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Pfizer Seeking Full Approval For Vaccine; Texas Passes Restrictive Voting Bill; Weak Jobs Report; Derek Chauvin Facing Federal Charges in George Floyd Death. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

We have got a lot going on this Friday, including a jobs report, pretty disappointing, and Pfizer filing to have its vaccine fully approved by the FDA.

CAMEROTA: But, first, new developments for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. More than two weeks after his conviction state charges for killing George Floyd, a federal grand jury has indicted Chauvin on charges of violating Floyd's rights by using unreasonable force against him.

BLACKWELL: And the three other ex-officers who were there when Chauvin killed Floyd last May, they're also charged. Two of the officers are also accused of not intervening to stop Chauvin's use of force.

And federal prosecutors are also coming down at all four of them for not giving Floyd medical aid.

CNN's Josh Campbell, he is with us. He was in Minneapolis for the trial.

So, Josh, what does this tell you about how the DOJ is handling police brutality cases under the new Merrick Garland leadership?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it tells us that this Justice Department is not going to hesitate to use federal law, the full force of the Justice Department, to go after any police officer that they determine has violated the civil rights of those that they are sworn to protect.

And it's important to point out, with these charges, this is different from the state charges that we have seen. Obviously, Derek Chauvin was convicted on three counts. The other three officers are awaiting their separate trials. That's been done by the state.

But, here, you have the U.S. Department of Justice accusing these four officers of violating George Floyd civil rights. This falls under what they call the color of law, that is, an officer abusing his or her authority as it relates to interactions with someone that they are sworn to protect.

And, again, this goes to show that the DOJ is going to move fully to go after people who they believe have violated civil rights. It's interesting, because, in some cases, we have seen where the federal government and the state governments will try to go after defendants.

Sometimes, the federal government will throttle back and wait for the state to move forward. Here, we haven't even seen those three other officers prosecuted yet, yet the DOJ is coming forward and saying that we have a problem here as it relates to civil rights.

Finally, I think it's important to point out, for those of us who cover law enforcement, for those of us who have covered so many of these incidents, accusations of excessive use of force, just how stark, how striking a difference this is from the last administration.

We all know that, early in Donald Trump's administration, he was criticized for actually standing in front of a group of police officers and insisting that they abuse people in their custody, saying to go rough on them, whereas, here, in this administration, we have the civil rights department -- division at the Justice Department saying that, no, we will prosecute any police officer who they believe abuses their authority.

CAMEROTA: Josh, tell us about this other indictment.

The federal grand jury also indicted Derek Chauvin for a separate incident, this one in 2017 against a 14-year-old boy. What happened with that one?

CAMPBELL: Yes, I mean, a bad day for Derek Chauvin.

During the course of this FBI investigation into the civil rights complaints here, they determined that there was this other incident that they allege, a separate indictment. This goes back to 2017.

And I will read some of what it says. The first count of the indictment says Chauvin held down a teenager by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight. A second count says that he held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teenager even after the teenager was lying prone, handcuffed and resisting, also resulting in bodily injury.

Again, this is separate from the incident involving George Floyd. But it just goes to show and obviously raises the question, but for the DOJ launching this investigation after George Floyd's death, would they have even brought these other charges? But, again, a bad day for Derek Chauvin, as additional charges from an additional incident back in 2017 are now alleged.

CAMEROTA: OK, Josh Campbell, thanks for all of that reporting.

Let's get now to our other top story at this hour. And that's the very disappointing jobs report. Only 266,000 jobs were added in April. That is far fewer than the one million jobs that economists had expected.

BLACKWELL: This is a sign, of course, that the recovery still has a long way to go. And it's a sign that was not lost on President Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, we came to office. We knew we're facing a once-in-a-century pandemic and a once-in-a- generation economic crisis.

And we knew this wouldn't be a sprint. It'd be a marathon.


BLACKWELL: CNN business lead writer Matt Egan joins us now.

Matt, these are numbers from just one month, but how does the jobs picture look overall?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Yes, so, Victor and Alisyn, I mean, this really was a shocker.

And it does raise some questions about just how quickly the U.S. economy can physically recover from this pandemic. As you mentioned, just 266,000 jobs were added last month. Under normal circumstances, that would be a pretty solid number.


But economists, they had been hoping for a million jobs added. Some economists were even predicting two million. And it does mean that the economy really didn't make as much progress last month digging out of the COVID hole. The U.S. is still down 8.2 million jobs during the pandemic.

And one of the ironic things is that part of the problem here is actually a shortage of workers. We have heard from restaurant owners and manufacturers and others that they're having a hard time finding workers. And it seems like there's a few reasons behind that.

One, there are people who are still nervous about going back to in person work. There's also still childcare issues due to virtual school and the shutdown of day cares. And we're seeing that show up in the jobs report.

There's nearly two million fewer women in the labor force today than there was before the pandemic. And then the other big factor is the $300 enhanced federal unemployment benefits. That may be keeping some workers on the sidelines. It's hard to say exactly which of those factors is driving more of this, but, clearly, the jobs recovery slowed down last month.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we're going to talk to a restaurant owner in a second about the interesting incentive that he is now offering.

But, meanwhile, Matt, there's also a lot of concern about inflation, and we are seeing some prices already going up. So what's happening?

EGAN: Yes, that's right, Alisyn, I mean, not just a shortage of workers. We're seeing a shortage of some of the raw materials that are needed to keep the economy humming.

And for everyday Americans, that means higher prices and delays in getting some of the stuff that they need and they want. I will take you through just a few of them. Steel prices, they have tripled from the lows last year, because steel mills, they shut down when the pandemic started, and they had a hard time resuming production when all the demand came back and people started buying cars.

Computer chips, they're in short supply. That has derailed the production of everything from cars to washing machines to smartphones. Lumber prices, they're up more than 500 percent from the lows last year. That is delaying the construction of new homes. It's causing headaches for people who want to renovate their homes.

Homebuilders say that new homes now cost $36,000 more, on average, because of the lumber shortage. And another related issue, wood pulp -- wood pulp prices, they're up sharply, and that is making toilet paper more expensive.

All of this just points to some of the complications here when you're trying to restart a massive and complex economy with really coordinated supply chain. It's not an easy thing to do. And we're seeing that show up in prices.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Matt Egan for us there.

Matt, thanks so much.

Now, as Matt just mentioned, some restaurant owners, they're looking to lure back their employees, throwing in new incentives, including bonuses, wage increases, sign-on rewards as well.

CAMEROTA: But, Victor, our next guest is going even further. He's offering to pay college tuition for his employees.

Skyler Reeves owns five restaurants throughout Prescott, Arizona, with a sixth one in the works.

Skyler, great to see you.

Before we get to this very cool -- and I can't wait to hear how you're doing this -- incentive for luring workers back, why? Why are you having such a hard time finding workers for your restaurants?

SKYLER REEVES, RESTAURANT OWNER: Well, in my experience, there's two main reasons. The number one reason is the unemployment, the enhanced unemployment benefits.

So, with my experience, I have had several people come to me and basically say, look, when I can't get unemployment anymore, we will come back. It's a tough job. These are entry level jobs. And so when you're kind -- kind of feel like we're competing with that unemployment rate a little bit. So I think that's the number one -- number one cause, in my experience.

We have also had talks with employees saying, look, I want to come back to work, but can you guarantee me that I'm going to make more than I would on unemployment? For a tipped person, you can't necessarily guarantee what kind of tips there are. You can make a good guess.

But for someone who's in a tight financial situation, no one wants a pay cut, right? So, that's kind of the experience we have had.

I think the other issue is that, right at the beginning of the pandemic, when we had to lay so many people off, some of those workers immediately went to work for someone else that was hiring. And if you remember, at the beginning there, the people that were hiring was Costco, Walmart, Amazon, those folks.

And I think some of those guys and gals are just kind of in their routine at their new gig. And I think that's part of the reason as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's interesting that we heard from the president earlier today that he said that the additional unemployment benefits, there was no measurable way that he saw that those were keeping people from returning to work. So I want to pull that thread a little later.

But I don't want to get too far beyond what your actual offer is, because, for employees, potential employees, this could be huge. Tell us what the offer is.



So, we want to be a great company to work for. We want to be a company that people seek us out to come work for us. And so we want to reinvest in our work force.

So, college tuition is one way that we can do that. And so we were kind of racking our brains, how can we get more people to apply? How can we get more people to come on in? And so I partnered up with Yavapai College, a local community college here, and so to where full- time employees that were 32 hours, an average of 32 hours a week and are benefit-eligible, so about after 90 days, I -- the company will pay their tuition as they go throughout the community college.

So, we think that we will attract some ambitious people, young people that are in college, and also break down a barrier there that maybe some folks that already worked for us that were thinking about going to college, but they feel like they can't afford it, it's one more bill they can't take on, that we can offer something good for those too. CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Skyler, what an exciting offer. I mean, that's

-- I have worked in -- I worked in restaurants throughout my teens. I would have loved an offer like that.

But let me just show you the math for a second. Just help me understand the math, because, in Arizona, where you are, the average benefit that people are getting with the enhanced benefits that you talk about are at $537 a week. Minimum wage is $486.

Wouldn't it have just been -- would it have been more economical or affordable for you to just give people $50 more a week? How can you afford to pay their tuition?

REEVES: Well, we -- like I said, we want to reinvest into our workers.

So, the wages are going up already. I want to -- someone comes to work for us for two years while they go to college, and they walk away from the company with a college degree or moving on to a four-year university, that's a huge plus. I'm in this business to make money. But I'm also in this business to affect people in a positive way, not just our guests, but our employees as well.

And I think racing that wage up, it's already happening, we're already giving wages -- giving increases, but I want you to kind of imagine your job as a dishwasher or a prep cook. And so you're going to wash dishes for 40 hours a week, or you're going to stay home for 40 hours a week? So that's what you're up against.

If you're going to give the -- give the person an extra few dollars, I mean, I think the incentive needs to be more. So, it's multipronged. This is a program that we hope could go on for many, many years and, we will hope, ease this crisis right now.

But -- so it's kind of multifaceted, if that makes sense.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it makes perfect sense.

Have you had any takers yet?

REEVES: So, I'm really -- we're so excited that, in this last week -- we launched the program, I think, Monday or Tuesday this week. Today's Friday.

We have had at least 20, maybe more applications, OK? And so this is coming from, like, zero, I mean, practically zero, applications and people inquiring for jobs. So I hope it's going to work. It's -- so far, it's been a huge response, and people are really excited about it.


REEVES: So I have got high hopes for the program.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic.

Skyler Reeves, thanks so much for sharing it with us. Good luck.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Skyler.

REEVES: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: OK, next: An Ohio congressman is now the latest Republican to be censured for voting to impeach Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham says the party cannot grow without Donald Trump. We will discuss what that means for the GOP.

BLACKWELL: And just in, the Texas House has just passed a voting bill that many say would make it harder to cast a ballot. We're live in Austin as Democrats are already planning to take it to court.



BLACKWELL: All right, so this just in.

The Texas House passed a bill that many say would make it harder for people there to vote. It was some fierce debate, but Republicans passed the bill in Texas along party lines.

Now, you know that there's a wave of Republican-pushed initiatives across the country that in part curtail voting access after the 2020 election.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Austin.

Ed, what is in the bill and where does it go next?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a highly controversial bill here in the state of Texas, that many of the critics are saying it hearkens back to the Jim Crow era.

And one of the -- some of the things that it does is ,it gives -- extends -- and prohibits the length of early voting hours across the states, also gives partisan poll watchers more authority, which could lead there -- a great deal of concern -- to altercations and questions about conduct inside the ballot box areas.

And there's also a ban on county officials sending unsolicited mail-in applications across the state. That was something that was done in Harris County in the Houston area. And this is one of those things that has come under fire from Republican lawmakers here in the state.

And, Victor and Alisyn, just a short while ago, the Texas House of Representatives, basically along party lines, passed this bill. And Democrats say that this is an effort to find out -- to root out phantom problems, that there is no problem with election law and election integrity here in this state.

Democrats firing back on the Republicans pushing for this measure here this afternoon. [15:20:00]


REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D-TX): You have your vote, you have your majority. But guess what? I look forward to seeing you in federal court.

What I know from my days of voting rights in this chamber, you may have the vote today, but we are all equal in federal court. And history is on our side. Intent is on our side.

So, please do not delete any e-mails.

REP. BRISCOE CAIN (R-TX): This bill, it may have my name on it. It may have some members of this committee, members of this body. It may have Senator Hughes' name on it. But it doesn't belong to me. And it doesn't belong to him. This bill belongs to Texans. It's written for all Texans.


LAVANDERA: So, Victor and Alisyn, Democrats feel like they were able to take out some of the more stricter language in this bill.

But the problem now is that it heads over to the Senate. And then there will be a conference committee. There's a couple different versions of this bill. All of that will be -- have to be reconciled. And there's a very good chance that some of the more stricter language makes its way back into this bill.

So, voting rights activists say that they're very concerned about what the final look of this will be when it's all said and done here in the coming days -- Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Ed Lavandera us in Austin.

We, of course, will watch it. Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this story.

An Ohio Republican congressman, Anthony Gonzalez, is the latest lawmaker to be punished for voting to impeach former President Trump. The state's GOP Central Committee voted today to both censure Gonzalez and call for his resignation.

CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" Abby Phillip joins us now.

Abby, every single day, it seems, we see another example of somebody being excommunicated because they are not showing the -- their undying loyalty to the one-term, twice-impeached president, former president, who could not win reelection.

But that is the litmus test, I guess, in order to stay in the Republican Party. And here's just another example of it. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this

is all about showing how allied you are with Trump.

But, Alisyn, I also think it's about January 6. It's about the big lie. It's about making sure the people who spoke up against that are punished too. So it's both things at the same time. And we cannot separate the fidelity to Trump from the fidelity to the lie that he continues to push to this day.

It would be different if he stopped talking about it, but he's pushing it even more aggressively now, now that he's no longer in office. And Republicans are responding by punishing people who are willing to -- who were willing to speak up against that.

BLACKWELL: So, Abby, I want you to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham and how he sees the former president's role in the party moving forward.


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


BLACKWELL: Now, Senator Graham has been, as my grandmother used to say every, which a-way on former President Trump.


BLACKWELL: But now it's not as if he is -- he's moving closer and closer to the president after, let's remember, saying "I'm out" on January 6.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, this is all about political survival.

Look, Lindsey Graham is looking at the Republican Party right now and seeing a kind of -- well, enthusiasm is one way to put it. But some Republicans have described it as a sort of a cultlike obsession with the former President Trump that is something that rank-and-file Republicans cannot replicate without him.

So, in some cases, he's right that the Republican Party, as it stands right now, has been able to capture the minds of a lot of voters and get a lot of enthusiasm at the ballot box because of Trump.

But the question is, of course, at what cost? That's the question that people like Liz Cheney are asking, where she's saying the cost is that, when you lie to people, and that's the foundation of what you're doing, democracy is in the balance and at stake.


Abby Phillip, thank you. So, next: Pfizer is now looking to take its vaccine out of emergency

use authorization and to full FDA approval. We will talk about what that means for the country's fight against COVID and this phase of the vaccine campaign.



CAMEROTA: The CDC says more than a third of Americans are now fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

And, today, Pfizer says it's starting the process to become the first vaccine maker in the U.S. to get full FDA approval, so not just emergency use authorization, for its COVID shot.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Watt has details on what that would mean.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are in all-out implementation and execution mode.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And this is the front line.