Return to Transcripts main page


Should U.S. Take Action to Explore China and Their Virus Leak to Help Ensure That Another Pandemic Won't Occur In The Future?; A Key Witness in the Trump Investigation Told to Prepare for a Grand Jury Testimony; President Biden Visiting Tulsa, OK, Next Week to Honor the 100 year Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 10:30   ET


DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: They didn't press China, and when the Chinese government specifically said they weren't going to release records or make scientists available for interviews, they didn't press harder.


And so I do think at this point, it's appropriate for the U.S. government to take action and to explore because we really need to understand what happened. It's important for preventing the next pandemic. If, in fact, there was an intermediary animal, then we need to find that animal because otherwise it continues to be a reservoir for disease.

And if there was a lab leak, we need to understand the safety protocols that's may or may not have been used. And critically, to understand when the Chinese government knew what they knew because if, in fact, there was a cover-up for some period of time, that was really a critical time that the rest of the world could have used in order to prepare for the possibility of this pandemic.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Given - given the research that you've done, I want to be clear not on this but on the health care system in China and knowing Xi Jinping's position and position of the Chinese government on all of this and their vehement, repeated denials of any of this originating in that lab, I wonder what your advice would be to the Biden administration to actually get real answers here?

WEN: Well, my advice is don't depend on the Chinese government's cooperation because you are unlikely to get it. Or even if it they get the cooperation of the government, what does that actually mean?

If they now are releasing laboratory safety records and allowing access to scientists, how do we know that there isn't coercion involved or that records weren't falsified? And so that's why I think the Biden administration enlisted the intelligence community to find out, using whatever means possible. I think that is going to be really important.

HARLOW: Let's move on to - to some good news, and that is Elizabeth Cohen's great reporting with that data exclusively obtained by CNN that after the CDC said you can take off your masks in most settings, a lot more people got vaccinated. And I ask you this full well knowing that you kind of think they botched it on this announcement.

WEN: Well, I do think that. It's important, and it was very important, for the CDC to come out and say here are the benefits of vaccination. These vaccines protect you so well. And here are all the things that you can now do because you're well protected. So I think that was great, and we did see an uptick in interest, at least, in vaccines after the announcement.

What I fear is that the interest may not be sustained because there are some people who will now look at the fact that mask mandates are virtually lifted across the country and then say what's the point? If I can just take off my mask, even if I weren't vaccinated, then why should I get vaccinated? Of course, many people won't agree with that. They see vaccines as a way to protect themselves and families.

But I do think that without proof of vaccination that's required in some way, that we have actually lost a really important opportunity to get people to be vaccinated. And that's why we're going to have to depend on colleges, universities, and businesses and other places that will put into place vaccine requirements.

HARLOW: But what's interesting is a lot of companies aren't requiring it. Like we just had the Delta CEO on a few minutes ago. They're requiring mandating vaccine for new hires, right, and they're going further than a lot of other companies.

A lot of companies, from what I've assessed, is they don't feel like they can force their current employees to do it, right? They're not going to fire people for not getting vaccinated. Do you have any medical views for these companies and colleges wrestling with this decision?

WEN: Well, more than 400 colleges and universities have already said that they're going to require vaccinations come the fall semester. And there are companies that are asking that if people are coming back into the office and want to -

HARLOW: Right.

WEN: - get back to pre-pandemic normal, that they then are requiring vaccinations. I mean, I think it's hard. If you're asking people to sit shoulder to shoulder with one another maskless in a conference room setting, I think there are a lot of people who are going to feel uncomfortable doing that unless everyone around them is vaccinated.

HARLOW: Right.

WEN: And so I think we're going to see grassroots campaigns, as well, from employees saying do this for me because it'll help me feel safer if I have -


WEN: - an immune-compromised family member or children - or young children.

HARLOW: Sure. You're so right because our kids, most of them, the young ones, still aren't vaccinated. Leana Wen, thank you. Dr. Wen, thanks a lot.

WEN: Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A new signal that the investigation into Trump and the Trump organization moving into a new perhaps more critical phase. Prosecutors telling a witness to prepare for grand jury testimony.



SCIUTTO: This morning, CNN has learned that Manhattan prosecutors now pursuing a criminal case, potential criminal case, against former President Donald Trump, and the Trump organization have informed at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony.

HARLOW: Joining us now is our Paula Reid. This is kind of what Ellie Reid - Ellie Reid, Elie Honig was getting at with us yesterday when I said well, it's all in secret. He said, yeah, but not people who are subpoenaed. They can tell you they're' going to - they've been subpoenaed.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, and god bless him for talking to us once in awhile and giving us insight because this whole process is done in secret, and most of what we learned is often from witnesses. Here's what we're seeing right now, we know that prosecutors have this grand jury, and we also know that they're informing at least one witness to prepare to go before the grand jury.

It all signals that, in fact, this is moving into an advanced stage where prosecutors will have the opportunity if they want to test their case and possibly bring an indictment. Now this investigation has been going on for two years, and so when we think about how this will move forward, all eyes right now are on the long time Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.


The allegations at the core of this investigation are about fraud. Did the organization lie to banks, the government, insurance companies, about their assets? Now in order to bring a fraud case, you would likely need witnesses who were there when these key decisions were made.

We know the former president, he doesn't leave much of a paper trail, he doesn't email, he doesn't text, so someone like Weisselberg may be able to give investigators insight into how these decisions were made. Now so far, there's no indication he has been cooperating, but he's currently facing his own tax investigation which will likely increase the pressure for him to cooperate. Now earlier today on "New Day," his daughter-in-law Jennifer spoke to

our colleagues, and she says that she does believe that all this pressure will add up and he will likely flip. She also said that Weisselberg is allegedly trying to push her out of her apartment because of her cooperation and her willingness to speak to the press.

Now this grand jury will be sitting for at least six months. It can be extended, but that's roughly the same amount of time that the Manhattan D.A. has left on his term, and it is expected that he will want to take this to some sort of resolution before he leaves office. But again, no guarantee that anyone will be charged in this investigation.


HARLOW: Paula, thank you for that reporting.

SCIUTTO: Well, top election officials of both parties are warning about the potential fallout from baseless election audits taking place now in states across the country. Michigan Secretary of State and the company Dominion Voting Systems say that outside audits, like the one underway in Maricopa County, Arizona, would be illegal and could prevent that equipment from being used again.

At the same time, in Georgia's Fulton County, yet another so-called audit is set to move forward. I'm joined now by Georgia's Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Duncan. Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

LT. GOV. JEFF DUNCAN (R-GA): Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: The - The difference we've seen in recent weeks, right, is that the big lie has migrated from propaganda to actual procedural changes, changes in laws, for instance in Arizona, giving the legislature the ability to overrule election officials of either party.

And things like these so-called audits in states where you can imagine, in another election, they wouldn't just be side shows, they could have a real effect on the outcome. And I just wonder what's your reaction to that? I mean, you've been, not singular, but you've been in a minority in the party willing to publicly call out not just the big lie, but the steps taken in the wake of the big lie. What's the significance of these moves from your point of view?

DUNCAN: Yes, just the sheer fact that we're still talking about this over six months after the election in November -


DUNCAN: - is troubling for Republicans. And, you know, look, the only way to change the election outcome that Joe Biden is the president is a successful Republican campaign in 2024. And, you know, I really feel like these audits and these conversations around election fraud are really - they're selfish. They're looking to try to prop up one story and one person, and not

take the party into consideration and the future of the party. You know, these efforts in these states are not just about the presidential election that happened over six months ago, it's about mayor's races and congressional races. It's a distraction and not helpful.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean it's a good point because - and I make this point frequently, those same members of Congress who dispute the result of the presidential election are disputing their own election as well because it was the same ballots, right, you know, in these states. I mean, the thing is, though, what - you know, what the real effect of this could be going forward?

For instance, in your state, Georgia Congressman Jody Hice still perpetuating the big lie. He's running against Brad Raffensperger to be Secretary of State, and therefore would have great influence over the next election. I just wonder what is standing in the way of people like that using their power, right, to change the outcome of elections based on lies like this?

DUNCAN: Well certainly that would be troubling, and, look, we're going - we're watching this play out here in Georgia, unfortunately continues to play out. We - we've nationalized two U.S. Senate races that didn't work out for us as Republicans, despite all the other Republicans that are in office down here.

But, look, I do sense, Jim, that there is a changing tide that's slowly but surely happening, where folks on both sides, both those that support Trump and don't support former president Trump, wanting to move on and embrace realities because there's really no viable path way forward for Donald Trump to ever be president again. I mean, I think you have to face reality whether you -


DUNCAN: - you support him or don't support him. That's just the realities, and so as a party, we need to move forward.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, I appreciate your hope, right? And I agree there is some signs there, but there are contradictory signs as well. Today, you're going to have the Senate, Republican Senators filibuster what was a bipartisan proposal for a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6th.

They're going to filibuster it, and this is a few months after two thirds of Republican House members voted against certifying the election results.


So tell us what positive change, what are the concrete signs you've seen that the tide is turning here?

DUNCAN: Well one, it's appalling that anybody would stand in the way of a further investigation into the awful events of January 6th. You take the political players out of it and nobody, nobody in their right mind would think that that wouldn't be a good idea to investigate an attack on Democracy.

But, you know, my signs are, you know, GOP 2.0 is a movement that I'm a part of. We're watching this come in from all over the country, folks going to the website and signing up and donating money.

I was in D.C. last week, there's an energy to find out what's next because I think conservative Republicans that are common sense want to call somewhere home other than just in a conspiracy theory or not. And so this is an in-between zone that allows folks to really fight for their conservative values, but do it with a tone that makes sense and matches the very fabric of America.

SCIUTTO: You have in your state today, fellow Republican Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's going to be joining Florida Representative Matt Gaetz. Of course, doesn't represent Georgia, but he's coming up from Florida, and they're going to be doing another one of these, you know, events and supporting an audit in Fulton County there as well.

As you see this, of course Greene spreads the big lie, Gaetz has his own, you know, investigation underway into his personal behavior. Is that the future of the GOP that voters in your state see, right? I mean, you interact with them all the time. When they see that kind of thing, do they say this is a sideshow or are they drawn to it?

DUNCAN: Well, it certainly is a sideshow, and I think there's elements that maybe drawn to or towards it, but those are not elements that are going to ever allow us to win more elections and try to take back the White House, try to take back the U.S. Senate, try to take back the U.S. House.

It's an unfortunate side show. It certainly doesn't match the conservative values I was raised with. It certainly doesn't match the conservative values I'm raising my three sons with, with my wife, and certainly we can do better. It's unfortunate, but look this is a chaotic period of time for our party, but I think we can be better on the backside of this and be prepared to win the White House in 2024, but it's going to take intentional effort.

SCIUTTO: We can be better from - you know, good advice for all of us today. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Duncan, state of Georgia, thanks so much for joining us.

DUNCAN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: President Biden will visit Tulsa, Oklahoma, next week to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is one of the worst mass killings in American history, leaving possibly hundreds of Black Americans dead.

HARLOW: But nobody knows exactly how many were murdered, and no one was ever charged with the mob violence that destroyed an economically vibrant community known as Black Wall Street. Our Abby Philip has more on this dark chapter in American history.


REP. REGINA GOODWIN (D-OK): Greenwood was exceptional. Greenwood was rare.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, once a sprawling community, a hub of Black wealth and pride with a centerpiece known as Black Wall Street is now this, one half of a city block that is almost entirely white owned.

Greenwood is also a crime scene. 100 years ago, a 19-year-old black man was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old white elevator operator. No actual evidence emerged, but the accusation alone was enough to spark what is believed to be one of the deadliest and most destructive race massacres in American history.

GOODWIN: All hell broke loose, right? It was - it's either you stay in your house and get burned to death because arsonists were going through, or you take the chance, you run out into the street, and die from a bullet wound, yes from gunshot.

PHILLIP: Nobody knows exactly how many Black Tulsans were killed, but some estimates put the number near 300. Greenwood, in all its excellence, was burned down, and most of the bodies have never been found.

GOODWIN: I think when you ask why today is it not corrected? Pretty much you still have racism today, and you have a dominant culture that does not want to really own up to the heinous crimes that occurred.

PHILLIP: 107-year-old Viola Fletcher is one of three living survivors of the massacre.

VIOLA FLETCHER, 107 YEAR OLD SURVIVOR OF TULSA RACE MASSACRE: I don't remember what time it was, but it was at night. We scrambled around and got ready to get dressed and we left in a what you call it then a covered wagon or was drawn by horses, horse and buggy.

On our way out, we could see people running and people laying on the ground probably bleeding from being shot and killed and smelled smoke with houses burning, and heard the noise of airplanes flying. And so it was quite disturbing.

PHILLIP: No one has ever been charged with the murders of black residents or destruction of property in the Tulsa Race Massacre. Some Black residents rebuilt with no help from the government or private insurance companies, but many others never returned to Tulsa.

GOODWIN: And everybody says, hey, don't blame me for what happened a long time ago. And what we're saying is that what happened a long time ago you benefit from. You benefit from today. The generational wealth that you have today, the land that you have today, all of that began with all that destruction.



PHILLIP: Many Black Tulsans that we spoke to said that reparations should not just be about paying money to the victims of the massacre, but also about rectifying the long term harms caused by it, and the decades of systemic racism that followed. Abby Phillip, CNN, Washington.

HARLOW: Abby, thank you. Be sure to watch the CNN film "Dreamland: The Burning Of Black Wall Street." It premiers Monday at 9:00 Eastern.

Thank you so much for being with us today. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour" with Kate Baldwin starts right after a short break.