Return to Transcripts main page


Pfizer Testing on Children; Closing Arguments in Chauvin Trial; Biden Calls for De-Escalation with Russia. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired April 16, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: There is a big step in the race to vaccinate America. Researchers at Stanford Medicine and Cincinnati Children's Hospital say they have begun Pfizer vaccine trials in children as young as two years old. Stanford Medicine tells CNN it is one of five sites now participating in a phase one trial in children younger than five. Researchers began administering doses to participants in that age group just on Wednesday. So it's early. There's one of them.

Joining me now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.

Dr. Reiner, good to have you on.

You know, when we've seen these kind of trials in other children a bit older, above five, above the age of 12, the results have been great and there really haven't been any incidents of health problems here.

Where does this put the timeline on getting American children vaccinated? How soon can parents expect this to be available?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Right. So Pfizer has already applied for an EUA for adolescents, you know, 12 to 15.


REINER: And we should have that very, very soon. So that's great. So basically middle school and high school kids will be vaccinated this summer almost certainly.


REINER: Now the challenge is to get the rest of the kids, down to six months. And I don't think we're going to have that data until sometime this fall. It's important to realize that little kids just aren't, you know, small adults. And it's crucial to understand what the right dose of the vaccine is for children. And the only way to do that is to trial it. So we're doing this the right way. We're doing this safely. But sometime this fall we'll be able to vaccinate probably children as young as six months.

SCIUTTO: Wow. I mean that's incredible.

I do want to ask you about what the Pfizer CEO is saying about the vaccinations for adults, saying that it may be possible that six to 12 months after getting vaccinated you would need a booster shot. Now, this is something that had been talked about, as you know better than me, prior because that's the way it is, for instance, with flus, right? Every year there are new flus out there. So you have to get a new flu shot.

I just wonder, do you find this being likely that after we get vaccinated this time we might have to get a booster again? And can the country handle it, right? I mean because this has been a national effort to get the country its first doses. Can it do it every year?

REINER: Right. So I think, again, I think what we -- we still don't know how long the immunity with these vaccines will last. We have very good data that suggests that people retain very robust immunity out to six months and very soon we'll have 12-month data because --


REINER: You know, let me remind you that the trial started a year ago. So we'll have one-year data out very soon.


But, look, the virus changes. And it's very likely that we will need booster shots that are tailored to the newest variants.

But, look, vaccines are our friends. When was the last time you saw somebody with polio or with smallpox, right? So we need to get over, you know, the politicization of science and vaccines and understand that this is our way forward.


REINER: It's not a burden to get a vaccine. We all get flu vaccines, or we should, every year. This year there was almost no flu, in part because of vaccines, and in part because of masks. So, yes, it's not a burden to the national conscience that need vaccines every year.

SCIUTTO: It's the way we've eliminated diseases.

REINER: Right.

SCIUTTO: And then, sadly, because of vaccine hesitancy, often based on disinformation, those diseases come back. It's a sad fact of the America we live in today.

REINER: Right.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, let's hope the science wins out. Thanks very much.

REINER: My pleasure. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, jurors are set to determine the fate of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin next week. We're going to preview the closing arguments, next.



SCIUTTO: In a matter of days we could have a verdict in the trial, the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. Closing arguments will begin on Monday as the trial over the death of George Floyd nears its final stages. Both sides rested their cases on Thursday. This after, in one of the final moves, Chauvin invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the trial. That had been an open question.

This after the defense team called seven witnesses in its attempt to clear Chauvin of charges of murder and manslaughter. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

Joining me now to discuss where we stand, Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.

Laura, good to have you on.

Let's begin with the defense, because the defense job here, you know, they have a lower threshold, a lower standard. They just have to raise a reasonable doubt. And the way they've tried to do that is by saying that perhaps Floyd died not of the knee on the neck but maybe his drug use, maybe his heart issues, maybe even carbon monoxide poisoning from the police chooser nearby.

I just wonder, did they potentially prove that argument?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't think they firmly planted a single seed of doubt here. You know, it's one thing to offer different alternatives, but you actually have to be compelling and persuasive in the way you've done it. And jurors are looking to have the defense case compared to what they've already seen in the prosecution's case.

And think about it, it's about quality and quantity. And what we saw in terms of the prosecution's case was extraordinarily compelling testimony from very credible experts who were able to relay their expertise and their opinions in a very compelling way.

When you think about the way it was relayed on the defense side, there were a lot of questions left unanswered. Now, jurors are, of course, wild cards, as you know, Jim, so there's never a way to tell. But ask yourselves out there in the public, what do you remember about this case? I bet 99.999 percent of you remember only the prosecution's case and not have a firm grasp of even what the defense strategy was.

SCIUTTO: OK. As you know, Chauvin faces three different charges here, second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter charges. Based on the legal standards for each, and, again, as you say, juries are unpredictable, they're 12 human beings, which are those charges do you believe the prosecution met the standard for?

COATES: I think they've met their elemental burden for each of these charges. The problem is, however, we all know that there are these three charges, but this -- these statements, the actual named charges never really came up during the trial. So the jurors are now going to have to hear not only the story and be reminded of the nearly (INAUDIBLE) testimony, but the prosecution has got to be able to point out which facts correspond to which element. That's part of what the closing argument burden is about. It's going to be about threading the testimony and the corroborating testimony and the cumulative testimony, but it's also going to be about, OK, when you go back there you're going to get three charges. The elements are going to be written out for the jurors. They're going to have to figure out what part and what aspects of the prosecution's case lines up with particular elements. And so that's going to be the onus continuing on the prosecution in this case to make sure they are clear, that the jurors are not left trying to scratch their heads or wonder, did this fact go to this? Did this witness bring this point up? Which proves this? That will be part of what the closing argument must be about.

SCIUTTO: The closing arguments begin on Monday. May end on Monday. So deliberations could begin, you know, the next day in effect.

Again, I'm asking you to read tea leaves here based purely on your experience, but does time become an issue in terms of reading the likely outcome, how long deliberations last, for instance?

COATES: Yes. That and juror questions. When jurors ask questions, and request particular exhibits or evidence to come back to them, it might signal that there is something that they are grasping or trying to reconcile. But also remember, jurors are instructed, Jim, when they go back there, they can't all just say, OK, everyone in favor of charge one, raise their hand, charge two, charge three. They are told that they must go methodically through each aspect of the element. They can't just sort of take a survey and then decide from there.

Some jurors have done that in the past and not followed the instructions. But you're going to see at least a comprehensive review. But I'll be watching for how many questions, which questions, and if the jury has questions about, say, what happens if we can't agree on a charge, your honor, that's going to be a red flag.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, for sure.

Well, listen, it's already shorter than we expected. Initially we'd been talking about perhaps four weeks. A couple of weeks in and they're already going to deliberations next week.

Laura Coates, thanks very much.

COATES: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: President Biden is calling for the de-escalation of tensions with Russia after the White House imposed new sweeping sanctions on Moscow and the Kremlin. But Russia seemingly not heeding that call. We're going to discuss with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.



SCIUTTO: This morning, the Russian defense ministry says that it will temporarily block parts of the Black Sea to foreign warships conducting military exercises. This move comes after this week, the U.S. deciding against sending two war ships into the area due to concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Of course, Russia has amassed tens of thousands of forces along the border there. It also comes after President Biden called for a de- escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Russia after he announced sweeping new economic sanctions against Moscow for, among other things, the SolarWind cyber-attack, election interference again in 2020 and its occupation of Ukraine.

Joining me now to discuss, James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence.

General Clapper, thanks so much for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, as you know, the U.S. has tried sanctions before against Russia. Economic sanctions, expelling diplomats. The Obama administration. The Trump administration. And now the Biden administration.

But Russia's continued to antagonize. It's continued all these activities. Will these new sanctions be any different?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't know that they'll actually change Russian behavior, but I do think that this is very significant because first it marks the stark contrast with the previous administration, I think. And there's a messaging aspect to this. And I also don't, I think that it's important to remember that for the Russians this is a student rebuke from a country they have always thought to be perceived as equal to. So you have to kind of acknowledge the psychological impacts.

But I think what the Biden administration is doing here is establishing a plateau of ratcheting up our concerns and holding them accountable publically and in the process invoking some pretty stiff sanctions with the promise of more to come. So I think this is very important.

By the way, it's not surprising that President Biden is doing it -- doing this because a lot of what he's doing now are very consistent with the views he held as vice president when I served with him.

SCIUTTO: The Biden administration tiptoes into an area of sanctions that the U.S. has avoided before, which is to begin to deny Russia access to international financial markets, particularly in here, ruble denominated debt. I mean that's too much detail for now, but does that have potential real consequences? Because this is about going after the Russian government money but also very wealthy Russians, Putin among them, the oligarchs who stand to lose from this?

CLAPPER: Yes, absolutely, Jim. And I recall the discussions that we had in 2016 about what to do about the Russian interference in the election. And this topic came up. And to be frank, we kind of shied away from it because the -- to me this is really sticking it to the Russians. And there's a real message here. To the extent that we can strain their ability to interact in the international financial system, that has -- that is a poke in the eye.

SCIUTTO: And it's a tactic the U.S. has used against Iran too.

I want to ask you because in Treasury Department report released yesterday, in conjunction with these sanctions, was not new intelligence, because the intelligence appears to be four or five years old, but a new revelation of intelligence confirming that President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, gave to a Russian known to be tied to Russian intelligence internal Trump campaign polling data which is something that, you know, the question is, did that help Russia interfere more smartly in the 2006 election with disinformation and other steps? Even Mueller didn't go there in terms of finding this kind of information.

What does that do to the no collusion argument we've heard from Trump and his allies in the last five years?

CLAPPER: Well, first, I'd point out that the (INAUDIBLE) committee for intelligence did make that point. And if the campaign manager for the Trump campaign providing sensitive polling data to a Russian individual has connections with Russian intelligence, if that ain't collusion I don't know what is. So it's not new, but just to have it reaffirmed, I think, is just reemphasizes that there was some form of collusion between the campaign manager at least and the Russians.

SCIUTTO: This is intel that's existed for a number of years.


It's coming out now. It's not new intelligence. It doesn't appear to be. Does this indicate to you that Trump appointees in the intelligence agencies, Rick Grenell among them, who followed you as the ODNI, as director of national intelligence, sat on this intelligence for the last several years?

CLAPPER: I don't think so, Jim. I think probably, you know, it was -- it was out there. It sound like Committee for Intelligence dimed it out. They called attention to it.

I think there's a distinction between the existence of the intelligence and what may or may not have been done to suppress it by those who received the intelligence.


Well, open questions, but certainly interesting related to how -- the extent of that contact between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

James Clapper, always good to have you on. Thanks very much.

CLAPPER: My pleasure, Jim. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: In just minutes, officials are set to give an update after yet one more mass shooting in America. This at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis which left eight people dead. We're going to bring you that press conference live as it happens.