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FDA Authorizes Pfizer Vaccine for Kids Ages 12-15; CNN Reports, Feds Seek Cooperation of Ex-Capitol Hill Inter, Former Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Associate in Sex Trafficking Probe; Palestinian Militants and Israel Exchange Barrage of Rocket Fire. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 13:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hadas Gold, grateful for the live reporting at this dicey time. Stay safe as you continue to bring us the news.

And thank you for joining us today in Inside Politics. See you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

It is being called a game changer, the FDA authorizing Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids 12 to 15 years old. This is a huge step in getting kids back in classrooms, back with their friends, back to summer camp and really getting all of America back to normal. And we are already seeing more kids in some states getting their shots today.

Also today on Capitol Hill, the GOP rift in the House coming to a head with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying the party is all about embracing free thought and debate, his words. So why is a vote to oust Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership role less than 24 hours away?

At the same time, we are learning prosecutors are stepping up their sex trafficking investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz. They are hoping to get cooperation from a couple of key witnesses, including a former Capitol Hill intern who is also a former girlfriend of the Florida lawmaker.

And as companies scramble to find workers, restaurant chain Chipotle it will start paying more, an average of $15 an hour to start. We'll talk to the company's chief restaurant officer in just a few minutes.

Let's start though with this new, crucial step in fighting the pandemic. CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and CNN's Nick Valencia are both standing by for us. Elizabeth, I want to start with you. Walk us through what the FDA's authorization means and what parents should know before vaccinating their children.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I'm going to tell you this, not just as a medical correspondent but as the mother of a 14-year-old. I've looked at this data, and we know that we are going to get her a shot as soon as we can. So at CNN, we always start with the science.

So let's take a look at Pfizer's clinical trial that they submitted to the FDA to get this emergency use authorization. It was with more than 2,200 adolescents aged 12 to 15. It was 100 percent effective, even more effective than it was actually in the adults and there were no safety concerns.

Now, despite this strong science, there is quite a bit of hesitation among many parents. So let's take a look at a Kaiser Family Foundation survey from last month. Only 30 percent said that they would get it immediately for their child this age, 26 percent said they would wait and see, they're not sure, 18 percent said they would get it only if they were required to do so, say by a school or a summer camp. Almost one out of four, 23 percent said they would not get it.

Now, Ana, you can remember that we saw sort of some similar numbers for adults before the vaccination rollout happened. That hesitancy, it diminished over time as people saw other people getting it, hopefully these numbers will look better in the coming weeks. Ana?

CABRERA: And, nick, you are outside of vaccination center in Decatur, Georgia. I know you've spoken to a few teens today there to get their shots. What motivated them to be among the first in this new group to get the shot?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think the same thing that motivated a lot of us adults who got our vaccinations, just the idea or the possibility that they could get back to normal and get back to some of the things that they were doing prior to the pandemic, and potentially get back to school in person, in the fall.

I spoke to one teenager who said that he's been through two grades but hasn't yet stepped foot in the classroom.

And, you know, Elizabeth brings up a big point here about vaccine hesitancy. We've seen it, Ana, in the Latino community, certainly hesitancy in the African-American community in this country.

So, earlier, I spoke to 14-year-old Cameron Carrion and asked him what went into his decision to getting the vaccine today.


CAMERON CARRION, 14-YEAR-OLD PFIZER VACCINE RECIPIENT: I feel good about the 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. It's been stressful because I'm really missing most of my teenage years. KIMBERLY HAUGHTON, SON RECEIVED PFIZER VACCINE: He needs it. I received the vaccination. And as soon as it was available for me, I ran out and got it.

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.


VALENCIA: Certainly a jubilant atmosphere here. You see the cars are lining up here, they're about to open up back up here after their lunchtime pause.

But you saw some tears of joy here as well, Ana, people actually crying because there was a sense that they could get back to some sort of normal lifestyle. Already, more than 200 people have crossed and gotten that injection between 12 and 15 years old and some people at home may be wondering how this is possible. The CDC hasn't recommended this. They meet tomorrow. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that they're going to recommend that the vaccine be used on 12 to 15-year- olds.


States have the discretion. And, in fact, if you go on the Georgia Department of Public Health's website, they've already changed the eligibility to people between 12 and 15 years old. For parents that showed up here today, that's the only green light that they were waiting for to bring their kids here and get back to a sense of normal. Ana?

CABRERA: We know kids need to get the vaccine in order to reach herd immunity if you just look at the pure math in all of this. Nick Valencia, thank you and congrats on your new baby, by the way, and thank you as well.

VALENCIA: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: So precious.

Well, let's bring in Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez. She is a primary care pediatrician at Columbia University in New York. And, Doctor, good to have you with us.

Do you anticipate a rush of children ready to get the vaccine?

DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Hi, Ana, I do. I have so many families who are already asking, Dr. Edith, where do we go, when can we get this, and teens who are sending me messages, where can I sign up, how do I do this?

There are, of course, some families, as Elizabeth and Nick were mentioning, who are hesitant, who are still a little bit afraid, completely normal, of course, and to be expected. But a lot of my families are ready to go as soon as we are. CABRERA: Well, that's great news. The latest surveys have shown that parents are pumping the brakes. Just over half of parents plan to get their child vaccinated. And that really is a stretch if you include the wait and see group in our latest poll we put up here from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

When you're talking with parents and patients, especially for those who have concerns, what are their top questions and how do you answer them?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Ana, a lot of families, you know, don't really have specific questions. They come to me and they say, well, Doctor, I want to wait and see. So then it's on me to sort of ask them the question, what exactly are you waiting for, right?

At this point, millions of people have gotten this vaccine safely. At this point we have data, really, really good data that this vaccine is safe and it is effective. And so it's on me to remind them that every day that they don't vaccinate their kids and don't vaccinate themselves, it's a day that they are vulnerable to this illness.

And as we've seen, this illness has evolved in children. At first, we thought, they don't really get it or maybe it's always mild. It can be a really serious illness in children. So every day we wait is a day we are vulnerable.

CABRERA: And let's just be really crystal clear here. Is there any risk to children who get this vaccine?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Ana, the side effects that we have seen are the same ones that we're seeing in adults and older age groups for the Pfizer vaccine. We're seeing fever, we're seeing kids who are a little bit tired, achy, sore arm, feeling under the weather, you know, joint pains for a day or two, and then that's it.

I think there's a lot of fear about the side effects. Even people, you guys have reported on surveys of people not coming back for their second shot because they're so afraid of these side effects. And what I keep telling my families is, you can handle one day of fever. I promise. You can take Tylenol. You can take Motrin, whatever is your preferred anti-fever medication, and then you will be protected. After that, once it passes, you are protected.

You can have that peace of mind, which we don't talk about as a side effect, but that peace of mind is so important and it's what we really keep with us after vaccinating.

CABRERA: I experienced some of those side effects myself, but the peace of mind, the joy, the relief was probably the biggest side effect that I felt.

I just am curious if children will be able to get vaccinated at their pediatrician's office, because, obviously, accessibility, convenience is a big factor too in getting those shots into arms.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Ana, yes, that's what we're working towards. And there're so many reasons why we want them to come to us. I think a lot of parents may not realize that we cannot give multiple vaccines at the same time, right? So we're saying, you know, come to us, let's talk about what you're due for, let's prioritize COVID-19, let's make a plan to get you caught up with other vaccines later on, in a couple of weeks. And then we can look, right, what medical conditions, what should we be monitoring for.

And at a pharmacy, you may not always be able to do this, although if your child is completely healthy, there's really no reason that a pharmacy start to offer this. You shouldn't go to a pharmacy to get it.

CABRERA: Okay, that's good news. The FDA did move fairly quickly to add 12 to 15-year-olds to this emergency use authorization. One FDA official said it was relatively straightforward, but I'm told it's a little more complicated for the younger group.

We know there's supposed to be a meeting on this next month with the FDA vaccine advisers. Can you explain why it might take additional steps before much younger children are eligible?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Of course. Ana, we know kids, as we say, are not little adults, right? So we have to be looking to see how their immune system may react to a vaccine. The good news is that while it's different, and while we have to take a pause and really look at this with a lot of caution, we have a lot of experience when it comes to vaccinating children and studying vaccines in children.


If you think about it, most vaccines that are available in the market, in this country, are given to children. So we know what we're looking for. It's a matter of taking a pause and being really cautious to make sure that we are accounting for side effects that may be seen in children, but maybe not adults.

CABRERA: Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, it's so nice to see you. Thank you for taking the time with us.


CABRERA: CNN has new reporting on the sex trafficking investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz. The feds now pressing two key witnesses to cooperate, including a former Capitol Hill intern who was once the Florida Republican's girlfriend.

Plus, violence escalating between Israel and Palestinian militants, sirens blaring non-stop, warning of incoming rocket attacks. Dozens are dead, including children. What's behind this new round of bloodshed?

And reports of gas shortages already pouring in after suspected Russian hackers hold a key U.S. pipeline hostage.



CABRERA: Some new developments concerning the sex trafficking investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. CNN has learned federal investigators are focusing in on two key witnesses. One is a former Capitol Hill intern who once dated Gaetz, and they also want formal cooperation from the congressman's friend, Joel Greenberg, who faces a plea bargain deadline that's actually this week regarding several criminal charges against him.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid joins us. And, Paula, what more are investigators hoping to learn from these witnesses?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, particularly when it comes to the former girlfriend, who was once an intern on Capitol Hill. Now, she did not intern for Congressman Gaetz. Investigators really want to talk to her because she was on a 2018 trip to the Bahamas with Gaetz and others, and investigators believe she may have more information about possible drug use and about arrangements to exchange sex for money and gifts.

The Justice Department also views her as possibly being crucial to understanding these hundreds and hundreds of transactions that they have records of. Now, in our reporting, CNN, we've actually seen records of some of these transactions but federal investigators have hundreds of them and they're trying to really figure out how they fit in the case.

Now, CNN has also learned that federal investigators have pretty much wrapped up gathering evidence in this case. But taking a couple steps back, we remember that, of course, they're investigating whether the congressman violated sex trafficking, prostitution or public corruption laws, and they're also looking into whether he may have had sex with a minor.

Now, this week, as you noted, the government is hoping to secure the cooperation of another key witness that is former Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg. He is currently in jail. And this week, he has a deadline to finalize a plea deal with the government. It is expected that likely would require him to cooperate in this investigation.

Now, Congressman Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing. He has denied paying for sex or ever having sex with a minor. But CNN learned that a final decision on whether to charge the congressman has not been made and all of this evidence will go to the public integrity section of the Justice Department and we're told it will take some time to look through all this evidence and determine whether they have enough evidence to file charges.

CABRERA: And, of course, you will be watching closely what happens with this potential plea deal with Joel Greenberg, who, as we showed in that graphic, he is facing 33 charges. And so if he is connected to the Gaetz investigation in any way, that could create some new developments. We'll be watching, of course. Thank you, Paula Reid. As Congressman Gaetz retains at least public support from his Republican colleagues, most of them at least, it's a much different story for the party's third ranking House member, Representative Liz Cheney. We are less than 24 hours from a vote to strip her of her leadership position for refusing to back former President Trump's big lie about election fraud.

Joining us now, Olivia Troye, she is a former adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. And I just can't get over the letter we have now seen from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to his caucus, in which he writes, in part, quote, we are a big tent party. We represent Americans of all backgrounds and continue to grow our movement by the day. And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.

Olivia, that's his message as he prepares to give Liz Cheney the boot for standing up for the truth.

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENTN MIKE PENCE: Right, it's a big tent party as long as you're willing to go along with the big lie, and you're willing to undermine democracy, and willing to spread lies about a stolen election and doing repeatedly over and over and over. And if you're going to tell the truth or show any integrity or courage at all, you get ousted. That's basically the message he's sending out right now to all of Republicans.

And he's sending out this message not just to Republicans but he's telling this to all of American society that this is where the GOP is, and this is a really sad day for the Republican Party and a sad week and they are hitting rock bottom.

CABRERA: If the goal for him is to elevate his own status, to become House speaker, should Republicans take back the House in the midterms, what does this say about his leadership?

TROYE: Well, I have seen anything but leadership from Representative McCarthy. You barely saw him stand up after the January 6th insurrection.


And we saw a mob attack the U.S. Capitol where he finally condemned what had happened and he turned right around and fell back in line with Trump. And this is Trumpism at its finest moment and he is basically idolizing this one individual and he will carry on the torch, so to speak, for this one man.

And Trump is out of the picture for now, but all of these other enablers in the Republican Party are no different from what has happened with Donald Trump and his lies. And they repeat them over and over, they put them in echo chambers in networks that follow

them and that there's a whole population across the U.S. that believes them.

And that is what we'll be watching for in the midterms and we will be doing everything we can to take a stand against individuals like Representative McCarthy, who represent nothing but sort of conspiracies and lies at this point.

CABRERA: I think you can argue that Trump is out of office, but not necessarily out of the picture. It's all about Trump right now. And wrote in a piece, you laid out what you believed to be GOP strategy at this point, obfuscate, lie, change the subject and hope voters hold the other party to a higher standard. And you say this strategy, to regain, is working. How so?

TROYE: Well, it's horrifying. People are believing it. When you repeat something over and over, and it becomes a Republican Party's truth. And we saw this happen with the pandemic, where they lied about it, they called it -- they referred to it as a hoax or they've created divisiveness with the mask use, it made the problem that much bigger.

And we see it going on with what's going on in states and voter suppression, we're seeing it happen across the board. And now it's getting down to our democracy and the fundamentals of our elections. So we can't allow this to happen. This is so dangerous. We're down to a slippery slope on what they're doing.

CABRERA: Senator Mitt Romney, he said removing Cheney from her leadership position won't gain the GOP an additional voter but it cost the party quite a few. That's what he wrote. How do you see it?

TROYE: I agree with him. I think that there is a whole population out there who is appalled at what is happening. I think this has gone way too far. But this is where the party is right now. And you're absolutely right, Trump may be out of the picture. He's not in office but he's certainly pulling the puppet strings still and these people continue to kiss the ring.

I mean, I keep asking myself, where is Mike Pence in this? Where is he? Why isn't he taking a stand for Liz Cheney when they went after him? They were calling for his hanging, and yet he remains silent on it. He has shown no courage or integrity to take a stand for the Republican values and the conservatism that he, you know, claims to espouse, but we see nothing. And instead you have Liz Cheney and a handful of people that are holding her up and standing up for telling the truth. That's all she is doing. She's taking a stand and telling the truth.

CABRERA: You know who else has been very quiet, your former boss, the former vice president, Mike Pence. He's been silent on all this. What do you make of that?

TROYE: I've seen some of his speeches where he lauds Donald Trump again still after everything that has happened and Donald Trump certainly pays (ph) him no favor, there is no loyalty there. But I think he's weighing his calculations on '24, when I think he will likely try to run for president. I don't know on which platform here of the Republican Party that remains.

And if he actually cared about the GOP, he would be taking a stand, or if he cared about our democracy, he should be speaking out and saying this is wrong, we cannot continue to go down this path. But he's not doing that right now. CABRERA: Olivia Troye, I appreciate your thoughts and your perspective on this, thank you.

TROYE: Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: Sirens go off in Israel, and CNN's crew is forced to run for cover. The death toll mounting as violence escalates between Israelis and Palestinians. We go there live.



CABRERA: Truly terrifying and chaotic moments happening right now in Israel. Sirens warning of incoming rocket fire going off almost non- stop in some cities.


GOLD: Guys, we have sirens. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go.


CABRERA: These dramatic moments as our CNN crew on the ground in Ashkelon was forced to run for shelter as those sirens sounded. Palestinian militants in Gaza trading fire with Israel for a second day, and we are told at least 28 people have now been killed, the vast majority in Gaza, including at least nine children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Now, this all started with Palestinians protesting the potential removal of some families in East Jerusalem. It stems from an ongoing feud over Jewish settlements in parts of that city.

And that was Hadas Gold her crew who were running for cover we showed you. She joins us now from Ashkelon in Southern Israel. First of all, how are you? Are you guys safe?

GOLD: Well, Ana, it's been an active day today. All day long, we have been getting these red alert sirens for communities in Southern Israel. And here in Ashkelon, I have lost count of the number of times we've had air raid sirens that have sent us running into the building that's just to my side that was actually hit by a rocket earlier this morning.

The IDF says that around 500 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.


They say that there have been two casualties here in Ashkelon, two people died.