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Trump Loyalist Who will Likely Replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Facing Criticism from Conservative Republicans over Voting Record, Past Trump Comments; Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four Former Minneapolis Police Officers for Violating George Floyd's Rights; Pfizer Applies for Full FDA Approval of COVID Vaccine for 16-Plus. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: April jobs report this morning.


We learned that America added just 266,000 jobs in April. This is far short of a consensus forecast among economist in around a million. Still, President Biden is pressing ahead with the work, the grunt work, as he touts his jobs plan as a, quote, blue collar blueprint to rebuild America.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: These numbers also come as restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment venues continue to reopen across the country. Let's begin in Washington with our John Harwood. John, good morning to you, so glad to have you on this.

I mean, the administration when I just talked to the labor secretary a few minutes ago, he was like, well, it's not really a disappointment when you have 266,000 jobs added, but they thought it was going to be a million.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's definitely a disappointment. There's no question about that. But what the White House is trying to do is to temper reaction to that disappointment and say, well, if you average it out over the first several months, we're averaging half a million jobs, even though this particular report is disappointing.

They're saying that it strengthens the case for having done the rescue plan, that $1.9 trillion. So many people were saying, well, that's going to overheat the economy. We don't need to spend this money. The administration says, yes, it shows that we needed to spend this money. And they're going to say it shows that we needed to -- that we need to proceed with the jobs plan and family plan because the economy needs more support, needs more childcare so people can get back to work.

But, of course, it also gives Republicans some argument as well. One of those arguments is the federal unemployment extra $300 a month may be keeping some people out of the workforce. There is clearly some people who are surprisingly reluctant to enter the workforce. The question is what is the reason for that. Is it because they're scared of the pandemic? Is it because they don't have childcare, especially women and women employment numbers were disappointing? Or is it because of these extra unemployment benefits? The administration is going to say, no, it's not.

It's not really relevant to the jobs plan debate because that's going forward. The unemployment has already been enacted. But the administration is going to try to say we need to keep marching down the road to providing support for the economy to -- in various ways to get people back to work.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood, we'll be waiting for how Biden characterizes all that. Thanks very much.

Embattled Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, embattled at least in her own party, is preparing for a fight. Next week, GOP leadership expected to vote on her future as the number three Republican in House party leadership.

HARLOW: And it looks like she'll be replaced by this woman, it is Congresswoman Liz Stefanik. But, interestingly, some, again, republicans, conservatives are taking issue with her voting record and some of her past comments about President Trump.

Our Manu Raju is following the latest. Good morning, Manu. Yes, concerns within the party, but that doesn't appear that will stop her from taking the spot with McCarthy so supportive and the former president so supportive, right?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that should be enough for her to win and talking to a number of Republicans in key positions, they are expecting her to win probably handedly come Wednesday. That's the expectation at the moment. But this is a secret ballot election. So it's uncertain how things can play out. There are surprises sometimes at the last minute, perhaps if any challenger emerges that could change the dynamic. But there are no challenges who have yet to put their hat in the ring.

But there are some concerns. One concern being raised, I'm told, by Congressman Mike Johnson, he's vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, I'm told he has responded to questions about Stefanik's candidacy and expressed some concerns about the quick rush to anoint her to the position. But, still, is that enough to stop her? Probably not.

Nevertheless, her voting record has come into focus by particularly outside groups, like the conservative Club for Growth, that went public with its concerns about the more moderate record that Stefanik has had had over the years and called on Republicans to elect someone else.



She is, throughout her career, been a pretty far-left Republican. Our worry is when she gets into leadership, she has no principles at that point. And that's -- the biggest problem the Republican Party has right now, the voters don't think they stand for principles.


RAJU: And just look at her voting record, it underscores the concern among folks, some folks on the right that during her time as when Donald Trump was president, she voted with Donald Trump less than a lot of her fellow Republicans did and on some key issues also split with the former president. But her conservative rating, in fact, is a bit lower than Liz Cheney.

But on the key issue of Donald Trump and loyalty to Donald Trump and backing his claim that the election was somehow rigged or stolen or there was something nefarious going on.


Cheney was the one who has pushed back, has gone crosswise with the president is one reason why that she is being pushed out of leadership because of concerns her fight is becoming a distraction to their effort to take back the majority.

Stefanik, on the other hand, voted to overturn the electoral results in Pennsylvania, continued to raise concerns about the electoral results in Arizona as early as yesterday, and she's working behind the scenes to try to shore up support on the right. I am told that she is meeting with the House Freedom Caucus, which is that conservative conference on Monday, to try to alleviate any concerns.

But the expectation, guys, is she is expected to win perhaps handedly, and as one Republican congressman told me, all the concerns is just noise at this point. Guys?

HARLOW: Manu, thank you for the reporting. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, this is now. What about then? Representative Elise Stefanik appears on her way, as Manu was saying, to replace Liz Cheney as the number three Republican in House leadership. Cheney is calling out Trump's big law about the election. That is a fact. Stefanik's advantage, her unbending loyalty to Trump.

But it wasn't always this way, as Andrew Kaczynski and the Kfile team have documented, in fact, in 2015, 2016 and the early days of the Trump administration, Stefanik repeatedly and publicly opposed Trump when, for instance, Trump insulted Megyn Kelly.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY) (voice over): I think he has been insulting to women.

I think this may be Mr. Trump's peak moment and I think we're going to see his numbers change.


SCIUTTO: When Trump demonstrated his willingness to lie.


STEFANIK: I think in the presidential field, there are some candidates who, over the long run, and they've already started this process, are somewhat disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements.


SCIUTTO: Disqualifying. Stefanik also opposed several of Trump's signature policies. On the Muslim ban, she stated at the time, this is not who we are as a country. On the border wall, she stated at the time, I don't think that's realistic. And when Trump caught on tape saying just horrible things about a woman on that Access Hollywood tape, she stated at the time, Donald Trump's inappropriate comments are just wrong.

So, that was then, this is just now, the public record doesn't lie.

HARLOW: Joining us now, Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and Anna Palmer, Founder and CEO of Punchbowl News. Good morning. Thank you, guys, very much for being here.

Anna, you have got a lot of interesting reporting and other Republicans not exactly happy that they think Stefanik is being anointed.

ANNA PALMER, FOUNDER AND CEO, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes, absolutely. It always comes to this when these House Republican or Democratic Republican elections happen. It's almost like going back to high school and who's going to be class president in some cases. But right now, you do have Mike Johnson, the Republican from Louisiana, who has privately been telling other House Republicans that he's upset that he doesn't feel like Stefanik actually is representative of the conservative wing and feels like she shouldn't be just anointed. Those are his words, not mine, to this position. That's what he's been telling colleagues.

And so this is going to be an issue potentially for Elise Stefanik. She has been trying to shore up her conservative bona fides. She was on Steve Bannon's radio show. But the big problem for people like Mike Johnson is nobody else is throwing their hat in the ring. She's the only one who is actually running for this race and so there might be some grumbling. But to Manu's point, it's hard to see anything other than her getting elected to this position because no one else is challenging her.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Scott, you wrote a piece for CNN saying that this is a win, win, win for Cheney, for House Leader McCarthy and Stefanik. I just wonder, when you have the vast majority of one of the two major parties in this country believing the big lie about the election that it was stolen and all the consequences in terms of confidence in the system, how is that a win for the country?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I didn't write that it was a win for the country. In fact, I think it's long-term, really damaging for the Republican Party to retake the White House in 2024. In the short run, the political calculation for all three people involved though, I think, you could find a silver lining in each. You know, for Liz Cheney, she's now martyr, a principled martyr, someone who is standing on her values and unbending, and that's a good thing, I think, if she hopes to lead the Republican Party. It becomes a future that is about values. For McCarthy, he placates his members who are upset about Cheney's zeal for expressing her views. And for Elise Stefanik, I guess it's never a bad thing to be moving up in the world.

So, for the individuals, I think they could take something out of this. For the Republican Party, I think this is still very dramatically damaging for the (INAUDIBLE) 2024.

I will say, I don't think any of this though will stop the Republican momentum that makes it likely that they take back the House in 2022.

HARLOW: Your piece was really interesting, Scott.


I think -- and I'm not sure if you saw it. I don't want to put you on the spot here. But, I mean, it was just interesting to hear the way that Scott just described this as a win for Liz Cheney. What do you think, Anna?

PALMER: Yes. I mean, I think -- listen, she's obviously not going to have the mantle to be the spokesperson for the House Republican Conference but she's carving out a lane here. And this is a fight that she picked and she didn't step down. If she decided to just kind of not talk about January 6th or Donald Trump, she probably could have held on to this position. She decided not do that.

I think there is a lot of sources I'm talking to in the Republican Party who believe she will look at potentially running for president and that this is going to be something that she is going to have a very loud voice on going forward.

SCIUTTO: Scott, I wonder, it's a Washington parlor game, right? We look forward to the next election right after the most recent election. But you brought up the midterms, and that is, by the way, not just how Republicans think but also how Democrats think when they look to the map for the 2020 midterms. If that happens, does that become sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy then, a confirming event where Republicans say, well, I guess we've got to stick with Trump and the big lie, it's the only way forward?

JENNINGS: Well, it would be a mistake to interpret midterm results in a way that you could directly translate to running for president. It's a national election. Electoral College is different than running in these individual districts. But I do think if Republicans win the House back, somebody is going to go to Donald Trump and say, look, they're repudiating Biden's agenda, they're turning to you, here is a poll that shows you'll walk to the nomination. I continue to believe that Trump will run again and would be the Republican nominee if he wants it.

Again, I'm dubious, as you know, Jim, that he could even come close to winning a national election in 2024. But the midterm dynamics, I think, do make it likely that Republicans could see some ascendancy in the short-term, which could convince Trump to win again in the long- term.

HARLOW: Anna, Lindsey Graham says a lot of things and it sort of depends on the day. But I just want your reaction to what he said yesterday.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no. I've always liked Liz Cheney but she has made a determination that the Republican Party can't grow with President Trump. I've determined we can't grow without him.


HARLOW: He has made a determination. But you actually have reporting. What is your reporting on, really, is that the only future for the Republican Party, is Donald Trump?

PALMER: I think Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney and Adam Kinzinger are really a very limited part of where the Republican Party is right now in terms of elected officials. Donald Trump is the leader. He is the de facto leader. He might not be president anymore. But, certainly, when you look at House Republicans, they feel like their path way forward to the majority is straight through Donald Trump's base and they continue to go and kiss the ring and fundraise with him.

The question, really, I think is what happens in the Senate for, you know -- in terms of, you know, how involved does Donald Trump get into some of these Senate races. They're going to be much harder to win in some of the swing states, like North Carolina or I'm in Scranton, Pennsylvania, right now. You know, whether they can be in -- win in Pennsylvania or real Trump candidate or not, I think that's very unclear at this point.

But, clearly, Lindsey Graham is in Donald Trump's camp and he is where the vast majority of those elected officials are and certainly in the states as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Anna Palmer, Scott Jennings, great to talk to both of you.

JENNINGS: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: We do have this breaking news just into CNN moments ago. We are learning that a federal grand jury has now indicted four former now Minneapolis Police officers for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.

HARLOW: Let go to our colleague, Omar Jimenez, who joins us this morning. Omar, this is different from the criminal trial that Chauvin was just convicted in and the criminal trial coming up in August for the other three officers. What does this mean now?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Poppy and Jim. So those are happening at the state level. These are new charges brought in by a federal grand jury from the District Court of Minnesota. These are federal civil rights charges that these four former Minneapolis Police officers are now facing, specifically three counts of depravation of rights under the color of law.

Now, Chauvin faces three -- or two of those counts while Officer Tou Thao and Officer J. Alexander King are facing two of those as well. And all of them are at least facing one.

Now, I want to get into some of the text of what this says because it gives insight for what this grand jury feels was appropriate to indict these officers, again, separate from the proceedings happening at the state level.

For Chauvin -- for Chauvin, in particular, the criminal complaint reads that Derek Chauvin willfully deprived George Floyd of the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.


And those are rights secured and protected by the United States Constitution as this complaint reads.

And then when you go down further, specifically, it was because Chauvin held his knee across George Floyd's neck and his right knee on George Floyd's back and arm as Floyd laid on the ground handcuffed and unresisting and kept his knees on Floyd's neck and body even after Floyd became unresponsive.

This was insight, of course, that we saw not only from that video that played out across the world but also day in and day out over the course of the state trial where, of course, 12 jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder and more there.

Then when you go down further into this, you look at what the other officers are now facing. Again, in this federal case, and specifically when it comes to the Officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander King, they face those civil rights charges specifically because King and Thao were aware the defendant, Chauvin, was holding his knee across George Floyd's neck as Floyd lay, handcuffed and resisting.

And then the last one, that includes Thomas Lane, is specifically because the defendant saw George Floyd lying on the in clear need of medical assistance and willfully failed to aid Floyd, thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd. This offense resulted in bodily injury and, as we know, death. Officers Thao, King and Lane all made court appearances this morning. Bond was set at $25,000 for them. And, again, this is separate from the trial that they will be facing later in August, of course, just weeks after Derrick Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder --

SCIUTTO: It's an important point, because oftentimes you see these civil rights cases when state court does not convict as sort of an alternative. But state court did convict him. The other three will face charges. But now you have these separate tracks. Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

Still to come this hour, big news this morning on the vaccine front, Pfizer is now seeking full approval from the FDA for its COVID shot. It already has emergency use authorization. It already passed loads of trials to show it's safe, that's why it's being used. But this is a next step and it does have significance.

HARLOW: Also ahead for us, two of former President Trump's most loyal allies in Congress are going to hit the road on a national speaking tour. Their message and who they're targeting, ahead.

And then later, the Chinese rocket getting closer and closer to crashing, potentially -- well, it will land somewhere on Earth and we don't know where. We'll discuss what is being done to track it ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well, Pfizer's highly successful coronavirus vaccine could have full FDA approval in the U.S. within the next six months, already has emergency use authorization. Today, the company officially asked for full regulatory approval for people 16 and older after the vaccine was given that emergency use back in December rather following trials with thousands of people showing it to be safe.

HARLOW: Nearly 135 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered in the United States. With us now is Dr. Andi Shane, the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. Good morning, Doctor.

We'll get to the pediatric side and kids in a moment, but just your reaction to what, if anything, you know, in the day-to-day lives of Americans, this is going to mean if the FDA gives the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer a full approval.

DR. ANDI SHANE, CHIEF, DIVISION OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE AT EMORY: Yes, thanks, Poppy. So this is actually very exciting news. Most of it is behind the scenes and regulatory. The emergency use authorization is a tool that the FDA has to bring a product to trial during -- bring a product to use during an emergency situation, such as a pandemic. And we have accrued, as you mentioned, millions of doses have been given. And wonderful data has been shown that the vaccine has been very effective. So this is the next step in the process of the regulatory process. SCIUTTO: Dr. Shane, so the next, next step is next week. The CDC likely given emergency use authorization for the vaccine for those 12 and up. Speak to parents here now who might have kids between 12 and 16 considering taking a vaccine. Why is it important for them and their families and why is it important just for the broader population?

SHANE: Yes, thanks, Jim. So, this is really fantastic news. By having this vaccine available for 12 to 15-year-olds, that means that we will have an opportunity to vaccinate between 5 percent to 6 percent of the previously unvaccinated population.

It's been very interesting. We've seen a lot of children and the role of children in this pandemic and certainly as in the past couple of months since children have returned to activities and come back into the environment. We've certainly seen that they are starting to compromise a greater proportion of the total positive cases, and that is because they have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated.


So every opportunity we can have to vaccinate children, this is an opportunity to decrease the circulation of the virus in the community and provide protection both to the children and to those in the community in which they live. So this is really fantastic news.

HARLOW: Well, what is the most frequent question you and your colleagues on the pediatric side are getting from parents?

SHANE: So, I think parents are concerned about safety, and that is natural. Parents, they want to do what is best for their child. And asking questions is really a part of that process. So, we, as pediatricians, really try to understand attitudes and beliefs and recognize those and try to address those with information that we have from the trials, from the -- and from the community as well.

SCIUTTO: A question we're seeing countries, such as India, just truly devastated by this right now. I mean, we've had such uneven progress both of the disease but also the response from the U.S. to China to a place like India and Europe. How should Americans look at that, right? I mean, because people are feeling pretty good here right now but this thing is on fire in India, right? And there aren't walls between all these countries, although there are travel restrictions. I mean, is that a danger to the U.S. as it recovers?

SHANE: So, I think that's a great question, Jim. I think that, really, we have to be very aware of what is happening around us and in the world. What we can do here in the U.S. is make every attempt for us to be vaccinated as quickly as possible and then to assist those countries as we continue to vaccinate our own, both with vaccination and other strategies that we have used here in the United States to help to control the virus.

HARLOW: Dr. Andy Shane, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Have a good weekend.

SHANE: My pleasure. Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, up next, Congressman Matt Gaetz hitting the road and he's going where? We'll tell you. And why his colleague, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is going with him.