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Biden Announces Crime Prevention Strategy; NYPD Outpacing Gun Arrests from 2020; Delta Variant Poses Greatest Threat; COVID-19 Deaths Have Fallen Dramatically. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.


As violent crime surges in many cities nationwide in the wake of the pandemic, public safety experts and law enforcement officials fear things could get even worse over the summer. Just hours from now, President Biden will lay out details of his new crime prevention strategy which focuses heavily on crushing gun violence.

HARLOW: Already this year in the United States there have been 296 mass shootings, 16 mass murders. Those are events in which four or more people are killed, and nearly 9,500 gun violence deaths already this year.

The president is using this moment to announce new executive action to tamp down -- to try to tamp down gun crime. He's also, once again, calling on Congress to act on gun legislation.

Let's begin this hour at the White House. Our Jeremy Diamond joins us.

What is to come from Biden today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, we're going to see the president lay out a comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy here to address this surge in violent crime that happened over the 20 -- over 2020 and is -- appears to be continuing into 2021 with experts warning of a potentially dangerous and violent summer.

We're going to hear the president sign some new executive actions on gun reforms. He's also going to push Congress once again to enact gun control laws, press for the confirmation of his ATF director. And this will all follow a meeting between the president, his attorney general, and several mayors and chiefs of police, as well as community violence intervention experts here at the White House.

And this is all to show that the president is indeed taking this rise in violent crime across the country and in major American cities seriously. Now, as far as the plan itself, there are five main pillars that the

White House, senior officials laid out for us last night. One is to stem the flow of firearms. That's going to include this new zero tolerance policy from the ATF to revoke gun licenses from firearms dealers who sell firearms to people who are not entitled and allowed to have them, supporting local law enforcement with federal tools, investing in community violence intervention.

One of the really interesting things that's happening here, both on the community intervention front, as well as on the broader law enforcement funding, is the administration wants to make clear that those funds from the American Rescue Plan, those coronavirus relief funds, those state and local funds from that bill can, indeed, be used to help communities that are dealing with the surge in violence related to the pandemic to bring up their law enforcement staffing, to invest in some of these community violence intervention measures. And that is certainly something that we're going to hear President Biden highlight today.

But, again, this is all showing this really intense concern inside the White House about this rise in crime because of the impact that it will have, not only on lives lost, but also on the economy. And there is, of course, always politics at play here. And that is in attempting here to kind of pre-butt some of the arguments that we have heard in the past and that we will surely hear from Republicans ahead of the '22 midterms, that President Biden is somehow soft on crime. They want to make clear, the White House wants to make clear, that President Biden and his administration are taking this seriously, and there really is an interesting marrying here of some of those efforts to combat the violence and also to attack the gun violence problem in America.

HARLOW: Jeremy Diamond, thank you. We'll wait for Biden's remarks a little bit later this afternoon.

The president's announcement comes as statistics show homicides continue to rise year over year in many of America's biggest cities.

SCIUTTO: And New York City police say that they have taken guns off the street through arrests at a faster pace than in 2020.

Shimon Prokupecz joins us now.

Shimon, being out with the cops on night patrol, what they and community leaders told me, they spoke a lot about what they call an iron pipeline, guns coming up north from states with more lax gun laws. And I just wonder how that factors into the numbers you're seeing.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It factors greatly into the numbers that law enforcement, throughout New York City, but also other parts of the country are seeing, and that's why we're seeing, as part of this announcement from the president today, is that he's announcing that the ATF, along with police officials in New York and Chicago, L.A. and other cities, Washington, D.C., and even San Francisco, where they're seeing this increase in gun violence, specifically gun violence they're seeing an increase in over the last 18 months, that they're stepping up this task force to deal with gun trafficking.


It's basically what's going on is that people are leaving their cities, like New York, and going out of the state where there are lax gun laws, buying the guns and bringing them into New York City, selling them in New York City, and also sharing them. There's a big problem with gangs and crews that are using these weapons that they're buying out of state.

So we see the numbers here in New York, 2,169 guns have been seized in just really the first six months of this year. At one point the NYPD says that they were seeing the numbers bigger than they have seen in almost 15 years.

The numbers are continuing to rise. It's a great concern here in New York City, as well as in Chicago. In Chicago, they have now seized nearly 6,000 guns. Through this month now they're saying, the Chicago Police saying, that they have seized 5,556 guns. That's a thousand over the same time period last year.

So these are all very troubling numbers. You know, police officials from all across the country have gone to the Department of Justice, have gone to the White House and have said, we need help. So perhaps this is the first step in that.

The other thing, Jim and Poppy, as you've been focusing on here, the bail reform laws. A lot of times what's also happening is that people who are arrested with just mere gun possession, and that's a big deal, they're being let out of jail. Meaning that they don't have to spend any time except that one night in jail, they're being released. And in many cases, what the NYPD is certainly seeing that those folks are out there carrying guns again and getting arrested and also involved in shootings.

So there is a lot of things going on here. But, certainly, the first steps that we're going to see here from the Biden administration are going to be helpful to law enforcement.

SCIUTTO: Yes. One of the cops we spoke so the other night said that sometimes folks are released after arrest before they've even finish their paperwork for that arrest.


SCIUTTO: And it's frustrating.

Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

Well, joining us now to discuss, Anthony Barksdale, he's former acting Baltimore Police commissioner. Also Astead Herndon, he's national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Chief Barksdale, if I could begin with you. One thing that was clear to me being out with the cops, right, is that

there is no single cause or solution to this rise in crime. I mean you'll hear from the left and the right that these are simple issues, right? It's one thing, but it's not. It's multiple things. It's layered.

So, from your perspective and your experience, what is the most urgent issue here that needs to be addressed, not just by the president, but by cities around the country?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, FORMER ACTING BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, Jim, you got out there and you saw what the cops are dealing with. So the most urgent thing that can be done is one step that President Biden is taking, solidify the position in the ATF. I believe his name is Chipman. Confirm the director, get the local agencies to work with the federal agencies. Figure out who is -- who are the worst individuals on the streets driving the violence and then have the locals with the feds work to subtract them constitutionally from the crime equation.


HARLOW: Astead, to the politics of this. I think Tom Freidman's article today is really important in "The Times" talking about his home city of Minneapolis where they have seen city wide crime up nearly 90 percent compared to the first half of last year. And he writes this, quote, department officials say it's no coincidence that the rise in crime comes after the departure of at least 200 -- lost at least 200 -- the departure of 200 members of the city's police force through retirements, resignations and medical leaves in the month since George Floyd's death. And he notes only 19 people were in a new class of cadets in the Minneapolis Police Department to just hit the streets. And the headline of the column is, want to get Trump re- elected, dismantle the police.

He calls the defund the police calls from some Democrats political dynamite for them. Is it?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I mean, if you want to -- you know, I'm not going to defend the premise of the column because, you know, that's not the argument I think I see from the reporting. What we see is police departments that have experienced a decline and -- that experienced an uptick in crime for a lot of reasons, including some that have seen mass resignations or folks leave the force since George Floyd. We've seen some police departments be financially ham strung. We have seen others where they've actually increased the budget that went to the police departments locally and that still has not resulted in a prevention of crime. So I think it's kind of simplistic to look at one notion.

But we could also speak to the politics of this front. It's not as if Donald Trump did not try to drive the increase in crime numbers against Joe Biden in last year. That was something that we saw as being successful. But it could be different in the midterms, right? Donald Trump is a specific person who is not kind of making that argument in full. If this is a referendum on Joe Biden and the Democrats, we could see a different type of backlash, particularly in those gerrymandered, suburban house districts.


So the politics here is complicated. What we know is that the solutions are also complicated. And I don't think -- I don't think it will be helpful for anyone to say that it's specifically tied to one specific movement, particularly when we haven't seen that lead to very large scale, local defunding of police. I don't think that that's -- that that's a one to one comparison.

SCIUTTO: Commissioner Barksdale, when I speak to cops, they need help on guns. They say -- they say it straight up, they're just too easy to find. These are high capacity magazines they run into, high-powered weapons.

But you know the politics of gun control in this country. I just want to ask you a basic question given your experience as someone who led a police department.

Can you do crime prevention, can you address this rise in crime without addressing the prevalence and availability of guns?

BARKSDALE: Jim, I believe that you can do both. You can focus on guns, but at the same time it takes a human hand. It takes a person to pull the trigger. Who are the worst? So the cops need better intelligence. They need to know who they're confronting so they can focus their efforts -- their efforts. And that is what we did in Baltimore.

This isn't about stats. Look at them. They're seizing guns all day now. All day and all night. But what are the results? The individual --

SCIUTTO: If they're flooding in -- but if they're flooding in at such a rate, which they appear to be, right, don't you need some sort of national effort to make them less available, less easy to get?

BARKSDALE: Absolutely. And President Biden, focusing on the ATF, is an excellent step forward. What I'm saying is, on the ground level, the cops need -- they do need federal partnerships so when they do grab somebody with a gun, that person goes federal instead of getting released overnight.


HARLOW: Yes, I mean, we've heard the NYPD commissioner talk to Jim previously about that and in your news piece, I mean what they're dealing with in terms of these people getting out so quickly.

Astead, what's interesting about what Biden is going to say this afternoon is, there's a lot of history here for him in terms of crafting bills to combat crime. I'm talking about the '94 crime bill specifically. And there are parts of it that he has now disavowed and said he was wrong on. But there are parts of it that he stands by and they remain today.

How do you think that shapes his fight on this fund? HERNDON: Yes, I think it's critically important. I remember going to

Wilmington, Delaware, to write a story about how the Biden -- Joe Biden, the 27-year-old fresh face to Congress, made crime a focus of his initial letter to the Senate, saying that that is something that he wanted to be looking at. And we know how that kind of played out. Not just the '94 crime bill, but the decade leading up to that he worked with people, Republicans like Strom Thurman to try to find a middle ground where they were both kind of taking more punitive, harsh on crime measures. He thought that that's where the Democrats needed to be politically to insulate themselves.

The question is, what -- that central tension of that bill has not gone away. Is he seeing this as a kind of sociological issue, something to stem the root cause of crime, or is he seeing this as a measure of -- a reactive measure to kind of listen to law enforcement sources about increasing their resources. That is going to be still a question about, we don't know kind of where Joe Biden has moved. The biggest portions of the party have moved on those questions, but they have elected someone who has been somewhat resistant to doing that. And I think, again, it comes up against a filibuster that is going to stymy every piece of big legislation the Democrats try to put on the table. So it's both a question of where the president is at individually and where is the party willing to go to really deliver on this issue that they know Republicans will try to use against them.

HARLOW: Thank you both for the important discussion on this. Astead and Chief Barksdale, great to have you both.

HERNDON: Thank you.

BARKSDALE: Thank you.

PHP: Ahead, quite a warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci on the delta COVID variant. He says it could upend all the progress that we've made against COVID-19. That warning comes as new numbers show a disturbing rise in younger people dying from COVID, and those victims are overwhelmingly black.

SCIUTTO: Plus, the Biden agenda dealt a major blow on voting rights. Can Democrats close out this critical week by at least getting deals on infrastructure and police reform? Gosh, we'll see.



SCIUTTO: So, a stark warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci. He now says that the delta variant is the, quote, greatest threat to the United States' progress so far against the pandemic. According to Dr. Fauci, the variant now accounts for more than 20 percent of sequenced coronavirus samples in the U.S. among new infections.

HARLOW: There is some encouraging news here, though. He believes it's unlikely that we will see a return of the high virus surges that we saw last year. Let's bring in Dr. Paul Sax. He is the clinical director of the

Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Doctor, it's good to have you.


HARLOW: On top of that warning from Dr. Fauci, you have Dr. Roschelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, saying something that I suppose is obvious but so important to hear, and that is at this point, with such effective vaccines available to everyone in this country, almost every death from COVID she's saying is preventable.


SAX: That's absolutely true. One of the key findings from countries where the delta variant is spreading rapidly is that people who have received two doses of the vaccine are largely still protected from getting it even though it's very much more transmissible. In addition, those who do get delta who have been vaccinated typically get much milder disease. So we have the tools available to us even though it is spreading very rapidly.

SCIUTTO: So, when you look at our national vaccination rate at this point, we talked for ages about getting to herd immunity. We're not there yet. We are above 45 percent fully vaccinated. And among adults, we're in the high 60s or will be in the high 60s for adults having at least one shot.

Is that vaccination rate high enough, in your view, to prevent a big surge in infections as a result of the delta variant?

SAX: That's a really good question and it really depends also on the region you live in.


SAX: For example, right here in New England, in particular, we have very high vaccination rates and the state of Vermont is astoundingly high. And there, absolutely, I think the combination of the people who have been vaccinated in certain parts of the country and the people who have already recovered from COVID-19 means that we aren't going to see the kind of surges we saw either in the spring of 2020 or the winter of 2020-2021, which really overwhelmed hospitals.

However, there are parts of the country where vaccine rates are really much, much lower and there are still a lot of vulnerable people. And they might be lulled by the sort of difficult situation that is, you know, going on in -- I mean the better situation that we have in the summertime, you know, they can be lulled into a false sense of security.

SCIUTTO: Yes. HARLOW: Today there's a really important meeting, that's the one with

the CDC vaccine advisers. And they're going to hear more detail about people who developed heart inflammation after they became vaccinated against COVID. The big question here is, is there a causal link or is it coincidental? How do you -- how do you determine that?

SCIUTTO: So I think one of the things we really want to focus on is that in the United States we have one of the best safety monitoring systems for vaccines actually in the world. And we're the envy of many other countries.

As a result, they are going to look at the data carefully, try to provide some sort of clear evidence, whether they're linked or not, and then come up with recommendations.

And what I anticipate they will see is that there isn't an association, that most cases are mild, and that the situation is rare. However, it could lead to at least temporary either pausing of the vaccines for younger people or potentially a different recommendation, maybe one dose rather than two. We'll have to see. And we're all eagerly awaiting that meeting.


HARLOW: For sure.

OK, Dr. Paul Sax, thank you very much.

SAX: Thanks very much for inviting me.

HARLOW: COVID-19 deaths have fallen dramatically across this country. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows average daily deaths are less than a tenth of what they were at the peak of the pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Still, nearly 300 Americans are dying every day and some groups remain more at risk than others.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, she's been following this.

So, Elizabeth, tell us what the latest data shows.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, CNN has done an analysis of CDC data, Jim. And, unfortunately, what we're seeing is sort of a continuation of what's been going on since the beginning of the pandemic, which is that people of color are disproportionately affected. In fact, more so now than ever.

So let's take a look at what analysis found.

So, first, let's start with this, black people in the United States are 12.5 percent of the population, you would expect that they would also be around 12.5 percent of deaths. But throughout the pandemic they've accounted for more than 15 percent of deaths. And if you look starting in May, black people accounted for 19 percent of deaths, even though they're about 12 percent of the population. Now let's take a look at an age trend that's going on. Throughout the

pandemic, the majority of deaths have been people over age 75. But in May, a majority of deaths were people under age 75. And a big reason for both of these things is that black people, as well as young people, are not vaccinated at the same rates as other groups. So, unfortunately, just the uptake, the vaccine uptake among black people, also among young people, has not been as high as it's been for other folks.

And so there's a great effort now to convince those, both of those groups, to take up the vaccine. Great strides have actually been made with the black community. We have seen changes. There need to be even more. And as far as trying to get young people to take the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, at the age of 80, is doing something new. He's going on TikTok. He said he didn't think he would ever find himself on TikTok, but there he is. Let's hope he can make a difference.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. And it does make a difference. It's right in the data in terms of how this spreads.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

HARLOW: I'm smiling because I don't even know how to use TikTok. So (INAUDIBLE). But maybe you do, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I do not. I do not.

HARLOW: OK. Good for Fauci.

SCIUTTO: I will admit that.


Well, as Democrats on The Hill go back to the drawing board on voting rights, the Biden White House is full steam ahead on infrastructure. With only two days left before the July 4th recess, what are we going to see?

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street this morning. U.S. futures up slightly after rising near record territory. Tuesday, stocks and bonds settling after plunging last week when the Fed said it might -- one Fed president said they may raise rates sooner than expected. We're on top of all of it.