Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Day Two Of Derek Chauvin Trial; Teen Who Recorded Viral Video Testifies; NY Times: Matt Gaetz Is Said To Face Justice Department Inquiry Over Sex With An Underage Girl; Fears Of A Fourth Surge As COVID Cases Spike 23 Percent In One Week; Testing COVID Vaccine On Kids; Rise In Attacks On Asian-Americans. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 30, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that he is asking the D.O.J. to release all the information that they've collected into this investigation, including the tapes, and all of the surveillance that has come out having to do with this investigation.
And again, he denies that he did anything wrong -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Ryan, thank you very much on that breaking news.
And thanks to all of you for being with us. "AC360" starts now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: "I believe I witnessed a murder." Jim Sciutto here sitting in for Anderson tonight.
Those are the words of Donald Williams who testified in Day Two of Derek Chauvin's murder trial. Others on the stand today also talked about what they saw, and what is still difficult for just anyone to see.
Officer Chauvin's knee and body, choking George Floyd last May. Those witnesses were too young to be shown on camera, the fact that they were not too young to witness a murder live speaks volumes today.
In a few minutes, we'll speak in depth about that as well as about what happens if what millions of Americans saw on video and reacted to by taking to the streets is not what the jury sees. What happens if there's no conviction?
Also, in light of what Erin and Ryan Nobles just aired, we're going to speak with the reporter who first broke the Matt Gaetz story. First, however, CNN's Omar Jimenez with the latest from the Chauvin trial.
JUDGE PETER A. CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY: Good morning, members of the jury.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The story of what happened on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis told today through the lens of eyewitnesses.
GENEVIEVE HANSEN, MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER: I had already assessed that he had an altered level of consciousness. What I needed to know is whether or not he had a pulse anymore.
JIMENEZ (voice over): Genevieve Hansen is an EMT and was off duty on a walk when she ended up feet from George Floyd. She saw him pinned under the knee of Derek Chauvin and wanted to help with at the very least, chest compressions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you couldn't do that, how did that make you feel?
HANSEN: Totally distressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you frustrated?
JIMENEZ (voice over): Donald Williams was standing right next to her.
DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: I believe I witnessed a murder.
JIMENEZ (voice over): After Floyd seemingly unresponsive body was loaded into the ambulance that day, Williams called the police on the police he had just witnessed, in particular, Derek Chauvin.
That 911 audio was played in court.
WILLIAMS (via phone): He just pretty much just killed this guy that wasn't resisting arrest.
JIMENEZ (voice over): Williams didn't feel he could talk to the officers at the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you believe that they were involved?
WILLIAMS: Yes, totally.
JIMENEZ (voice over): But the most contentious exchange of the trial so far.
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Did you say that?
WILLIAMS: Is that what you heard?
JIMENEZ (voice over): Was between Williams and Chauvin's attorney during cross examination, when you questioned Williams about what he called Chauvin that day.
NELSON: You called him a bum at least 13 times. Those terms grew more and more angry. Would you agree with that?
WILLIAMS: They grew more and more pleading for life.
JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense emphasizing a point it made during opening statements that the perceived threat from a growing crowd caused Chauvin to direct his attention away from Floyd's care.
The next witnesses appeared by audio only since they were under 18 at the time of Floyd's death, including a nine-year-old and her now 18- year-old cousin, only identified as DF.
She is the one who filmed the now infamous cell phone video seen around the world.
VOICE OF DF, WITNESS: I see a man on the ground and I see a cop kneeling down on him.
JIMENEZ (voice over): She was asked to identify Derek Chauvin in court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you able to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you know who this man is? You can take your time.
DF: Yes, yes.
JIMENEZ (voice over): She said she felt threatened by the police there, including Chauvin that day, a day she can't let go of even close to a year later.
DF: When I look at George Floyd, I look at look at my dad. I look at my brothers. It's been nights, I've stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting.
JIMENEZ (voice over): And of Chauvin --
DF: It is not what I should have done. It's what he should have done.
SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez joins us now live from Minneapolis and Omar, today's testimony, as we heard again there, certainly emotional, moving, but it was also at times and this was noticeable -- contentious, particularly when the defense team was involved.
Based on your reporting, was that intentional? And are we expecting to see more of the same tomorrow?
JIMENEZ: Well, Jim, for starters, we were hearing from people who physically were as close to what happened on May 25, 2020 as you could possibly be. Many of them within feet of George Floyd pinned under Derek Chauvin's knee and some of them wishing they could have helped, but not able to.
So when you translate that into testimony you got what we saw unfold today, particularly when the defense attorney for Derek Chauvin was involved, so much so to the point that the EMT that testified, she was the last one that testified today, at one point was scolded by the Judge after the jurors were dismissed saying you can't argue with the defense attorney. It happened with Donald Williams as well during his portion, but what
was clear from everyone who came to the stand today is being that close to what happened still sits with them, many of them or at least some of them, I should say, coping with the question of what could I have done differently?
We ended the day with the EMT testimony. That is where we're going to pick things back up tomorrow as we get closer at least to try to establish a record of what happened and why on May 25, 2020 from those closest to the story.
SCIUTTO: And so many eyewitnesses, of course, the video itself an eyewitness as well.
Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our law enforcement and legal team now, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates; CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, former top cop in both Philly and D.C.; also CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara. He successfully defended George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Thanks to all of you tonight.
Laura, I do want to begin with you. When an eyewitness says before a jury of 12 that he called 911 quote, "Because I believe I witnessed a murder," how much does testimony like that help the prosecution and influence jurors in their decision?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It helps tremendously, particularly because it's corroborating other testimony. It's not just his own gut instinct, it's not just what he perceived, but it also builds upon what other witnesses are testifying. It also builds upon what was actually viewed in the videotape, but you actually speak about is really the star witness here.
It builds on the 911 dispatcher, it builds off of again, the firefighter who testified along with the four under aged teenagers who were speaking about this very issue and that accumulation of evidence, that accumulation of weight is extraordinarily credible particularly when he says he saw no human connection with the officers there on the scene and called 911 to help.
SCIUTTO: Mark, you've been on the other side in the courtroom on the defense and I wonder, picture -- if you could picture yourself there in the courtroom, how impactful in your view with the testimony be of a teenager who took that video talking exactly how upset she was by what she witnessed?
I mean these are powerful firsthand accounts.
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's extraordinarily powerful for a jury because let's not forget, these are 12 people who are parents or children. They have people around them they care about and when you listen to a teenager, you know a teenager who is in a similar situation not to have witnessed a killing, but somebody that you want to empathize with and sympathize with.
So that's very, very compelling and I think the defense team has to be extraordinarily careful. You want to balance that. You want to be a zealous advocate, but you have to take your shots right.
When you take your shots against an EMT or even a witness who says I think I saw a killing or a murder, you have to be very careful because your audience is those 12 people and if you're losing those 12 people because of your attack, if you will, on one of the witnesses, you may never get that credibility back.
SCIUTTO: I want to get to that point because you know it was contentious with some, you know, seemingly sympathetic witnesses.
Before we do, just for a moment, Chief Ramsey, another defense argument here is this question of whether that group of bystanders some of whom confronted the officers as it was happening posed a threat to those officers and distracted them. That's what's being argued by the defense.
You've led police departments in Philadelphia and in Washington, do you find that argument credible?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I really don't. I mean, I've seen actual hostile crowds, I didn't consider that one to be -- people were upset because of what they were witnessing, but I didn't see them as a threat to the officers.
You know, one piece of evidence that has yet to come out and it will at some point in time is the body worn camera footage because that will pick up the conversation between the officers that took place on that day and that's going to be very insightful in terms of how they felt what they were doing, did they try to take a pulse? Did any of them do that? You know all those kinds of questions will be answered, I believe once that body worn camera footage is revealed.
SCIUTTO: Laura, to the untrained eye, it seems the defense is contradicting itself to some degree by saying that Chauvin may have been distracted by the crowd, but that his use of force was appropriate right in line with his training.
I mean, can they have it both ways or are those two things mutually exclusive?
COATES: Well, if they were the prosecution, they couldn't have it both ways, you have to have a consistent theme that applies to each of the elements of the crime.
If you're the defense attorney, you're trying to cast aspersions on the credibility of witnesses, you're trying to plant seeds of doubt. And you're going to sprinkle these seeds in different directions hoping that one will be able to germinate in a way that will flourish that reasonable doubt for people. And so, they're going to try these things. So far, they have not been effective, however, because that
overwhelming evidence, the idea of that video, not just eight minutes and 46 seconds, Jim, but now nine minutes and 29. And you have it corroborated by different people who as our -- as my colleague was speaking about, you could attack the credibility say of adults, but how about disinterested teenagers who are all saying the same things?
It's very rare in the course of human existence that you'll have different people looking at the same thing and looking at the same inkblot test and seeing the same picture. Here, you've got that thematic consistency. And so the defense has got to try whatever it can to try to disrupt that and this is the way they're doing it to say, well, how about this? How about this? So far, how about none of it?
SCIUTTO: Yes, it struck us here as notable that some of those witnesses old enough to witness a killing, but not old enough to testify in court with their faces showing and it's remarkable.
Mark, I want to get back to that point you raised about the defense going after in effect, some of the witnesses, particularly trying to undermine the testimony, for instance, of Donald Williams, but also being contentious with the off duty EMT.
You've defended folks successfully in court. As you watch that, more damaging than helpful to the defense?
O'MARA: Again, a delicate balance, I think, Jim, what Laura said was right. The defense team has the luxury of finding or creating reasonable doubt wherever they can.
But having said that, I do think they need to maintain their own consistency and their own credibility with the jury, and this idea of throwing attacks, small as they may be against whatever witness comes up can really backfire.
And I'll give you a great example, if they are trying to go in and say the crowd was at fault for Chauvin's actions, as you mentioned, a moment ago, Jim, that is very inconsistent. And now you're trying to blame everybody else rather than explain the behavior of Chauvin in a more, quote, "positive way."
I think we need to be very, very careful because if what happens is that the jury feel that the defense is just there to interfere to attack, to attack the credibility of an EMT, of an MMA, of somebody who we call a disclosure witness, somebody who without time for reflection, calls the cops on the cops.
If it's constant attack, then sort of like, you know, the boy who cries wolf, it starts lessening the blade of what you're trying to get across.
SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a great point you make there because they were struck in that moment that they were witnessing a murder taking place. They didn't think about it. That didn't come up days or weeks or hours later. Chief Ramsey, the defense claims -- and this is central to their
argument -- that the use of force Derek Chauvin used in that moment was necessary, in line with his training. If that level of force was necessary, though, by the defensive standards, I just wonder what would be considered unnecessary?
I mean, what's the limit then, if that's true?
RAMSEY: Well, first of all, it's not true. What he did is not consistent with any training anywhere that I'm aware of at all. An officer has the ability and right to use force to overcome resistance. But only if that force is necessary in order to affect the arrest.
So it has to be necessary. It has to be proportional. It also has to be objectively reasonable. When you look at the video and you see George Floyd at first, not getting into the police car, and they are using force to get him in, that's one thing.
But once they get him prone on the ground. He is handcuffed. He is prone on the ground. When resistance stops, the force has to stop because force was justified at one moment in time, it doesn't mean a minute or two minutes or three minutes from now, the same level of force or any force at all is still justified. That's not proper. That's not the training that he received.
SCIUTTO: Well, listen, it's good to draw on all of your experience. You have firsthand experience in the courtroom and law enforcement, Laura Coates, Charles Ramsey, Mark O'Mara, thanks so much to all of you.
O'MARA: Thank you.
RAMSEY: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next this hour, given the level of protest after George Floyd's killing, is the country ready for the possibility at least have a verdict other than guilty?
Also COVID with hospitalizations soaring as much as six-fold in some states and cases rising in 24 states. Can vaccinations begin to keep a lid on a coming fourth surge?
Plus, the breaking news tonight, what "The New York Times" is reporting about Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and a Federal investigation he now admits to another news outlet to being under.
That's not all he is talking about either. Details are interesting to say the least here ahead.
SCIUTTO: Given what the country has already seen, former officer Derek Chauvin's actions the day that George Floyd died with Chauvin's knee on his neck, it's clear that many have already formed conclusions about the case.
It is for this generation of Americans what the Rodney King beating video was a generation ago and given how that ended after jurors acquitted, in that case, three officers and could not reach a verdict on the fourth despite what millions saw. The potential parallels this time are easy to imagine.
Here to talk about it, CNN political commentator and former South Carolina Democratic state lawmaker, Bakari Sellers.
Bakari, good to have you on tonight.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: So, I don't want to predict the outcome of this trial, none of us. But there is historically and recently a troubling pattern of police officers in this country being acquitted or even not charged at all after killing African-Americans in at least questionable, sometimes alarming circumstances.
There's a long way to go on this trial. But look ahead, imagine what it would mean for this country if there was no legal consequence for this.
SELLERS: I mean, I think the word that we're looking for is justice. And, many people watching this trial, not just in the United States, but around the world want full justice for George Floyd and his family.
I mean, we saw what we saw with our own eyes on that video. We saw a black man not get the benefit of his humanity. And so you have to ask questions that are just logical, would a white man in this country have been treated the same? Would that knee have been on the back of his neck for more than nine minutes?
You know, dogs don't even get treated like that. I don't even know anyone -- I don't come in contact with anyone in my circle or beyond that would put their knee on the back of a dog's neck for over nine minutes, but Derek Chauvin felt as if it was appropriate to treat a black man named George Floyd that way.
And just to back away and to bring some context to this trial. Think about the imagery that those two young black girls who testified today saw. When you think about nine-years-old living with that image seared into your brain, or the young man who testified today and talked about the fact that they wanted to make him a caricature of an angry black man, but he was still so, so firm and articulate.
It's just the unfortunate, a common occurrence within our community of not getting full justice. I mean, we dare not imagine what that feels like at the end of this trial.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned two of the youngest witnesses. And I have to say, for me, that was really one of the most moving parts of the trial today. And just the fact that, right, they were old enough to witness someone's death, but not old enough to have their faces shown in court.
And I want to play the sound of one of them, a nine-year-old, we don't name her. She's not named. Her face isn't shown because of her age. What she saw and how she said it. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF JR, WITNESS: I saw that officer put a knee on the neck of George Floyd. I was sad and kind of mad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's a child's testimony there. Your reaction to that, and the impact of hearing that.
SELLERS: I mean, it was the child's testimony, but it was so pure and it was so clear. And it spoke to the emotions of us all.
I don't know if it's going to move a juror. I don't know if it's going to go to intent. I don't know if it's going to, you know, be able to discern or be the weighted difference between a first or second or third degree.
But I mean, she was speaking to the core of who we are as Americans. She was speaking beyond those things of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but those not so tangible ideals of love, and empathy and justice, things we have to begin to treat our fellowmen with.
This is a very difficult case, though, Jim. I mean, it really, really is. Because it's very difficult to convict individuals wearing badges of murder, even when you see it.
And, you know, I think many of us are -- I don't even want to say optimistic, but we're very cautious, day by day as we go through this trial, because our emotions are going in so many different directions.
And, you know, I think there's a message to us all, for young people of color in our communities, we have to wrap our arms around them because of the imagery that they see every single day, because they grow up in the air of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we have to lift them up and wrap our arms around them to protect them, but also to let them know that we care and we love them.
Number two, we have to realize that democracy is participatory. And we have to do our civic duty of participating in juries, so that we can be in rooms like this and be the ultimate arbitrators of justice.
SCIUTTO: Yes, it's -- I was thinking that as I heard that sweet little voice describe what she saw in terms that clearly still affected her all of these many months later.
"I was sad and kind of mad," she said. Now, it's notable that the defense is not just trying to undermine witnesses, that's what they do. But they're also trying to portray those who were in that crowd on that curb that day as angry, as threatening, as distracting. I wonder, what do you make of that line of argument?
SELLERS: Well, I'm a criminal defense lawyer as well, Jim. I mean, not only am I a husband and a father and a CNN commentator, but I also practice law every single day and do a lot of criminal defense.
And so in watching what he is attempting to do, I can tell you that he didn't come to court with a bag full of resources. There ain't a whole lot there. He is throwing a lot of things at the wall trying to see what will stick.
He is attempting to make arguments that many have us, you know, he is not making this case for Twitter as I say, but he is making arguments that many of us may find to be ludicrous, but he is focusing on one or two or three jurors who may give him a nod or may give eye contact throughout or trying to speak to what the conscience -- to their conscience may be.
It's a very uphill battle for both sides in this case, but again, the defense has one advantage on their side, which is in this country, we very rarely put the words murderer and cop together and we'll see if that actually happens, because that's the only way we can get justice in this case.
SCIUTTO: And the videos are a witness, too, right. Bakari Sellers, so good to have you on. It's such an important conversation.
SELLERS: Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next this hour, the breaking news on Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. "The New York Times" reporting tonight that he is facing a Justice Department inquiry over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. What he is saying tonight about those allegations when 360 continues.
SCIUTTO: More now on our breaking news involving Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, a close ally of the former President, as well as a favorite among conservative activists.
"The New York Times" is reporting that Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him.
Gaetz told the news site, AXIOS tonight that the allegations against him are false.
According to Axios he also said quote, I was not a target, but a subject of an investigation regarding sexual conduct with women. Gaetz has also fired off a series of tweets tonight claiming that he was the subject of an elaborate extortion scheme. Joining me now on the phone is New York Times reporter Katie Brenner -- Katie Benner, rather who shares the byline on this story. Katie, so good to have you on tonight. Tell us what more do you know about the exact focus of the DOJ investigation.
KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER, NY TIMES: Thanks so much for having me on.
What we know is that the Justice Department began investigating Congressman Gaetz last summer. It stemmed from another investigation into one of the congressman's friends who was investigated and charged and -- excuse me investigated in charge for a variety of crimes, including trafficking via -- excuse me, trafficking of an underage woman.
So it seems that what the Justice Department looking at is whether or not Mr. Gaetz, and having this relationship with a 17-year-old girl violated federal statutes that include Interstate, you know, taking over state lines and giving her something of value, quote unquote, which could be money or it could be something like a travel expense.
SCIUTTO: Understood. OK, the simplest terms, have you confirmed whether or not Congressman Gaetz had a relationship with this young woman?
BENNER: We just don't have data for investigating or looking into.
SCIUTTO: Yes, understood. And we should note, as you say, this began last summer when the Justice Department was led by Bill Barr. All right, this evening, Congressman Gaetz, he tweeted several times after your report was posted basically a statement and I do want to read them here.
Quoting, over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter. And my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI his direction to catch these criminals.
The planted leaked to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately released the tapes made it their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me, based on false allegations.
I wonder, how does that square with your reporting, and what he told you as you were reporting out the story.
BENNER: I mean that dovetails with our reporting, keep in mind that when this investigation was opened, it was opened under the Justice Department under William P. Barr, who had last February told all prosecutors that if anyone's investigated was a member of Congress, somebody running for office, anybody high profile, that investigation had to be signed off on by their supervisors, the U.S. Attorney, the head of the Criminal Division, and then basically briefed to Bill Barr himself.
So, I think it's really unlikely that Bill Barr would have investigated one of President Trump's biggest allies as part of an extortion plot. So, you know, separate from that, the idea of the extortion.
We do have some reporting that last week, somebody had heard about this investigation and did use the information to try to get money out of Congressman Gaetz's father. I don't think that what Congressman Gaetz is saying about extortion actually undermines the idea that he himself is under investigation.
SCIUTTO: Understood, one follow the other. OK, important. Hold on for a moment. I want to bring in CNN's chief political correspondent well as co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION" Dana Bash.
So, Dana, remarkable story here in the Times, of course, those tweets from Congressman Gaetz, they make a huge claim about what he says he's been subject to. But as Katie was making the point, it seems that from her reporting, that extortion investigation followed the initial investigation of this improper relationship. What do you make of how he's responding to all this?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he's coming out guns blazing, but he is doing so because of the fact that somebody wanted this piece of information. The fact that this is an investigation that's been going on for at least several months, considering the fact that this, that Katie was reporting that it started during not just the Trump administration, but while the Attorney General at the time was William Barr, who didn't make it to the end of the Trump administration. That's quite telling.
And, look, this looks like this is a from the Times reporting a very lengthy, very detailed investigation of this associate of his, but as Katie was saying, it doesn't mean that -- and the fact that he knew about it suggests perhaps he's not the target of the investigation, but the fact that he can't sort of concedes that he is the subject of it means that he could be in trouble.
But again, I just want to emphasize the politics of the fact that Gaetz is not just being investigated by a Justice Department of another administration of another party. It started during the administration of the person who he is closely linked with, the most closely linked with.
But -- and the reason why even know we even know his name, because he's kind of a backbencher, Republican. And it's because he has been so far out there and defending the former president through thick and thin.
SCIUTTO: It's a good point. By and as you know, better than me these terms, you know, target subject of investigation is they're often imprecise they can be and can often change. As you know, tonight (INAUDIBLE) comes on the heels of Axios reporting earlier today, that Congressman Gaetz is actually looking to leave Congress for an on air job at Newsmax, right-wing media channel owned by Trump ally. I don't want to connect things that aren't related. But what do you read into that, given the Time story and his tweets and the connection?
BASH: Well, he has now since told The New York Times that he has no intention of leaving Congress. So, that's an update to Katie's story that, that she's breaking tonight about the whole investigation. But let's just say that this was something that the Congressman was considering.
It wouldn't be surprising. Jim, you know that he is a fixture on conservative media. He really loves the spotlight, loves that theatrical, no matter what. Just one example, he went on the floor of the House and put a gas mask on, in a way to you know, frankly, mock the notion of wearing a mask to protect yourself from COVID.
And most recently, he traveled -- he's from Florida, he has no connection to the State of Wyoming. But he traveled to Wyoming to hold a press conference to taunt a member of his own leadership, Liz Cheney, because she voted to impeach Donald Trump.
And so, that is the context in which we should remember to view this member of Congress. He likes to be at the kind of the tip of the spear when it comes to Republican politics. And when it comes to Trump, Republican politics.
SCIUTTO: Definitely describe Dana Bash, as always. Katie -- bringing back Katie Benner who broke the story. One more question, when did the DOJ begin this investigation and do we know the timeline? Right, a likely conclusion. I mean, that often it's not clear.
BENNER: I mean, we don't know when this investigation is going to end. We do know that it stems from an investigation that began into a different Florida man named Joel Greenberg, a local Florida official who was indicted last summer on sex trafficking a child, financially supporting people in exchange for sex. At least one of them being enraged.
So, that investigation -- Mr. Greenberg has resigned. That investigation was ongoing. And as part of that investigation, the FBI obtained information that somehow led them to the name Matt Gaetz. We're not sure, it is unclear the extent of any criminal exposure, but that is how Mr. Gaetz's relationship, possible relationship with a 17- year-old girl came on the radar and that happened late last summer. So the investigation has been going on for about half a year.
SCIUTTO: Understood. OK, well, Katie better good reporting. Thanks so much, Dana Bash. Thanks so much as well.
Just ahead this hour, why vaccinations alone may not be enough to ward off a potential fourth surge in coronavirus infections. We're going to have the details when "360" returns.
SCIUTTO: There is fear tonight and some evidence in the data of a possible force surge in new COVID infections. The average number of cases is up 23 percent. Over the last seven days, that is the highest week to week increase in more than two months. Twenty-four states are seeing a rise. Six of those are seeing an increase of more than 30 percent. Today, the CDC director said vaccines give us a reason for hope, put it masks and other safety measures need to be maintained to keep cases and hospitalizations and deaths sadly in check.
I'm joined now by Dr. Peter Hotez. He is co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. He's also author of the new book Preventing The Next Pandemic Vaccine Diplomacy In A Time Of Anti Science.
Dr. Hotez, so good to have you on. I wonder as you look at the data, do you share the CDC directors concerns that another surge is coming?
PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, absolutely. And Jim, the reason is, is because we're seeing a pretty sharp increase, we were down as low around 50, 55,000 new confirmed cases a day.
And now we're heading back up to 70,000 new cases a day. It's not happening evenly across the country, which is the pattern it's always been it's accelerating now in the northeast, it's accelerating in Michigan and the upper Midwest and there's some link with a high level of the B117 variant which we know is more transmissible. And we know as higher morbidity and mortality.
And Jim, the other piece to this is we're starting to see a lot of young people get sick. So even though we've done a good job of vaccinating older Americans over the age of 65, more than half have been vaccinated, we're starting to see a lot of young people go into the hospital. And I think that's because of the B117 variant. That's modus operandi. So, it's a matter of hanging on and not doing reckless things until we can fully vaccinate the American people.
SCIUTTO: You know, sadly, once again, the politics are driving a lot of the reactions to this rather than the data. I mean, how much should governors take into account national numbers when determining whether to ease their own restrictions? Because obviously, the 50 states do not exist in exactly the same conditions. I mean, can you make an argument that there's no one size fits all when it comes to these kinds of restrictions, mandates, et cetera.
HOTEZ: Here's what the governors did, Jim. They looked at the steep declines, and then on their own without really consulting the Centers for Disease Control concluded we're out of this. They saw the numbers declining. They saw the positivity rates down, they set up, we're done. And without really consulting with public health officials regarding the B117 variant, and knowing how quickly it can accelerate and that's what worries me a lot.
And even though the numbers are have been down in places like Texas and Florida and Georgia, because we have a lot of B117 variant here, I'm starting to see the beginnings of a blip upward and a lot of the governors.
And if you look at the map of where the governors have relaxed restrictions, you know, I don't like to be political, but it's very much gone along red blue lines at this point. And that's where I'm worried. We're going to see another big red state surge like we saw last summer and into the fall.
SCIUTTO: Yes, the data doesn't lie. Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks so much.
HOTEZ: Thanks so much, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, there is one enormous segment of the population we just talked about, for which there currently is no available vaccine, young children. This month, however, both Pfizer and Moderna began testing their vaccines in children under the age of 12. "360's" Gary Tuchman got a unique look at one of those trials. He met a brother and sister who were taking part in the Moderna trial. They couldn't be happier or braver.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This little boy and girl are about to make history. Six-year-old Arlo Swenson and his nine-year-old sister Phoebe are getting COVID vaccines.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was it?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Phoebe becoming the very first child to get the shots of the Moderna children's COVID vaccine trial at this Phoenix Clinical Research Facility, and one of the first in the U.S. and Canada. The day began about 90 minutes earlier, Arlo and Phoebe walking into the facility with their parents, a big brother on the left who is too old for this trial, and a baby brother on the right who was too young. The trial is for infants six months old, through and including children 11 years old. But this initial stage of the trial begins with children at least six years old.
Parents Ashton and Stephen Take a seat and sign consent forms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to have you write your name --
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And children who are seven or above also have to sign. Pre-vaccine medical procedures then begin, blood pressure and ear check.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, (INAUDIBLE) a lot of people in here, right?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And then a required COVID test.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you pull your mask down for me and I look up to the ceiling. Thank you. Oh yes, very perfect.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The children are brave throughout.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep your arms straight.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Even with a blood test. It's that almost time for the COVID vaccine. And we take some time to talk to the proud parents.
(on-camera): Was it a hard decision to allow your children to be in this trial?
ASHTON SWENSON, MOTHER OF CHILDREN IN VACCINE TRIAL: No, it was not a hard decision at all for me. We believe in the science of vaccines and we were excited about the opportunity to be a part of it.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Among this first group of participants also known as the first arm, a lesser dose has given them the dose adults receive. Jason Wallace is the clinical research site manager for the Phoenix MedPharmics Facility and says this regarding placebos.
JASON WALLACE, CLINICAL RESEARCH SITE MANAGER, MEDPHARMICS: So for the first 750 patients, nationwide, they're doing -- it's going to be open label, which means all the children that are going to be in those first arms, for that 750 are guaranteed to get the actual vaccine.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Placebo will be used later on in the trial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The youngest children will start getting scheduled soon. Three-year-old Holly and two-year-old Charlotte will be two of those participants. Their parents are Rachel and Garrett Guthrie.
RACHEL GUTHRIE, MOTHER OF CHILDREN WHO WILL BE IN VACCINE TRIAL: We knew that this was something we wanted to participate in the opportunity for them to be vaccinated at such an early stage. We jumped at the opportunity honestly.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Holly and Charlotte are scheduled to be vaccinated within a few weeks. These small children unbeknownst to them, will soon be leaders in the effort to help humanity.
(voice-over): Which brings us back to Phoebe's brother Arlo, the six- year-old is getting his COVID vaccine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready?
ARLO SWENSON, CHILDREN IN VACCINE TRIAL: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to do great. And go, good job. (INAUDIBLE). TUCHMAN (voice-over): Both children will come back and four weeks, their health will continue to be monitored.
(on-camera): You're done getting your shot now, right?
PHOEBE SWENSON, CHILDREN IN VACCINE TRIAL: Yes.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): How did it feel?
P. SWENSON: I felt good.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Was it easy?
P. SWENSON: Kind of.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Do you know that you're a hero?
P. SWENSON: No.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): You are, you're a medical hero. It says it right there on your sticker.
A. SWENSON: I know what 10 times 10 is?
TUCHMAN (on-camera): What's 10 times 10?
A. SWENSON: 100.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): You're absolutely right. You're not only a hero. You're smart. Right?
A. SWENSON: Yes.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN Phoenix.
SCIUTTO: It's too cute. Coming up next, there is very disturbing new video tonight of yet another assault on an Asian-American woman. It is difficult to watch. This time it took place in New York City. There's a clip there. We're going to have more details, when we come back.
SCIUTTO: President Biden's administration today announced new actions to combat the rise in what it calls quote, anti-Asian violence, xenophobia and violence. These actions come in the wake not only of the Atlanta area killings, which occurred two weeks ago today, but a spate of other attacks including a particularly disturbing one caught on video in New York. Standby for this it's alarming.
"360's" Randi Kaye has the details. We should warn you that some of the images are truly disturbing.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman was walking on a New York City street when she was approached by a man who suddenly kicks her in the stomach. She falls to the ground, but the assault isn't over.
Watch as she is kicked in the head not once, not twice, but three times before the attacker walks away. The victim is a 65-year-old Asian-American woman attacked because of the way she looks according to police. They are calling it a hate crime assault.
DERMOT SHEA, COMMISSIONER, NYC POLICE: And just try to make sense of it pat me and you can't. I don't know who attacks a 65-year-old woman and leaves her on the street like that.
KAYE (voice-over): Police say the attacker allegedly made anti-Asian statements saying, you don't belong here to the victim. She was taken to the hospital with a serious injury though she is in stable condition.
In an effort to identify the individual wanted in connection with the incident police released images of this man scene walking away from the scene of the attack. In the video which was taken from inside an apartment building at least three people are seen in the lobby, none of them helped the victim. One, even goes to close the door after the attacker walked away.
The Brodsky Organization which owns the building says it condemns discrimination and has suspended the staffers who witnessed the attack.
KAYE (voice-over): This is just the latest example of the disturbing and disgusting rise of violence against Asian-Americans over the past year. Katie Hou was attacked after participating in a Black and Asian solidarity march in New York City earlier this month. Police say a man approached her and took away the sign she was holding, she says he then punched her in the face twice.
KATIE HOU, VICTIM: As that what are you doing? And he just approached me and attacked me.
KAYE (voice-over): One report says hate crimes against Asian-Americans have spiked nearly 150% in America's largest cities in the last year. But even as these attacks continue, some Asian-Americans are fighting back.
This 75-year-old grandmother in San Francisco was punched in the face by an assailant who was later carried away from the scene in a stretcher after she grabbed a wooden stick and fought back against him. More than $900,000 in donations poured in from all over the country to help pay for her medical bills but she says she will donate the funds back to the AAPI community in order to continue the fight against racism.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County Florida.
SCIUTTO: And she sure fought back. We'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: It is a busy news night and the news continues. So let's turn it over to my good friend Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."