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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Ally to Plead Guilty, Strikes Cooperation Deal; Biden Urges Calm Amid Panic Buying as Gas Pipeline Restarts; Fauci Says, Put Aside Your Mask if You're Fully Vaccinated and Outside. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 13, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, and thanks for joining us, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
President Biden moments ago urging call after a cyber attack shut down the nation's largest petroleum pipeline for nearly a week now, sparking gas shortages and panic buying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I know seeing lines at the pumps or gas stations with no gas can be extremely stressful but this is a temporary situation. Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days. As I said, we expect the situation to begin to improve by the weekend and into early next week and gasoline supply is coming back online, and panic buying will only slow the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: The president also warning gas station owners not to price gouge, saying the flow of fuel should be reaching full operational capacity in most places as we speak.
And this hour, the president will be sitting down with Republican senators to talk infrastructure. We'll bring you the latest from that crucial meeting, so stay with us here on CNN.
We're also following major COVID headlines today. See all that green on the map? That means America is finally turning the corner. New cases are trending down in 40 states, only Mississippi saw cases go up the past week. And that's as the White House senior adviser for the COVID response announced the nation's positivity rate hit an all-time pandemic low, 3.5 percent. He says 15 percent in January.
Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci says, if you are fully vaccinated, two weeks past that second shot or after the first shot from J&J, obviously, you can go outside and completely ditch the mask. We'll have details on all these stories. But, first, we're following a major development in the federal sex trafficking investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. We have just learned his associate, Joel Greenberg, has flipped. A source tells CNN that Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, he plans to plead guilty at his upcoming federal hearing on Monday and that that plea is part of a cooperation deal with the very investigators looking into potential wrongdoing by Matt Gaetz, who has said he's done nothing wrong.
I want to get straight to former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Elie, in order just to get a plea deal, what would Greenberg have to offer?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Greenberg has to tell federal prosecutors everything he knows, everything he knows about anything he, Joel Greenberg, has ever done wrong, and anything he knows about anything that anybody else has done wrong.
And that's why, Ana, this is about the worst possible news for Matt Gaetz. This has to be the one thing that he and his legal team were most worried about. Because, as a federal prosecutor, I cooperated with more people than I could even count, and there are two things you have to be sure of before you cooperate with somebody, especially somebody like Joel Greenberg.
One, do you believe them? Can you back up what they say? And, two, are you going to make use of their information, and that means to charge other people to make other cases?
CABRERA: So explain how cooperation works in a case like this, because we know Joel Greenberg was facing at least 33 federal charges. I just wonder, would he have been offered some kind of a deal if there wasn't a bigger target?
HONIG: So, it's a deal. It's a transactional interaction. So, the way it starts is prosecutors, presumably at this point, have already done this with Joel Greenberg. You say to somebody like Joel Greenberg, if you're going to cooperate, you need to tell us everything. Start back when you were in grade school and stole a candy bar from the store, and we will take it from there. And then everything Joel Greenberg tells you, you go out and try back up. If he tells you there was a financial transaction, okay, where are the records of that, if he tells there was an email, okay, show us those emails. So it is an all encompassing, all consuming process.
In return, if Joel Greenberg cooperates successfully, and if he helps federal prosecutors make cases against other people and testify, then he can get what we call a 5K letter, which is basically a letter from the prosecutor at the very end saying, hey, Judge, this person gave us valuable cooperation and, typically, that results in a significant sentencing reduction.
CABRERA: So would he already likely be talking to investigators or would his cooperation not begin until after he enters his plea on Monday? HONIG: He absolutely would have been already been speaking with federal prosecutors. You don't sign somebody up like Joel Greenberg as a cooperator just on a hunch or on good faith. They have -- in all likelihood, in my experience, the only time I ever signed someone up as a cooperator is after I had spent days, weeks in a conference room with them, poring over every detail of their story to the point where I as a prosecutor was satisfied. I can bank on this. I can back this up.
Now, the cooperating will continue. They will presumably spend many more days with him preparing for other indictments, preparing for trial.
So it's a long, involved process. But they're not -- prosecutors are not just going on faith here. They're going on something they believe they can bank on.
CABRERA: Okay, Elie Honig, always good to have you. Thank you for jumping into action for us to explain all of that.
Now, to the ongoing story affecting countless commuters in parts of the country, the gasoline shortage. As of this morning, listen to this, 71 percent of gas stations in North Carolina, 55 percent in Virginia, 49 percent in Georgia, had no gas to sell, according to GasBuddy.
CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining us from Washington now. Natasha, what more are you learning about this cyber attack on the colonial pipeline and the effort to get it back up and running?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Hey, Ana. So what we're learning is that the pipeline company has managed to recover a lot of that data that was stolen, initially, in this ransomware attack, and they have been able to get that pipeline back up and running. Of course, it's going to take a little bit of time for everyone to be getting their fuel again because the fuel within this pipeline runs very slowly. So it's going to be kind of, you know, a lag effect before people see things return to normal.
We know that the pipeline was initially shut down because it affected the billing system of this pipeline company. That's according to multiple people briefed on the matter. And there was a concern that the pipeline company would not know how much to charge customers for the fuel that they were providing. We're also told by one source that this was pretty central to the operation of the pipeline itself. So out of an abundance of caution, they shut down the pipeline while they could get the systems back up and running.
Now, there are some conflicting reports out there about whether or not this company actually paid the ransom. We had been reporting that there was no ransom paid yet, but there is another report out today saying that Colonial actually did pay the ransom. So we are seeking clarity on that. And as you saw, the president said that he had no comment on whether the company paid the ransom to this ransomware group that attacked the critical infrastructure gas pipeline last week.
CABRERA: It sounds like there is some good news here but we know this is a 5,500-mile long pipeline and the oil or the fuel moves at five- miles-per-hour. So we're not out of the woods just yet or in the clear. Thank you, Natasha Bertrand, for your reporting. We know you're going to stay on top of it. And, by the way, welcome to the CNN family.
President Biden is now trying to navigate this gas shortage, along with rising consumer costs, a tricky unemployment picture right now, all while he's trying to push through that ambitious economic package. We are minutes away from Biden's meeting with Republican senators, both sides using this as an opportunity to prove that they are willing to compromise or at least try to negotiate an infrastructure package.
Let's bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. We just heard Biden's remarks with you when you were anchoring Inside Politics last hour. Republicans have been seizing on the pipeline situation, the gas shortages. Could this hurt President Biden politically as he is trying to push through these big proposals?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It could, but what was really interesting strategically was to watch the way President Biden tried to connect the two, the crisis that is happening because of this cyber attack on this pipeline and the need for infrastructure.
And so he's trying to say, you see what's happening, this is why we need legislation, not just legislation dealing with cyber security, which is what Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence chairman, and a whole host of other lawmakers have been begging, begging their colleagues to focus on because they have been saying, based on what they have seen, that we don't have access to, but they do, how vulnerable America is to all kinds of attacks. What the president is saying is beyond that, you know, there needs to be infrastructure.
The issue still is though, Ana, as you know, there is agreement on this kind of infrastructure, on cyber, on pipelines, on, you know, power grids, on roads and bridges and traditional infrastructure. The thing that they are still so far apart on is what the Biden administration calls human infrastructure, child care, elderly care, things like that, that they're really hoping to get into this package.
But, look, the fact that six Republicans who are genuinely negotiating on this are going to meet with the Democratic president is not nothing given how divided this city is, and this nation is right now.
CABRERA: Right. And, yesterday, we know he met with Republican leaders, McConnell and McCarthy, along with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. And coming out of that meeting, the GOP leader said that their party rejects the infrastructure price tag and the proposed tax hikes that would help pay for it. They really kind of drew a line in the sand on raising taxes at all. So what are the expectations then for today's meeting?
BASH: Well, the other thing that Mitch McConnell said that I really perked up at was that he's not going to dictate. [13:10:05]
And to me, as somebody who covered the Hill for a long time, I kind of took that as a green light for these Republicans, for example, who are going to the White House, who are very much involved in the minutia of these negotiations to see how far they can take it. He did, on the other hand, say that he -- not at the White House yesterday, but in the past week, say that he will do whatever it takes to stop the Biden agenda. So there's definitely some mixed messages there.
But if you go to December, this was President Trump, not President Biden, but there was this COVID package that Senator McConnell wanted nothing to do with, and it was because of bipartisan negotiations that allowed for this relief package to go through and they kind of forced it on Mitch McConnell.
The question is whether that can be done with the Democratic president, especially given all of the things, like you said, Ana, the questions, how are you going to pay for it, is it going to be a tax hike, what kind of tax hike? Are there other ways that they can to do it that is more palatable to moderate Democrats and Republicans?
There are so many issues that have to be talked about, which is why they're really just in the middle of this, nowhere near the end of it, but the fact that they are still talking, and that the president himself is so involved is interesting.
CABRERA: Quickly, Dana, I want to just pivot before I let you go here. You know, yesterday, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene apparently confronted that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to The Washington Post. She was accusing her of supporting terrorists, kind of getting in her face.
And we've seen a bit of a habit of this sort of thing from Greene, stunts like this in the past. She was asked to wear a mask in the hallway, refused, prompting Congresswoman Cori Bush to relocate offices after a heated exchange between those two. Greene also posted that anti-transgender sign outside her office, which is located just across the hall from a congresswoman whose daughter is transgender. This just all seems mean spirited. What is her goal?
BASH: To raise money, to have notoriety, to be the go-to person on that wing of the Republican Party and to be a force to be reckoned with because of the fact that she is using so many of these stunts to raise money, to raise small dollar donations in order to say, look, I'm a powerhouse.
And it is really, really stunning as somebody who walked the halls of Congress on a regular basis, on and off for two decades, Ana, the fact that we have this kind of vitriol between members.
Now, I know, you know, back before both of us were born, way before, there was caning and all kinds of things that happened when people got their backs up. But, you know, in recent years, and for the most part, you know, there is a general sense of comity, with a T, and that is so out the window now because its lowest common denominator politics and fund raising. And that is such a prime example of it.
CABRERA: I just can't imagine a colleague treating anyone around here like that, right, even if you just don't agree on something, no one would ever be so disrespectful and unkind. That's what bothers me.
Dana Bash, thank you, I really appreciate seeing you.
BASH: You too.
CABRERA: Dr. Fauci making things a lot clearer for fully vaccinated people who want to go mask-less outdoors. His new guidance, next.
And the camera doesn't lie. CNN obtained harrowing new video. This is the view of the Capitol insurrection showing rioters beating a D.C. Police officer as he begged for his life. Yet one member of Congress says the rioters looked more like a tourist group.
CABRERA: Today, a clear and direct message from Dr. Anthony Fauci to those who are fully vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I know that we've got to make that transition. If you are vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask outside. It would be a very unusual situation. If you were going into a completely crowded situation, where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask. But any other time, if you're vaccinated, and you're outside, put aside your mask. You don't have to wear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now. Elizabeth, those comments from Dr. Fauci are pretty clear cut.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They really are, Ana. What's interesting is the CDC said essentially the same thing, on April 27th, but they didn't say it as well. So when Dr. Fauci talks, he's just like a regular guy, you get what he's saying. Let me show you how the CDC said it on April 27th. It was with this complicated chart, which has been really people have pretty much made fun of it. It was hard to sort of get what they were getting at.
Now, we do know that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, said that, very soon, they will be revising their mask guidance, and so we could see changes for vaccinated people on masks indoors and outdoors, also maybe they're going to put something in there about social distancing.
So, definitely, we should look for that, because Fauci and others have been nudging the CDC to get moving in this area. My sources telling me that even voices within the CDC are saying we need to get with the program here, guys. We need to have more lenient guidance on masks for people who are vaccinated. The science supports it and it encourages people to get vaccinated.
CABRERA: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for that quick update.
CABRERA: It was a question many people had from the early days of the pandemic, when will we see vaccines?
And now, they're here. A new CNN film, Race for the Vaccine, looks at the scientists tasked with creating a shot that would stop COVID in its tracks.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the latest group of people who are getting immunized.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is 15-year-old Ben Droppic (ph). He's about to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the clinical trial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready?
GUPTA: Thanks to Ben, and about 2,000 other teens like him, 12 to 15- year-olds all across the United States, are now able to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just trying to beat the virus, try to get everything back to normal.
DR. ROBERT FRENCK, DIRECTOR, VACCINE RESEARCH CENTER, CINCINNATI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The kids have been leading the charge on a lot of this.
GUPTA: Dr. Robert Frenck has been researching vaccines on kids for 40 years. He now oversees COVID-19 vaccine trials and kids at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
FRENCK: One of the things that people have said is that teenagers, they only care about themselves, and they're just looking out for themselves. And I have found that to be totally wrong.
GUPTA: They've also found another piece of good news. Just one month after getting the second dose, Pfizer's trials found that teens, age 12 to 15, had even higher levels of antibodies than 16 to 25-year-olds who had also received the shots, making them far less likely to get sick.
FRENCK: 18 cases of COVID in the 1,500 adolescents that had placebo and zero in the group that got vaccine. GUPTA: Since the pandemic began, the CDC estimates more than 26 million children have been infected with COVID-19, and around 3 percent have been hospitalized. The agency says kids under 18 make up around 23 percent of all cases but representation of 0.1 percent of all the deaths.
The agency has found more than 3,700 children have developed a hyper- immune response to the virus known as MISC.
I imagine that a lot of parents will say, look, I don't think my kid or kids, in general, are that at risk of getting sick in the first place. What is the real reason that we need to get kids vaccinated?
FRENCK: So they have a runny nose, they have a cough, they don't seem that sick, mom or dad is not going to take them to the doctor, but they actually have COVID. And they end up then going to grandma and grandpa and accidentally infecting them or others, and that those people get very sick.
And the other thing, I guess, to remember is that we have 75 million under 18 years of age in the United States. If we don't immunize that group, that's going to leave a big population that's susceptible to the virus.
GUPTA: Now, remember, in order to stop transmission, we want to reach herd, or community immunity, and you get there through a combination of vaccination as well as antibodies from previous infections. The threshold of community immunity is based on how contagious the virus is. For example, measles, which is really contagious, requires around 90 percent herd immunity. For the novel coronavirus, somewhere around 70 percent to 85 percent.
The FDA's expanded authorization for 12 to 15-year-olds now makes 85 percent of the U.S. population eligible for a shot. But even then, surveys show about one in eight adults aren't planning on getting the vaccine. About one in five parents say they won't vaccinate their kids either. Which is why the focus is now ongoing even younger.
Trials have now begun in kids, like seven-year-old Naomi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Naomi, after seeing a friend of our family, participate in the study, said that she wanted to do it. It will give me a lot of peace of mind because I know that she'll be protected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really proud of you.
NAOMI, SEVEN-YEAR-OLD TRIAL PARTICIPANT: I'm going to tell them that they should get the vaccine so they can protect themselves, their family and everyone around them so that that would be a great way to keep the world safe.
CABRERA: Bravo to Naomi, what a brave little girl, and bravo to those families for being the guinea pig, so to speak, in all of this knowing that the vaccines are safe and they wanted to be, you know, part of the group to show that it could be okay for younger people to get it, Sanjay.
And as we took another big step forward with these shots now going into arms of young teens, really all around the country, this week, did you ever think we would be here a year ago today?
SANJAY (on camera): No, I didn't, Ana. I mean, this was a remarkable achievement. I mean, I think there's been so much trauma and tragedy around this pandemic. One of the brighter moments has been these vaccines, I mean, it's just -- people have called it the moon shot of, you know, medical science, and I think that that's not hyperbole.
I didn't think we would be here, Ana. I didn't think that they would be as effective as they are. I mean, keep in mind, flu shots, typically, 50 percent, 60 percent effective. 90 percent-plus effective is really extraordinary.
And then, as you point out, I mean, I have three kids that fall into this age group, 12 to 15. We thought maybe by the end of the year, a vaccine might get authorized for them, end of this year, instead, here we are. So, all of this has been -- it's a happy surprise.
CABRERA: And we just learned, 99 percent of hospital admissions for COVID were among people not fully vaccinated. So that is just more proof that these vaccines work. And we heard from Dr. Fauci earlier in this hour saying, fully vaccinated people, if you're outdoors, put aside your masks. I mean, that was very direct.
But I wonder, Sanjay, when will it be okay to do that indoors, especially given all this data that shows the effectiveness of these vaccines?
GUPTA: Well, you know, I think that the science is becoming increasingly clear, so I think we may get to that point very soon. Because here are the questions, we know the vaccines are really protective against you getting sick. The open question has been twofold, how protective are they against you at getting infected? Still, could you still carry the virus even if you don't get sick? And the second part of the question is, if you do carry the virus, could you then transmit it to somebody else?
And what's becoming increasingly clear, Ana, is that even if you do have what's known as a breakthrough infection, meaning, I'm vaccinated fully but I got tested for something, and I came back positive, that's surprising, I don't have any symptoms, that can happen. But the question is, do I develop enough virus to then transmit it to someone else? That seems unlikely.
That's a long answer to your question, but basically to say, for a vaccinated person, the idea of them transmitting to someone else is very unlikely. So they probably shouldn't need to wear a mask, period, indoors or outdoors. We're not there yet but that should be -- I think that's where the science is taking us.
CABRERA: It gives us a lot of hope that we're getting around that corner and being able to feel a little bit more normal again. Sanjay, it's always good to have you with us. I don't know how you have managed to stay standing over the past year with all of the hard work you've been doing, and thank you for your ongoing guidance. We all appreciate it.
GUPTA: Thank you, Ana, thank you, I appreciate it.
CABRERA: And be sure to tune in, the all new CNN film, Race for the Vaccine, premieres this Saturday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.
Republican lawmakers downplaying the Capitol insurrection, one comparing it to a typical tourist visit. Really? Tell that to the police officer still recovering from injuries, traumatic brain injuries, that he sustained that day.