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Gun Violence; Interview With Former Senior White House COVID Response Adviser Andy Slavitt; New Capitol Riot Footage. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's good to be with you.

We are seeing disturbing, violent new video of the Capitol insurrection. It was just released a short time ago. We have to warn you that the video you're about to see does contain profanities.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your back. I have your back. I have your back.

You protect me, I will protect you. I have your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you an American? Act like...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no idea what the fuck you're doing. You guys have no idea what the fuck you're doing.



Don't touch me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the fuck out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't talk to me, motherfucker.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they work for us. Fuck them.


BLACKWELL: A normal tourist visit, some congressmen say.

Prosecutors say the video you just saw shows Scott Fairlamb, a gym owner from New Jersey, punching a Capitol officer in the face in one portion of the video. He's now charged with assaulting police. And, as you know, all of this happened there in front of the Capitol.

CAMEROTA: This is just the latest video of the violence from that day. There's plenty more, and with every new video, a new claim from right-wing cable hosts and Republicans in Congress that you cannot trust your own eyes.

Their latest efforts to whitewash that horrible day are dangerous and insulting and extremely anti-law enforcement; 21 Republicans voted not to award Congressional Gold Medals to the officers who literally saved their lives that day. Officer Brian Sicknick lost his life.

And now his life partner is speaking out.


SANDRA GARZA, GIRLFRIEND OF BRIAN SICKNICK: It enrages me that they continue to gaslight their supporters. They all have an opportunity to do the right thing by not only their constituents, but the American people as a whole.

What happened on January 6 should unite us as Americans. And they're not doing that. And it disgusts me. It's despicable. And it needs to stop.


CAMEROTA: Disgusting and despicable.

CNN's Jessica Schneider and Drew Griffin are here to talk about this.

Jessica, first to you.

What more do we know about some of those suspects that we saw that day?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we're really getting this glimpse at some of the more violent pro-Trump rioters with the new video that CNN has actually fought in court for months to get released to the public.

The first video we're seeing, you just saw it, Scott Fairlamb, he's that New Jersey gym owner, but he is now in jail because of what he's accused of doing on January 6. The judge in proceedings back in April determine that he's still posed a danger to society.

We saw that video, guys, that you showed, the video of him taunting and then punching a police officer. But now here's more video of Fairlamb really in his own words.


SCOTT FAIRLAMB, SUSPECT: We ain't fucking leaving either! We ain't fucking leaving!


SCHNEIDER: All of this, four videos in all, these were all videos that were reviewed by a judge privately months prior.

It's now, though, being released to the public. So, Fairlamb there, he's charged with 12 criminal counts, including assaulting police, which we saw on video, also carrying a dangerous weapon into the Capitol. He's pleaded not guilty.

But then there's more video that's also been released. Thomas Webster, a retired New York City police officer, former Marine, this new video just released because of the efforts of CNN shows him in a red jacket getting into this altercation with police.





SCHNEIDER: And Webster is now facing seven criminal counts, guys, including assaulting police, entering Capitol grounds with a dangerous weapon civil disorder.

And we have seen a lot of this video already in the past five-plus months. But this is so much more poignant, because we had to fight in court to get it. And it's really showing you on the ground what happened. This is either police bodycam video or other video that we haven't previously seen about what these officers went through, sometimes hand-to-hand combat, to help protect the Capitol, guys.

BLACKWELL: It really is remarkable what we're seeing today.

Drew, let me come to you, because we know you have this special report coming up on Sunday night here on CNN, giving us an even closer look at these insurrectionists, also some of the officers who were there. What did you learn?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Victor, we wanted to find out not only what did happen, which we will show you in explicit detail, but why it happened, why people like you just saw went to the Capitol that day.

Those people probably believe they're true Americans, patriots. They probably believe in their heads that they support the police. What led them to that? And what we found was, these people have been manipulated. They have been lied to, and, in some cases, simply radicalized into believing what they believe.

And our special gets into that, including how they try to always explain the next possible development with another conspiracy.


D. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, shot and killed by Capitol Hill police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a gun!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that sounded like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) gunshot.

D. GRIFFIN: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died from a stroke one day after being attacked by rioters.

Couy Griffin, like others, accept their so-called peaceful protest led to death, so they deny it.

(on camera): So, let me just ask you, do you believe Officer Sicknick died because of the riot?

COUY GRIFFIN, FOUNDER, COWBOYS FOR TRUMP: I'm not even so sure that Officer Sicknick is even dead?


C. GRIFFIN: I'm serious. That's how -- and I hate to be so crazy conspiracy-minded. I'm not even so sure Ashli Babbitt is dead.

I mean, who's to say that was -- have you seen anything of her family?

ROGER WITTHOEFT, BROTHER OF ASHLI BABBITT: Up until the point where she passed, we lived two blocks apart.

D. GRIFFIN (voice-over): The answer is yes.

WITTHOEFT: I mean, I'd say, through high school, me and my sister were best friends.

D. GRIFFIN: This is Ashli Babbitt's brother, Roger Witthoeft. He says he and his 35-year-old sister were very close.

WITTHOEFT: It was weird because we saw it on the news. And it was like, that's my sister.

D. GRIFFIN: Witthoeft says his sister was a tomboy who joined the military out of high school.

WITTHOEFT: She could do anything. She was invincible. That's the way I looked at her.

D. GRIFFIN: After the Air Force, Ashli Babbitt then bought a pool company in San Diego, which she ran with her husband and her brother.

WITTHOEFT: She was happy, talked about how she lives in a beautiful place, does what she wants. It's the American dream.

D. GRIFFIN: And, Witthoeft says, his sister had voted for Barack Obama.

WITTHOEFT: I think that proves, in itself, she wasn't as crazy as a lot of the media is portraying her out to be.

D. GRIFFIN: Then she became a Trump fan.

ASHLI BABBITT, KILLED DURING CAPITOL RIOT: We can make America great again.


CAMEROTA: Drew, that's just stunning. I mean, it's just -- it's stunning.

It's -- when these folks say, I haven't seen it, it's because they're not looking in the right place. They're just in their own echo chamber looking at their own information source. And they think that nothing else exists, except the little whatever weird Web site they're looking at.

But, Drew, about the people who use say that, in their own heads, they don't think that they're anti-police, they're assaulting the police. I know you have spoken to the police officers who were there that day. What do they say?

D. GRIFFIN: They describe to us what was indeed like being in a medieval battle with these people, just hand-to-hand combat, and it went on for hours.

We also speak to the staffers, not the politicians, but the staffers, the government workers who were barricaded inside conference rooms, almost like it was a school shooting situation at a high school that we have seen so many times, just terrified that the mob would break in, pull them out and actually kill them.

It was an amazing documentary to put together. And I'm not naive. I don't think that the people that we're trying to reach are going to be watching this special.

But, if they could, Alisyn and Victor, it would be very uncomfortable, because I do not believe we did anything but hold up a mirror to January 6. And the people who were responsible, the people who made this happen and the people who took part will not like looking back in that mirror.


BLACKWELL: And we know that people are avoiding that reflection. We have had them on this very show.

Jessica Schneider, Drew Griffin, thank you both.

And be sure to watch "Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump's Insurrection." That is Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: OK, so, any moment now, President Biden will be in the White House State Dining Room celebrating a milestone in the fight against COVID-19, 300 million shots in 150 days.

But it's still an open question as to whether the U.S. will hit his goal of 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by Fourth of July.

BLACKWELL: Vice President Kamala Harris is in Atlanta today. This is a stop on a nationwide tour to encourage Americans who still need to get those shots.

CAMEROTA: And the World Health Organization is now sounding the alarm about the highly transmissible Delta variant, saying it is -- quote -- "well on its way" to becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19 globally.

BLACKWELL: Now, as for people already infected with coronavirus, there's a new study from the U.K. compare brain scans of people before and after their illness. And the findings suggest they may have suffered some long-term brain tissue loss.

So let's get into all of this now with Andy Slavitt. He's the former White House senior adviser for COVID response and author of a new book. It's called "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response."

Andy, thanks for being with us.

Let's start first with that goal the president set, 70 percent of American adults one shot by Fourth of July. And you just heard the numbers from Alisyn, off the pace to get there from the daily average of shots. Will the U.S. make the goal?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, I think the big story is not going to be whether we're at 68 percent or 70 percent.

The big issue is going to be that, across the country, there's a lot of variation. And we will have some places at 80 to 90 percent that will be quite protected. And, unfortunately, there will be parts of the country that will be at 40 to 50 percent.

And those are places, particularly with the Delta variant, where people who've not been vaccinated are going to be very vulnerable to continuing to get sick. So I hope people rethink whether or not they want to get vaccinated with this variant on the way.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Andy, the Biden administration just agreed to buy 200 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine. It sounds like the administration believes that booster shots will be necessary. Is that the current thinking?

SLAVITT: Well, not necessarily. I think one of the things that when -- and I can say this from my time

in the White House -- is, the president expected us to be prepared to protect the public under every possible scenario. So, if that's the case, we will have the vaccines to do it.

If it turns out that we need -- we need it for kids, that will be great. We will do it for kids. And if it turns out that we don't need it here in the U.S., then we will be using it as part of our goal to vaccinate the globe.

So, staying one step ahead I think is just really what they're trying to do there.

CAMEROTA: But what is the latest thinking on booster shots?

SLAVITT: Well, I don't think we know yet.

I think -- I wouldn't be surprised if, particularly for older people, we thought that it would make sense to vaccinate folks before we get into the late fall and winter months just to make sure there's a boost.

But it's not entirely clear, because we just haven't had enough time with the vaccine yet. It may be that we don't need to do that. Maybe we need to vaccinate everybody. But I think, as a rule of thumb, I'm assuming that about a year out from when you had your first shot, we should be thinking it's possible that we will need to get vaccinated then, but we don't know yet.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's turn to this study from the U.K. suggests that could be long-term brain tissue loss from COVID, even if you have had a mild case.

Now, this obviously sounds alarming, the loss of brain tissue. But does it also mean a loss of function? Is any of that -- can it be -- is it permanent? Do we know what that means, actually?

SLAVITT: Yes. Yes.

So, first of all, it's a well-done study kind of done longitudinally with imaging of the brain. And it shows exactly as you said, Victor, that there is some deterioration in brain tissue, which is troubling, and we should be concerned about.

This would create potential deficits. It could be tied to the loss of smell that some people have. And those -- that tissue that is lost can't be recovered. Now, people can certainly train themselves to overcome these deficits as they occur. But -- there's things people can do.

But it's another reason why even if you think you're young and you you're not likely to die from COVID, it's another reason to get vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: OK, how about kids getting vaccinated? The U.K. says that they are unlikely to offer the vaccine to children or adolescents, I guess, teenagers aged 12 to 17.


I know that we're still testing it for even younger. What's the thinking right now about whether it will be available to all ages?

SLAVITT: Yes, well, look, here in the U.S., I think we believe strongly that it makes sense for kids to get vaccinated. We will get the dosing right. There's far more protection when that's available.

We have procured enough vaccines in the U.S. to do that. So we think it's a good use of people's -- of these resources to protect people. So, despite the fact that the kids are at a lower likelihood of getting something severe, I will tell you, I have a 19-year-old.

My 19-year-old, you may know, has -- six or seven months later still has some troubling symptoms from when he got COVID last fall. So I would just urge parents to try to not be in that situation.

BLACKWELL: So, Andy, on the question of young people, we will remember a couple of months back when there were fewer than 10 cases of blood clots in women who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA recommended pausing while studying potential guidelines or warnings.

There have now been more than 300 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart or the tissues around the heart in young people who have had the vaccination, relatively small numbers still, but is this a point at which there should be a pause to study if there's a direct link between these vaccines and this tissue inflammation?

SLAVITT: No. No, I don't think so.

I think, if we think back to the time when the Johnson & Johnson pause happened, it was right when they were just rolling out the vaccine to younger people for the first time. And I think the -- those -- no one knew whether those three cases would be three, 30, 300, or 3,000.

And so because of the way reporting lag works, they wanted to wait and see what was going on. It was an abundance of caution. Turned out not to be as strong a signal as they feared it would be. So I don't think that's the right precedent. I think they did -- they made in their best -- the best judgment the decision they thought at the time would be most assuring.

And so in this particular case, I don't think we have got very serious concerns. We still, as you said, Victor, have a very small percentage of the population that has been impacted. And, of course, it's not been -- the impact hasn't been permanent.

CAMEROTA: Andy, we can't help but see the lovely bookcase behind you, which suggests that you may be broadcasting from home.

And I'm just wondering, because this is the moment of truth where you're starting to see a divide in this country between employers -- some are saying it's time to get back to work, time to get out of our houses, get back into the office. We have heard some employers say that this week.

And some employees are saying, I kind of like what's been happening over the past year in terms of the flexibility and working from home. Do you think -- I mean, on balance, given the mental health issues of isolation, do you think it's time for people to get back in the office?

BLACKWELL: We know how you feel about this one.

CAMEROTA: I know. I'm a little bitter. I mean, I will be honest, I have been in the office the whole time. And I want my friends to come back.

So, what is going to happen now?

SLAVITT: So, first of all, as related to the bookcase, this book "Preventable," great book, one of the best books I have ever read.


SLAVITT: Totally objectively speaking. Couldn't say enough good things about it.

But, look, I think we're -- I think different employers are going to adjust to a new normal. I think my view is that we are likely to be in a stage where we're all a little bit too cautious coming out of this period we have been in, because it's just been so scary and all- consuming, and there's been so much anxiety.

So I think we have a hard time accepting that, wow, we really don't need to wear masks. Wow, we can really congregate again with our friends and our family. And if you have been vaccinated, I hope people out there celebrate, because you have been through a lot, you have survived a lot. We have lost things along the way.

It's time to regain many of them and enjoy them and socialize with our with our people at the office again on our family. So we're in a good spot right now. It doesn't mean we don't have threats, but we have lots of threats in life. And we just don't let them cripple us.

This is a manageable challenge.

BLACKWELL: Andy, on the book, before we go, there had been many books written about the pandemic. We have covered it here extensively.

What do you tell us that we don't know in your book?

SLAVITT: Well, I had a really unusual experience during the first year of the pandemic, in that I was in contact with Jared Kushner and Deborah Birx and Tony Fauci during the first year.

And so I report kind of on a very first-person, kind of almost narrative style on sort of what happened, and to take a look at where we fell down, where -- and it follows people's stories from someone who worked in an Amazon factory and what happened to them, to other things we didn't see.


And I think it's a very readable, relatable book. And I hope people, when they read it, can go through that last year without the fear, with some sense of perspective. And then it asks some questions about what we need to do better as a country, not just politically, but what can we do better as a country, not just for the next pandemic, but how to make sure that the things we learned, like kids not eating school lunches, that we can solve those problems.

And how do we make sure that we don't have a government that fails us again? And so I hope people -- hope will really enjoy it.

CAMEROTA: They are already. They will enjoy it.

The book, again, is "Preventable." And it's a real insider's look at what we have just been through.

Andy Slavitt, thank you, as always.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Andy.

SLAVITT: Thank you both.

CAMEROTA: All right, we're keeping an eye on the White House.

President Biden is about to mark that 300 million coronavirus shots in 150 days. But what about his July 4 goal?

BLACKWELL: Also ahead, the latest surge in gun violence that has American cities on edge, we will talk about that.



BLACKWELL: Let's take you to the Phoenix area now.

This area is hurting after another shooting spree left one person dead, 12 others injured.

CAMEROTA: This happened in the suburbs on Thursday. Police believe a lone gunman is responsible for eight apparently random drive-by shootings. This spree lasted about 90 minutes before police were finally able to arrest the suspect.

And this is just the latest spate of mass shootings in cities across the country.

CNN's Natasha Chen has the details.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alisyn, law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling with similar problems of gun violence.

As of June 16, the number of gun deaths in the U.S. so far this year, not including suicide, is about 19 percent higher than at this point in 2020 and about 38 percent higher than this point in 2019.

That's according to the Gun Violence Archive, which also tracks mass shootings with at least four victims. Just in the last week, there have been about 20 mass shootings. In Arizona on Thursday, police say one gunman was linked to at least eight shootings, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.

On Thursday night, two separate Metro Detroit freeway shootings led to the death of a toddler and left a 9-year-old injured. In some cities, special operations are under way to target that crime, like in Miami- Dade County, where more officers will be patrolling troubled areas. And there will be more attention on illegally operating businesses and venues, where some of the shootings happen.

But one challenge is with vacancies on certain police forces. The Atlanta assistant police chief told city leaders at a public safety meeting this week that there are more than 400 vacancies in the department. When city council members pressed him on the surge in violence in the greater Atlanta area, he said he did not have an answer on why that's happening, but said these same conversations are happening on daily calls with law enforcement from cities small and large across the country -- Victor and Alisyn.


BLACKWELL: Natasha Chen, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, Senator Joe Manchin, the pivotal person in passing President Biden's agenda, gets dealt a major blow in bipartisanship after Mitch McConnell vows to block the compromise on voting rights.

So, what's the plan now? That's next.