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Biden Meeting with Bipartisan Group to Push Infrastructure Plan; Interview with George Floyd's Cousin Tera Brown about Closing Arguments in the Chauvin Murder Trial; Family and Friends Remember FedEx Massacre Victim Samaria Blackwell. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 19, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Harris are going to spend the day pushing to get lawmakers and the country on board with the administration's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Once again the president is meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Oval Office while the vice president travels to North Carolina for her first major speech on the economy.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House.

Jeremy, we've seen these meetings before. We've heard some talk of a bipartisan compromise that sort of parcels out the kind of hard infrastructure stuff from the other stuff, which Republicans say is not infrastructure. I mean, what's the timeline on this and is a bipartisan agreement still a genuine possibility?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the White House has said that they want to see substantial progress on this $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal that President Biden put forward by Memorial Day. And they are hoping to get passage of some kind of piece of legislation on this during this summer. Right now, though, we don't really have a piece of legislation to talk about yet. Those discussions are really still in the early stages so far.

Today we will see President Biden meeting with a bipartisan group of senators and members of the House of Representatives. Notably, all of these are former governors on the Senate side and former mayors on the House side here. You can see several of these senators and congressmen. Listen here, Congresswoman Kay Granger notably is also the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, a key committee in this.

And then you have Senator Mitt Romney who, of course, is a member of those 10 Republican senators who have said that they will be putting forward a counterproposal to what President Biden has talked about. So this will be an important meeting for President Biden to not only show once again that he does want to try and move forward in a bipartisan manner. I don't think we'll see anything concrete come out of this meeting.

But it will be the latest in the outreach that the White House has been doing, on the one hand, to try and actually get a bipartisan deal, on the other hand to at least show that they are working in a bipartisan manner even if, ultimately, it ends up being a partisan process using budget reconciliation. On the other hand, Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States, she will be in North Carolina today delivering a major economic speech and making the push herself on this infrastructure plan.

The White House believes that they have the public support on this infrastructure plan. But they are continuing to make a full-court press to make sure that they maintain that support as Republicans begin to counterattack here as we've seen over the last couple of weeks.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And keep their own Democratic caucus in line. Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

Just minutes from now, closing arguments will begin in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We're going to bring those to you the moment they begin. But this question, how is George Floyd's family preparing for the verdict? I'm going to speak with a family member just ahead.



SCIUTTO: Closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin murder trial will begin in less than 30 minutes. We'll bring them to you live the moment they begin. This as the city of Minneapolis braces for potential protests and unrests, but not just there, hinging on the outcome of this case.

I'm joined now by Tera Brown, she is George Floyd's cousin. She's also the director of the George Floyd Foundation.

Tera, thanks so much for taking the time with us this morning.

TERA BROWN, COUSIN OF GEORGE FLOYD: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: You know, there is a lot of talk right now about the nation being on edge, people watching this verdict closely, but you're a family member of George floyd. And I can only imagine the emotion and the tension running through your heart right now. Tell us how you and other family members are preparing for the outcome of this?

BROWN: We're preparing as best we can, you know, just leading up to this whole ordeal, I mean, the level of stress and anxiety, the sleepless night, I mean, honestly, to sum it up, it's just been this ordeal that's been traumatic for our family so we are anxious to kind of get this to a close, if possible. Yes. We're ready to get this done.

SCIUTTO: You know, this trial, of course, is being watched for its outcome. But also its effect on other communities and the law, frankly, right? The law. You have said that you hope to see actual change come from this. I wonder how hopeful are you? There was a moment last year after George Floyd's death, when there was some movement on Capitol Hill, then it went nowhere. I just wonder do you believe things might be different, a little better now?

BROWN: Yes, I do believe that things are a little bit different. We're still working on the Police Reform Act. Both at a state level and the federal level. We're still hopeful that we're going to keep pushing until we see some change there. It may not be everything that we are asking for. But any change that we can get, we're going to take it and we're going to keep moving.

SCIUTTO: Were you able to watch the trial? I wonder. You and your relatives, other loved ones of George floyd. Because I didn't know George Floyd. I found some of those moments difficult. Certainly the video. It's difficult to watch as a human being. And I wonder how'd you all manage that?

BROWN: It was very difficult as you can imagine. There were times when, you know, we were literally broken to tears. It's a very hard thing to watch. Heart wrenching at times, So, yes, we, most of us didn't really want to watch the video, but we have been very active in watching the trial this entire time and we've been in the courtroom and in the overflow room whenever we're not in the courtroom because they only allow one at a time.


But we just kind of lean on each other to, you know, stay strong.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I get that. As you know people not just in the Minneapolis area, but around the country, are watching this closely. And we have seen protests. We saw them last year and by and large they have been peaceful. But there have been outbreaks of violence. And I wonder what you say to folks in the wake of this, whatever the outcome. How do you encourage people or discourage people from reacting to this?

BROWN: I can tell you that I know that emotions are extremely high. People are very passionate about what they've seen and so the only thing we want. We obviously want the best outcome. We want to see a conviction in this case for Derek Chauvin, but no matter what happens today, we or whenever the decision comes, we know that there will be an opportunity for change. So we're going to hope for the best.

SCIUTTO: Understood. As you know, Derek Chauvin declined the opportunity to speak in his own defense. Would you have liked him to take the stand, have the opportunity for not just the defense to question him, but the prosecutors to question him?

BROWN: I wasn't surprised that he chose not to speak because, like I said, I have been watching the trial and I don't really want to hear anything from him. There is nothing he could say that would convince me that he didn't commit murder that day. So I'm not disappointed. I'm not even surprised that he chose not to speak. SCIUTTO: Before I let you go, I know you're nervous now as you said to

me earlier, you are having trouble sleeping. Are you hopeful for a just outcome here, an outcome you would view as just?

BROWN: I am hopeful. I am hopeful. But at the same time, I'm bracing myself and just trying to be prepared for whatever comes.

SCIUTTO: Well, Tera Brown, we remain here empathetic to you and your family's loss throughout. We do wish you the best this week during these tense times.

BROWN: Thank you so much. We appreciate your support.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Tera Brown, thank you so much to her for coming on.

Well, still ahead, a heartbreaking tribute to a victim in yet another mass shooting in America. The picture you're looking at is 19-year-old Samaria Blackwell. She was working at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis to save money to become a police officer. Now she's dead. A close family friend is with us.



SCIUTTO: The shooter who killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis bought two semiautomatic rifles legally. This despite being investigated by the FBI for potential for violence prior to the attack. In the wake of that shooting and multiple other deadly shootings just over the past several days, President Biden is calling, once again, for lawmakers to take action. Some action. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has said he plans to hold the vote to address the epidemic of gun violence. Still no words so far on when he will do so.

Legislation expanding background checks has passed the House. But those bills are a long shot in the Senate where Democrats struggling to find enough GOP support, and all these shootings have not changed that political dynamic.

HARLOW: At all. All right. Well, among the eight victims of the FedEx massacre is 19-year-old Samaria Blackwell. She had just graduated from high school. She was the youngest of four children. We want to show you pictures of her, look at her here. This is Samaria with her beloved doing Jasper. And those who loved her the most remember her as a young woman who absolutely adore playing basketball, being on the soccer field, and she had dreams of becoming a police officer.

Her family remembers a caretaker who always considered other's needs. At a vigil last night, the mayor of Beach Grove, Indiana, who is also a friend of their family, remembered her.


MAYOR DENNIS BUCKLEY (D), BEACH GROVE, INDIANA: She is one of our bright, young citizens who has been called home. I am never going to question why. But she was. Now she is standing on the right hand of God looking down on all of us. And that is refreshing to me. I'm sorry.


HARLOW: Yes. You can feel his pain while listening to him. Let me bring in Matthew Barnes, a close family friend of the Blackwell's. His wife actually coached Samaria and their own daughters. They were on the same sports team. He's also been the chaplain for the Indianapolis statehouse for 17 years.

Matt, thank you. Thank you for being with us this morning.


HARLOW: Actually, I want to begin where we just heard the mayor leave off, saying she sits at the right hand of God and begin with her faith and the family's faith this morning. Because her name, obviously, from the New Testament, Samaria, after the "Parable of the Good Samaritan" that Jesus told.


Can you speak about her faith and her family's faith even after this horror?

BARNES: Yes. And they would definitely want me to share that with you. They have a deep faith. And as soon as I arrived at the scene there at the hotel and the family had just been told about Samaria's death, instantly they were praying, they were quoting scripture passages, and so their faith in Jesus Christ means so much to them. And they've even said how could anybody get through this without a faith in God? And so that's something that means so much to them.

HARLOW: Let me show you. I'm sure you've seen this by now but our viewers probably haven't. You know, she had these dreams of becoming a police officer. And so the Avon Police Department is actually now putting this out. And they are collecting police badges for the family. And it says Patches for Stitches because of like a sports injury she got. And that's where that comes from. But I just wonder what Samaria would think of this.

BARNES: She would absolutely love it. I spoke with the family yesterday. And they just said she would just think that was the coolest thing ever to receive patches, and the police department, I spoke with them this morning. They even received -- they're receiving patches from international police departments as well. It's kind of an interagency thing they'll do when they show up for training. They'll trade and exchange and swap patches.

And so this is a great way to honor this young lady who wanted to become a police officer. And they're getting these all together from all over the country. We're so thankful for that outpouring of support. HARLOW: She was only 19. I mean, it is a cliche, but so true to say

the whole world was in front of her. And her life taken by another 19- year-old with these two legally purchased assault weapons. So much of your job is praying with and for lawmakers at the statehouse to -- you know, to help them be their best and fuller selves. If any of them are listening at the state level, at the federal level this morning, I'm sure they are, what does the family want them to do in their daughter's name?

BARNES: Well, I appreciate that question. And the family is just, they're really concerned with where they're at right now and handling the grief, setting up the arrangements. If you can imagine, their heart and so that's their focus right now. And we'll just let legislators legislate. And we will focus on grieving and sorrowing with the family. You know, the scripture says to weep with those that weep and mourn with those that mourn, and that's what we're doing with the family right now.

And the community, Indianapolis is a big city. But it has a small-town feel. And this community has wrapped their arms around them giving immensely to a gofundme to help the family. They had a lack of insurance. She'd only worked at FedEx a couple of months, and yet FedEx, even this morning coming out with a great generous donation to a fund on gofundme. So we're excited about that and happy the family is going to be taken care of.

HARLOW: For you, as someone very close to the family grieving with them but also with your own family, I mean, your daughters were close to her. They played sports with her. They're 16 and 22 years old. How do you grieve with your daughters at the same time as with this family?

BARNES: Well, even just late last night. Spending some time with my youngest Emma and struggling with that. And it is hard. We can't always understand why hearing the mayor said he's not going to ask why, well, I don't mind asking God why. As Psalmist would often say, why, God? And why is this happening? And yet, at the same time, we have a faith and a trust that God will work all things together for good.

That's his purpose. And he has a way of redeeming beautiful things out of bad. And we're trusting that God will do that in the future. That's how I'm counseling my daughters in their faith and in their walk with God.

HARLOW: You are going right after this in just a few minutes to the statehouse to --

BARNES: I am. I'll be opening the Indiana House of Representatives at 10:00 a.m. in prayer. And so there is much thought that is going into that prayer as well. It will be the first prayer given since the tragedy on Friday.

HARLOW: Thank you for doing that. Thank you for being here, Matthew Barns. And for all of you watching, Matthew just mentioned the gofundme page.

We want to show it to you if you'd like to help the Blackwell family pay for funeral expenses. You just go to, the Web site. You can search Samaria Blackwell's name and help right there.

SCIUTTO: 19 years old. Just one face of dozens of victims in the last month.

Well, minutes from now, closing arguments begin in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. We're going to bring those to you live the moment that they start. Stay with us.



SCIUTTO: Good Monday morning to you. It's a big one. I'm Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

The breaking news this hour, at any moment, the prosecution and the defense in the Derek Chauvin murder trial will begin making their closing arguments. The final phase and their last chance to sway the jury about the death of George floyd. His death of course less than a year ago sparked protest for change not only in Minneapolis but really around the world.

SCIUTTO: Many in this country are on edge as they await the outcome of this trial. Minneapolis in particular, but cities nationwide now bracing, preparing for potential unrest following amid the fallout from the verdict.

Let's begin with CNN's Josh Campbell. He's in Minneapolis.

Josh, walk us through how we expect the day to play out.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. We are at the final day of presentations here. The jury will soon hear the closing argue closing arguments. I'll walk you step by step. What we're expecting, those closing arguments are expected to begin. The prosecutor will speak and then the defense attorney and then the someone from prosecution team will conclude their remarks.

The jury will then receive instructions from the judge. That is what should they consider?