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Medical Expert Warns About Possible Fourth Surge In Coronavirus Cases In U.S.; Prince Philip, Husband Of Queen Elizabeth II Of United Kingdom, Passes Away; Conservative Women's Group Holds Event For Trump Supporters; Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz States He Will Not Step Down Amidst Allegations Of Sex Trafficking And Misconduct; Medical Experts Testify During Second Week Of Trial Of Derek Chauvin For Murder Of George Floyd; Video by Republican Harris County Official In Texas Draws Concerns Of Voter Suppression. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 10, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Donald's mother, Beulah Mae, fought a heroic battle to bring her son's killers to justice, effectively bankrupting the Klan. But that doesn't mean that the terror group disappeared. You can watch back-to-back episodes of "The People Versus the Klan" tomorrow night on CNN at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

There are new fears of a growing COVID wave as the U.S. races to vaccinate all Americans. The CDC warning the public about the importance of remaining vigilant after another 80,000 new cases were reported on Friday. That marks three straight days of over 75,000 infections.

And there are growing concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC is saying it's aware of adverse side effects now being reported in four states. But still, there are signs of progress. The FDA is now considering whether to allow Pfizer to move ahead with vaccines for kids ages 12 to 15.

We have reporters covering the latest developments across the country. Polo Sandoval in Detroit, Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles. Polo, lets' begin with you. Michigan health officials, they are saying they are seeing very high positivity rates.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the big telltale numbers here, Fred, is also that the hospitalization rates. And we have heard from the officials here in the state of Michigan say that they have noticed an increase in that specifically among pediatric patients, an increase of about 257 percent in just the last couple of months.

And certainly goes towards the big message here that health officials have been sharing, especially with the younger people in Michigan, to head to these kinds of mass vaccination sites if they are eligible to do so and get that vaccination as soon as possible here. And we've checked in with multiple health systems throughout the state

of Michigan, one of them in particular, the CEO at Spectrum Health, reports the number of patients has actually doubled in the last week. And when you check in with the Hospital Association here in the state of Michigan, they also say that they are seeing roughly an average of about nine new pediatric patients at area hospitals a day. So you do the math here, and that certainly goes, again to that message that officials are certainly trying to share here.

The other thing that we have heard from, including the governor of the state of Michigan, recognizing that the next weeks, perhaps months could be extremely tough, and that's why she is hoping to increase the amount of vaccines, the doses that are arriving here in the state of Michigan to try to cover more ground. Last week, she went ahead and expanded the goal of vaccinating about 50,000 to now 100,000 people a day. But the governor is saying that she needs more of those doses, and so far, it seems that she is not getting that from the Biden administration. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER, (D) MICHIGAN: I am concerned, because I believe, as do a number of the public health experts, that we really should be surging vaccines to the states that are experiencing serious outbreaks. The Biden administration does have a strategy, and by and large, it is working. As should be expected, though, in an undertaking of this magnitude, there are shortcomings and different points of view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: So what you are hearing there from the governor is that perhaps there is some assistance coming from the federal government. It is not perhaps exactly what she would like to see, especially when it is comes to those vaccination doses.

Now, in terms of what she can do at this point, at the state level she issued multiple recommendations yesterday to all residents in Michigan, and that included recommending that high school sports, practices and games, they be suspended at least for the next couple of weeks here as they try to find out more. By the way, the High School Sports Associations saying at this point they don't plan on issuing any specific guidance to any school district to do that, but it will be up to the districts to actually decide, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then let's go to Paul Vercammen there in Los Angeles. Paul, California now boasts the lowest positivity rate in the country, and what's behind that big turnaround, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will tell you, it was the vaccines going into arm and people social distancing, paying attention, wearing their masks. And if you look behind me, it was cooperation. And this is a food bank put on by the New Story Church in Los Angeles, hundreds will receive food today. And there's a sense in California of jubilation that we got to this point. The governor announcing that on June 15th, California will be

completely reopened, no more of the so-called tier system, like red tier or purple tier. That now has businesses throughout the Los Angeles area, especially concert venues, scrambling, knowing that they can reopen.

The Hollywood Bowl, for one, is going to rehire up to 1,000 seasonal workers. They want to honor the volunteers who have done so many good things, so they're going to put on free shows with the L.A. Philharmonic, Flying Lotus, Thundercat. Here's what the top man at the Bowl had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:05:02]

CHAD SMITH, CEO, L.A. PHILHARMONIC/HOLLYWOOD BOWL: When we see the sacrifices that ordinary heroes have made over the course of this year, whether that's the grocery store workers, the delivery people, the first responders, the health care workers, the nurses, the doctors. And I think it is going to be emotional for all of us when we welcome them into the venue and honor them with the music that we play.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And now back here live, if you can see behind me, they continue to feed people here, just a tremendous effort here. This is a year that they have been doing this, 226,000 people fed here at the New Story Church. And I want to bring in one volunteer. You told me at one moment you were so touched because you were able to give food, and I believe diapers as well, to a new widow.

JASON HONG, FOOD PANTRY VOLUNTEER: Yes, I remember the first time we actually we conducted this pantry, a lady came in saying that she lost her a week before, and she had a brand-new infant. And when she came through, she was crying in tears, bawling. And we provided the basic necessities that she needed. From that day on, we were driven, we were struck, and we had to do something for this community.

VERCAMMEN: We super appreciate that, Jason.

So you get a sense, Fred, from just how much cooperation has gone on here in California, and with everybody pitching in, that is how we got to this point where we're talking about a full reopening. This is big news on June 15th.

Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.

WHITFIELD: Lots of heroes involved, including that volunteer. Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles, Polo Sandoval in Detroit, thank you so much to both of you.

Let's dive deeper into all of this. Joining me right now is CNN contributor in Detroit, former health commissioner, Dr. Abdul El- Sayed. Good to see you. So we just heard about that cases growing in your home state of Michigan. Positivity rates for news case are at 18 percent, and we're seeing a growing number of young people infected. So what is most concerning to you about all of that?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me, Fred. I really am deeply concerned. In fact, if you take seven day averages, we are at the second highest seven-day average that we've ever had throughout the course of the entire pandemic. And what worries me is that we are not talking about the garden variety, quote-unquote, wild type SARS-CoV-2.

We're talking about B-117. And we've been the epicenter of the B-117 in this country for some time. And that's what's spreading. And it's accounting for the higher hospitalization rate among young people who previously had not been as affected by this pandemic. The second point is that it shows us that in the optimism about the vaccines, our policy has gotten out ahead of where we actually are in terms of how much vaccine we have been able to deploy.

We're at about 25 percent, and most of the estimates suggest that to get to the kind of herd immunity that we need to be safe, we need three times as much as that. And yet we have been aggressively reopening in the state. And while the governor has recommended that you stay away from the kinds of risky activities that we know spread this, there hasn't been movement to actually lock those down and restrict them in the way that sends a real message that this is dangerous at this point in time.

And the worst of all is it is not just Michigan, we have the same dynamics all over the country with B-117 having seeded and the kind of reopening that we have been seeing.

WHITFIELD: And more of what Michigan Governor Whitmer has said. She says that she, as it pertains to her state, wants the White House to focus the vaccine to hotspots like in Michigan. How much of a difference, in your view, would that make when the positivity rate is so high?

EL-SAYED: Look, I certainly think it should be done. But here's the thing. This virus is now doubling every 10 to 14 day. If we were to vaccinate every single Michigander today, it would take 10 days for their bodies to make the kind of antibodies that we need, 10 days where the virus could double. And so it's not just the surge of vaccines. We also need the kind of mitigation strategies that the governor was so good at implementing early on in this pandemic. The vaccines are not enough, and so we need both, and we need action now.

WHITFIELD: Across the country, we're seeing COVID variants becoming dominant strains now in several states. The CDC says Michigan has more than 2,200 cases of the variant first identified in Britain, and then that is only second apparently to Florida. What more can be done in your case to stop these variants?

EL-SAYED: Well, one of the things that we didn't really get right from the jump with this pandemic was contact tracing. And now in states where B-117 present but maybe hasn't spread to the level that it has, for example, in Michigan, contact tracing is going to be critical. And not just contact tracing and knowing where the virus is, but knowing where B-117 in particular is, and being very aggressive about containing it, because we know that this is more transmissible and it's deadlier.

And between those two things, it has the risk of taking us as a country into a fourth surge. And so to take that on I think we need to not just engage in the kind of mitigation that stops it from spreading overall.

[14:10:02]

But we need to be particularly focused on contact tracing it and stopping those outbreaks before they get big and they seed that fourth surge that we're all trying to prevent here.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk about something that a lot of families are super, super concerned about and wondering about. Pfizer is looking into the safety of administering its vaccine to children ages 12 to 15. How much of an impact do you think it will make if indeed the vaccine is approved for children in that age bracket?

EL-SAYED: Well, it is a serious impact. Just on the individual level, we all know, those of us who have the kids that are kids are the most valuable, most important thing that we think about everyday, and knowing that those kids are less vulnerable is a big deal. And we know that we're seeing more and more case among kids, particularly over the age of 10.

The other big picture point here is that I quoted you that 75 percent number to get to herd immunity. Twenty percent of the people in this country are under the age of 16. And if that is the case, then, the best we possibly could do is get to 80 percent if every single person got vaccinated, and we already know that vaccine hesitancy is an issue.

So being able to make this vaccine, knowing that it is safe and effective for young people, available to the young people gets us that much closer to herd immunity. And that's a big deal.

WHITFIELD: Your optimism just might be contagious. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, thank you so much. Good to see you.

EL-SAYED: Thank you, Fred.

Coming up, we are now learning Prince Harry will attend the funeral of Prince Philip, his grandfather. but he will be traveling to the U.K. alone. We'll tell you why Meghan Markle won't be there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:15:51]

WHITFIELD: The royal family confirming that a funeral will be held next Saturday for Prince Philip, who died yesterday at the age of 99. Prince Harry will return to the U.K. for the service, but Meghan will not be attending. As Britain's mourned his passing today, a 41-gun salute rang out across the U.K.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Among the tributes pouring in, the Queen calling him her strength and her stay. CNN's Max Foster is with me right now. So what else is the family revealing about the service?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are told that it is happening on Saturday. It will happen at 3:00 in the afternoon here in U.K., 10:00 a.m. eastern. There will be a procession shortly before, a procession let by two customized land rovers, one of which will be carrying Prince Philip's coffin. Then the service will be held at Saint George's chapel behind me. You'll remember, that was the location where the Sussexes got married.

As you say, Prince Harry is planning to come. He'll have to go through quarantine when he gets here. Five days are the current rules. The Duchess, though, isn't coming. The reason for that is because it is on the advice of the doctors we're told, that she is pregnant, that she shouldn't be flying. So that is the reason she won't be attending. Only 30 guests allowed at this service under the current rules, so it will be a very interesting affair. We expect them all to be wearing masks as well.

So it will feel like a state occasion, but it's not a state funeral. We are starting to hear from members of the family directly as well, Prince Charles speaking on behalf of the family on his doorstep in Gloucestershire, his country home, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE CHARLES: My dear papa was a very special person who, I think, above all else would be amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him. From that point of view, we are as a family deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: There really has been an outpouring of grief, I have to say, Fredricka, people coming with flowers out to Windsor Castle despite advice from the palace and the government not to do so, they are so concerned about crowds forming, obviously.

WHITFIELD: And Max, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were married for 73 years. And, you know, the statement that we had you so eloquently explained the words "strength" and "stay" behind her statement describing it for Prince Philip. Talk to us about that marriage, that romance, how and why it endured as long as it did.

FOSTER: Well, she talks about this debt that the world owes him, and I think what she is talk about there is his contribution to the British monarchy. People close to the couple will tell you that she couldn't have done it without him. And it is seen as one of the greatest monarchies in British history. If you consider the tumultuous period she reigned over, and she is still stronger than ever in her position.

He was the closest adviser, the one person that she could be normal with. He didn't have to bow to her, like his children have to bow to her. So she was very close to her sister, very close to her mother. She has lost both of them, now she's lost Prince Philip as well. So this is going to have a profound effect on her.

But you must also remember that Prince Philip describes himself as a child refugee. He was forced out of his country of birth, which was Greece. He was then pretty much an orphan because his mother ended up in an asylum. His father was estranged.

I think that the Queen and the palaces, the family, offered him stability. So it was not entirely a one-way relationship, but two very different characters who somehow found a compromise in the relationship which worked not just for them but also for the monarchy and, many would say, for the entire commonwealth.

[14:20:00]

WHITFIELD: Wow, it's an amazing, storied tale about them to coming together and just his life path from beginning to end. Max Foster, thank you so much.

Comin up, denial and lies, many of Donald Trump's supporters still refuse to face reality that he lost the election. Plus, embattled Congressman, an ally of Trump, Matt Gaetz facing a scandal that threatens to take down his political career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A conservative women's group is gathered for a so-called Save America Summit at the Trump National Doral Resort outside of Miami this weekend.

[14:25:02]

Senator Rand Paul and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene are among those appearing at the event, supposedly focused on election integrity and defeating President Biden's agenda. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins me now from Florida. So Donie, what are you hearing from those supporters, Trump supporters?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Fred. Yes, the big lie is very much alive and well here on this Trump property this weekend where Trump supports still believe that the former president somehow did not somehow lose the election. And we saw some polling earlier this week that half of Republicans believe that the violent insurrection that happened on January 6th was actually peaceful, which of course is false. And we are hearing that sentiment being echoed here. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O'SULLIVAN: So do you think the Trump supporters that did that day are a black eye on the --

MIKE WALLIS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: We don't know that they were Trump supporters? Now, obviously some of the people that went into the Capitol were. But you can also see the doors were opened. And, so, yes, they were trespassing, but they did not destroy anything, they didn't beat anybody up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: So that obviously there is false. But it is something we have been hearing all weekend here, the talks that are happening here, it's really essentially trying to rewrite the history of what happened on January 6th and trying to remove basically any culpability for what happened at the insurrection from Trump supporters and from the former president himself.

WHITFIELD: And then, Donie, something else happened last night, the close ally of Trump, Congressman Matt Gaetz, appearing at an event last night, taking his cues from Trump. There was a lot of Trump-esque style going on there. Tell us more about how he is handling this investigation, and how he is exhibiting his heels are dug in.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, that's right. This was, of course, the embattled congressman's first public appearance, public comments in this way since it emerged that he is facing a federal investigation into sex trafficking violations. And of course yesterday we heard that the House Ethics Committee, he is facing an investigation from them as well. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT GAETZ, (R-FL): They lie about me because I tell the truth about them, and I'm not going to stop. So when you see the leaks and the lies and the falsehoods and the smears, when you see the anonymous sources and the insiders forecasting my demise, know this -- they aren't really coming for me. They are coming for you. I'm just in the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: And so there, obviously, he is really that Trumpian-type speech. He was also positioning himself as the champion of Trump's so- called America First agenda. Of course, as you heard there, he denies all of the allegations, and no charges have been brought against him. But it is quite a surreal sight here on the Trump property this weekend, hearing the election lies, hearing the lies about January 6th, and, of course, seeing Matt Gaetz here.

But supporters of the president looking to the future, and many of them want to see him run again.

WHITFIELD: Anything from the former president given all this activity at his property? O'SULLIVAN: This is a group, the group that is actually organizing

this were formerly known as Women for Trump, and that is the group that actually helped to organize the protest that proceeded the insurrection on January 6th. And many of the organizers we've seen inside the event here have pictures from the 6th of January, really celebrating what happened on that day.

Of course, they would say the peaceful part of that, and many folks here, as you've heard, don't frankly believe that it was Trump supporters somehow that were involved in January 6th. They have bought into a conspiracy theory that it was somebody else.

WHITFIELD: Right, an extension of the big lie. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much for being there.

Coming up, it was an emotional week of testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We'll take a look back at some of the most crucial moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:33:23]

WHITFIELD: It was another full week of hard to watch testimony in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd. The focus shifting to the medical analysis of Floyd's cause of death as the defense argues he died of a drug overdose and preexisting health conditions.

Ben Crump, the Floyd family's attorney, told me that Floyd's brother will likely testify next week as they prepare for the defense to try to smear George Floyd's character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY: We just have to remain focused on what we saw in that video of Derek Chauvin putting his knee on George Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The only thing that killed George Perry Floyd Jr. was an overdose of excessive force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

And CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has more on the second week of testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The second week of the Derek Chauvin murder trial concluded with a key witness, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You conducted the autopsy on Mr. George Floyd.

DR. ANDREW BAKER, HENNEPIN COUNTY CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINED: I did.

BROADDUS: He acknowledged that heart disease and drugs played a role in George Floyd's death, but the manner of death remains a homicide. BAKER: It's what I put on the death certification last June, law

enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression.

BROADDUS: Baker's statements capped off a week of testimony from medical experts and law enforcement officials repeatedly poking holes in Chauvin's defense, which argues Floyd died from a combination of underlying health conditions, along with the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl.

[14:35:06]

DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGIST, EXPERT WITNESS: That's the moment the life goes out of his body.

BROADDUS: Dr. Martin Tobin, a world-renowned pulmonologist, broke down in detail four critical factors that he says caused Floyd to stop breathing, like Floyd's position on the asphalt, which restricted his lungs.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: You mentioned several reasons for Mr. Floyd's low oxygen. You mentioned one, handcuffs and the street, correct?

TOBIN: Correct.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned knee on the neck?

TOBIN: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Prone position?

TOBIN: Yes.

BLACKWELL: And then the knee on the back, arm, and side? Were those the four?

TOBIN: Yes, these are the four.

BROADDUS: Defense Attorney Eric Nelson argued that Floyd could have died as a result of taking drugs moments prior to officers forcing him to the ground.

ERIC NELSON, DEREK CHAUVIN'S ATTORNEY: Is it fair to say that you would expect a peak fentanyl respiratory depression within about five minutes?

TOBIN: Right. Obviously, it would depend on how much of it was ingested. But if there was any amount of it ingested, yes, the peak would be five minutes.

BROADDUS: Tobin ultimately conclude drugs didn't kill Floyd, testifying that he had not taken a proper breath for almost 10 minutes, at which point the carbon dioxide in Floyd's body had reached lethal levels.

The jury also heard from Chauvin's former boss, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. He later said what happened to Floyd was, quote, murder. The chief was asked about Chauvin's use of force.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Is it your belief, then, that this particular form of restraint, if that's what we'll call it, in fact violates departmental policy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I absolutely agree that violates our policy.

BROADDUS: The defense pushed back, arguing that Chauvin's knee placement, which they say was actually on Floyd's back, was a proper police prone hold.

NELSON: Does this appear to be a neck restraint?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BROADDUS: But the testimonial theme from law enforcement and use-of- force experts was clear. Witnesses clearly told the jury that Derek Chauvin used, quote, excessive and deadly force on George Floyd when restraining him with his knee for more than nine minutes.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WHITFIELD: Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much for that.

Coming up, the battle over restrictive voting law heats up. Now Texas is the latest state at the center of the fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:42:16]

WHITFIELD: All right, new concerns over voter suppression in Texas. Voting advocates leaked this video online from a presentation given by Republican Harris County official.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to build an army here of 10,000 people in Harris County that are motivated and highly competent folks to serve as election workers and poll watchers. And I am trying to encourage and recruit as a precinct chair about 30 people in my precinct that will have the confidence and courage to come down in here in these areas where we really need poll workers, because this is where the problems are occurring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, where the problems are occurring. Well, those happen to be the areas that you can saw circled with the red dots, all of them predominantly minority communities in Houston. The Harris County Republican Party says the video, quote, "blatantly mischaracterizes a grassroots election worker recruitment video to bully and intimidate Republicans." Currently Texas has 49 bills moving through the state legislature which could change or limit voting rights.

Former Harris County clerk Chris Hollins came to national prominence after fighting to expand voting rights during the last year's election cycle, and he is joining me right now from Houston. Chris, so good to see you. So your reaction to that recording, and even the language being used, the words like an army of people, "motivated," "problem areas."

CHRIS HOLLINS, FORMER HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, CLERK: Yes, well, good afternoon, Fredricka, thank you for having me on. The language we just heard is troubling for so many reasons. Not only are the Republicans recruiting poll watchers to go in and intimidate folks in black and brown communities, and calling this a 10,000-person brigade with obvious sort of military connotations there. The other thing that is troubling is that they asked people to have courage as if these areas are dangerous for regular folks go to spend time.

And so this is troubling on so many levels, but what's even worse is that these laws that are being considered in the state legislature would empower these poll watchers to actively intimidate voters without any sort of consequence, and they would tie the hands of elections administrators to in any way enforce order or civility in polling places, and that is extremely problematic, and it's no coincidence.

WHITFIELD: And what are these problems that they want to fix that is being inferred here?

[14:45:00]

HOLLINS: Yes, the problem is that black and brown and young people are voting. Plain and simple. Those areas that he was pointing out, there are no allegations of any sort of voter fraud or shenanigans taking place there in 2020 at all. The only thing that's known is that black and brown people vote heavily in those areas.

And so the Republicans in Harris County, and this is widespread across Texas and even across the country, are looking to bring these poll watchers to come in and intimidate people, to make it less likely that young folks and black and brown folks are going to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

WHITFIELD: And there are a dozen, more than a dozen bills going through the Texas state legislature right now aiming to change or limit voting rights. How do you go about protecting voters rights when these efforts are on such a big scale, already a measure being passed in the state Senate on its way to the House for vote?

HOLLINS: Yes, it is extremely challenging. And what is also buried in these bills are laws that tie the hands of elections administrators to be able to do the right thing and provide services to voters that are very much needed. And so it would be very, very difficult to fight these at all if the law were passed. And so they can't pass. And if they do, they need to be fought in court. And if, to take it a

step further, it's so important that at the federal level that laws are passed that set a floor, that set a minimum level for democracy in our country, that voters have access to the polls and can exercise their constitutional rights.

WHITFIELD: And among the items in that Senate Bill 7 that has already passed the State Senate, it would limit extended early voting hours, it would prohibit drive through voting, and it would criminalize unsolicited voter by mail applications, many of things that voters were able to enjoy during a pandemic during this last election season.

HOLLINS: Yes, you are absolutely right. In Harris County in 2020, we brought in the drive-through voting, and nearly one in 10 voters across the county, and there are nearly 1.7 million in total, cast their ballots through drive-through voting. And then extended hours, we had shift workers, we had those who were working to stock shelves at the grocery stores that we needed so much during the pandemic, we had doctors and nurses that were working back-to-back shifts who voted at a time when we offered 24-hour voting for the first time in Texas history.

And now Republicans are seeking to make that illegal, seeking to make drive through voting illegal, and seeking to make it impossible to serve voters in basic ways. We had -- we used Toyota Center where the Rockets play as a mega voting center.

They would make having centers like that illegal. And also using small centers like the local libraries, they would make it impossible to have those in large counties like Harris County. And so these bills are extremely problematic, and need to be opposed with every fiber of strength that we have here.

WHITFIELD: Texas had the highest voter turnout in decades, and most people think that is the goal, that every state wants to be able to enjoy and celebrate the highest voter turnouts, and there were no reports, no abundance in reporting of any kind of fraud. Former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, thank you so much for your time from Houston. We really appreciate you.

HOLLINS: Thanks. Have a good one.

WHITFIELD: A closely watched drive to unionize workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama has been defeated after a vote this week. CNN's Brian Fung has more on that vote.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Fred, this is a big setback for union supporters in Alabama. Workers at Amazon's Bessemer facility voted by a more than two to one margin against establishing the companies first ever U.S. union. If it had succeeded, then more than 5,000 Amazon workers in Bessemer would have gotten collective bargaining rights.

As it turned out, there more than 700 voters in favor, but that was outweighed by the nearly 1,800 votes against. Overall, more than 3,200 ballots were cast in this historic election. Many ballots were contested, but on Friday, enough of the votes were counted to give Amazon the win. In response, Amazon says that while many will accuse them of interfering in the election, that's not true.

It said in a statement, quote, "Employees made the choice to vote against joining a union," and added, "We're not perfect, and we're proud of our team and what we offer, and we'll keep working to get better every day." The union at the center of the organizing push is accusing Amazon of spreading propaganda and lies, such as that the company told employees joining a union could cost them money or even lead to the closure of the facility.

The union calls it misinformation and illegal interference and plans to file objections that set a stage for a protracted legal battle.

[14:50:02]

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store union, said, quote, "No union election in decades has received this much attention. That's because this was never an ordinary union election. It transcends this one workplace and even this one company."

Amazon workers who supported unionization say this is just the beginning, and that Alabama will inspire other workers to band together all around the globe. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Brian Fung.

We'll be right back with an exclusive interview with Senator Joe Manchin.

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WHITFIELD: West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is becoming a central political figure with the Senate evenly split 50-50. And he hopes to use his newfound power to bring lawmakers together. CNN's Lauren Fox has this exclusive interview.

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LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The other Joe who holds the power in Washington, clear and unequivocal tonight.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D-WV): I'm not killing the filibuster.

FOX: The reason, Senator Manchin tells CNN, the insurrection at the capitol.

MANCHIN: January 6th changed me. And I was clear with everybody, I never thought in my life, I never read in history books to where our form of government had been attacked at our seat of government, which is Washington, D.C., at our Capitol by our own people. Now, the British did it, but not Americans. So something told me, wait a minute, pause, hit the pause button. Something's wrong. You can't have this many people split to where they want to go to war with each other.

FOX: Insisting the only way to move past the animosity is by working together.

MANCHIN: I think we can find a pathway forward. I really do. I'm going to be sitting down with both sides and understanding where everybody's coming from. We should have an open, fair, and security election. If we have to put guardrails on, we can put guardrails on so people can't take advantage of people. And I believe there are Republicans that feel exactly like I feel.

FOX: How does that affect his relationship with the White House?

MANCHIN: They've been very, very kind in talking. We do talk. We have communication.

FOX: How often?

MANCHIN: As often as I would like, as often as they would like. I'm always with the president --

FOX: The president directly?

MANCHIN: Whenever he calls me, he call, and we have a good conversation. We've had a good friendship and relationship for a long time. We understand each other.

FOX: And he has a warning for fellow Democrats -- slow down on thoughts of ramming through legislation like voting rights.

Some progressives think that you're standing in the way of significant changes the president can make on voting rights because you don't want to get rid of the filibuster. Other changes that they could make on gun reforms --

MANCHIN: They can have all these changes if they try to work towards the middle. You can't work in the fringes. You just cannot work in the fringes. We want fair, open, secured elections. And what Georgia has done some things which I thought were just atrocious, OK?

But I've also been a secretary of state and I've been a governor, and I know the 10th Amendment. I know my rights as far as states' rights, and I don't think there should be an overreaching, if you will, federal elections.

FOX: What changes --

MANCHIN: I'll tell you the one they did, which is unbelievable to me, they took away the powers of the secretary of state's office and put it in the hands of the congress, I mean, in their legislature. Now you have no one person that you can hold accountable for it. You have a whole legislature of 100 people or more. That's crazy.

FOX: And gun control.

MANCHIN: I support what the president did today, from what I heard, OK, what he's doing on an executive order. There's an awful lot of other things he talked, but the executive order says those guns should not be allowed to be legally made or sold or used. It's illegal because they're making them off of printers and you can't detect them.

FOX: But you still can't support the House passed background check bill?

MANCHIN: Not the way the House bill, but that's negotiations.

FOX: Have there been any negotiations?

MANCHIN: We haven't gotten the bill yet. We haven't gotten the bill yet, no, we haven't. And I'm happy to work with him. I'll sit down. And I think that just we call common gun sense. And if you come from a gun culture such as I do in West Virginia, and I don't think there's a person -- I don't know a person that doesn't have a gun, OK? It's a different, different background. I'm anxious to work with them and try to do something in a most constructive way.

FOX: What does he think of his newfound rule as rainmaker?

Some of your colleagues joke that you're the president of the Senate now. I've heard them in the hallways remark that to you. Do you like this role? How does it feel?

MANCHIN: Let me tell you, and I've said this before, and I'll say it again. I've watched people that had power and abused it. I've watched people that sought power and destroyed themselves. And I've watched people that had a moment of time to make a difference and change things and used it. I would like to be that third.

FOX: And while he may not like the role he's been given, he says he knows he has a real friend in the other Joe.

MANCHIN: I'm so pleased to understand that we have a person sitting in the White House that understands legislating, understands how Congress works and should work, and understands that basically we've got to represent the people that we represent. And I'm representing West Virginia to the best of my ability, and I'm trying to speak for my state.

FOX: And Manchin also making it clear in the interview that what he wants to see is some negotiations also with his Democratic colleagues. He told me that when he gets back to Washington, he wants to have a discussion with Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Of course, Warnock has been pushing Manchin to get rid of the filibuster when it comes to legislation dealing with voting rights.

Now, Manchin has said that's something he's not willing to do, but he does want to sit down and have a conversation with his colleague.