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Calls For Equality Continue On Anniversary Of George Floyd's Death; Five Days After Holocaust Comments, GOP Leaders Finally Denounce Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA); Moderna Says, Vaccine Appears Safe And Effective For Ages 12-17. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I appreciate your time today. I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Thanks for joining us. It's a very busy day. Ana Cabrera picking up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thanks so much for joining us, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And happening this hour, President Biden is meeting with members of George Floyd's family one year after his death. It also comes as lawmakers missed the president's deadline for police legislation. But we are learning there is progress as negotiations are still very much under way.

Today, George Floyd's brother is set to urge President Biden in person to help get the bill passed and to sign it following a year of unrest and growing demands for racial equality that were sparked by Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

Happening right now, a celebration of life for the man whose name continues to ring out among calls for change, that is a live look at events under way in Minneapolis. We have a reporter there, Omar Jimenez, as well as CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House for us.

Kaitlan, let me start with you. What are you learning about this meeting between President Biden and Floyd's family today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, Ana, we know it's going to be private. There are not going to be cameras brought in, like you see for often the other meetings that President Biden has. And the White House says that was important to President Biden because he wanted this to be a private behind closed doors meeting citing the relationship that he's built with the Floyd family over the last year.

And so we don't expect to actually see that -- them in the room together in just a few moments in the Oval Office, though there is a chance they could come out to the microphones and speak, as often you do see some of the guests at the White House do. That could potentially give us a readout of this meeting. But we know this meeting is not just about sitting down with George Floyd's daughter, with his siblings, with the family, Attorney Ben Crump, of course, but also what's really looming over it is the fact that this deadline that President Biden set when he was addressing Congress just last month has come and gone without any significant change on Capitol Hill, no like deadline in sight, essentially, even though we are hearing from more and more Democratic lawmakers that they're hopeful they can get somewhere when it comes to police reform, that they can get a bill to President Biden's desk.

He has really used this in his conversations with the families to say that this is something that's important to him and it is something he wants to sign. But the White House, when they were just in the briefing a few moments ago, the press secretary would not say what the new deadline is that President Biden wants to see, when he wants to sign that bill. They just said he wants to sign it, Ana, as soon as possible.

CABRERA: And I was just looking at my notes from Senator Tim Scott, one of the key negotiators on this legislation, the Republican in the room who is saying, I see light at the end of this tunnel. So that is a sign of optimism.

Omar, what is the atmosphere like in the city where Floyd was killed one year ago?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a combination of a lot of things, Ana, in one part, it is remembrance, it is reflection on the year that has passed, but in another respect, it is a celebration of George Floyd's life and legacy, with music, art, and speakers, some of who have been devastated by police violence themselves. And all of it, of course, ties within the context of what is different in Minneapolis now this year later.

We know that policy often is long behind reality and we're seeing some of that play out, of course, in Washington, D.C. but also here in Minneapolis as local leaders trying to input changes that can have a long-term impact here in this community.

Now, we're in Downtown Minneapolis right now. There are also remembrances and activities happening at George Floyd Square, about 3.5 miles from us. That's, of course, the intersection where George Floyd was murdered.

We know that earlier today, there were reports of gunfire, which the Minneapolis Police Department said that one person was, indeed, shot, walked into a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound nearby that square, and is expected to survive.

But as far as we understand, things are back to normal there, where we expect a vigil later in the evening, of course, remembering and reflecting on the life of George Floyd, while here, we await the governor, Tim Walz, and the mayor, Jacob Frey, for a 9:29 moment of silence a little bit later this afternoon, Ana.

CABRERA: Omar Jimenez and Kaitlan Collins, my thanks to both of you. Now to the other fast-developing story on Capitol Hill, it took five days, a GOP leadership is now finally condemning Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for her incendiary comments comparing mask-wearing rules to the Holocaust.

Despite outrage from across the spectrum, Republican leadership remains silent until just today. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finally tweeting out this, Marjorie is wrong in her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust of wearing masks is appalling. But let me be clear, the House Republican Conference condemns this language.

Taylor Greene continues to double down on her comments, saying just today that she was just comparing mask-wearing rules only to discrimination in the early Nazi years, and she went on and on saying she didn't necessarily apologize for those comments.

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But if people were uncomfortable, she apologized for that.

CNN's Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox is following this for us. She's joining out from the Capitol. You've got Senate leaders speaking up at the same time. It seems like this was a coordinated effort on the part of Republicans. What are you learning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, like you said, there was a bit of a delay before Republican leadership actually reacted to Marjorie Taylor Greene's statements that happened five days ago. And what you saw here was some Democrats really calling out Republican leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's spokesman saying, essentially, that McCarthy was just too late in his comments condemning Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Now, I also spoke with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who rarely talks in the hallways on Capitol Hill, but here's what he told me exclusively.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) (voice over): Once again, an outrageous and reprehensible comment.

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FOX: And that, of course, is a very short comment, but significant, given the fact that McConnell rarely just speaks in the hallway as he's approaching the Senate floor.

I also think it's important to note that it could intensify, or at least the backlash could intensify, in upcoming days. Remember, Democrats took away Marjorie Taylor Greene's committee assignments a few months ago on Capitol Hill. there were 11 Republicans who joined her. And those were comments that Marjorie Taylor Greene made back before she was in Congress. These are tweets and comments that Marjorie Taylor Greene is making as an elected official, and that could be seen from some Republican colleagues as a line that she has crossed. So, of course, a lot of developments happening in the House of Representatives is out of session this week, so we'll have to wait and see whether or not lawmakers, when they get back to Washington, want to take any further steps to condemn their colleague. Ana?

CABRERA: We know you'll keep us posted. Lauren Fox, thank you.

I want to discuss this with CNN Political Commentators S.E. Cupp and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Congressman Dent, it took five days to get condemnation of these comments from Republican leaders, five days. Why did it take this long?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think simply out of fear, Ana. I mean, I saw some -- I was on a show last night with Don Lemon where they were talking about how Marjorie Taylor Greene's image ratings were higher than Liz Cheney's and Mitch McConnell's?

CABRERA: So they're afraid of Marjorie Taylor Greene?

DENT: I think -- well, look, Ana, what I said back in August last year when she was nominated, that Kevin McCarthy should have not invited her into the Republican conference and said she was not ever going to get on a committee, and that they would defeat her in the primary in 2022. That's what they should do now. They should disinvite her from the Republican conference because her comments are so out of bounds, so reprehensible, so offensive and so idiotic, but they're not surprising, given the source.

She gave us -- she brought to our attention Jewish space lasers, for heaven's sake. This is insanity. And she is a problem for the party, but I think they've been afraid to punish her because they're focused on winning the majority in 2022. And if they antagonize that wing of the party, they could lose speaker votes for Kevin McCarthy.

Now, I don't agree with this strategy at all but I think that's what's driving this. But these recent comments are just so out of bounds, so wild, so reckless, so incendiary, they have to push back and I think they should remove her from the conference.

CABRERA: S.E., what do you think the tipping point was? Because it did take five days but eventually it happened. So what changed the game in their minds?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'd like to believe this was simply a bridge too far but I just think they were facing so much external pressure and also from, you know, inside the party, plenty of Republicans, from Liz Cheney to Adam Kinzinger, came out to say that this was awful. But you also have, you know, had a lot of Jewish leaders and groups saying this was awful because it is awful. It's disgusting. The exploitation of the horrors of the Holocaust simply to, quote/unquote, own the libs by Marjorie Taylor Greene is disgusting. And the Republican Party owns her. They own this.

And I don't care that they finally came out in a very milquetoast way to say, hey, look, we do condemn this, we do condemn this five days later, and after she already released another batch of crazy this morning, we do, we condemn it, so what? Of course you should condemn it. You should never have owned this garbage in the first place.

And Charlie is right, she should no longer be part of the conference, she should also be expelled from Congress. This has no place in the people's House. And they're not afraid of her, they're afraid of her voters. They're making the same calculation that they made with Trump, that the white supremacists and the bigots that Trump courted in 2016 were needed by the party to win him the election.

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And now they believed those same voters and apparently anti-Semites, to whom this probably appeals, are needed again to win in 2022 and 2024. It's disgusting.

CABRERA: What I don't get though is that is not the majority of the American people. That is not the majority of the voters who will be, you know, going to the poll.

CUPP: No, it's a very small group of people.

CABRERA: And she's only one representative in one state. So her voters are not the exact same as the people who are literally voting for Kevin McCarthy, or Mitch McConnell, or Steve Scalise, or the list goes on.

CUPP: Right.

CABRERA: And here is the other thing, guys, They're not actually owning this, even at this point. They're condemning her words but there's like a caveat with it. Because --

CUPP: No, no, I don't mean they're owning it like taking responsibility for it. I mean, they broke it, they own it, they bought it. They own it. They are responsible whether they say so or not for Marjorie Taylor Greene and the advent of QAnon and this disgusting exploitation of all of the worst -- you know, the underbelly of the fringe elements of the party, the elements the Republican Party used to be ashamed of and disavow immediately, they are openly courting and apologizing for it.

CABRERA: I hear what you're saying and I want to get you back in, Congressman Dent. But I do want to point out because, for our viewers haven't seen the full statements from McCarthy and Scalise, it is noteworthy that they were doing some finger-pointing at Democrats in both of their statements.

And I'm just thinking, this shouldn't be a right or left issue, right? This is right versus wrong. And this was one of their own. It was Marjorie Taylor Greene who made these comments. So I'm not understanding how they're trying to point the finger the other way and think that that's acceptable.

DENT: Yes. The bigger problem --

CUPP: Well, they're trying to deflect, right? They're trying to distract. They're trying to say, well, look what Nancy Pelosi has done or not done, or look what Ilhan Omar has done, because they don't want to deal with the problem inside their own house. They'd rather point fingers.

But I think people -- look, and there's issues of anti-Semitism on the far-left. I've pointed that out as well, but let's deal with this discreet problem, this person who keeps doing it over and over and over again and the Republican Party keeps sort of ignoring it or tacitly allowing it.

CABRERA: Congressman?

DENT: The bigger problem, Ana, is this. Look, the House GOP is marginalizing folks like Liz Cheney, who are quite rational and thoughtful, and Adam Kinzinger, while standing by Marjorie Taylor Greene. I mean, Liz Cheney is pushed out of her leadership position for stating the truth, and then Marjorie Taylor Greene, they've stood by her up until this moment, they've stood by her with all of the baggage that she brings and all the reckless rhetoric.

And this is the bigger problem for the party. They have brought into the mainstream some -- you know, these conspiracy theorist, white nationalist elements, unfortunately, who have been given a voice, a platform, while we're turning on all these folks who voted for impeachment, Liz Cheney who stands on principle, Adam Kinzinger, poor Peter Meijer in Michigan, a freshman, stands up, does the right thing, and these are the members who are not being treated the way they should. This is not the party I knew when I was in. We used to try to marginalize the whack jobs and uplift and embrace those who were thoughtful members.

CABRERA: Quickly, Congressman, do you think, given you have served alongside Congressman McCarthy and Scalise, will they take action? Because talk is cheap, right, action is really what makes a bigger statement.

DENT: I can only hope that they do. Look, I have said repeatedly that she should have never been allowed into the House Republican Conference, or seated on committees. Well, she's not on committees anymore but they should disinvite here, remove her and then tell her and tell the Georgia GOP, we are going to work to defeat her in a primary in 2022. That's how you deal with problems like this.

They were able to marginalize Steve King when Kevin McCarthy, quite rightly, pushed back on him and removed him from committees. Well, guess what? They found candidates and they defeated Steve King in a primary in 2020. So that's what they need to do here. It's pretty simple. CABRERA: We'll see. Congressman Charlie Dent and S.E. Cupp, great to talk with both of you, thank you.

Progress but no deal, pressure mounting on lawmakers to pass police reform. Where talks stand, just ahead.

Plus, a major vaccine announcement today, Moderna says its vaccine works in adolescents as young as 12. So what happens next? We're on that.

And sit, stay, heel, sniff out COVID? Early research indicates dogs might be able to smell and identify a COVID-19 infection.

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We'll talk with one of the researchers working with the dogs in this study.

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CABRERA: Now to the fight against the coronavirus, Moderna now says its vaccine is safe and appears to be effective at preventing COVID-19 in people between 12 and 17 years old. Next, it goes to the FDA to consider extending the vaccine's emergency use authorization to adolescents.

Dr. Paul Offitt joins us now. He's a member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Panel. He's also the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Offit, it's always good to have you on with us.

What does the FDA need to see in this data to broaden the emergency use authorization to this group?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Right, so similar to the Pfizer data, another mRNA vaccine, they want to look carefully at every one of those children who received the vaccine, look carefully what their immune response was, make sure the vaccine is safe, and including looking at all parameters of safety and then and only then will they extend the use of the EUA down to 12 years of age.

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CABRERA: How quick do you think that will happen?

OFFIT: I think it will happen very quickly, as was true also with the Pfizer vaccine.

CABRERA: Younger Americans are lagging right now in the vaccination rates for those 12 to 15, only 1.4 percent have received at least one dose, just 1.7 percent of 16 to 17-year-olds have received one dose, and for groups that have had the opportunity to get a vaccine much longer, still look at this, 18 to 24-year-olds, only 7.6 percent have received one dose, according to data from the CDC. Where should these numbers be? OFFIT: Much higher. It's surprising. I think people assume that children, because they are affected generally less frequently and less severely, at some level, invulnerable. It's not true. I mean, there have been more than 300 children who have died of this virus, there have thousands who have been hospitalized by this virus.

There's an unusual disease where the virus caused you to make an immune response against your own blood vessels, the so-called multi- system inflammatory disease, which can cause damage to heart, lung, liver, kidney and also psychological trauma that comes with the isolation that's been caused by this virus.

Now, you would think that parents would rush out to get the vaccine. Finally, it's a ticket to freedom and it's happened very slowly.

CABRERA: My daughter, who is five, has a little ways to wait, said the other day to me I can't wait to get my vaccine, because she's sick of us saying you've got to wear your mask, no, you can't go do this or that, we got to be extra careful still.

The good news is there is more signs of hope, White House is expecting us to reach the milestone of 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated today, and we have Harry coming up in just a moment to dig into those numbers. Right now, the U.S. is averaging less than 25,000 new cases a day. That is the lowest since mid-June last year. Deaths have dropped as well. Is this because of the vaccine, and do you think it means we're in the clear?

OFFIT: Well, I think it's a few things. One, it's the weather. This is basically a winter respiratory virus. And as we move to the warmer months, it's more difficult for the virus to spread. Two is definitely vaccines.

I mean, we're upwards of more than 40 percent of the adult population that's fully immune, that's good, and also natural infection does protect and there's probably been about 100 million Americans who have been naturally infected. That's 30 percent of the population. We're definitely getting there.

And I think the summer months will be really reassuring in terms of numbers of deaths and cases being very low. But this is a winter virus and I think we need to get to around 80 percent population immunity so that when next winter comes, we won't see a surge. So I think we'll probably need another 80 million Americans more to be vaccinated to get to that level.

CABRERA: Okay, thank you. That is our challenge. Dr. Paul Offit, good to see you, thanks for being on with us.

OFFIT: Let's get to CNN's Harry Enten now for more on where vaccinations stand. The White House, again, expecting to us to reach that huge milestone, 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated by today. Can you break down the numbers for us, Harry?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I can, and thanks for the tease, by the way. Look, here's the situation. Look at where we were last week compared to where we were this week. The rate that we've been increasing and what we see is that, in fact, we've been going up significantly. As of Monday, 49.8 percent, that's up 2.7 points from last week, so we're really doing a very good job vaccinating. That means that as long as we continue that pace, we'll reach 50 percent-plus, that's expected today.

But here's the even better news as we look to the future, right? So, July 4th, there is that Biden idea that we would get 70 percent-plus of age 18 with at least one shot. Right now, we're at 61.5 percent. But there's been a 1.8 point increase in the last week. If that current rate holds by July 4th, we will, in fact, reach that 70 percent-plus.

We'll be at 72 percent. And there's a little push to give there. So even if we fall a little bit short and we don't increase nearly as much going forward, we still should reach 70 percent-plus as long as we hold anywhere close to the current rates of vaccination.

CABRERA: I'm crossing my fingers. You're also seeing, Harry, signs that fewer people are social distancing. Tell us about that.

ENTEN: Yes. You know, one of the great things about vaccines is that means we have to social distance less. And what we see in this new Axios/Ipsos poll is, in fact, get this, just 44 percent of Americans said they social distanced in the last week. 56 percent said they did not. This is the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, in which a majority of folks said they had not socially distanced in the last week.

And we see this in one big sort of number, you know, airline travel, right? And what do we see? We see that the number of people who are airline traveling, airline passengers on May 24th, 1.75 million yesterday. Back in 2020, it was just 341,000. So a lot more people are out there traveling and that's the beauty of the vaccines. If you take them, you can get back to your normal life.

CABRERA: Those numbers point to progress. Harry Enten, thank you, good to see you.

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ENTEN: Thank you, great to see you.

CABRERA: The Biden Justice Department is fighting the release of a critical 2019 memo about whether then-President Trump obstructed the Russia investigation. Why? We'll explain.

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