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Biden to Make Case for Climate Change Fight; Las Vegas Strip Set to Reopen; Minneapolis Police Face Scrutiny; SpaceX Launches Craft with Four Astronauts. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired April 23, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Bring, of course, big one, job creation.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond here.

And, Jeremy, that's a key part of the president's message today, right, that this prevent -- presents a valuable, economic opportunity, not entirely just a talking point, because you do see private sector companies getting onboard. For instance, the automakers.

I just wonder, what will that message be specifically today, and does he have international partners on board?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard President Biden talk about this a little bit yesterday, and I expect him to drill down further today. He said yesterday when he thinks about climate change, he thinks about the response to climate change, he thinks about jobs. And he thinks about the economic transformation that he would like to lead in terms of going and moving towards a green economy.

We have seen the president frame this not only in international terms, in terms of the potential economic growth for the United States and other countries around the world. We've heard him talk about a technological race here that could build the jobs of tomorrow.

And we're also hearing him really talk about this for a domestic audience. Of course, here in the United States, we're really an outlier in terms of the rest of the world where climate change is a non-partisan issue. Here, Republicans have repeatedly attacked the issue of climate change, denied it in some respects, and also framed it as a job killer. And so when President Biden speaks today, you'll hear him address some of those domestic concerns.

Coincidentally, today, or perhaps not coincidentally but intentionally, the Energy Department announced an $100 million plus investment to support job creation in communities affected by climate change, specifically in coal country. And Senator Joe Manchin, of the coal-producing state of West Virginia, is supporting that initiative. So you are seeing a specific conversation around blue collar workers,

around helping those workers who work in fossil fuel industries be able to transition. Also talking about auto workers and the opportunities -- the economic opportunities presented by the huge potential for growth in the electric car market. So I think that those are some of the ideas that we will hear from the president today.

But again, he will focus on trying to equate this idea of climate change, moving towards addressing climate change, and job creation. Millions of jobs, he says, in the coming decade.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Jeremy Diamond, at the White House. We will bring you those comments as they come this morning.

And tonight, tune in to a special CNN town hall, "The Climate Crisis." Dana Bash questions U.S. Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry and White House climate team members, Gina McCarthy, Michael Regan, Jennifer Granholm. What's their plan to combat climate change? Can they accomplish these goals? They're ambitious. You can see tonight, 10:00 Eastern Time.

HARLOW: Well, next, Las Vegas has looked a little bit like a ghost town during the pandemic, right? Now there's new hope that could bring life back to sin city. Also, new jobs. Could they be on the horizon?



SCIUTTO: They said it would never happen. The Strip going quiet. But after more than a year of COVID restrictions, the Las Vegas Strip is set to fully reopen to 100 percent capacity by June 1st.

HARLOW: But even as tourists return and business ticks up, thousands of hospitality workers are still out of their job.

Our Lucy Kafanov reports from Las Vegas.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In sin city, entertainment and excitement are back.

Last March, the coronavirus pandemic turned one of the busiest places on earth into a ghost town. Las Vegas casinos were ordered to shut their doors, costing thousands of jobs and billions in lost revenue.

But a year after the iconic strip went dark, the glittering lights and sounds are once again dazzling visitors. Many tourists feeling safer in rolling the dice. Blackjack tables, packed. Slot machines, paying out.


KAFANOV: The president of The Venetian Las Vegas says daily bookings are exceeding pre-COVID levels.

After a year on the rocks, the economic tide seems to be turning.

KAFANOV (on camera): Tourists are coming back on the weekends. But what's the missing piece?

MARKANTONIS: The missing piece are the business travelers for the conventions and the Expo Center.

KAFANOV (voice over): Conventions bring in big bucks and weekday bookings, contributing more than $11 billion in 2019 alone.

KAFANOV (on camera): Wow. It is huge.


KAFANOV (voice over): The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority gave us a tour of its newly expanded convention center, which will host America's first large-scale post-pandemic event in June.

CEO Steve Hill says dozens more are on the books.

KAFANOV (on camera): So conventions are critical for Vegas to come back?

HILL: They really are. And without that, we can make it, but we can't thrive.

KAFANOV (voice over): The new player in town, Virgin, took a gamble, opening a property last month during the pandemic. It's the Vegas you know with a safer twist.

KAFANOV (on camera): This is just one of the many COVID-19 safety measures casinos are putting into place, betting big on a Las Vegas comeback.

RICHARD "BOZ" BOSWORTH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VIRGIN HOTELS LAS VEGAS: We're completely betting big on the Las Vegas recovery. And, frankly, I don't think it's that big of a bet. I think it's a sure thing.

KAFANOV (voice over): The Vegas jobless rate shot up to 34 percent last April, one of the worst in the nation, dropping down to roughly 9 percent in February. But not everyone is cashing in. Thousands of workers who kept the casino resorts operate are still out of work.

Matthew Seevers spent 15 years bartending at Station Casino, but was let go last March.


MATTHEW SEEVERS, BARTENDER WHO LOST HIS JOB DURING PANDEMIC: Never would have I thought a year from now we would be still be here waiting to get our jobs back.

KAFANOV: Others tired of waiting are picking up a new trade. The CEG Dealer School, which trains aspiring casino dealers, promises jobs to almost anyone who wants to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vegas is making its comeback.

The energy here at the school, you can tell right now, a lot of optimism, a lot of positivity.

KAFANOV: A promising reminder that in Las Vegas, the chips are never down for good.

KAFANOV (on camera): The busier sidewalks are a welcome sight after a brutal economic year. But some worries remain, that another surge in COVID-19 cases or a new variant could put the brakes on sin city's comeback.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Las Vegas.


HARLOW: Lucy, thank you very much.

Well, up next, skepticism among some in Minneapolis as the Justice Department promises their probe into the city's policing practices. My next guest says racism is so deeply rooted there, she wonders if there will be real change. She joins us live, next.



SCIUTTO: Mourners in Minneapolis paid their final respects to Daunte Wright, a black man killed by police in one of that city's suburbs. He was laid to rest yesterday.

Wright was killed by a police officer who claimed to mistake her firearm for her Taser. This during a traffic stop. A member of George Floyd's family attended the services as Wright's death sparks renewed cries for justice, accountability. Wright's mother says she never thought she'd find herself in this position.


KATIE WRIGHT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: I never imagined that I'd be standing here. The roles should completely be reversed. My son should be burying me. My son had a smile that was worth a million dollars. When he walked in the room, he lit up the room. He was a brother, a jokester. He was loved by so many. And he's going to be so missed.


SCIUTTO: Daunte Wright's family describe him as a fun and adoring father who had a contagious laugh. He was just 20 years old. He leaves behind a nearly two-year-old son.

HARLOW: Wright joins now a long list of black men shot and killed at the hands of police in Minnesota over just the last five years where either no charges have been brought or there's been an acquittal. These are their names as we show you their faces, Travis Jordan, Thurman Blevins, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark.

Activists, again, demanding change, pointing to an overwhelming amount of data that the criminal justice system is racially biased, including a recent Harvard study that finds black people are more than three times as likely as white people to be killed during a police encounter.

And now the Justice Department is on the ground in Minnesota. They are conducting an investigation to tell if there is a pattern and practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing violating people's civil rights there in the Minneapolis Police Department.

Let me bring in Michelle Phelps, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota, and the co-author of "Breaking the Pendulum: The Long Struggle Over Criminal Justice."

I am so glad, Professor, you could be with us because this is really your life's work and now it's your city, our city, a place that I still call home, that is at the center of this.

What I find so interesting is that you've talked in the past about this, in your words, a tremendous amount of resistance in Minnesota to the deep structural systemic problem that is there, you know, from red lining on down. It persists today, as the lieutenant governor said, it's not safe to be black in Minnesota were her words.

Does that wall come down now?

MICHELLE PHELPS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: You know, so I think there's a lot of momentum and a lot of hope, but I think it would be a mistake to think about this moment as, you know, a clear -- there was a before and there was an after.

What we've seen is there's been a series of instances of very high- profile racial violence. At each one America says, this is the moment. Everything will change, right? This is the moment that white folks in particular will start to recognize the deep racial inequities in our country. And every moment we've made some small steps forward and then retrenchment back.

And, you know, the problems that exist in the Minneapolis Police Department and the Brooklyn Center Police Department, those exist nationwide and have been true since the Kerner (ph) Report in the 1960s.

HARLOW: Right.

PHELPS: You know, we know what the problem is. It's just been hard to see solutions.

HARLOW: I'm glad you bring up the Kerner Commission because really when they had those findings it was sort of swept under the rug, you know, from the president on down at the time. And the question really is now, right, like, are you going to implement changes to what we know is the problem? You and your team carried out a study, survey in north Minneapolis --

that, of course, is where George Floyd was killed -- that will do similar to what DOJ is doing on a bigger scale, talking to people. What have your encounters with police been like and what did they tell you?

PHELPS: That's right. And just a quick clarification. So George Floyd was actually murdered in south Minneapolis, the other part of the city.

HARLOW: I'm sorry about that. I, of all people, should know that. That's my mistake.

PHELPS: That's OK. I just want to make sure we had that on record right.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you.

PHELPS: It's actually about 15 blocks from where I'm sitting right now in my house.


PHELPS: So in north Minneapolis is however the historic heart of the black community in Minneapolis. It is where Jamar Clark was killed. It is where Thurmond Blevins was killed. It is the site of a lot of historic clashes between police and the black community in Minneapolis.


And what we found was that among black residents, there was a pervasive experience of police discrimination, police criminalization or police treating all residents as criminal suspects and then verbal and physical abuse from law enforcement.

And, you know, it tends to only breakthrough in the mass media when we get these really spectacular instances of lethal violence, but it's this day to day friction and harassment getting pulled over, treated disrespectfully that is the day to day encounters with police that many black Americans experience every day.

HARLOW: One of the things that you tweeted recently that struck me is, is you tweeted, the MPD, the Minneapolis Police Department, actually had DOJ investigations before for misconduct and handling of protests. The department adopted some of the recommendations but not all. It's not that we don't know the problem, but that we have largely failed at implementing solutions.

So I suppose the question is, with the DOJ on the ground now asking a lot of the questions that you and your team asked, how do you know it's going to change? Are you hopeful that it will change if there is a consent decree, for example?

PHELPS: Yes. I mean I think, you know, that best thing in my opinion that a DOJ investigation and a consent decree would do would be to create real processes of accountability for misconduct. The department has really struggled, in part because of the power of the police union, of federation, and the arbitration process, they've really struggled to discipline and fire officers who commit misconduct.

And that creates a tremendous amount of mistrust in the community, but it also creates the potential for violence from these officers who have repeatedly abused the community. And so that was really what I would like to see out of it. I think MPD has training policies, has use of force policies, but it's really missing that accountability piece.

HARLOW: So to -- exactly to your point, Professor, the accountability piece, the, you know, what has so long been in our city and cities across America, this blue wall of silence, where you don't speak out against your own officers. I mean we saw that crack, right, or fall apart or crumble in the testimony given by the chief on down in the Chauvin trial. Does that change permanently or was that an anomaly?

PHELPS: You know, I think party it as anomaly. You know, one way to read the trial was as an attempt of the department to sort of vindicate itself, right, to distance himself from Chauvin, to say that, you know, we're doing all the right things. This was a criminal act. This was not policing as we know it, right? It will be interesting to see how the prosecutors attempt to sort of thread that needle with the other officers who are charged, if they go to trial later this summer, before pleading out.

I think the challenge is really that it's the systemic issue. And I think the other thing that's interesting about this moment in Minneapolis is that right as we're having this DOJ investigation into pattern and practices to attempt to reform policing, the city is also having a conversation about reimagining policing and moving away from policing. And I think that's creating a great deal of resistance among law enforcement and their supporters.

HARLOW: Well, Professor Phelps, of the University of Minnesota, thank you for all the work you've done on this for years. Your voice is critical now. Thanks again.

PHELPS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.


SCIUTTO: We're going to space again. NASA and SpaceX send a third astronaut crew to the Space Station. There was something different, though, about this mission. Just incredible images, ahead.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, two, one, zero. Mission and liftoff.


HARLOW: Look at that. Best moment of the day by far. Right now a crew of four astronauts racing to catch up with the International Space Station after being launched into space using recycled SpaceX rocket and spacecraft.

SCIUTTO: It's the first time ever that those things have been reused. That's key to keeping down cost, making this more regular.

CNN's Rachel Crane is live in Kennedy Space Center.

And, Rachel, I am today and will forever remain jealous of your beat.


SCIUTTO: And assignments like this.

It's pretty cool to watch, but it's also significant that these are becoming more regular.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Jim and Poppy. And I've got to tell you, reporting on these events never gets old. I really do have the coolest beat.

But as you pointed out, the reusability element here is what was really historic. You know, SpaceX and Elon Musk, his greater goal is making us a multi-planetary species. And a key part of that is being able to reuse the hardware.

Now, of course, SpaceX has been reusing their rocket boosters for some time now. In fact, one of the Falcon Nine first stage (ph) boosters has been used nine times. But it had never been done on a crewed mission. That's what was different here today. Both the rocket booster and the spacecraft Endeavor had both flown before. They were flight proven. Of course, NASA and SpaceX putting them through thousands of tests in order to make sure they were safe for today's launch.

In fact, the astronauts, they were even able to write their names on the soot and the scorch on the side of the Falcon Nine booster. And, you know, Musk says that it's not just about driving down the cost here in terms of reusability. That it also can help with safety.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA: It's probably good to have a flight or two under its belt, for the booster to have flown, you know, once or twice.