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're crazy, Matt. You're doing fantastic.

NOBLES (voice-over): Gaetz defending Trump, even when some Republicans were unwilling.

GAETZ: My fellow patriots, don't be shy and don't be sorry. Join me as we proudly represent the pro-Trump America first wing of the conservative movement.

NOBLES (voice-over): The congressman so connected to the former president, he even met and then proposed to his fiance, Ginger Lucky, at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club surrounded by Trump's allies. And it's not just the former president, but his children as well. Gaetz spending a lot of time cozying up to Ivanka.

GAETZ: These are Ivanka's favorite, she told me she liked my shoes, wore them to the White House.

NOBLES (voice-over): And Don Jr., like he did when he traveled to Wyoming to attack fellow Republican Liz Cheney who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection.

GAETZ: A man who loves Wyoming, who loves to hunt and fish. How about a word for Donald Trump Jr.?

NOBLES (voice-over): But while Gaetz has done everything he can to support Trump, the former president's support of him during his tumultuous time has been less than passionate. None of the Trump children have offered any public support for Gaetz. Sources telling CNN Trump himself is being advised to stay away from the Gaetz scandal.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Our Ryan Nobles reporting there.

Now, moving on from the Trump era, Joe Biden's team makes a shift in U.S./Middle East policy. The reasoning and the regional reaction next.

And a painful royal rift. Jordan's king finally speaks out about the plot allegedly involving his half-brother.