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Moderna Says Vaccine Safe For Children Over 12; Infrastructure Negotiations; Police Reform Progress?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 15:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: So, Jessica, with these meetings, right, these all come as Senators Booker and Scott, along with Congresswoman Karen ambassador -- Karen Bass, rather, are negotiating this stalled police reform bill named, as Alisyn said, after George Floyd.


Is there a sense that these meetings today could spark some movement?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly a sense, Erica, that there is movement on this particular issue.

And we're up here on the Hill sometimes, and things -- they say there's movement, and there's really not. In this case, there's a lot of cautious optimism floating around on Capitol Hill that Senator Scott, Senator Booker and Representative Bass can actually get something done.

Just yesterday, we heard from Senator Scott, who said that he sees the light at the end of the tunnel and that all three of them agree that they are working off a framework. So, they have made a considerable amount of progress, considering they were pretty far apart when this all started.

What we also did was hear from Senator Lindsey Graham, who's been kind of on the periphery of this. He's not one of the main negotiators, but he's taking part in these meetings.

And just a bit ago, he said that he thinks that everybody that's involved wants to get to a yes. He thinks this is doable. And he thinks that everybody is negotiating in good faith, so, again, more optimism from a Republican there that thinks this can get potentially over the finish line.

I also just spoke with Congresswoman Karen Bass, who had been talking with the president of the NAACP, of course, a very vested outside group in the outcome of this bill. And some progressives House have said -- especially in the House, have said they don't want any compromises on things like qualified immunity, which is one of the biggest sticking points.

And I asked Congresswoman Bass about that, what she's saying to these more progressive groups that say they don't want to compromise it. And her attitude is really that she's been fighting for this, she told me, for years and years and years, and that she really believes this will be substantive reform, that this will make a difference, and that she has made a commitment to progressives and others that the second that President Biden signs a new bill, that she's going to get right back to work.

So, we can certainly see the contours, Erica and Alisyn, of what's coming together here, Bass telling me it's really coalescing at this point. Again, there are these sticking points that remain. But they certainly seem to be making some progress toward getting past the finish line.

They had always said they weren't adhering to any timeline, despite the fact that President Biden had called on them to have a bill to his desk by today. That's obviously not going to happen. But, all along, they have been telling me they want the right bill, not a rushed bill.

And they -- the three of them sincerely believe that they can get something done on this. And one more thing to keep in mind, you guys, as they progress on this. There's a lot of respect between those three key negotiators. They respect and trust one another.

They also, all three, have the backing of their leadership, so the idea being, if they can come together on a deal, leadership will back them as well -- Alisyn and Erica.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Really interesting, Jessica, to hear why they still have optimism, even though they're missing the deadline.

Thank you very much.

OK, so, here are some live pictures for you. This is a park in Minneapolis where the George Floyd Memorial Foundation is hosting a remembrance at this hour.

And CNN's Joe Johns is there live.

So, Joe, how is George Floyd being honored and remembered today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, for one thing, talking about politics, quite frankly, Alisyn, look, we got another example just a little while ago of how this notorious murder case in Minneapolis has now morphed into a political movement that has real demands.

Just a little while ago, George Floyd's sister spoke to this audience. And she reminded them about the fact that the original idea had been for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to be on the president's desk by this day, the anniversary of his death. That hasn't happened.

She said that's part of the reason why she's not in D.C. with other members of her family. Listen.


BRIDGETT FLOYD, SISTER OF GEORGE FLOYD: So, my message to the president, get your people in order. Get your people in order, because we are going to continue to fight this good old fight. We're going to continue to fight this good old fight.

So that is my reason of not being in D.C. today. And it's OK, because I have no doubt in my mind that bill is going to get passed. And when they it get passed, that's when I'll make my way to D.C.


JOHNS: So, Jessica explained to you all the reasons why that bill has not reached President Biden's desk yet, but it's very clear here today, on the anniversary of George Floyd's death, that there is a real expectation we're going to see a bill, and it's going to reach the president -- back to you.

HILL: Joe Johns for us live in Minneapolis.

Joe, thank you.

Joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst Anthony Barksdale. He's the former acting Baltimore police commissioner. And CNN political Astead Herndon, he's the national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Good to have both of you with us.

Astead, as we look at where we have come in the year since George Floyd's murder, you covered his funeral last spring. I'm just curious. As you're reflecting on what you have seen both in your coverage and, honestly, just as a human being, right, as we're watching what has and has not changed over the last year, Astead, what really stands out to you on this anniversary of his death?


ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's been a year that we have often used the word reckoning, but it's really been a year challenge and tension, I think, for a lot of people, including myself.

As a journalist, as a black journalist, as a black man who exists in this country, sometimes, those identities feel like they can be in conflict, but more as they exist at once. As a journalist, you know that you need to talk to all sides of the spectrum to get the kind of sense of political sensibilities across the aisle.

As a black journalist, we exist in this kind of long tradition of kind of pushing the profession on issues of social justice, on racism, and kind of calling out that language out clearly. And that has been true for years and years.

But, as a black person in this country, you cannot deny the kind of pain that has been kind of wrought over this last year and the consistent reminders of the devaluing of black life that has happened in America.

I was at that wake, as you said, in Houston. And I remember, after kind of completing my story, I was about to head out. And I thought, why haven't I actually gone into this service? Why didn't I actually go through the line and see the body?

And I was thinking that, as a person, as a black man, I wanted to do that. I put down the phone. I kind of missed deadline for 45 minutes, and decided to do that. And I think about that summer and that moment as one where everywhere -- where lots of folks were struggling with that: How do I exist in this as a person vs. how do I exist in this in my profession?

And that is kind of what this reckoning has meant to us all, is a real wrestling with how to how race and identity plays out in kind of American day-to-day life.

CAMEROTA: And then how do we exist in this moment as police?

And, Commissioner, that's where you come in? From the police perspective, what's changed over this year? I mean, we put together a couple of things of a few changes that we know about. State legislatures passed 140 police oversight and reform laws in the past year. At least four cities shifted their funding from police departments to other services, such as mental health agencies.

I mean, that's not exactly defund the police. But it was a redistribution. What have you seen, Commissioner, in terms of what, if anything, has changed?


They're trying to adjust to the political climate. They're trying to adjust to the voices of Black Lives Matter and defund the police. And while that's going on, across the United States, we're seeing significant levels of gun violence in minority black and brown communities.

So, while this is all going on, the pace of reform definitely is trying to speed up. But, unfortunately, as we're seeing today, without the George Floyd bill on President Biden's desk, we have got a lot of work to do, a whole lot of work to do.

HILL: That pace, the pace with which there is or is not change, is certainly something that comes up, but also all the politics that are at play here.

Astead, as we look at the politics at this point, sadly, in some ways, it's amazing that we're the point, as we learned from Jessica Dean, that things could really be moving, and there is some actual movement. But the politics behind all of that is raw, and it is out front.

And it doesn't -- I mean, I'm curious. In your reporting on the political part of it, I mean, does it feel like there's been much of a shift politically, or is it more sort of digging in heels?

HERNDON: Yes, I traveled the country all last year through the election, and you really did feel a shift among the American people, right? Among the public, there was a sense, even among folks who were more moderate or conservative, that what happened to George Floyd was wrong, and that there was a growing consensus that there was something in policing that needed to be addressed.

Now, that window has changed among conservatives specifically. And I think that we also have seen a political moment that never really caught up to that consensus that we had as a kind of country last summer. And that was because of a lot of factors. As we all know here, you have gerrymandered districts that don't really allow Congress folks to really think about the center, but more about the fringes.

You have a filibuster that has really demanded Congress to kind of see things -- has really ramped up partisanship on that side of the Senate. And you, frankly, have two parties that see issues of race and identity from further and further apart from one another.

And so we don't really have a kind of joint reality basis on the issue. And so it's not only pace, but I will talk about scope as well, when we talk about the George Floyd Policing Act.

Remember, when we talk about what activists were demanding last summer, it goes much further than what we're seeing even in that bill named after George Floyd. There is a distance even among what we would think of as liberals and progressives among what should be done in terms of the scope of police reform.

Is it about reacting to police actions or is it about preventing police from even having the next George Floyd?


I think those are two things that we still see the parties wrestling with. And that's part of the reason we don't see that bill on Biden's desk today.

CAMEROTA: Commissioner, you pointed out that, as we're having all these conversations and trying to make these reforms, crime rates are going up.

We saw that spate of shootings and gun violence last weekend. Frankly, we see it many days, all of the gun violence. We see that murder rates are going up in big cities. Some governors are trying to tie it, like Governor Abbott of Texas, as though this is connected somehow to defunding the police, though most police funds -- I mean, police forces have not been defunded.

I think that -- I think, in Texas, the Austin police, they redistributed something like 7 percent of their funds to, again, these other agencies.

Do you see a connection between these conversations and the need for reform and the crime rates going up?

BARKSDALE: I don't see the connection. Here's my problem. We pour billions of dollars into policing. And we

look, and we're all seeing this crime going up. So, if they're not effective right now, why put more money in? The assumption, the thinking that, well, if I give you millions more to the billions that you already have coming in, that you're going to suddenly overnight turn it around, it doesn't make sense to me.

I have run a big city agency. And to think that money -- you just pour money in and we're going to win, that's foolish. That's just like thinking we're going to win the drug war. You have to hold people accountable to give the citizens safety with what they have.

And if they can't do it, if there's no accountability at the executive level, why are you pouring more money in? Defund the police, at times, to me, in some circumstances, it makes sense to me, just simply as looking at -- just looking at fiscal issues, return on investment.

CAMEROTA: That's a really interesting perspective. And we're grateful to have you here to give it to us.

Commissioner Anthony Barksdale, Astead Herndon, thank you very much for your reporting and sharing your thoughts on this year as well.

So, next: Republican senators have a new offer on the infrastructure bill, a trillion dollars, almost half of what the president originally proposed. Has Biden privately signaled that he will accept this?

HILL: Plus: Moderna set to become the second vaccine perhaps authorized for teens. We're going to take a look at what's in this data the company just revealed.

And Republican leaders finally speaking out to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene's incredibly offensive comments comparing mask-wearing and vaccines to the Holocaust.

But there is still plenty of politics at play here in those responses coming five days after her comments.



CAMEROTA: We're following some fast-moving developments between the White House and Republican lawmakers over President Biden's infrastructure proposal.

GOP senators say Biden has privately signaled he's open to a bill with a much lower price tag than his original wish list, maybe even $1 trillion lower. Here's what Senator Thune shared on Capitol Hill moments ago.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): My impression is that the staff at the White House isn't as inclined to make a deal perhaps as the president is. But we have got people who are working in good faith. Shelley Capito,

John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, others are involved with these efforts to try and get a deal on infrastructure that would be good for our economy and good for the country, and could be a bipartisan agreement.

But, at the moment, they don't seem to be interested in that. I hope that that changes.


CAMEROTA: CNN's chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, joins us now.

OK, so is that true? The staff isn't inclined, but President Biden is?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House says that it's not the staff making these decisions; it is President Biden, citing, of course, his longstanding time on Capitol Hill in these negotiations.

And so they say they're not negotiating through the press. But the response to these allegations from Republicans, which is that they're saying that, in these private meetings, President Biden seemed open to taking some of what they're framing as social spending off the table for this infrastructure package.

Of course, that has been one big fight of this is really how to define infrastructure and how Republicans view it and how the White House and Democrats view it. But now Republicans say the White House was just changing course on that several days later.

And so, while they are preparing to come out with their own counterproposal, as you noted, Alisyn, of about a trillion dollars on Thursday, it does seem that these talks are souring between the White House and these Republicans over where they are going from here, because, remember, it was the White House that said they wanted to see progress on these discussions by Memorial Day.

But time is ticking. And we are getting closer and closer to that deadline with no real progress being made. So there's a lot of uncertainty here. I think it really kind of responds -- depends on how the White House is going to respond to that offer that they get from Republicans, that counteroffer, which we are told is expected to come on Thursday, be in the ballpark of about a trillion dollars, which the Republican senators said Biden seemed open to during those private meetings.

But it also would be less than half, of course, of what he had initially put forward. And you have seen some Democrats, progressives, like Bernie Sanders, calling on Democratic leaders to not try to really change this scope of their bill just to appease Republicans, but instead to move forward or go bigger than what he had initially put forward.

[15:20:06] So, of course, this is going to be a critical week to determine whether or not President Biden is going to get that bipartisanship that he wants. Right now, things are not looking promising between these negotiations that are happening between the two sides, though.

HILL: We will keep watching.

Kaitlan, thank you.

This just coming in to CNN: The CDC says the U.S. has now officially reached the milestone of vaccinating half the adult population in the country.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's huge.

HILL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And more news also new today, Moderna announcing that its vaccine is safe for children as young as 12. The company says its research also shows that just one dose of its vaccine provides significant protection for adolescents.

So, Moderna will now follow Pfizer. It will now, Moderna, submit the findings to the FDA next month, in hopes of becoming the second company to get authorization for the vaccine for children.

Here to talk about all this is Dr. William Schaffner. He's a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Schaffner, great to see you.

OK, let's just start there; 50 percent of American adults have been vaccinated. I mean, that's a great number.


Now we have got the other half to come in and be vaccinated. Where have they been? Why aren't we up close to 100 percent yet? Come on, folks. Come on in, the water's fine. The vaccine really does work. It's driving those cases down. We will celebrate the first half, but we will have to work harder to get that second half vaccinated.

HILL: Yes, we will see if maybe some of this other news can perhaps inspire them to roll up their sleeves, this news that Moderna is saying that their trials are showing that their vaccine is safe in 12- to-17-year-olds, and they're going to submit that for authorization.

What do -- I mean, yes, that's important. It could mean another vaccine, but there's also a broader message there, that could be helpful.

SCHAFFNER: Of course. It's that we now have two vaccines for those preteens and teenagers. That's wonderful. We have got plenty of vaccine to vaccinate them, as well as all those

other adults who haven't come in yet for vaccination. When those parents bring the children in, let's vaccinate them both.

CAMEROTA: But, Dr. Schaffner, how about that idea that they get a lot of protection from just one vaccination? Could Moderna just be a single dose for adolescents?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I haven't seen those data yet. I'm not sure that Moderna is asking for that.

We want to get everybody up to 95 percent protection. We know that you get good protection after the first dose, but to really boost it up high, that's important, because height of antibody results in longer protection. And, of course, we're looking for that too.

HILL: I'm just curious. We have spent the last year-plus, right, thankfully speaking with you, and you have been so helpful over the course of the pandemic.

As we look at where you're at, as you point out, that second half of the adult population is going to be a little bit more work to get them vaccinated. But looking where we are as a country right now, I'm just curious your thoughts on being at this point heading into Memorial Day weekend, much different than what we saw in 2020.

SCHAFFNER: Absolutely.

You see me smiling. I'm all excited about everything that we have accomplished, and more to come. I think the country is coming out. They're going out and about their affairs. We ought to have a very nice summer spending the time outdoors, many of us unmasked.

We're moving in the right direction, and we need to keep moving in that direction. I'm very pleased.


Myocarditis, which I think is some sort of heart inflammation, what do we need to know about that in kids?

SCHAFFNER: Well, first of all, myocarditis, big, fancy name, it means inflammation of the heart muscle.

First of all, most people don't know that that happens occasionally in young people. It does. So, now we're vaccinating young people, and, big surprise, after the vaccination, sometimes, you get a case of myocarditis, this inflammation.

But the CDC tells us that's the background rate. It's happening at the same rate as in an unvaccinated population. So there's no causal relationship. And we need to keep that in mind, because we don't want parents to back off vaccinating their young -- their young children.

We need them coming in to be vaccinated.



SCHAFFNER: We're watching this very, very carefully.

CAMEROTA: So, just to be clear, there has been no spike in the rate of myocarditis in young people in the past year? This is -- it's held steady, vaccine or no vaccine?

SCHAFFNER: Beautiful. That's exactly correct.


The background rate is what we're seeing now. There's been no increase, particularly no increase above that background rate among children who already have been vaccinated. And, as I say, these analyses will continue, but, so far, so good.

HILL: As we look at more and more young people getting the vaccine, the initial numbers in that first week since Pfizer was authorized for kids were fantastic for those 12 and up, but, moving forward, there's a lot of questions about how this is going to impact families who have children.

You have some children who are eligible to get vaccinated, some who are not old enough, and how that's impacting decisions that families are making. I'm just curious, what's your message to families like that who -- I mean, look, I'm one of those families.

I have a 14-year-old who's one shot in and an 11-year-old who, as of right now, wouldn't be eligible until he turns 12 in March.

SCHAFFNER: Well, just a few days ago or a few weeks ago, you had two children who were unvaccinated.

So, we keep having to be careful with the youngest. The family can certainly get together and get together with other families, small groups, particularly outside. We're going to do all right with this, but stay away from the large groups unmasked, particularly your youngest.

CAMEROTA: Dr. William Schaffner, we really appreciate talking to you, as always.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: OK, so next: Republican leaders finally condemning Marjorie Taylor Greene for her sickening comments comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust.

One influential Republican fund-raiser says she could benefit from a trip to the Holocaust Museum. I will speak to a rabbi about what she needs to learn.