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U.S. Hits Russia with Sweeping Sanctions Over Various Issues; Ex-Officer Charged with Second Degree Manslaughter in the Deadly Shooting of Daunte Wright; Defense in the Chauvin Murder Trial Expected to Rest its Case Today; CDC Advisors Seek More Info Before Resuming J&J Vaccinations; Defense to Call More Witnesses in Chauvin Trial; Secretary of State Blinken Arrives in Afghanistan One Day After U.S. Announces Plans for Troops Withdrawal. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

We are following breaking news this morning. Major breaking news. Just minutes ago the Biden administration imposed sweeping economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia. This is in response to Russia's massive SolarWinds cyberattack. Huge implications in the computer industry. Its interference as well in the 2020 election and its ongoing occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and eastern Ukraine. The administration is also expelling 10 Russian diplomats from the U.S.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins me now from the State Department.

And Kylie, some of these sanctions are in categories that we've seen before, expulsion of diplomats, entities and individuals that are being sanctioned, but some of the financial stuff here, particularly about access to bond markets, that's new. Tell us about the scope of this and the significance.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you pointed out, Jim, this is tremendous in scope. Right? This is the Biden administration really doubling down on what it said it would do, hold Russia to account for its malign actions that it was carrying out against the United States and the United States allies.

So what I want to work through here is what we're hearing this morning. As you said, there are 10 Russian officials who are being expelled from the United States. That's one of the actions being taken this morning.

Another one, there's going to be an executive order, and that's going to be the one that goes after the financial part that you were mentioning. There's going to be some new financial restrictions put into place that essentially try and go after the Russian sovereign debt. And so that is something that we could see more sanctions on to come, based on President Biden signing this executive order today.

And then the third thing is sanctions on individuals and entities who were involved in that SolarWinds hack against the United States, government agencies and private companies here in the United States, and also individuals who were involved in working with Russian intelligence services as they were attempting to interfere in the U.S. presidential 2020 election so a tremendous amount that we are seeing here.

I also think it's important to note that as the U.S. -- the Biden administration is rolling this out, they're also rolling out sanctions that are going to go after Russia for their attempt to annex Crimea and they are doing so alongside European allies. So this is a robust effort with regard to what the White House has done here and interagency efforts, but it's also something that they have done in coordination with U.S. allies.

Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin obviously were with NATO allies yesterday. This is clearly something that they discussed with this Russian buildup against -- along the border of Ukraine -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: There's another piece of this that the U.S. is definitively fingering Russia for the SolarWinds hack, something that under the Trump administration the president repeatedly without basis tweeted other theories as to who might have been behind it. Tell us the significance of that. I mean, the intelligence community is saying we know who did this and it's Russia.

ATWOOD: Yes, that's right. They're also saying the actions they're taking today are an effort to try and make sure that doesn't happen in the future. That's what Secretary Blinken said in his statement today. And I want to read you another line from that statement from Secretary of State Tony Blinken. He said, quote, "These actions will serve to reduce Russian," sorry, I think we have a different full screen up.

But one of the things he said is that they'll reduce Russian resources available to carry out similar malign activities and he also said that they are going to essentially, you know, continue to go after these things. I think the Biden administration is also making it clear today, Jim, that they want to work with Russia where it's possible, right, and so that is why we saw President Biden call President Putin earlier this week.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said this morning that Biden gave Putin a heads up that this stuff was coming, but in that same conversation he also proposed that the two leaders meet together, have a summit together, and that is something that the Biden administration is really trying to hit home today. They're going to go after Russia but they also want to work with Russia where it is possible -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: President Biden had promised during the campaign to be direct with Russia, to stand up to them in a way that President Trump did not ability this is the first step of that.

Kylie Atwood, thanks very much.


Other news we're following this morning here in this country, the former officer charged now in the shooting death of Daunte Wright will appear in court today for the first time. Kim Potter, out of jail this morning after posting bail last night.

She is charged with second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, the 26- year police veteran faces a maximum of 10 in prison. You may remember Potter shot and killed the 20-year-old black man Sunday when police say she mistook her firearm for her taser.

Protesters gathered in the Minnesota suburb of Brooklyn Center for the fourth straight night. Last night, though, these demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Still, about 24 people were arrested. That number significantly lower than previous nights.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus, she is in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Adrienne, it was somewhat a different scene last night. Tell us what we expect today and also how quickly we expect things to move forward with these charges against the officer involved.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll start with what's happening today later this afternoon. The officer, former officer, Kim Potter, will have her initial court appearance. She will not be inside of the courtroom because keep in mind we're still in the middle of a pandemic, so she will appear before the judge via Zoom. Today the roles reversing for her.

Overnight protesters gathered here once again for the fourth straight night. Law enforcement officials told us they arrested about 24 people. Among those arrested last night, most do not live in the city of Brooklyn Center. I can tell you when I left this area yesterday, I noticed cars parked blocks away from this site in the residential neighborhoods just behind the police station. Some of them had out of town license plates. It's unclear whether the people who were arrested live in the surrounding area of the Twin Cities.

As you mentioned, Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. It carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years behind bars. This case has moved so quickly already. Who knows how fast it will continue to move -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Adrienne Broaddus, thanks very much.

There are more defense witnesses expected today in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, this after a medical expert for Chauvin's team told jurors yesterday it was not Chauvin who killed George Floyd, kneeling on his neck for nine minutes 29 seconds, instead he said it was a heart problem or Floyd's drug use or even carbon monoxide from the squad car's exhaust. That's something we hadn't heard before. But now there are questions about the background of that expert, Dr. David Fowler.

CNN correspondent Josh Campbell joins me now live from Minneapolis.

Throwing a lot of things at the wall there. And in fact we had heard the defense talk about his heart condition and his drug use prior. The carbon monoxide is new. What are we learning about this particular medical expert's background, Josh?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what the defense strategy is right now is trying to overcome this damning testimony that we've heard from prosecution witnesses. You'll recall they brought in several medical experts who said that it was the action of that officer, Derek Chauvin, that ultimately led to the death of George Floyd, so the defense bringing their own medical expert.

This is a former medical examiner in Maryland really refuting that notion that Chauvin was to blame, as you mentioned coming up with a host of possible different contributing factors and theories. You know, some of our legal experts have said that this is perhaps meant to maybe just raise doubt in the mind of the jurors which we know they have to be unanimous in order to convict him of murder.

And some of the theories they pointed out was that perhaps George Floyd had heart disease, perhaps he was under the influence of some kind of substance. And as you mentioned, the one which was the most controversial yesterday, is this idea that perhaps it was carbon monoxide from the exhaust of back of that police SUV that contributed to his death. We know based on that video, Floyd was on the ground there at the rear of the vehicle.

Now the problem I guess with that issue is that obviously even if that was a contributing factor, it was still Chauvin holding down George Floyd at the rear of that vehicle, so unclear what that accomplishes, but as you mentioned throwing everything out there to try to come up with alternative ideas about that cause of death. And then finally, as you mentioned, we are learning some new details about that particular witness.

CNN is learning that he is now the subject of a lawsuit in the state of Maryland. The family of Anton Black, who is a teenager who died in 2018 after a police encounter, filed a lawsuit claiming that this doctor and his medical examiner office covered up the cause of death. And in fact what they're saying is that they were stunned to see that he was listed as a witness here in the Chauvin trial because in their words these cases are so eerily similar.

Who they tell us is that on the Anton Black case he was held on the ground by police for six minutes ultimately leading to his death. Finally, it's worth noting that we reached out to the attorneys for Fowler, they didn't want to comment because of this ongoing litigation.


Unclear whether that testimony will make its way into this courtroom, whether the jury will actually hear about that, but just another interesting factor here, another layer. The court is set to resume here shortly. We expect at least one more expert witness. And as we've been mentioning, we expect that there could be the defense actually closing their case out today and then we'll hear from prosecutors -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Amazing. This has moved far more quickly than we thought from the beginning.

Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

CAMPBELL: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Well, the CDC's vaccine advisers are holding out on making any decisions about recommendations for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine after its rollout was temporarily paused due to blood clot concerns among a small number of those who received the vaccine. They say they need more information. Now some health experts are criticizing this latest delay and decision.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

Elizabeth, explain their thinking here because it seems that they punted after this meeting yesterday not just for a couple of days but potentially for weeks? Why no decision and for how long?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So another expression you could use, Jim, is that they kicked the can down the road. And I was just speaking with a member of the committee who actually used that phrase.

And he said the reason why we did that is that it can take time for all of these reports to come in. There may have been people who had blood clots after receiving this vaccine, but doctors just sort of attributed it to just bad luck and never connected it to the vaccine.

Now those doctors need to go back and see if the vaccine -- if that person did in fact get the vaccine. Also this vaccine, Jim, was in use just days ago, just a few days ago. It can take a week or two for these symptoms to come out.

So basically what this committee was saying was, look, we don't know what the real numbers are. We don't know if this is a one in a million thing, we don't know if it's more common than that, we don't know if it is mostly women, we don't know how much men get this.

Enough time has to pass in order for us to figure that out. But let's take a look at what is known according to the presentations made to the CDC yesterday. About 7.5 million people have gotten the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine so far. And in the course of the clinical trial, a man got one of these very rare brain blood clots that you just hardly ever see along with lower platelet levels. Six women got these very rare brain blood clots during the rollout. They were all ages 18 to 48. All of them were hospitalized and one of them died.

And Jim, the ones who were hospitalized, I want to be clear, five out of the six of those were in the intensive care unit. This is serious stuff. The last one we don't know if the participant in the clinical trial was in the intensive care unit because the Food and Drug Administration won't tell us. They say that that J&J has to tell us and J&J is not responding to our questions, so we don't know how sick the man got in the clinical trial -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And that's a key question. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

For more now on the future of the J&J vaccine I'm joined now by former Baltimore health commissioner and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She received Johnson & Johnson vaccine herself two weeks ago.

So before I get to your own personal view of this, I want to ask big picture about the decision-making here. Very small number of cases, six to seven perhaps out of 6.8 million doses of J&J where there were blood clotting problems here. And now what was a temporary pause is clearly going to last longer based on this nondecision yesterday.

I mean, have they in effect killed the J&J vaccine as a viable option in this country?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I really hope not, Jim, because this vaccine offers many advantages, especially being a one-dose vaccine. Here's the thing, I think the initial decision to put pause was the right one because you do have this very serious, very rare side effect, possible side effect, and it's important to publicly and openly investigate it. But I am disappointed by the CDC committee yesterday.

I think that they're making a decision to not do something is also a decision in and of itself. And in that time let's consider what will happen. Every single day there are tens of thousands of people who will get infected by COVID. Hundreds of people are going to die.

And so I think they could have done something. For example, they could have said people under 50, maybe we should continue to hit pause in that age group but people over 50, let's explain that blood clots are theoretically possible. But let's continue giving the vaccine but with that particular warning. And I just really fear that the more time elapses, the more disinformation is going to get out there by anti- vaccine activists.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you personally then, because as we said you were one of the 6.8 million people who took the J&J vaccine. Do you have any regrets about that? You also happen to be in the group of women, in the age 18 to 49 I believe is the age range that experienced these blood clots. Do you have any personal reservations about that and what would you say to folks who are watching right now who also received the J&J vaccine?

WEN: I'm not concerned for myself and here's the reason.


The risk is extremely low, I mean, if we look at the population at large, we're talking about one in a million, even for the group of women between 18 and 50, we're talking still about a 1 in 200,000 chance, which is extremely rare. But I also do want to say to everyone that, we should be on the

lookout, individuals who had the vaccine in the last three weeks, if you have severe unrelenting headache, trouble breathing, abdominal pains, swelling in one leg or an arm, that's something that you should call your doctor for immediately.

SCIUTTO: Part of the calculation here, it seems to be, is that we have two other options in this country. In fact, paneling the -- you know, the bulk of the work here, right, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines about -- you know, account for about 97 percent of the doses that have been administered in this country, J&J just about 3 percent. Can Moderna and Pfizer make up the slack here based on both production but also crucially distribution at the state and local level to make up for not having J&J available, at least for a period of time?

WEN: Yes, in terms of overall supply, yes, because we know that the Biden administration is saying even if we don't have Johnson & Johnson, even with just Pfizer and Moderna, there's still going to be enough vaccine by the end of May for every adult American who would want a vaccine. So, I think that's fantastic. The issue though is that Johnson & Johnson does offer significant advantages because of its easy storage and distribution, because of it --


WEN: Being one dose. It's something that many health departments had already said we can give to individuals who are home-bound, we can use during our --


WEN: Mobile vaccinations to individuals experiencing homelessness or to migrant --


WEN: Populations, even to college campuses, and so it does present a problem.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and not having to come back in two or three weeks time and to kind of corral people to do that, that's an advantage. But listen, we'll see how the country handles this. Dr. Leana Wen, thanks very much.

WEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, defense attorneys will call at least one more witness in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. A closer look at their case so far as we near closing arguments already. Plus, more on the Biden administration's sweeping sanctions against Russia and several Russian diplomats. What makes this different? Does much make it different?

Just ahead. And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Afghanistan this morning, an unannounced visit on the heels of President Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country. We are live on the ground in Kabul. Stay with us.



SCIUTTO: We may be getting close to the end of the Derek Chauvin murder trial, though there will be at least one more witness from Chauvin's defense team today. This after a medical expert told jurors yesterday that it wasn't Chauvin who killed George Floyd, but perhaps, Floyd's heart disease or -- and this is a new one, carbon monoxide from the squad car's exhaust.

CNN's senior legal analyst Laura Coates joins me now as well as CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. Good to have you both here. Laura, we've heard a lot of things, you know, talk of his heart condition, drug use. Carbon monoxide is a new one. Does this one stick?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's a new one and also on the cross, if you remember, the prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell essentially got that expert to confess that he had no scientific basis to determine that there was carbon monoxide poisoning. There was nothing to indicate the EPA levels, were above that for of course, George Floyd and also didn't even know if the car was on, Jim, had no idea --


COATES: About whether exhaust was actually emitting. This is one of those grasping for straws, and one of the things really is a self- inflicted wound for the defense because you want an expert to put their best foot forward. You don't want their credibility to be undermined by trying to have these sort of ridiculous, absurd conclusions that they cannot back up.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and credibility is key here, Charles, right? Laura made the point the other day that, you know, the jurors decide who's most credible in terms of expert witnesses and eyewitnesses. So Fowler, this retired medical examiner from Maryland, he -- we learned is actually named in a lawsuit by the family of a Maryland teenager who they say died in an eerily similar way to George Floyd. And they say that Fowler in that case covered up an obscured police responsibility. I just wonder in a trial environment, how does a history like that potentially impact things?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I am sure that the judge would have to rule on -- Laura, correct me if I'm wrong --


RAMSEY: On whether or not that kind of information can even be brought --


RAMSEY: Forward to a jury. But the bottom line is that even though when he first started and kind of laying out his credentials, he's certainly seemed credible as a witness, but his theories were really, I thought shredded by the prosecution through very skillful cross- examination.

And so, I don't think it went too far, but then again, as has been said over and over again, you only need to reach one juror. But they're throwing everything against the wall, they possibly can because they just don't have anything else. And there's nothing else they can do. So, I suspect we'll see more so-called experts come forward and I'm sure that the prosecution will be ready to deal with it on cross examination.


SCIUTTO: And to your point, Charles, you're right, the judge would have to decide to allow that passage as it relates to this witness to come up in a trial. I do want to ask you, Laura, about the Daunte case because in that case, you now have the officer charged quite quickly with second-degree manslaughter here, this of course, using her firearm instead of what she thought was her taser in the shooting of Daunte Wright. Is this the kind of charge based on what you see and could it also possibly lead to pleading down to something lesser?

COATES: Well, it could be the initial charge. Remember, prosecutors --


COATES: Often make charges and they're quite quick. The normal civilian who is charged with a climb, they make decisions very quickly. And we have essentially a close universe of facts here. Either what happened during this scenario occurred or did not. But the only thing this prosecutor and really the court of public opinion has to go on right now is the statement of the now resigned police chief where he says that it was accidental. He says that she tried --


COATES: To take up her taser and made the mistake instead. Now, the only thing that we know to be true is that the chief said that. The prosecutors going to have to look into this and it could be the minimal charge but not necessarily the actual ceiling.

But remember, this is the same charge that Derek Chauvin is facing right now. It's also the same charge that Jeronimo Yanez, who is the officer that shot and killed Philando Castile was charged with, and he was acquitted at that charge. But he also had two additional charges, I believe of the discharging of a firearm. So, we may not see a complete sort of charging document right now for this particular defendant. But we do know this is fodder for plea discussions at the very least.

SCIUTTO: Yes, understood, all right. Laura Coates, Charles Ramsey, much more to discuss in the coming hour, thanks very much. And coming up next, more on the sweeping new sanctions against Russia in retaliation for cyber attacks and the election interference and Russian military activity in Ukraine. How far these sanctions go, will they have more of an impact than past sanctions? We'll be asking, that's coming up.