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Pfizer Vaccine Available to 12 to 15 Year Olds; School Shooting in Russia; Violence Escalates between Israelis and Palestinians; Feds Seek Cooperation from Gaetz's Ex-Girlfriend; GOP Votes on Cheney Tomorrow. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

This morning, a huge stride in the race toward recovery. Millions of children now eligible to get vaccinated. The FDA has authorized Pfizer's vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds. Some are already getting their first shots this morning. That means school and summer camp and sleepovers all soon easier to do safely.

SCIUTTO: It's a big step to ending the pandemic. Pfizer saw trial results that every parent would hope their kid earns, 100 percent efficacy. An A plus, so to speak. But will parents take their kids to get the shot? A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 29 percent of parents said they would get their child vaccinated right away, 32 percent said they would want to wait a bit before doing so.

Just one hour from now, Dr. Fauci and the director of the CDC will face lawmakers to answer questions amid this new and happy milestone.

We begin this hour at a vaccination site just outside Atlanta. Nick Valencia is there.

Nick, I understand you're with a 14-year-old who just got their shot. How they doing? How do they feel about it?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Very much so a jubilant atmosphere here this morning, Jim and Poppy. That FDA authorization was welcome news for eager parents who were waiting for a moment like this. And, technically, medical providers, you know, during normal circumstances usually wait until after the CDC recommends that a vaccine be used. But we all know that these are very unusual times. These are not normal times.

But I'm joined here by one of the first teenagers in the nation to get the vaccine. Cameron Carrion, a future football star. We were talking off camera that you love football, huh. But you're here this morning because you got the shot.

How do you feel, man?

CAMERON CARRION, 14-YEAR-OLD PFIZER VACCINE RECIPIENT: I feel good about -- I feel good about this shot. I feel like it's better that I got it because I can go out more instead of just like stay home and just do nothing.

VALENCIA: Yes. How has it been? What's it been like being a 14-year- old during this pandemic? I mean it's got to be so strange. It's been strange for all of us, but what's it like being 14 through this?

CARRION: It's been stressful because I'm really missing most of my teenage years. And I just need like to go out, just something, just get out of the house.

VALENCIA: Yes, you've been doing remote learning. I mean you're technically in school right now. What's remote learning been like and maybe this is a step towards getting back to in-person for you in the fall.

CARRION: Yes, hopefully so. Yes, I just need like something to get out.

VALENCIA: I want to bring mom in here really quick. Mom, come on in here really quick because there's been a lot of vaccine hesitancy in communities of color, you know, I mean especially in the Latino community, the black community in the United States. Why was it so important for you to get your son vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, CAMERON CARRION'S MOTHER: He needs it. I -- I received the vaccination. And as soon as it was available for me, I ran out and got it. I used to work for Emery Health Care, so I -- it was all around me, you know, I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be able to hug my mother, to be able to hug my father, my friends and just, you know, just to get back to some sense of normalcy.

And this morning, when I saw your first segment out here, I ran, immediately, got him up out of the bed and came here immediately and we got through like less than ten minutes and he got it. He received it. And show the world, baby. Show the world.

VALENCIA: There you go. There you go.

I'm so grateful you were watching CNN this morning and that's why you showed up.

The line is really short.

Thank you guys, so much, for your time really this morning.

The line is getting a lot shorter this morning, Jim and Poppy. We saw people line up for, you know, this is regularly a vaccine site. We also know, though, it's been expanded this morning to 12 to 15-year- olds. If you go online here, the Georgia public safety website, or public health website, they've actually changed the eligibility now. And that's really the green light a lot of people were waiting for. I mentioned that under normal circumstances they usually wait for that CDC recommendation. But this morning, a lot of people lining up and getting their vaccine, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: That's the best little Band-Aid you'll ever get, right?

HARLOW: That was so great, Nick. First of all, you're the reason they're there, Nick, and that mom, tell her we think she's awesome for getting her son there so quickly.

VALENCIA: Oh, so cool. You're awesome, they said.

HARLOW: I loved it.

And, of course, like a true mom, she's like recording her kid being interviewed on CNN.

VALENCIA: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

HARLOW: All right, Nick, thank you very much.

VALENCIA: Thanks, guys. You got it.

HARLOW: Let's get to Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at the Emery University School of Medicine.

It's so nice to come to you smiling and laughing about something in this country with COVID.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Yes, it's very nice, right?

HARLOW: So let's just start there. Your message to all parents this morning after what we just saw.

DEL RIO: I got a big smile when I heard the interview, and I would tell each parent to listen to that mom and take their kids to get vaccinated. This vaccine is extremely safe and it's highly effective in kids between the ages of 12 and 15. The clinical trials showed not 95 percent, but 100 percent efficacy. This is a great vaccine. It will prevent kids from getting infected, from getting sick. And will, as that kid said, will allow them to go on with their normal life.

[09:05:05]

SCIUTTO: As with all vaccines, it's about keeping yourself safe, but also keeping the population safe. And, Dr. del Rio, some health experts are saying that being able to vaccinate kids this age is key to ending the pandemic because kids have proven, I think they describe it as a reservoir of the virus. Can you explain what that means and how important this is to the broader population?

DEL RIO: Well, you know, the more people are immunized, the less people the virus can actually infect, right? And right now, in our country, we're seeing an increase in infections primarily among young people. In particular, people between the ages of 20 and 40 are the ones that are driving a lot of the infection. But after them comes people that are in the younger age group, right?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes.

DEL RIO: And that makes a big difference. That really drives the infection rate, that really drives new infections from happening. And we're seeing hospitalizations also happening in young people. So getting young people infected will decrease the potential of people who can get infected and therefore transmit to others.

HARLOW: Can you explain to us what that 100 percent effective number means? That's even better than the trial for adults.

DEL RIO: That means that in the clinical trial, none of the individuals who participated in the trial and got the vaccine became sick or got infected. So, yes, that result is really amazing.

SCIUTTO: Dr. del Rio, if you look at the data here, you do have some -- I don't know if hesitancy is right, but, listen, parents want to protect their children. You have about 30 percent of parents, according to this Kaiser Family Foundation survey, who say they're going to get it for their kids right away. You have another 30 percent who's like, I may -- I may do it, I probably will do it but I'm going to wait a little bit of time. I mean it's not unlike what you've seen in the broader population here.

How important is it to get to sort of a critical mass of young people being vaccinated to have an impact?

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, it's important that we get a critical mass of the population being vaccinated, right? Here in the state of Georgia, we have about, you know, 30 percent of people who have been fully vaccinated. We have about, I don't know, 12 percent that are saying they're going to get vaccinated. There's about a third who says maybe I'll get vaccinated.

But, you know, there's one in four who say I'm not going to get vaccinated and that automatically puts you at, you know, 25 percent of the population who said I'm not going to get vaccinated. So the quicker we can get the other percentage vaccinated, the more likely we are to decrease the chances of having new infections. And that is what the critical thing is. I mean the urgency to get vaccinated is to really give the virus less opportunity to transmit and to infect others.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Dr. Fauci is going to testify next hour, along with the CDC director. We'll get to that in a moment. But he's talked about the possibility of masks becoming seasonal. I mean I don't love wearing them, but I love that my kids literally haven't gotten sick all year. I mean, not an ear infection, not a flu, not a cold. Do they become seasonal?

DEL RIO: Well, you know, I think what we've learned, Poppy, is that wearing a mask is actually a very good strategy to prevent other respiratory viruses, like influenza, RSV, like many other viruses that were routine in our population.

So, you know, I'm thinking that if we need to start wearing a mask during the winter as one of the strategies to prevent influenza, it may actually be a very good way to decrease hospitalizations and disease from other respiratory viruses. As you say, also prevent kids from getting infected. So it may very well be that during the wintertime we all start wearing a mask.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, it's been nice to go through a whole winter without a -- without a flu or a cold.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: I mean it's kind of remarkable. The stats are crazy, just dropped off a cliff.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, always good to have you on.

DEL RIO: Happy to be with you.

HARLOW: We do have breaking news right now. A Russian community reeling after at least nine people, including seven children, were killed in a school shooting.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a headline you're more often -- more -- more familiar with in this country.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow.

Fred, do they know whose responsible for the shooting and what led to this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly seems like they know, but it is really a very tragic situation because today was actually the first day that these students were back at school after a national public holiday here in Russia and from what we're hearing from the authorities it was about 9:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m. when that shooter went into the school and just started shooting around.

And there's some really horrifying eyewitness accounts that we've heard about children, obviously, trying to flee the scene. Some even jumping out of windows as high as the third story to try and somehow get away.

Now, the authorities originally had said that there could have been two shooters and they said that they had, quote, eliminated one shooter. They've now said that it was actually only one shooter in the first place. Apparently it's a teenager. And apparently that shooter has been apprehended. They have said they know the identity of the shooter but so far we certainly don't know what exactly the motive of that shooter is.

But I think one of the things that you said is absolutely correct, Jim, this is something that here in Russia you don't very often deal with, mass shootings.

[09:10:06]

School shootings is not something that is -- that is commonplace, simply because there isn't the amount of gun ownership that, for instance, you have in countries like the United States and, therefore, the town that this happened in, Kazan, which is about 600 miles to the east of Moscow, obviously, that town very much reeling. And that town now really upping its security measures as well. The authorities are saying that they have now increased security, not just at other schools, but at all other learning institutions as well.

And one of the interesting things that I thought happened after all of that is that the Russian authorities are already talking about getting in place more restrictive gun laws to try and prevent something like what happened today from happening again, guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, that's what most countries do. We see it all over the world. They have incidents like this, they pass laws.

PLEITGEN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Doesn't happen here.

Fred Pleitgen, thanks very much.

Also breaking this morning, tensions are soaring in Israel, as Israel defense forces and Palestinian militants exchange rocket fire in the south. Just a few hours ago, CNN's Hadas Gold and her crew rushed to take shelter as the sirens sounded in Ashkelon, just north of Gaza.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Guys, we have sirens. Let's go, let's go, let's go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Israeli health officials now say two Israelis were killed in separate locations in Ashkelon. Those deaths marked the first Israeli fatality since this violence surged yesterday. Palestinian officials have reported 24 deaths, including nine children.

Our Hadas Gold is live with us.

Hadas, we just saw what happened to you this morning. It just happened again, right? You were rushed into where I believe you are now after those sirens, warning of more -- of more rockets potentially coming sounded, is that right?

GOLD: That's right. We were live with our colleagues on CNN International, just outside this building, which was actually directly hit by a rocket earlier today when we heard those air raid sirens once again and we rushed into this bomb shelter along with the residents of the building, as well as other media who were here. And this is what has been happening all day long, air raid sirens, we rush into a bomb shelter and then we hear explosions.

In just the last one we heard at least one explosion. We don't know if it's from a rocket landing or potentially the Israeli Iron Dome intercepting the rockets. And we've -- the Israeli military says that at least 300 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel and, clearly, these -- and clearly these numbers are fluid and continuing (ph).

We're going to try to walk out here with you just a bit to show you the damage that happened to the building. I should warn you again, if we hear the air raid sirens, we will have to come running back in.

But this was the site of one of the rockets that hit this building directly. We do know of at least six people who were injured here, one of them was critically. We'll have our cameraman pan up so you can see the damage that these -- that big hole into the building. The Israeli military says that they are responding to these rocket attacks with air strikes. We've been hearing airplanes flying overhead. They say they have struck at least 150 targets in Gaza. This is, again, a developing situation. So those are the latest numbers we have.

They say they've killed 15, at least 15 Gazan militants. As you said, the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza say that at least 24 people have died, including nine children possibly now.

The Israeli military says that they are looking into those civilian casualties. They say they take them very seriously. They are noting that at least a third of the rockets they say Gaza militants have fired have landed short within Gaza itself. And as you noted, here in Ashkelon, there have been two deaths of Israelis.

We just heard another boom just there.

But this is all coming after some really tense days in Jerusalem. There have been clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and Gaza militants say that this is in direct retaliation for those clashes.

SCIUTTO: Hadas, tell us where this began in east Jerusalem, what the issue was there, the evictions, the court case.

GOLD: We are hearing just some more booms just now. Not sure if you guys can pick that up on my microphone. We're not sure if those are rockets or if those are Israeli air strikes.

But in terms of where this began, tensions have been building in Jerusalem for several weeks, really, since the beginning of Ramadan. It started with clashes outside the Damascus Gate entrance to the old city when police were preventing Palestinians from gathering there.

And then one of the most recent major flashpoints have been clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound and the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest places for Muslims. More than 500 Palestinians have recently been injured in those clashes.

And also what's been happening in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where several Palestinian families, some of whom living there for generations, are facing possible eviction as part of a long-running legal battle.

[09:15:09]

But all of that contributing to very, very high tensions here now. As a result, we're seeing these rockets flying into Israel and Israel responding with military strikes.

HARLOW: Hadas Gold and your team, our thanks to you for that reporting in the middle of all of this in Ashkelon, Israel.

SCIUTTO: And please stay safe.

Still to come this hour, new reporting in the federal investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz for allegations, alleged sex trafficking. Investigators want cooperation from a former Capitol Hill intern who was once the Florida Republican lawmaker's girlfriend. We'll have more, next.

HARLOW: Also, sources tell our Jamie Gangle that Congresswoman Liz Cheney wants to put her GOP colleagues on the record with the upcoming vote to oust her from her leadership position, forcing those lawmakers to make a decision between Trump and the truth. Is this just the beginning?

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[09:20:36]

SCIUTTO: This is a critical week for prosecutors in the continuing investigation of alleged sex trafficking by Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. CNN has learned that the prosecution team is trying to get cooperation from two key witnesses.

HARLOW: Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is with us this morning with her reporting.

Good morning, Paula.

One of the witnesses is a former Capitol Hill intern who was apparently once his girlfriend?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Now CNN has learned the FBI is nearly finished collecting evidence in its federal investigation into Congressman Gaetz and what they've been looking at specifically is whether he broke federal sex trafficking, prostitution, or public corruption laws. And they're also looking at whether he may have had sex with a minor.

Now, at this point, investigators want to speak to two key witnesses and one of them is this woman. She is a former Capitol Hill intern who was once Gaetz's girlfriend. Now, she did not work in Gaetz's office on Capitol Hill, but she is of interest because she was on a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas in 2018 and may have knowledge of drug use and arrangements to exchange sex for money and gifts. The Justice Department, we have learned, also views this woman as

possibly being crucial to understanding the relevance of these hundreds and hundreds of transactions that they have obtained records of, including payments for sex.

Now, investigators could also soon gain the formal cooperation of a second key witness, former Florida county tax collector Joel Greenberg. He's approaching a deadline this week to strike a plea agreement with the government on the more than two dozen charges that he is facing.

Now, Congressman Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing, including paying for sex or having sex with a minor. CNN has learned that the decision on whether to charge the congressman has not been made and a source tells CNN it will likely take some time. That decision will fall to prosecutors in the public integrity section of the Justice Department and they will have to decide if they believe and they have sufficient evidence to charge the congressman.

HARLOW: OK. Paula Reid, quite a development. Thank you.

House Republicans will vote tomorrow on whether to strip Congresswoman Liz Cheney of her leadership role. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to his colleagues yesterday. Let's read you part of it, quote, he writes, this is no time to take our eye off the ball if we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country. These internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team. Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it's clear that we need to make a change.

SCIUTTO: Radical Democrats from destroying our country. Where does that rhetoric remind you of?

Joining us now to discuss Rachael Bade, co-author of "Politico Playbook," and Toluse Olorunnipa, political enterprise and investigations reporter for "The Washington Post."

I wonder if I can begin with you, Rachael, because you have new reporting about some frustration, you might say, within the Republican caucus from some surprising folks in terms of Kevin McCarthy's leadership, though private frustration, which, again, I have to say, reminds me of when Trump was president, right? A lot of private frustration that doesn't necessarily translate into public action. But what are you learning?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, look, McCarthy has tried to make this about Cheney's leadership, saying that real leaders sort of go with the will of the conference and would sort of stop criticizing Trump and sort of go along with where the party is right now.

Well, I'm hearing privately and I spoke to someone last night who I have long considered an ally of the leadership. This is not a freedom caucus agitator, not a moderate person. More traditional republican who has been aligned with leadership saying, privately, he's frustrated with McCarthy's leadership. He was saying, you know, McCarthy's not showing any backbone.

He has said, you know, Trump was responsible for January 6th and then he wasn't. They're going to punish Cheney but they're not going to do anything about Matt Gaetz, you know, when he's been accused and is being investigated for potential sex trafficking, or Marjorie Taylor Greene, who's going across the country talking about conspiracy theories in elections.

And so there is some private frustration, again private being the keyword, but this person told me that if there was an election today to have, you know, the next speaker, if Republicans have the majority, he wouldn't be voting for McCarthy.

And so I think, you know, right now it's clear where the conference is going to come down. Cheney's going to lose her job, but there are people who are losing respect for him privately and does that hurt him, you know, when Republicans take back the majority and he's going to have a very narrow margin to become speaker.

[09:25:03]

Could this be a problem for him? Perhaps.

HARLOW: Toluse, there's another part of this McCarthy letter that is just too on the nose and it just -- it's so ironic. And McCarthy writes, we represent Americas of all backgrounds and continue to grow our movement by the day. And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.

We embrace free thought and debate as we are exiling from leadership someone who is expressing her beliefs.

I think we can't hear Toluse.

Rachael, weigh in.

BADE: Oh, sure.

I mean that letter was super interesting, McCarthy saying that, you know, this move signals that they're a big tent party. It signals the exact opposite. But, again, it's just the Republican leadership sort of taking something and totally twisting it.

In the letter he also talks about how leadership again means going along with the conference, but what about leadership meaning standing up and saying when your party is, you know, wrong or that you should have more voices. Clearly they are silencing and sending a clear signal to any Trump critics, including some of those ten who voted to impeach Trump just a few months ago, that if you continue to speak out, there will be consequences. So this notion of signaling a big tent party, it's obviously bogus.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, Rachael, it's all you. We're trying to get Toluse back. But I do have another question for you. I wonder, is the narrative, the story line of this deep divide within the Republican Party overstated given the vast majority of Republican voters are with Trump and the Trumpist wing, the vast majority of the House Republican caucus appears to be with Trump and the Trump wing, based on where this vote is going to go tomorrow. You have senators who occasionally sort of pipe up but at the end of the day they're not really sticking their necks out.

You know, is this party owned by Trump, and with the expectation that they take the House in 2022, I mean they'll take that as positive reinforcement, I imagine. You know, are the folks you speak with, do they say, well, it's not really so much of a battle in the party. The party's done.

BADE: Yes. I mean, again, one of the folks I spoke with last night even said to me, is this the end of the Republican Party? It might be. And there are Republicans who are frustrated but they're not willing -- they're only willing to say this sort of thing privately, right?

They're not willing to speak out. And unless you have Republican leaders who are willing to put their jobs on the line and say, you know, this is not the direction we should be going, and it's only one or two people like Cheney, then, you know, the whole party goes after that and there's not much movement.

So I think right now, clearly, yes, this is Trump's party and they're going to win back the House on campaigning as Trump's party. And so I think that will only reinforce that this is the direction they should be going for the next few years.

But, at some point, you know, they're really bleeding in the suburbs. That, obviously, is why Biden is in the White House right now. And that is going to come back to haunt them. It's just a matter of time. Is it two years, is it four years, is it 10 years? At some point that question is going to come to a head and they're going to have to deal with it and find a way to, again, open up and have a more welcoming party.

SCIUTTO: I mean the thing is even the loss of the White House and the Senate didn't change -- change that, right? I mean, you know, the griping remains private. We'll see. You know, we'll see what the -- what the stimulus is that changes the trend.

Rachael Bade, great to have you.

Toluse Olorunnipa, we're going to get you back on soon when we correct your audio.

BADE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And still ahead this hour, gas prices could spike to their highest level since 2014 as portions of the nation's largest fuel pipeline do remain shut down. Service from one of the fuel lines has, though, been partially restored. Will it be enough? We're watching closely.

HARLOW: Also keeping a close eye on the market this morning. Just ahead to the open, futures lower after a lower close for the Nasdaq yesterday. Investors selling off those technology stocks, like Amazon, Apple, FaceBook. Fears over rising inflation drove the moves as the fallout from Friday's weaker than expected jobs report also pushed stocks lower. Investors continue to watch possible fuel shortages from the pipeline cyberattack as well.

We'll stay on it.

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