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Grading Republicans on Upholding Democracy; Biden Set to Announce New CDC Mask Guidance; North Carolina Family to See Bodycam Video of Police Shooting. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2021 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

At this hour, policing in America is again under scrutiny. Right now in North Carolina, after several hours of delay, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. is expected to see the bodycam video showing the moments the 42-year-old was killed by sheriff's deputies.

CNN obtained a copy of Brown Jr.'s death certificate, which says he died of a -- quote -- "penetrating gunshot wound to the head" and that he died within minutes of being shot.

BLACKWELL: And just a few minutes ago, we heard from the attorney general, Merrick Garland. He announced in a civil investigation into another police department. This time, it's the Louisville Police Department and its policing practices in the wake of the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

Let's start with Natasha Chen in North Carolina.

Natasha, so, first, the family was expecting to see the video on Friday. That didn't happen. Then they thought they would see it this morning. And then that was delayed. And now they're expected to see it pretty soon. What's the reason for the delay?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Alisyn, they're actually inside the Pasquotank County Public Safety Building behind us right now. And a crowd has gathered at those doors waiting for them to come out, perhaps to tell the rest of us what they have seen, finally, from that body camera footage, which, as you have said, no one has seen more than five days after the death of Andrew Brown Jr.

Part of the delay at first was the family being told that they really wanted to protect the integrity of the investigation. And then, of course, with the growing outcry of wanting transparency from this community, they started working on this, and to try to get the family at least a private viewing more expediently.

Today's delay was interesting, because we saw a statement from the county attorney here, saying that they needed more time, after the morning appointment, the initial appointment, they needed more time to redact the body camera footage.

The statement said that they could blur faces. And according to the state statute, they can do so if it's in order to protect an active internal investigation. So that's the reason they cited for needing that time to blur faces before the family could see this.

Of course, that didn't go over very well with the crowd here, who have been waiting not only to make sure the family gets to see this, but that the footage gets released publicly at all. And, of course, in North Carolina, that requires a court order, which is why it is taking longer than perhaps in some other places where we have seen police use of force cases.

There are multiple entities that are working on court orders, court petitions to get that released. That includes the sheriff saying that, as soon as he gets state investigators telling him that it won't hinder the investigation, the county will also petition the court.

The Elizabeth City Council has now filed a formal letter with the sheriff's office to get that process going too. And a coalition of news organizations, including CNN, have now officially filed in a North Carolina state court pushing for the release of that video too.

And the chants that you hear here are: "What do we want? Justice. What do we want? Video." That's the chant that you hear back and forth. One of the attorneys for the family also said that he is very tired, Bakari Sellers saying he's very tired of this cycle of protest and mourning, and he said, today, he's asking the crowd to do something a little bit different, to contact Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to try to tell them that we want the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to be passed.

That's what he was getting the crowd to try to do, to contact those senators to tell them that's what they want, so a little more activism requested from the attorney today in a slightly different form -- Victor Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Natasha, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So, the family and their attorneys are planning to speak after they view that video. And we will bring that to you as soon as they come out.

And just moments ago, another major announcement about a high-profile death involving police. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced plans to open an investigation into the Louisville Kentucky Police Department, of course, after last year shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

She was the black woman who was killed by police during that botched raid at her Kentucky apartment.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It will determine whether LMPD engages in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, as well as whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes.

It will also assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race or fails to provide public services that comply with the Americans With Disability Act.



CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, what prompted this now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this is something that, certainly, people in the community -- the community there in Louisville have been pushing for, for a year.

And during the Trump administration, there wasn't any appetite to do these types of investigations of police departments. The idea, at least that the administration, the previous administration, had was that these types of investigations demoralized police departments.

And with the change of leadership here in this building, you're seeing a different tack. And you saw last week there was an investigation announced into the Minneapolis Police Department. And now we have this announcement today, which is going to look at everything that the Louisville Police Department does, including, as you heard from the attorney general, how they carry out search warrants, because that was the issue in that case, the case in which Breonna Taylor was killed.

There was this search warrant that the officers -- they had a judge approve it and everything. They were looking for someone who was dealing drugs or who they believed was dealing drugs. And they didn't realize, essentially, who was in that apartment.

And that's why, they say, Breonna Taylor was killed in what was a shoot-out with her boyfriend. So, as a result of that -- of that shooting, we know -- we know that the local officials brought charges against one detective who was charged with wanton endangerment, but nothing, no -- none of the officers faced any charges for Breonna Taylor's death.

And so this is going to be, I think, a measure of justice for the community there that believes that this one raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor was just one of many, many things that are wrong with that police department in Louisville.

So, we're expecting -- according to the attorney general, we expect that the mayor there in Louisville, as well as the police department, are going to be supportive of this investigation. It is going to be months of work there on the ground that they're going to be talking to community members to hear what else needs to be reformed about that police department -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Evan, we will find out how much support that the city officials are going to offer, because we're expecting a news conference from the City Council in just the next few moments.

We will bring that to our viewers as soon as that happens.

Evan Perez, thank you.

Let's now talk about all of this.

With us now is Joe Ested, a former Richmond, Virginia, police officer and author of the book "Police Brutality Matters." And Andrew McCabe, a senior CNN law enforcement analyst and former deputy director of the FBI. He's also the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

Let's start in North Carolina.

And, Joe, let me start with you, because one of the details we learned from our reporters there in Elizabeth City was that, according to the death certificate, Andrew Brown Jr. died as a result of a penetrating gunshot wound to the head.

Now, after the shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant in South -- I guess it was Columbus, Ohio, what we learned from police officers is that you're supposed to or you're trained to shoot for center mass, the largest part of the body.

What's your reaction to now learning that Andrew Brown died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head, not to center mass?

JOE ESTED, AUTHOR, "POLICE BRUTALITY MATTERS": Well, it all depends, because center mass could be a head depending on that's what the officers see at that moment, if he's inside of a car, and you see the head, and deadly force is actually warranted at that time.

There's so much unknown with this case. I hate to give an assessment on it, because there's bits and pieces missing from this particular -- but the head could possibly be center mass, if that's all you see at that particular time.

CAMEROTA: Andy, I mean, to Joe's point, there is so much unknown.

The police have released scant details, the sheriff's deputies, about what happened here and why so many deputies were involved. And the bodycam video, I mean, in this moment of the whole country calling for transparency, do you understand why there's been such a back-and-forth as to all these delays about showing even just the family the bodycam?


It really defies logic, the way that they have handled this situation locally. Understandable that North Carolina law requires a court order before the bodycam videos can be released. But you can get a court order very quickly, especially on a matter of this importance and this exigency.

The fact that they have kind of been back and forth and failed to meet the family's expectations on what seems like a few occasions here, it just all compounds a very fraught, kind of stressful situation to begin with.


And it really -- even if unintentionally, I think it encourages this perception that the police force and local officials are trying to conceal what happened. That may not, in fact, be the case. But they're really sending out a bad message along those lines with the delays and the stops and starts with the family.


And this differs greatly from what we saw from Ohio officials after the shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant. We remember that that interim police chief, we saw it from that mayor as well, get it out as soon as possible to avoid what we're seeing in North Carolina.

Let me stick with you, Andrew, and turn to the attorney general and his announcement that there will be this investigation of policies and practices of the Louisville Police Department. What should the people of Louisville, the Louisville Metro Police Department expect out of the next few months or years, as this goes on?

MCCABE: Well, first, let me say the A.G. is really sending a very powerful message. Only a week after announcing that the Department of Justice would get back into the business of these sort of investigations of police agencies, he's now announced a very important one.

What will happen here, Victor, is that an entire team of lawyers from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will get on the ground in Louisville. They will be supported by FBI agents. And they will go over every aspect of how that police department does its business.

They will look at all the records of all the interactions that police officers have with citizens, when they fill out contact reports and things of that nature. They will look at records of who's being pulled over and in what neighborhoods people are being stopped and for what reasons people are being stopped. They will analyze that data along racial and ethnic lines.

And, of course, they're probably going to look very closely at search warrants. They will go through hundreds and hundreds of warrant applications that the police agency has filed over the last several years, looking for discrepancies in what they -- what they said they were going for and what they found, or for maybe flaws in the factual recitations that were relied upon by judges to grant those search warrants.

So, it will be an all-encompassing, very detailed look at how that agency is doing its business.

CAMEROTA: Joe, as we wait for the family of Andrew Brown Jr. to come out and tell us what they were able to see on this, we now know, redacted bodycam, what the police, the sheriff's deputies were willing to show them, I want to ask you about something that Victor actually brought up before the show, when we were just talking.

Why were so many of these deputies involved in this sidelined? Seven have been placed on leave. There's also been retirements. I mean, just in the past week, seven of the deputies involved in this are today right now not active on the force because of this.

Isn't that -- I mean, the idea that 10 of them have been sidelined, is that unusual to you?

ESTED: That's very unusual.

And that tells me, as a member of -- I was the vice president of a union. And when you start seeing people bail, that means it's major problems. That's red flags for problems. You had several quit, several get on administrative leave. And that tells me that we haven't seen every -- all the evidence that came out, because it's taken some time with their due process of releasing the cam.

But when you start seeing officers like this leave, that's a sign of tremendous problems.

BLACKWELL: It's been five days. You have got seven on administrative leave, two resignations and a retirement before the family has seen the video.

Of course, we're waiting for that family to come out and tell us what they saw.

Joe Ested and Andrew McCabe, thank you both.

ESTED: Thank you.

MCCABE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, President Biden is expected to make a big announcement about whether you will have to wear masks outdoors this summer. The CDC is going to issue new guidance.

Plus, the White House now says it will share some of America's supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine. We have all those developments ahead.



BLACKWELL: Well, now to some progress in the pandemic and signs that life is getting closer to the way that it was maybe 14 months ago, closer.

CAMEROTA: I feel it.

BLACKWELL: You feel it? OK, well, let's see.

Sources say that President Biden is expected to announce tomorrow new CDC guidance on whether vaccinated people should wear masks outdoors. Plus, a European vaccination -- or vacation, rather, may soon be an option.

The head of the European Commission told "The New York Times" Americans would be able to take trips to much of the continent by the summer. And, today, an official added travel will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.

Our White House senior adviser says vaccinations are key to getting back to life the way we used to.


ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: I think we're increasingly going to see a world where people who have been vaccinated are going to enjoy a lot of freedoms. They're going to feel like they can take on a lot of activities, little risk, they can reunite with families, and the cases are going to continue to be there for people who haven't been vaccinated yet.

So, whether it's traveling to Europe or whether it's just seeing your family and friends without having to worry, vaccination is the key.


CAMEROTA: Right now, more than 28 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. And more than two out of five in the U.S. have had at least one shot.

That is incentive right there for getting your vaccination.

BLACKWELL: It certainly is.

And, still, the CDC reports 8 percent of those vaccinated are not getting the critical second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, a figure that has more than doubled since the last count.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now.

So, first, what are we expecting to hear tomorrow from the president?


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are expecting to hear, Victor, that there's been an update in the guidelines for what vaccinated people can do.

I think there's been some criticism of the Biden administration, saying that they haven't done enough to sort of, like -- sort of market, for want of a better term, the benefits of being vaccinated, they haven't talked it up enough. And so this may be sort of a push in that direction.

Now, it's unclear exactly what they're going to say. But there is the possibility that they will say that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors. And here's the science that is making some people think that that's the way they're going to go. So, when you look at studies of thousands of people from all over the

world, less than 10 percent of COVID-19 infections happened outside, less than 10 percent. The risk of transmission is nearly 20 times greater indoors.

So, when you look at science like, that sort of makes you wonder, are they going to tell people who are vaccinated, you know what, you're OK; when you're outside, you don't need to wear your mask?

CAMEROTA: But, Elizabeth, that leads us to summer camps for kids.

So most kids cannot get vaccinated, but summer camps are outside. So will they have to wear masks?

COHEN: Right, this gets a little bit tricky, Alisyn, because you have the staff, who presumably is pretty much over the age of 16, and hopefully will be vaccinated. But then you have the children, who are under the age of 16.

So the thinking here is that, for summer camps, you actually do need to wear masks most of the time. So, that is where this guidance is going, that people do need to wear masks in summer camp. And that, if they're going to take off their masks for swimming, or for eating and drinking, then they need to really be keeping distance.

And so the advice there is going to be wearing masks and keeping distance from one another. It'll be interesting to see how possible that will be in a summer camp situation, when, of course, kids are letting loose. It will be interesting to see if social distancing really works in that kind of environment.

BLACKWELL: All right, so on the J&J vaccine, there's a new poll on the impact of the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Now, this poll was taken before this weekend, when it was -- the pause was lifted.

But, again, it asked the question of how many people will be willing to get it?

COHEN: It certainly does ask this question.

And before we get into these numbers, Victor, I want to say that I don't think they're as devastating as they look, and I will explain that sort of after we look at the numbers. So, what this poll found -- and, as you said, this was while the rollout was on pause. So this was when you couldn't get Johnson & Johnson.

They asked unvaccinated people, would you be willing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? And 73 percent said no, and 22 percent, not a very large number, said they'd be willing to take it. Obviously, that is problematic, because now the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available.

But this is only really bad news if Johnson & Johnson were the only vaccine available. Johnson & Johnson actually represents a relatively -- quite a small percentage of all the vaccine that's out there. The vast majority is either Moderna or Pfizer.

So the fact that people don't want to take or a big chunk of people, at least in this poll, didn't want to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that's not necessarily terrible news, because people do have a choice. It would be bad if they didn't want to take any vaccine. But if they're willing to say yes to Pfizer or to Moderna, at least they will get vaccinated.

And that is the key. You got to get vaccinated. Any of the three are great vaccines. It doesn't really matter if people want to say no to Johnson & Johnson.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and doctors have consistently said, get whichever vaccine you can.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Right. Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right, if you have seen the pictures out of India, you know that that country is being ravaged by coronavirus. It's setting new global case records every day. So, what is the U.S. doing to help?

BLACKWELL: Plus: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to rewrite history about President Trump's response to the Capitol riots, or at least he's trying to put a really thick, rosy filter on it.

And, also, a group of conservatives begins grading their fellow Republicans on how well they uphold the fractured democracy.



BLACKWELL: House Republicans are in Florida for their legislative retreat. They're strategizing about how to take back the majority.

And there's an anti-Trump conservative group that has just issued report cards for every Republican in Congress. The Republican Accountability Project is ranking, in their view, who has acted to undermine American democracy and who has worked to uphold it.

Fourteen Republican lawmakers received a grade of, Senators Romney, Murkowski, number three in the House Republican Representative Liz Cheney. More than 100 Republicans were greeted with an F.

Olivia Troye, the director of the Republican Accountability Project, is with me now. She also served in the Trump administration as former Vice President Pence's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, as well as his lead staffer on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Olivia, welcome back.


BLACKWELL: Well, let's start -- let's start here with, how did you reach these grades?

I understand there are four criteria here. And what's the point of this? What do you want voters to take away from it?

TROYE: Well, we created this as a quick reference tool for constituents, for donors, for reporters, and anyone who's interested in looking up how their representative, congressional person or senator did in terms of -- really through the lens of democracy.