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Britney Spears Set to Speak Out; Delta COVID Variant; Pedestrian Bridge Collapses in D.C.; Biden's New Anti-Crime Initiative. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 14:00   ET



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

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

Soon, President Biden is going to respond to a serious problem that is hitting all parts of this country. This is the surge in violent crime. We're seeing it in most big cities., also in smaller and medium-sized cities. We're talking Mesa, Arizona; Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

CAMEROTA: So, minutes from now, President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland will meet with some local law enforcement leaders. And then the president will present his plan to tackle the increase in homicides, aggravated assault and robberies.

He's expected to use executive actions to try to reduce gun crimes. The Gun Violence Archive finds that there have been nearly 300 mass shootings, meaning at least four people shot at once, since this year began.

BLACKWELL: CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is with us now.

So, give us a look at what we expect to hear from the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think, number one, the fact that we're hearing from President Biden taking the entire day at the White House to focus on this publicly shows that the White House is wanting to look like President Biden is on top of this, that he is taking steps to address the spike in violent crime that you have seen happening in several cities across the U.S.

And so that's why he's sitting down with the attorney general, with those law enforcement agencies and mayors to talk about this. And what's important, though, is -- when we're going to hear from President Biden, is he is viewing all of this through the lens of gun violence.

And so that is primarily going to be his focus when he comes out in just a few moments from now to address this. And one of the steps he is expected to take -- Alisyn, you were just noting that he's going to take some executive action. He is going to direct to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to revoke gun dealers' licenses essentially a first offense basis. If they do allow the sale of a firearm to proceed without conducting a background check or a few other steps, they will call them to go ahead and immediately revoke their licenses.

He's also going to let states and localities that have gotten some of that COVID-19 relief money from that bill that he signed into law earlier this year to hire police officers, to pay police officers overtime, to use it for some community-based initiatives, because they believe that's another step that will help reduce the uptick in violent crime that we have seen.

But we should note that this is coming as there is a divide in the Democratic Party over how to address this. Of course, you have not only seen liberal progressives talk about defunding the police, something that President Biden was against on the 2020 campaign trail. But it also comes at this sensitive moment, where so many Democrats are pushing for police reform, police overhaul.

And now they're having to balance it with what to do about this rise in -- and uptick in violent crime. And Republicans are trying to take advantage of it, tying the two of those together, those calls to defund the police, with the uptick in violent crime.

And so I think that's what's going to be the context and the background of President Biden's speech later today, but also his own role in policing and in crime bills that passed in the '90s, when he was a senator and often came to signing ceremonies at the White House with then President Clinton in 1994.

And so that is all going to be the context for this. But, of course, now he is president. He is the one leading on this issue. And White House aides are worried that this trend could only increase in the summer, so they want to make sure it looks like President Biden is on top of it.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan Collins, thank you for the preview. We will be watching. Thanks very much.

So, in the first three months of this year, 32 cities or counties in some of the nation's largest police jurisdictions have seen increases in both homicides and aggravated assaults compared to the very same time period last year.

The surge in violence is also hitting smaller cities. So, obviously, these are not just statistics. They're tragedies for families and for communities. Just one example, on Monday night, Milton Grant, a father of twins, was killed in a New York City robbery.

BLACKWELL: Listen to this story. So, Grant was sitting in his car. He was on the phone. He's speaking to a friend. Three suspects walk up to his black BMW. They pull out guns. They try to rob him.

And then when Grant tried to drive away, he was shot in the head. Then he crashes his car. Then surveillance video shows someone steal Grant's watch and ring and chain as he lay there in the car. His fiancee spoke to CNN.


NIXIA JORDAN, FIANCEE OF MILTON GRANT: My fiancee was a great father. He was a family man. He put his kids first and his family first.

And now I have to tell my little ones that their father is not returning home anytime soon. I never thought that my husband would be taken from me in this way. We talked about having forever together, about raising kids.

And for someone to just murder him, essentially murder him for his belongings, instead of working hard for getting his own, it's just -- it's a slap in the face.



BLACKWELL: Those suspects have not been caught.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is here to talk about what we're seeing in New York.

When we see the numbers, Shimon, we have to remember that there is a family, there is a story like that behind all of those numbers. What are we seeing across the city?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Families, kids being killed across the city, innocent victims just either caught in the crossfire between rival gangs that are shooting at each other.

That is something that is very common now across the city and has certainly law enforcement here very concerned. The key thing in all of this is guns.

It's all about guns. And that's why we're seeing the Biden administration do what they're doing, having the ATF join in this task force, this force that they're going to put together to try and stem the flow of guns throughout all these different neighborhoods, across cities, along every part of this country that is seeing so many guns on the streets of their cities.

A law enforcement official I have talked to said they haven't seen this many guns in probably 15 years on the streets across cities. So what they're doing is -- what we're going to hear from the Biden administration, some of what they announced yesterday is that they're going to have this task force they're going to put together to try and stop some of the trafficking of these weapons.

Here in New York City, shootings -- we're seeing this across the country -- up 73 percent, other kinds of violent crime as well. A lot of this is being blamed on guns. They are saying, law enforcement, police officers all across the country saying that what is happening is just that there are too many guns on the streets across the country. CAMEROTA: Yes, because when you have a gun, a robbery turns into something that we just saw. I mean, it can turn into a horrible deadly tragedy.

BLACKWELL: Shimon, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to Alfredo Ramirez. He's is the director of Miami-Dade police in Florida.

Director Ramirez, do you agree that this is -- we must start this conversation with guns?


There's a whole load of issues that we're experiencing with the violence that we're seeing after the pandemic. We have the illegal possession of firearms. We did this Operation Summer Heat to stem our criminal activity.

And in that operation, so far, we seized 284 illegal possessed firearms. Another issue that we're having is social media. People are getting into these violent attacks over non-tangible things. It's songs. It's you're hanging around with the wrong person, the brazenness of the shooting, the lack of caring for humanity.

They will go after their target, and if anybody else is standing around, they won't hesitate to shoot them too. This is a sociological issue. This is an issue that we really have to address not locally only, but as a nation. And it's going to take law enforcement, community leaders, government officials, moms, speakers, all of us together to keep our -- prominently our youth from reacting to situations in as violent manner.

CAMEROTA: Director Ramirez, specifically in Miami, can you just give us an update? We all saw the video of that mass shooting at a banquet hall, where three people were killed, 20 others were shot. I believe we have the surveillance video to remind our viewers of what happened.

These gunmen pulled up. And within, I mean, seconds, these masked gunmen, within seconds they were able to mow down scores of people. Have you apprehended these suspects yet?

RAMIREZ: At this time, we have not. But I can assure you that our detectives are working very hard.

Yesterday, I was briefed by my detectives along with other cases that we're working. And the community is stepping up, giving us information. But, as you know, with these type of shootings, we have to get all our ducks in a row. There is a fear factor with coming forward.

But the detectives are doing a great job. And, really, when you -- I went through the case -- I can't get into specifics,but I was really shocked and disturbed at why these things are happening. It's really -- it's truly a senseless act of violence that people are losing their lives, their families are being destroyed over stupidities.

And it just has to stop. And we all have to stand up as a nation to stop it. We cannot have our youth lose their lives over foolishness.

BLACKWELL: Director, we heard from Kaitlan Collins at the White House that the president's going to employ executive orders to try to get something done on guns.

But, more broadly, as it relates to the surge that we're seeing, what do you want to hear from the president today?

RAMIREZ: Well, obviously, his support for law enforcement, the resources for law enforcement, where we can address this issue, not only in a law enforcement component, but also as a socioeconomic component, enrich our communities, get a hold of our youth before we lose them to these cell phones and social media.


Get guns out of the hands of the hands of these people who are not supposed to have those guns, illegal possession of firearms, felons that are running around with guns, and make sure that people that are violent felons, that they need to stay in jail. They cannot be out walking amongst our community, because they don't follow the rules.

They don't care about life. They're not -- they're the ones -- that small percentage of people are the ones that don't want to progress or reassimilate. They're just on a path of violence, and our communities and our youth, most of all, are suffering from this.

So, I think a comprehensive plan is definitely what we need. And we really appreciate his support. I know my mayor, Levine Cava, is up there, Daniella Levine Cava, and she's represent Miami-Dade County. And we have a great program that we're doing down here to stem the violence.

And I look forward to further dialogue on this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we know that those community-based programs are part of the conversation.

We, of course, will bring those remarks from the president at the White House live when he makes them.

Director Ramirez there in Miami-Dade, thanks so much.

RAMIREZ: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: OK, now we have a breaking news update.

At least four people were injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a busy interstate in Washington, D.C.

And CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now with the latest.

Pete, what happened? PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn,

thankfully all of those injuries are minor. But this is so incredible when you see just how dramatic these images are.

These are just coming in from D.C. Fire. And D.C. firefighters tell me that this bridge collapsed under four vehicles below, three of them cars, one of them a truck. This is happening in a very critical spot. DC-295 is a very busy highway that runs through the District of Columbia. It connects Maryland suburbs on the North and South side.

This pedestrian bridge runs over DC-295 connecting Northeast D.C. neighborhoods to a Metro station the east side. We now know the backups your stretch for miles. It is not clear how long this cleanup will take. Also not clear what caused this, whether or not a truck hit the bridge or whether or not this was some sort of structural failure.

Bridges keep coming up again and again in infrastructure talks. The American Society of Civil Engineers ranks bridges with a C grade; 46,000 across the country are structurally deficient and in poor condition. D.C. Fire tells me this incident could have been so much worse.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it sure looks like it, Pete. Thank you very much for bringing us that breaking news.

OK, so next: Top health experts continue to warn unvaccinated Americans about the aggressive spread of this Delta variant. So we're going to speak to an E.R. doctor on the front lines about what she is seeing.

BLACKWELL: And, in about two hours, we will hear from Britney Spears, as she will address a judge about a controversial conservatorship.

We will tell you what is ahead and what we have learned in these just- released court records, what she wants -- next.



CAMEROTA: Dr. Anthony Fauci says, in just a matter of weeks, the contagious Delta variant could become the dominant strain in parts of the U.S. with low vaccination rates.

In just the span of two months, the Delta variant has spiked to more than 20 percent of the new cases in the U.S. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says Americans have the tools needed to overcome this threat.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone ages 12 and up. They are nearly 100 percent effective against severe disease and death, meaning nearly every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic, because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is at this point entirely preventable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Dr. Megan Ranney is with us now with more. She's an emergency physician at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, good to have you.

Let's start there. This perspective that every adult death is entirely preventable from COVID-19, you agree with that?


Listen, I have seen no COVID cases in my hospital recently that were among unvaccinated people. Sure, every once in a while, someone who's vaccinated can get a very mild case of COVID. But it doesn't land them in the hospital and it doesn't kill them.

The best protection we have against COVID is getting a vaccine.

CAMEROTA: And in your emergency room, in your hospital, the people who are coming in -- or I don't know if you're able to tell who has the Delta variant or not, but has the -- have the symptoms or the severity of the people coming in, has that changed with this Delta variant?

RANNEY: So we never know in the moment what variant a patient has.In fact, only the minority of cases in our country are sequenced.

There are some areas of the United States where they sequence more, but reports from across the country and across the world say that this Delta variant, first of all, is much more transmissible. So it's more easily passed from one person to another if those folks aren't vaccinated.

Second, it comes on more suddenly. So, whereas, with the traditional COVID-19, we said it was one or two weeks, maybe even three weeks after infection before you got hospitalized. With the Delta variant, we're seeing reports that people are getting sicker more quickly.

And then the third part is that it seems that they're just getting more sick, period, that this Delta variant is not just more transmissible, but may also result in worse outcomes, higher likelihood of hospitalization and death.

Of course, it's still a pretty new variant. So we're tracking it closely. And we will have more definitive answers hopefully within the next few weeks.

BLACKWELL: So, there's this new CNN analysis that shows that, yes, the number of COVID deaths are dropping, but those who are dying, they are younger and more of them disproportionately are black, black people 12.5 percent of the population.


During the peak of the pandemic, 15 percent were black. Now, in May, 19 percent, are black. They're younger as well. Why is this happening? We know that they're not getting vaccine, younger people, at the rate of the rest of the population, but how do you stop it? How do you change it?

RANNEY: So, the really simple answer here is vaccines.

Who is getting sick? It's people who have not been vaccinated. Who hasn't been vaccinated? It's folks that are younger. We know that that vaccination rate in age 29 and below is much lower than in age 30- plus.

And, unfortunately, there are still huge racial and ethnic, as well as geographic disparities, in who's gotten the vaccine in arm. That's both because of continued issues with access, right -- so, it's more difficult for folks living in urban or rural areas to get transportation to find a vaccine clinic -- and because of issues around trust.

We know that black and brown communities, understandably, have a greater distrust of the medical system. It's so important for us to work with community organizations to increase those vaccination rates. And then we won't see these rising rates of COVID in general or rising rates of the Delta variant.

The COVID vaccine protects against Delta just as well as it protects against the traditional forms of COVID.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Ranney, while we have you, I think that, as we speak, there's this ongoing CDC meeting today about the myocarditis, the heart inflammation, seen, I think, primarily in young men and teenage boys right now.

There's -- they say -- here's one of the headlines coming out -- that they have received 1,226 preliminary reports of heart inflammation following the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses. Of course, there's been millions of doses given, but that's a higher number than we had heard before, more than 1,200.

I know you have young kids. If you had a teenage boy right now, would you wait until more information came out about this myocarditis? Or would you get him vaccinated right now?

RANNEY: I would still get him vaccinated. First of all, those reports are preliminary. They have yet to be confirmed. We know that a lot of those cases fall off once they do, and do the case analysis.

Second, the rate of complication from this COVID vaccine is still lower than the rate of severe disease, hospitalization and death among this age group for COVID. I want my kids, I want our community to go back to normal. And the best way to do that is with a vaccine.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you very much for all the information. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thank you so much.

So, after Republicans blocked sweeping voting rights legislation, Vice President Harris says that she is undeterred. So, what's next?

CAMEROTA: And she's one of the world's biggest pop stars, but she is not allowed to even make small life decisions for herself.

What we expect to hear from Britney Spears in court today.



BLACKWELL: So, this afternoon, Britney Spears is expected to speak publicly for the first time about her controversial conservatorship. That's a court-ordered arrangement that has controlled her money, much of her life since she suffered a mental health crisis in 2008.

CAMEROTA: The singer is expected to make an appeal to the judge to remove her father as primary conservator.

"The New York Times" obtained court documents that reveal Spears has pushed for years to end this arrangement. She alleges that her father controls everything, from who she dates to the color of her kitchen cabinets, as well as her finances.

Let's bring in "Entertainment Tonight" host Nischelle Turner.

Nischelle, always great to see you this.


CAMEROTA: This "New York Times" documentary really opened a lot of our eyes to what she's been living through for years. She can't control who she dates. She can't control the color of her kitchen cabinets.

I mean, much less that they have turned her into, it sounds like, a circus act, where she goes out and performs and doesn't get to manage or keep her own money. So, I mean, this is just -- it's a shocking state.

TURNER: Yes, well, there's a lot to unpack there, Alisyn.

And this has been going on for 13 years, when you do the math. She got her autonomy stripped from her back in 2008. And if you remember back to those times, Britney was publicly going through what seemed to be a mental health crisis at that time. So, they had someone step in to help her. That, again, was 13 years ago.

Now, what we have seen and what we know now, especially according to these documents that we saw in this -- in the article yesterday, was that she has been pushing for several years to get her autonomy back, to get it back under her control, because, like you said, she can't really make any decisions.

That's how conservatorship works, down to her kitchen cabinet colors, who she sees, who she hangs out with, who are her friends, what money she spends. And to your point as well, Britney has actually done a lot in those 13 years that she's been under this conservatorship.

She's released four albums. Two of them have gone platinum.