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Chauvin Murder Trial; Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is Interviewed about the Infrastructure Plan; John Kerry is Interviewed about Climate Change. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired April 13, 2021 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's a very, very steep hill to climb and they may not be able to overcome it.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you this because you had a parade of expert witnesses and not for hire. That was clear. It was interesting to hear the prosecution ask many of these folks, the pathologist, et cetera, are you being paid to be here and them saying no, but a parade on the medicine of this saying it was the impact on his neck, not any other heart issues, for instance, that caused this, but also on the use of force.

Can we expect the defense to do some sort of expert witness shopping here, right, just to find others out there who are willing to say differently to create that reasonable doubt? I mean is that something that happens often in cases like this?

COATES: Oh, it's what really will happen and should happen, frankly, in order to mount a viable defense.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COATES: You've got to have these competing experts because you can't allow the prosecution, if you're the defense, to have the last word. Now, technically, as the trial goes forward, with rebuttal case, et cetera, prosecutors do, in fact, have the last word in terms of being able to let something linger in the minds of jurors, but they have to combat it.

But, of course, remember, what you're calling the parade of experts was really an embarrassment of riches, so to speak here, because with every single person that corroborated the prior person's testimony, they had credentials out the wazoo, so to speak. And they were also able to break all of these concepts, very technical concepts, down into easy, digestible pieces for the jurors to feel empowered as if they had the information to be able to evaluate the facts in front of them.

Having a cardiologist come on now to talk about how, well, the enlarged heart or low blood pressure or high blood pressure does not mean this or a pulmonologist is going to come on and say, actually, this is not how the respiratory system works and operates, I mean imagine the weight of trying to undermine any of those things. It will be a nearly impossible task.

But the point is to plant just a seed of doubt, not a full tree, just to have one juror who will say, well, you know what, reasonable minds can disagree. And that's exactly what Mr. Nelson, the defense counsel's repeatedly said, reasonable minds can disagree. Now many have said, no, that's not true in their response to him, but that's the seed of doubt they're trying to plant.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and we should note that many of the expert witnesses from the prosecution actually were involved in this, medical examiners or, for instance, on the use of force, his commanders, his police commanders, they were not outside experts.

COATES: Right.

SCIUTTO: At least not all of them.

Laura Coates, thanks very much.

President Biden insists that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans over his $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan. Are Republicans willing to do the same, to compromise to reach a deal? I'll ask a Republican senator who was inside that meeting in the White House with the president yesterday. That's coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:08]

SCIUTTO: Well, more bipartisan meetings are now in the works as the White House tries to sell a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. But skepticism of a deal is growing on both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers drawing a clear line in the sand during President Biden's first bipartisan get-together. My next guest was in yesterday's meeting at the White House. He is Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He's the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Key in these negotiations.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Thank you, Jim. Glad to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So, to your credit, you were in that meeting there attempting a bipartisan approach to this. Before you went in, you said you were willing to negotiate, but you since said that any increase in taxes, corporate taxes, to pay for the plan is really a nonstarter for Republicans. And I wonder, are you willing to negotiate on the issue of taxes?

WICKER: Well, let me say this, I don't think there were that many lines drawn in the sand yesterday. I do think that the president wants this plan to not only build infrastructure but to really give our economy a big boost. And the point I'm making to the president is to raise corporate taxes on small business job creators actually is a job killer, and I don't think he wants to do that.

But let me say this, Jim, those of us in Washington, D.C., need to get this done so we can show the country that we can do big things in a bipartisan way. And after the meeting yesterday, I have every hope and belief that both sides really are negotiating in good faith.

SCIUTTO: That's good to hear. And I think, listen, the American people, our viewers, happy to hear that. I just wonder then what the middle ground is here, right because, as you know, Republicans and Democrats have been talking for years about infrastructure as a bipartisan area of agreement. Do you see perhaps a middle ground where President Biden brings down his target of $2 trillion, maybe to a trillion dollars, and Republicans agree to a small tax increase?

WICKER: I think we're definitely going to have to pay for this infrastructure bill. And we have -- during the pandemic, we did a lot of things, and added it to the national debt because it was a recession, if not a depression, and we had to act quickly. But we're -- I think both sides, the president and Republicans, acknowledge that this has to be paid for. He was clear yesterday, he's not into deficit financing for this.

But there's another thing. We've been passing infrastructure bills every year or so for quite some time now. The idea now is to make those infrastructure programs much bigger.

[09:40:02]

But there was a lot of talk yesterday from Republicans and Democrats about taking the programs we have now and simply adding to them. We know what works. Congressman Price from North Carolina was talking about doing a portion of the housing through the appropriation bill, something he's very familiar with and something that has worked.

SCIUTTO: OK.

WICKER: Our friends in the Transportation Department know about the build (ph) grant and the INFRA grant and the CRISI (ph) Grant. So we simply can plus those up, not reinvent the wheel and do a lot more building for America.

SCIUTTO: OK.

You say it has to be paid for. I wonder, are you, therefore, not ruling out some kind of tax increase to pay for it, perhaps even a gasoline tax?

WICKER: I'm not ruling out some kind of pay-for, absolutely. If you're going to spend, say, $600 billion over several years on an infrastructure program that's much bigger than we've had before, absolutely. We have to be grown-ups and say it has to be paid for. It's -- we're not going to be able to come up with that money out of thin air. And, yes, normally when we talk about infrastructure financing, we're

talking about some sort of user pays system so that the businesses and the individuals that actually use the roads more pay their fair share. And if it's a fair share, I think the American people will understand that. It's clearly not something we've worked out yet. But I'll tell you, I am really optimistic that we can take existing programs, ones that we're familiar with, one that the bureaucracy -- ones that the bureaucracy have already been involved in and come up with a program that will make Republicans and Democrats proud.

SCIUTTO: Well, optimism, not something folks hear often, so I'm sure a lot of folks listening right now welcome that.

I do want to ask about the future of your party because, as you know, there's quite a public disagreement about the direction of the party going forward. The former president, Trump, who you've been a supporter of, over the weekend said that the leader of your party in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is a stone-cold loser. A dumb SOB. I won't repeat his language there. I just wonder what your reaction is to that.

WICKER: Well, former President Trump has a large following out there among members of our party. And I think we all acknowledge that. I don't think comments like that are helpful. And I think, as the year -- as this year, 2021, moves along and then we move into 2022, the actual election year, I think we'll be more focused, and should be more focused on the different approaches of the two parties.

And I think in an off-year election, the first even numbered election after a presidential race, the party that is not in power often gains seats. And I think there will be every reason for the American people to vote for some sort of balance.

SCIUTTO: Well, Senator Roger Wicker, we enjoyed having you on the program. You're welcome back any time. Thanks very much.

WICKER: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: This is a live look now at Capitol Hill where very soon U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Billy Evans will lie in honor. A motorcade carrying his casket will arrive there at the Capitol at any moment. Officer Evans, you may remember, was an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police force. He was killed April 2nd when an attacker rammed his car into him and another officer at a barricade near the Capitol. Friends have called Evans a dedicated officer, a loving father. He was just 41 years old.

A ceremony in his honor will begin at the top of the hour. President Biden is expected to attend. And we're going to take you there the moment it starts.

And coming up next, hundreds of leaders of major corporations are urging President Biden to do more to fight the climate crisis. Will the president commit to a new, more aggressive plan? Will he have corporations on board? Will it last? I'm going to ask the White House climate czar, John Kerry, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:48:58]

SCIUTTO: Hundreds of big American businesses, including some of the biggest, Apple, Coca-Cola, Walmart, are calling on President Biden to set new, even more aggressive goals for cutting carbon emissions. In a letter released ahead of next week's White House climate change summit, corporate leaders say the U.S. needs to slash CO2 emissions by at least 50 percent by just 2030, almost doubling the target set in the Paris climate agreement.

For more on the Biden administration's commitment to climate change, joining me now is presidential envoy on climate, and former secretary of state, of course, John Kerry.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Happy to be with you. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I want to get to those corporate commitments because they are important. But you just returned from an overseas trip, in effect, building support for Biden's approach. And I want to begin with India because there's, of course, a lot of talk of China but India, it will soon compete with the U.S. and China on global emissions.

In your meetings there, did India make any hard commitments on carbon emissions cuts?

KERRY: Yes, they did. They made a commitment to achieve a new implementation about 450 gigawatts of renewable power, most of it coming from solar, but some of it from wind.

[09:50:11]

And we actually entered into a partnership there where we will assist, along with other nations, to help bring finance. And when I say finance, I'm not talking about taxpayer dollar, I'm talking about the private sector investing in this deployment which will require some changes by India and certain parts of what it does.

But that's a huge amount. That amount would allow India to keep track with 1.5 degree centigrade limitation on the increase of the earth's temperature. That's what the scientists tell us we must achieve. So India would, in fact, be one of the leaders if that implementation takes place.

SCIUTTO: OK.

KERRY: Despite the fact they have some coal.

SCIUTTO: You also met with oil producers in the UAE. Of course, you need oil producing nations onboard here. I just wonder, did you leave there convinced that they are willing to make hard commitments here, or do you worry -- does part of you worry they're trying to make nice with a new U.S. administration, might hope to wait you out?

KERRY: Well, Jim, obviously, all commitments have to be authenticated. They have to be transparent. They have to be accountable. And that is part of the process that is being set up by this international meeting, which will convene in Glasgow in November 1st.

But the answer is, yes, they are doing a lot of this. I mean you take the UAE. I flew over and looked at the largest solar plant in that region, some 3 million, 3.5 million panels that are out there producing, you know, more than 1,000 megawatts of power. They're going to be deploying more. They're doing research on hydrogen. They're trying to push hydrogen as an alternative fuel. They understand that even if you're an oil producing nation today, you have to diversify.

And what you see is many, not all, but many major oil and gas corporations are now transitioning into becoming energy companies. And they're also investing in alternatives and renewables.

So this is a new age. This is a new moment. And I think there's going to be an entirely new marketplace opening up. It will be the world's largest marketplace because it's energy, 4.5, 5 billion users today, going up to 9 billion in the next 30 years. That's a big market. And so there's a rush by a lot of folks to help produce the technologies and the processes that will get us where we need to go.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

It's CNN's reporting that your next stop is China. We know -- everyone knows you can't do climate emissions controls without getting China onboard. But I wonder, looking at that meeting, the first meeting high level between the Biden administration and Chinese officials in Alaska a couple of weeks ago, and just how openly difficult it was, do you foresee being able to cooperate with China on the issue of climate change when you have such open, you know, even hostile disagreements on issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang?

KERRY: Well, first of all, Jim, I can't confirm any travel at this point in time. But I can tell you that we cannot resolve the climate crisis without China being at the table and without China's cooperation. So it is absolutely critical. China is the largest emitter at about 28 percent to 30 percent. We're the second largest at about 15 percent. So just between the two of us, we've got 45 percent of the world's emissions.

President Biden is hosting a summit next week with world leaders. And more than 40 heads of state will be taking part in that virtual summit. And the president is asking every country to raise their ambition so that we can meet the targets of Paris and, in fact, exceed them and do what we need to do for the next ten years. We hope China will join us.

SCIUTTO: Has Xi Jinping committed to taking part in Biden's summit next week?

KERRY: No, he hasn't yet.

SCIUTTO: OK.

I want to ask you big question here because the U.S. has a problem to some degree with international agreements because they seem to be on this same partisan pendulum that domestic policy is, right? You're -- the Obama administration, you were deeply involved, negotiated the Iran agreement.

Trump pulls out. Biden administration trying to get back in. And I just wonder, as you're meeting with leaders, do they look at you at all or express skepticism and say, hey, we're happy to talk with you now, but, heck, in 2024 we may have a whole new approach. And, if so, what's your answer to that?

KERRY: My answer is that what is happening now with respect to the climate crisis, Jim, is beyond any one politician anywhere. When you have major companies doing what they did yesterday, which is urging major cuts in emissions, and you had very large financial institutions that are laying out now the trillions of dollars they're going to invest over the course of the next ten years, that's an economic movement that no one politician is going to be able to change.

[09:55:09]

No single country could change that. The marketplace is transforming into a clean energy, new energy marketplace. And the opportunities for hydrogen fuel or battery storage or storage, period, or alternative means of capturing carbon and where and how you store it, this is just a gigantic marketplace. So I think we can hopefully come to agreement on these things.

And with respect to China, yes, we have big disagreements with China on some key issues, absolutely. But climate has to stand alone. You know you can't have those disagreements and say, well, because of that I'm not going to do anything about climate, because you're just killing yourself.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

KERRY: You're going to be hurting your own people. So hopefully everybody's going to come to the table and be reasonable and you have to have a little bit of optimism in this business or you can't get up.

SCIUTTO: OK. Yes, you can't get up in the morning. I hear you on that.

Secretary Kerry, we do wish you the best of luck and appreciate you joining us this morning.

KERRY: My pleasure. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.

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