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Hearing Underway Over Release of Body Cam Video in Fatal Police Shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.; Health Experts Battle Misinformation at Key Moment in Pandemic; Biden to Address Joint Session of Congress Tonight. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 28, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour, good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.


News happening this hour, just moments from now, a crucial court hearing on the release of police body camera footage from the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. A North Carolina superior court judge could rule on that motion any minute based on North Carolina law. You need a judge's order to release that video.

HARLOW: We will have more on that.

Also this 99 days into his administration, President Biden will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress. that happens tonight. And it happens as new polling shows 53 percent of Americans do approve of the job he is doing. It is noticeably lower than some past presidents at the beginning of their terms.

But, first, let's begin this morning with that fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. A hearing on the body camera video is about to start. Joe Johns keeping a close eye on it. Joe, good morning to you.

So we'll know -- will we know any moment?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They are going in right at 10:00 Eastern Time. So who knows how long that hearing is going to last. But, look, the sheriff here, Tommy Wooten II, has been at the center of all this because it was his people who were engaged in that confrontation and shooting that led to the death of Andrew Brown. We have three individuals now who have resigned from the sheriff's department, seven on leave.

Caught up with him just as he was headed into the courtroom apparently for that hearing and asked him a number of questions. So, listen and we'll talk after it's over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: Sheriff, you want it out, right, sheriff?


JOHNS: What's been holding it up? Is it --

WOOTEN: The North Carolina Law. So that's why I filed the petition to get this ball rolling because it's best for the community, the office and the Brown family. So that's what we're going to do. We're going in. We're kind of late so I need to get in there, but I'll be back out.

JOHNS: How many cameras actually shot video?

WOOTEN: Everything.

JOHNS: Were there five different angles? Was there one?

WOOTEN: I'm not sure right now. I know we have more than one, but we're waiting for the investigation to unfold and we're really close.

JOHNS: Is the D.A. onboard?

WOOTEN: The D.A. didn't want to hinder the investigation. He didn't really want to release it so he could do his full investigation. But I'm past that point and I want to put it out.

JOHNS: Thank you, Sheriff.

WOOTEN: We'll be back.

JOHNS: Sheriff, last, was it an execution, like the family says?

WOOTEN: The word execution is -- I would say that kind of inflames everybody. But, no, I don't agree with the word, execution.

JOHNS: Thank you, Sheriff.


JOHNS: There you have it. The sheriff says he wants the body cam video out. And the question, of course, is whether the court will comply. Privacy rights of police officers is an issue in the law here in North Carolina. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Notable to see more and more police departments that want to be more transparent in these situations, get the video out. Joe Johns, good to have you there, we'll be watching for that court decision.

Well, as new coronavirus infections and deaths in this country are trending down in the U.S., that's good news, the Biden administration is releasing new mask guidance outdoors for fully vaccinated Americans, but there is still a stubborn challenge. That is a smaller percentage of Americans who are still hesitant to get the vaccine, and that could keep the country, some communities from reaching the herd immunity we need to truly put an end to this pandemic. I'm joined by President's Biden's Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, good to have you back on the program.


SCIUTTO: So we were told for more than a year that the vaccine was a game-changer, and it is. We're seeing it in the numbers, lives are being saved, there's no question. But -- and you've heard the criticism. This new CDC guidance disappoints a lot of people because they're saying, okay, fine, I don't have to wear a mask outdoors, but what about other stuff, what about flying to visit family, what about going to Disney World, what about getting on a cruise ship?

I just wonder what is holding the administration, the CDC back from giving vaccinated people more freedom.

FAUCI: Well, Jim, as you know, and as I have said multiple times, the CDC is fundamentally a science-based organization and they like to do things regarding guidelines and recommendations based on the data that they have, if they don't, they do modeling, and if they don't, they'll give you an expert opinion. That is generally conceived of by people as being a little bit too conservative and not being forward-thinking about it, but they're careful about it because they want to make sure they get it right.

And right now, the thing, I believe, that's holding back more liberal relaxation of the kinds of guidelines is the fact that we still have a considerable amount of infection in the community.


That's the issue. And I'll guarantee you, Jim, that as the level of infection gets down, and we can get it down more and more by continuing this successful vaccine effort -- right now -- you said just a bit ago, that the numbers are coming down, and I believe as they come down, you will see more liberal guidelines.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Well, that's interesting. So what kind of more liberal guidelines are you talking about? And in what sort of timeframe, next few weeks?

FAUCI: Well, I can't give you a timeframe. I believe it's going to be soon, particularly if the slope of that curve, Jim, starts to go down more acutely, you're going to see it sooner rather than later. Remember, we were at about 60,000 infections per day on a seven-day average. It has gone down somewhat in the last few days to around 30 to 40. If we go down much, much more, which I believe we will as we get more people vaccinated, then sooner rather than later, you're going to see more liberalization of the guidelines.

SCIUTTO: Give me an example.

FAUCI: Well, for example, what you can do is regarding the workplace, what you can do even more so regarding travel. I mean, the CDC made it very clear that the travel guidelines, even though they say it's still, given the level of infection in this country and throughout the world, it is more risky to travel, obviously. But if you are vaccinated, that risk diminishes greatly.

So I think we need to understand that these are recommendations. They are not things that are binding in the sense of any kind of a penalty if you do or do not do that. So people who look at the guidelines and then they will have to make their choice about what degree of risk they are willing to take and what kind of risk aversion they have as opposed to saying, well, you know, I absolutely can't do this because the CDC says not. They're based on science and that's the point that they've been at all along.

SCIUTTO: You know this better than I do, frankly, that there's a lot of straight-up disinformation out there, falsehoods, right? And people believe it, right? It leads to antivaxers, et cetera. Tucker Carlson going after masks again, calling it, in effect, child abuse to make kids wear masks outdoors.

Listen, I know you don't like to get into political spats, but you are the top voice in this administration on COVID. You have got tremendous credibility in this country and, frankly, around the world. What is your response to this claim? What is the response to Americans being told you're mistreating children by taking the simple step of wearing a mask outdoors?

FAUCI: You know, I think that's self-evident that that's bizarre, Jim. I don't want to get into a back-and-forth with Tucker Carlson, but, I mean, it's just almost self-evident. You're talking about child abuse? Really? Come on.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I hear you. And, listen, I'm not trying deliberately to get you to go head to head with him, but the trouble is the stuff is out there, it's being shared and sadly some Americans buy it.

I'm going to give you another example, Joe Rogan. Okay, this guy has tens of millions of downloads on his podcast. And while he said to his viewers, his listeners yesterday, I don't believe the vaccine is unsafe, he did say, if I was going to talk to a young person, someone who is 20 or so and healthy, he doesn't see the need to get it.

Now, you and I both know you can't stop a pandemic until you get herd immunity and you stop this thing from being able to mutate and get out there. I just wonder when folks like that do that, are they endangering the health of their listeners and the community?

FAUCI: Well, they certainly are making it more difficult to get to the common goal that we all want to get to, it's a very, very clear suppression of this virus so we can get back to normal. The comment that I had and the response that I have -- again, I don't want to get into a back-and-forth with this person, but what he said was that he didn't think young people should get vaccinated. And the response I have is that, part of what he's saying relates to the fact that young people have a much less likely chance of getting a serious outcome if they're infected. However, what this does not take into account, Jim, is that a person who makes that decision is looking at themselves in totally a vacuum and not realizing that you are part of society. And even if you get infected and you get no symptoms, which would go along with what he's saying, why should a young person get vaccinated if the likelihood of their getting sick is very, very low, yes.


But you've got to think beyond yourself and say, if I'm a young person and I don't want to get vaccinated, but I get infected, you may then infect someone inadvertently and I'll use the word innocently, because I don't think anybody deliberately wants to do that. And then you'll pass the infection on to someone else who might pass it on to someone else who might really get seriously ill and might die.

So you have to put a little societal responsibility in your choices, and that's where I disagree with Mr. Rogan under that circumstance.

SCIUTTO: It's not that different from why we as kids or our kids today get polio vaccines, measles vaccines, right, to keep these things at bay even though your risk is very low of you getting it yourself.

To this point, it's still emergency use authorization for these highly successful, highly safe vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, et cetera. As you know, a number of colleges, some 90 colleges are now going to require students to be vaccinated to come in the fall, even some companies as well considering measures like that. But once it gets full approval, we now have the six months of data necessary to reach there, when do you believe there will be full formal approval of these vaccines?

FAUCI: Well, I hope very soon, Jim. I don't know exactly when. But when you're getting a formal approval, you have to have a certain amount of time just observing predominantly the safety and obviously the safety looks really, really good in well over 140 million people having been vaccinated with at least a single dose.

That's the kind of thing that the FDA will do as expeditiously as possible. I hope it's really soon because the data look good. They are the gold standard of a safety and

regulatory organization throughout the world, so they'll do it. I hope they do it quickly because, as you say, people when they hear it's still emergency use, they still have a little concern about how far you can go with it. So I'm with you on that. I'd like to see it really soon.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Final question just quickly, because I always ask you this when you have a chance to speak, best piece of news that you've seen recently that you could share with folks watching right now.

FAUCI: Well, the best piece of news is the real world efficacy of this. When you do vaccine or any kind of interventional study, generally, the pristine conditions of the clinical trial make the data look better than what they really are in the real world. But as the weeks and the months go by, and we look at the data and the impact that the vaccine is having, it's even better than what you would have expected.

We're seeing the number of cases go down. We're seeing people in the elderly group, the number of hospitalizations and deaths going way down. It's all as a result of vaccination, Jim. And that's the reason why you hear all of us in the public health sector essentially pleading with people to get vaccinated so we can crush this outbreak, which we will if we get the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Better-than-expected, something we don't hear often. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us again today.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Jim. Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Still the come this hour, the president's first speech to a full Congress. Here is a live look at the Capitol where tonight President Biden will unveil his ambitious agenda and vision for America's future. We'll lay out what you can expect to hear.

HARLOW: Also, moments ago, the North Carolina sheriff says he wants the body camera video of the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. released in its entirety. We'll talk about that, see if it gets ruled so by a judge this hour.

And as India battles a record surge in COVID cases, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who is born and raised in India, calls it devastating. The company pledges millions in aid. What more does he want America to do? He joins us this hour.



HARLOW: A big night ahead for the nation and for President Biden. In just a few hours, he will deliver his first presidential speech to a joint session of Congress. He is set to talk about his accomplishments and then make a big legislative push, including another nearly $2 trillion bill, this one focusing on reshaping the economy, child care for millions of American families.

SCIUTTO: For eight years, he was a familiar presence behind President Obama during these speeches. Now, it is President Biden's turn to take center stage. And, notably, for the first time behind him will be two women sitting on the rostrum, of course, the first female vice president, but also Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

New polling out on the eve of his 100th day in office, his approval rating stands at 53 percent.

HARLOW: Let's bring in our David Gergen, our Senior Political Analyst and former adviser to four presidents from both parties. Good to have you, David.

Ahead of tonight's speech, you wrote a really interesting piece on, and you talked about three strikingly similar things between FDR and President Biden. But the two that struck me so most I just didn't expect, and you said that is joy and inner emotional strength. Explain those and what it means about what we'll see tonight.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST Sure. I think one of the things that distinguishes Joe Biden as well as Franklin Roosevelt is what pleasure, what joy they take in exercising power. Some people shy away from it. Donald Trump really didn't want to do it.


He wanted to be out there on the stump or making speeches. But governing and exercising power is something that comes naturally to Joe Biden and FDR. And I think that both exercise it, and it's a good thing, it's not a bad thing. Joy in the White House, just the privilege of being there to do these big transformative things he's trying to do.

But the other point is that I think -- I hadn't really thought about this very much, but the more I watch over the last few weeks, Biden, the similarity with FDR is that tragedy struck both men early in life, crucible moments, as we call them in leadership literature. And that is Biden obviously lost his wife and a daughter in a car crash, horrible crash, FDR struck down by polio, he couldn't walk for the rest of his life, he was disabled from the waist down. In both cases, and these were calamitous events, and, of course, Beau Biden's death added one more to Joe Biden.

But what happens in crucible is that scholar (INAUDIBLE), like Martin Seligman, positive psychologist, some people come out bereft. Some people just never make it back. Some people recover fairly quickly. Within a year, they're back to where they used to be. There are some people, Biden and FDR among them, who not only through their resilience get back on their feet, but they embrace higher moral purpose in life. They look for meaning in life. And I think that Biden and FDR have both sought meaning in life through these transformative expansions of government that they've been pursuing.

SCIUTTO: Yes, leadership in turbulent times, right? Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote about that talking about Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln too. Great read, folks at home if you haven't read it.

David, I wonder, because part of Biden's pitch during the campaign was -- David, can you hear me? It's Jim. I think we lost -- you ever lose a Zoom call at home? I bet you did.

HARLOW: I'm so over those.

SCIUTTO: Give one second because you and I both know these things can pop up again. Let's just see if he comes back. He's gone for now. We're going to -- we'll take another shot at it and we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: All right. David Gergen back with us, Zoom called fixed, discussing Biden's big speech tonight. I want to ask you this, because one thing, David, clear from this latest CNN poll is the deep polarization in his approval ratings, 93 percent from Democratic support, 7 percent from Republicans, not unlike a reversal of hw Trump was viewed. And I just wonder is he proving to be a more polarizing president than we expected, or is this the nature of our current politics?

GERGEN: I think it has more to do with the nature of our current politics and people back home than it does with Biden or in this case. It's just sort of baked in now. And you were talking with Dr. Fauci about how much misinformation is being spread and continually spread. And that's invaded politics, it's poisonous, it's going to take a long time to get out of it.

And it makes it more difficult, Jim, to get to bipartisan solutions. There's no way the Republicans would ever go along with the massive plan of Joe Biden's plan, $6 trillion. That's a lot of money. But they might be willing to go and work -- and they're behind-the-scenes talks going on right now among senators on both sides about trying to fashion an infrastructure bill itself, one with a traditional infrastructure, like roads, bridges, highways, airports and the like. That could be productive. But a lot of these other social programs, much more contentious.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Ben Cardin said much the same to us just yesterday. David Gergen, good to have you on.

GERGEN: Thank you, Jim. It's good to see you. Good to see you, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: This morning, Sheriff Tommy Wooten, the sheriff of the county where deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., said just moments ago that he wants the body camera video to be released to the public. Right now, a hearing is under way because, by North Carolina law, a judge has to order for that video to go public.

HARLOW: Of course, this comes as policing in America remains under the microscope across the country in the wake of the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict, many, many growing calls for police reform.

With us now to talk about all of this is Marq Claxton, the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, a retired NYPD detective. So good to have you here, thank you for your time this morning.


HARLOW: I'd like to begin with something that that struck me. You said it just a few days ago. You said black people can no longer co- exist with this policing model. Given that view, even if the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is passed the way it stands now from the Democrats' proposal, does that change what you've just said enough?

CLAXTON: No. There needs to be really a reconfiguring of the manner in which he afford and provide public safety. I think the policing model -- the current policing model is broken. It's outdated. It's not honest. It's not full of integrity and people have lost trust and confidence in it. And they begin to question whether or not we should continue to have the police respond to as many incidents and involvements as is currently the case, and whether or not provides adequate level of safety for the general population.


But most specifically, whether or not this current policing model.