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CNN NEWSROOM

FDA Skips Approval for Teens; India's Ninth Consecutive Day of Record Virus Cases; Florida Passes Voting Bill; Rep. Anthony Brown (D- MD) is Interviewed about Voting; Pushback on Vaccines. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired April 30, 2021 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00]

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mother of a 14- year-old, I want to know when she can get her vaccination. Those trials by Pfizer and Moderna are underway. They are -- Pfizer is quite far along. They've actually applied to the FDA for permission for their vaccine to be used on children ages 12-15.

And that could happen very, very soon. One of the reasons it could happen quickly is that the FDA has now told CNN, you know what, we don't need to have a secondary external review by a panel of outside experts. That's what they did when it was authorized back in December for 16 and up. But they said, look, for 12-15, we don't need a whole separate review. That will surely make things go faster.

Moderna has now come out and said they expect their vaccine to be authorized for 12 and up in the summer.

Now, for under 12, for that group of children, that's going to take longer and that will need an external review. Moderna said they don't expect that authorization to happen until the end of this year or beginning of next.

Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Understood. That's right, 12-15, it's already approved for 16 and up.

Elizabeth Cohen, good to hear the news. I know a lot of parents are eager.

While there is good news here in the U.S., the pandemic, far from over, especially as it wreaks havoc across India. That country reports more than 386,000 new infections in a single day today. That is another record. And you can see it jumping there. The country also reported nearly 3,500 deaths on Thursday.

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, she is in New Delhi. Clarissa, you've been seeing just alarming things on the ground there,

people literally struggling to breathe. Tell us about the scene and the scale of this.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So here, Jim, we are standing in a very long line, people waiting for oxygen. It goes all the way around the block over there and all the way up this way. If you walk with me, let me tell you, some of the people have been waiting in this line since 5:00 this morning. Some of them have even been here since late last night. And they still haven't managed to get to the front of the line because the line is barely moving.

They're here trying to collect oxygen for their loved ones, some of them. We talked to people collecting it for their grandparents, people who can't get into the hospitals, who don't have the luxury of affording a private hospital. So they come here every day and they wait in this long line, in this chaos, for their opportunity to get life-saving oxygen.

And a lot of them are telling us the same thing, Jim, which is that they're frustrated. They're frustrated with the government. They feel a profound sense of despair. How long can this keep going?

As far as we know from scientists, the peak of this wave could still be two or three weeks away. How long can these people come out here day in, day out, stand in the baking heat just to help their loved ones breathe, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Clarissa, is the government accepting responsibility for having, you know, flouted a lot of the medical guidance on this until a few weeks ago, continuing to hold large rallies, et cetera? Are they -- are they accepting responsibility for that?

WARD: So, today, we did hear from a government spokesperson who said, listen, yes, we are the ruling party, we are the government, we bear responsibility. But you know what, Jim, that doesn't give people here a lot of satisfaction to hear that because it doesn't change anything on the ground right now in terms of the reality they're facing. That doesn't mean more hospital beds immediately. The government has announced this big program called Operation Express Oxygen, putting liquid oxygen on India's railways to try to deploy it where it's most needed across the country.

But, frankly, from what we're seeing here on the ground, that's not having an impact yet. And as I said before, with this crisis just getting worse and worse, and we're talking eight out of the last nine days new records set, that is not going to be any comfort to people here. They want to see meaningful results and a real sense that this problem is being dealt with.

SCIUTTO: An end to the suffering, just so clear there right behind you.

Clarissa Ward in New Delhi, thanks very much.

Well, Florida is now the latest of numerous GOP led states that are ready to implement new voting restrictions, make it harder to vote. All that's needed is a signature now from the governor to make it official.

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[09:38:55]

SCIUTTO: Florida is now the latest state to pass a bill that makes it harder to vote there. The Republican-led state legislature, and that's been consistent, the Republican-led state legislature is doing this around the country, pushed the bill through on a purely party line vote after days of contentious debate, as well as last minute amendments.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me now from Tallahassee, the Florida state capital.

And, Dianne, you've been following these laws for some time. You know the details of them. Can you describe specifically how this law puts up new barriers to voting?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, Jim, I think it's important to point out here that the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, was asked on Fox News late last night if he was going to sign this. He said, of course.

And it's interesting because he mentioned voter -- voter -- voter -- kind of like fixing voting laws in Florida as a priority. But he also, during his State of the State Address, said that Florida had the most transparent and efficient election in the nation in 2020.

Now, as far as what's in this bill, so, what it does is it adds new identification requirements for voting by mail. It limits who can return a completed mail-in ballot.

[09:40:01]

It requires now an annual request for mail-in ballots. It used to be every two years. It expands partisan observation power for -- during the ballot tabulation process. And it also creates additional restrictions on drop boxes. And perhaps where this bill most obviously sets limitations for voters is those drop boxes.

Let's say instead of being available 24/7 where you can just drop your ballot off, like it was just a few months ago, now drop boxes can only be used during early voting hours unless they're at a supervisor's office. But, regardless, it can only be used if it is staffed in person (INAUDIBLE) election worker and there's no money included in this for election offices to handle that staffing.

Now, the debate was very emotional leading up to this over the past couple of days.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: We found zero cases of voter fraud. So what's the problem that we're trying to fix? Oh, here's the problem, Florida Democrats cast 600,000 more vote by mail ballots in Florida.

RALPH MASSULLO (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: I take some issue with the fact that we're trying to somehow restrict the vote. There are more ways to vote in Florida and a longer opportunity than just about any state in the nation. You all know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, of course, this bill actually was, Jim, a lot more restrictive in the original language. That has since been watered down. But, of course, there will be impact if this is signed (INAUDIBLE) and we'll see Florida likely join the ranks of Montana, Iowa and Georgia in signing these restrictions into law this year.

SCIUTTO: Dianne Gallagher, in Florida, thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss the issue of voting restrictions, Congressman Anthony Brown. He's a Democrat from the state of Maryland. He's also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D-MD): Yes, good morning, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: So you know well that there's science behind these voting restrictions, political science, right? I mean there are particular kinds of voting looked at and judgments made about what kind of voting advantages one party versus another party. And, by the way, there's a history of both parties doing this. But tell me what specifically, not just in the Florida law but in other laws you've seen, is designed, in your view, to reduce the number of Democrats -- what do you find most impactful? Is it -- is it drop boxes? Is it -- is it mail-in voting?

BROWN: First of all, Jim, let me say it's -- it's less about whether it restricts or limits Democratic voters or Republican voters. It's that it restricts American voters, all voters, although it does have a disparate impact, I believe, on Democratic voters.

When you purge your voting roll --

SCIUTTO: Does it, though? I mean does the data show that? Does the data show that by restricting box offices more, mail-in, that it's going to impact Democratic voters more?

BROWN: What we know is that when you limit access to the ballot, you reduce the number of hours, the voting locations, the ease at which you can register, that that has a disparate impact in totality.

So, to be able to point to one specific provision may be difficult, but we know that when you limit access to the ballot, to registration, that it has the effect of impacting brown and black communities, senior citizens, and even first time voters. And when you discourage or make it more difficult to vote, it has proven to be more impactful on those communities.

We should be looking at ways to expand access to the ballot. We saw last year in the pandemic, states across the country, mail-in ballot on demand, expanded early voting locations, drive-through voting, same day registration, and we saw record turnouts at ballots -- at precincts across the country. That's the direction we should be moving.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK.

Senator Tim Scott, Republican senator, of course, like you, African- American, he has said it is absurd, that's the word he used, to compare these voting laws to Jim Crow, as the president and other Democrats have done.

Is Tim Scott wrong?

BROWN: Look, whether you want to use the label, "Jim Crow" or not, what we are seeing in Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Montana, an effort, a concerted effort by state legislatures, and in some cases governors, to limit access to the ballot. That certainly was a feature of Jim Crow laws. So there is certainly a comparison to be made.

This is 2021. We should be finding ways where people can register on the same day, vote from home by dropping a ballot in the mail and be able to drive-through and vote, not -- we should not be looking at ways to limit. And that's why I think it's important that in the House we do pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is coming up in a few weeks.

[09:45:03]

SCIUTTO: OK, I wanted to ask you about that. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, as well as HR-1.

You don't have any GOP support for this, zero. In fact, you know, unified opposition. And you have Democrats, including Joe Manchin, opposing busting the filibuster, which would be necessary to get this passed purely with Democratic votes.

In light of those two things, are these voting bills as a matter of fact in practicality dead?

BROWN: No, Jim, what it mean, we just have to work a lot harder. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act with support from Republicans in both the House and the Senate. It can be done. Republicans understand the value of voting and the right to vote.

We are in a very partisan environment on Capitol Hill, so it's going to be more difficult. We've got to breakthrough that.

I would certainly encourage senators who want to cling to the filibuster to consider at least a narrow exception for vote rights and civil rights legislation. We can't let the filibuster, which successfully block civil rights legislation in the 1950s and '60s, to do the same thing today.

SCIUTTO: That's right, it was a powerful weapon during that time period.

Given your position on the infrastructure committee, we hear a lot about bipartisan negotiation here and yet the two proposals, the president's ambition versus what Republicans have publicly offered are so wide apart at this point.

Do you -- do you see room for compromise here? Because there are Democrats who said, listen, maybe we could parcel out the hard infrastructure, roads, bridges, as well as broadband, for the larger picture here? Is there room for compromise? Is it going to happen?

BROWN: I think there's room for compromise. I think it's going to happen. I point to the fact that President Trump proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package. Now, he didn't have the will to see that through and to identify resources to fund that package, but it does demonstrate that Republicans are willing to go certainly higher than the 600 or 700 billion that they're proposing and are willing to go much more closer to the $2.2 trillion that President Biden is proposing.

Jim, it's about creating jobs. So whether you want to consider it an expansive definition of infrastructure or not, I think we can all agree, we need to create jobs in this country. We need to invest in innovation. We need to invest in the workforce. And that's what the American jobs plan does.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Anthony Brown, always welcome on the program.

BROWN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, the era of disinformation is alive and well in this country. It's not just coming from outside. Supporters of former President Trump fueling everything from false claims about vaccinations, to those continuing election conspiracy lies.

Our Donie O'Sullivan has the story, next.

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[09:52:26]

SCIUTTO: More than five months after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, and he did, by the way, to President Joe Biden, the former president and many of his supporters, while still pushing the big lie that the election was stolen, are now fixated on a Republican-led private audit in Arizona's largest county.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now with more.

You know, the persistence of the big lie is just pretty remarkable. And, by the way, you know, some folks not only stoking it or standing by silently as it continues, sitting members of Congress, what effect are you see that have on voters?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, the big lie really lives on. I mean the election results in Arizona have been checked and checked and checked again. And, you know, even some Republican election officials in Arizona are calling this so-called audit a farce, basically.

But despite all of that, it is giving some believers of the big lie the belief, the hope that maybe somehow the election could still be overturned.

Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: Were you disappointed when Trump lost the election?

JP WOODRUFF, ARIZONA VOTER: I was disappointed in the lack of truth and the -- and the election fraud that took place within it. And it's coming out right now in Arizona, and it's going to be a domino effect of the truth that's moving forward.

What happens after that, I don't know. But I know that the truth is, there's only so many voters that are in one county that can vote, and the numbers far exceed that. It's commonsense mathematics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: Jim, look, I mean this is silly stuff but, unfortunately, it cannot be ignored. These are the conspiracy theories. These are the big lies that are undermining American democracy and it's the same sort of stuff, Jim, that really fuels the January 6th insurrection.

SCIUTTO: It does. And, listen, you know, folks in the Justice Department, the FBI talk specifically about how this fuels domestic terrorism.

You spoke to Trump supporters about another big lie, if you can call it that, on the vaccine. You know, why many of them are hesitant to take it and what -- what do they tell you?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, Jim, first I want to show you this new polling data from a CNN poll released yesterday. It's really quite remarkable and concerning. Forty-four percent, almost half of Republicans, say they will not get the vaccine. That's compared to 8 percent of Democrats. I've been speaking to some of those Republicans and here's what they have to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: Are you getting vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I don't need the vaccine. I had COVID last March. Sick for all of five hours. I don't need a vaccine for that. O'SULLIVAN: The CDC recommends even if you had COVID you should get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they can recommend stuff.

O'SULLIVAN: It's got emergency approval, right, and we're --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But who's the emergency -- who's determining the emergency approval?

[09:55:03]

O'SULLIVAN: So do you think Trump is wrong on this one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I don't -- I don't know what the situation is on but I know I'm not wrong. And we're the independent freedom people of American and we make our own decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: Jim, I think what's interesting here is, obviously, you know, Trump could be doing a lot more to push this vaccine. We've seen reporting over the past week that even some of his advisors want him to go out there and do a PSA.

But you see there, some of the his most passionate supporters, even if they say -- even if Trump pleads with them, they will not take the vaccine. And I think that's leading to a bit of a catch 22 situation here where Trump knows that and he knows if he pushes the vaccine too hard, it could alienate his base.

SCIUTTO: To their health, to the detriment of their health and the country's health, that's the consequence. It's a fact.

Donie O'Sullivan, thanks very much.

O'SULLIVAN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: There is more legal trouble now for Matt Gaetz. A reported letter further implicated the -- implicating the embattled GOP congressman in a criminal -- an ongoing criminal investigation.

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