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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Protesters Marching In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; Day One For Defense In Derek Chauvin Trial; NY Times: Gaetz Associate Is Said To Be Cooperating With Justice Dept.; Biden Administration Scrambles To Reassure Public After Blood Clotting Cases Lead To Pause In J&J Vaccinations; Biden, Congressional Leaders Pay Respect To Slain Capitol Police Officer, The Second To Die In The Line Of Duty This Year. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 13, 2021 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: And I want the public to understand that this pause is really prudent and gives me reassurance that everything we give people will be safe.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Dr. Reiner, thank you.

And thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.

[20:00:19]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening and as we look at the crowds again tonight in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, the question is what will the next few hours bring? What will people here make of a full day of developments in the wake of the killing of Daunte Wright?

Just a few moments ago, a number of protesters scaled to fence outside an F.B.I. satellite office building holding a banner reading "Justice for Daunte Wright." They chanted "What's his name? Say his name. Daunte Wright."

They've since climbed down, unclear what happens next. Already Kim Potter, the police veteran who fired the deadly shot has quit the force and could learn whether she'll be criminally charged or not as early as tomorrow.

The Chief of Police has also stepped down, the City Manager has been fired.

Members of the Minnesota National Guard are now on the scene in Brooklyn Center and in parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and as if to underscore the degree to which the area has become an epicenter in the current crisis over policing, race and justice, members of Daunte Wright's family met today with George Floyd's family. It was a summit of sadness and a sign of the times.

President Biden spoke to the moment today with members the Congressional Black Caucus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Daunte Wright in

Minnesota, that God-awful shooting resulting in his death, and in the midst of an ongoing trial with the killing of George Floyd and Lord only knows what is going to happen based on what the verdict will or will not be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the Vice President also spoke at a roundtable on black maternal health and was blunt in her assessment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before we get started, I do want to address the killing of Daunte Wright. He should be alive today and to his family and loved ones, you must know that the President and I grieve with you as the nation grieves his loss, and we stand with you.

Our nation needs justice and healing and law enforcement must be held to the highest standards of accountability. At the same time, we know that folks will keep dying if we don't fully address racial injustice and inequities in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Former President and Michelle Obama also spoke out today, releasing a statement that reads in part: "Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a black man, Daunte Wright at the hands of police."

The fact that this could happen even as the City of Minneapolis is going through the trial of Derek Chauvin and reliving the heart wrenching murder of George Floyd indicates not just how important it is to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but also just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country.

We'll talk about that tonight with our legal and law enforcement team. We'll also bring you the latest in the Derek Chauvin trial. Day one for the defense, but testimony under cross examination from a key witness that might have been more useful to the prosecution.

First, though, before we go live to Brooklyn Center, a reminder of what set off this latest chain of events, anger and grieving namely the moment when a police stop turned fatal for Daunte Wright.

As always, a warning. It's tough to watch no matter where you stand on the issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll Tase you. I'll Tase you. Taser. Taser. Taser.

Holy shit. I just shot him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Brooklyn Center for us and joins us now. Miguel, what is the latest on the ground?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are several hundred protesters who have come out, so John, if you could just sort of give people a look at what's happening here.

This is the area near Brooklyn Center Police Department. I want to just give you a second and listen to people as they chant.

CROWD: (Chanting "The whole damn system is guilty as hell. Indict. Convict. Send those guilty cops to jail.")

MARQUEZ: It is an absolutely stunning scene out here. It's a driving snow, almost a blizzard. People have only shown up in bigger numbers at this point.

They marched from the police station at Brooklyn Center down to the Federal building, the Department of Justice F.B.I. building out a block away and now, we're sort of winding through the streets in this neighborhood and they are going to eventually go back to the Brooklyn Center Police Station.

I can tell you that a ton of extra security showed up today in the form of individual's big trucks, varying personnel from the National Guard. So they are on alert for this as well.

Look, if I can say, this has been such a heart wrenching, moving, sad, angry protest today over the latest killing of a young man at the hands of police.

[20:05:16]

MARQUEZ: Even if it is an accident, even if a police officer resigned, the anger here is palpable. People are tired of it, and the deaths are just part of what they are concerned with. It is this attitude of policing toward African-Americans and people of color generally.

And it's sort of everyday occurrences that all of this has brought back, and they are just sick and tired and fed up with it and this is the result.

Let's listen a bit more.

CROWD: (Chanting "Shut it down.")

MARQUEZ: Anderson, just -- it is a very moving moment here given that they basically have a blizzard coming down on them here in Minneapolis -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel, have you been hearing much reaction from community members in the wake of the news that the officer, Kim Potter and the Police Chief had both resigned and that we may see a charging decision by tomorrow. MARQUEZ: Look, they are happy that they have resigned, but they would

like to see them fired. Now, there may be many reasons why you just can't fire a police officer given certain laws, but those are also things that many protesters want to have addressed.

They have resigned, but for many, it's not enough. They want them fired. They want them to lose their pensions. They want them never to work again and they want general police change.

You can't have these sort of incidents without some sort of accountability in the system.

The Washington County District Attorney who now has the case for Daunte Wright. He says he may have charges as early as tomorrow, but he also warns that there is a ton of documentation that he has received. He is trying to work through it all, the things that by tomorrow, he may have some charges.

There is also a move afoot from the Mayor of Brooklyn Center and other places to try to have the state step in, the State Attorney General will step in and conduct the investigation and possibly bring charges like they did in the Chauvin situation -- Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez, appreciate it. We'll continue to monitor events there.

Joining us now is Jonathan Mason who mentored Daunte Wright in high school. He now owns a consulting firm that provides cultural competency to teachers in dealing with minority and at-risk youth.

Jonathan, thanks so much for being here. I'm so sorry, it is under these circumstances. You mentored Daunte when he was in high school. You said you are heartbroken over his death. What was he like?

JONATHAN MASON, MENTORED DAUNTE WRIGHT: He was an amazing kid, Anderson. I want to thank you for letting me come on and tell my story.

Daunte was such an amazing kid. He had a ray of sunshine that came from him. Everybody looked up to him as far as the individual within the school. He always brought a certain type of joy and spunk to them and that's what had drawn me to him right away.

And you know, me and him kicked it off right away. And I wanted to help him become a basketball player within Minneapolis. So you know, I fought to get him on the basketball team, working on getting his homework done.

And we would talk about these types of things. So when I found out -- it's crazy, Anderson that I fight for justice. I've been fighting for justice within Minneapolis, Minnesota for 10 years. And I was at another event for a person who was killed by the St. Paul Police, and I was getting calls from my uncles, and everybody who was in the general vicinity and said, "Another boy has been shot."

So I rushed over there immediately not knowing it was Daunte, and I had seen his mother and I was like, "Oh, she looks familiar," but I was just, you know, saying, "How could this happen?" You know, no justice, no peace, and well, what are the -- who is in charge right now?

And then all of the kids from Edison started messaging me and saying, "You know that's Daunte who you used to hang out with at the school and mentored and helped, and Mason do know what's going on?" And I was trying to tell them and then it just hit me. And I was like -- my heart was in my stomach. And I was like, "This is Daunte Wright." And it just made me sick instantly when I found out.

COOPER: Had you had conversations with him about police?

MASON: Yes.

COOPER: I believe we have some transmission issues. Let's see if we can -- well, we'll try to get Jonathan Mason back.

Perspective now from our legal and law enforcement teams, CNN contributor and former F.B.I. Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe; former D.C. Police Chief and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, currently teaches at Drexel University and is our law enforcement analyst; also CNN senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor, Laura Coates.

So Laura, we learned earlier today, the Washington County prosecutor hopes to have a charging decision for Officer Potter by tomorrow.

What do you expect her to be charged with? Or do you expect her to be charged?

[20:10:14]

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if anything -- well, I was going to say, Anderson, if anything would be based on partially the statements made by that Police Chief who is now resigned, I was a little surprised that the Police Chief made a conclusion at that press conference, my immediate thought was, well, that will be factored in by the prosecution in this particular case, knowing that we have to judge things normally by the Supreme Court standard by the reasonableness use of force aspect of it and what other officers are saying.

And so that already planted the seed, I'm sure, in the mind of the prosecutor, but it does not foreclose prosecution because you do have a whole body of law based on negligent homicide.

And as long as you were negligent, you could appreciate a risk or you acted in a way that disregarded something that was a known risk, that'll all be factored in.

And remember, a Taser and a gun. There have been precautions that have been set up to avoid this mistake, and so let's look into all of these things.

It will eerily track what we've already learned in the Chauvin trial though, Anderson.

COOPER: Andrew, yesterday, the medical examiner ruled Mr. Wright's death a homicide. In the video, you hear the officer saying, "Taser. Taser. Taser." She clearly thought she was holding a Taser, or at least that is what it would seem to indicate, and immediately after the shooting, you hear her saying an expletive and saying with some surprise in her voice, "I shot him."

Do you think charges will be filed? And if so what?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think it's entirely possible, Anderson. Let's remember that the Medical Examiner's conclusion that Mr. Wright's death is a homicide, that just simply means it was an intentional killing, it was the result of an intentional act.

He doesn't get into whether or not that act was a mistake or whether or not it was reasonable. It's just a medical determination.

As far as the police officer goes, there are, you know, any number of ways that this could be seen as having been negligent or reckless in terms of her deployment of the pistol instead of the Taser.

As Laura just mentioned, you know, there's a lot of facts that will go into that determination whether or not she had the Taser in the right place on her belt, whether or not she complied with her training, things of that nature.

But it is certainly possible that a prosecutor and grand jury could determine that there's probable cause to believe that she may committed a reckless or negligent homicide.

COOPER: And Chief Ramsey, you spoke about this last night and I think it bears repeating that in the wake of another case in Oakland in which an officer said they thought they were using their Taser and actually was using their gun on somebody. Police departments around the country had officers have -- ordered that their Tasers be on the opposite side of where their guns were.

Is it clear to you that that was the case that this officer had her Taser where it was supposed to be?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I couldn't see it from the video that was shown, but there is a flash at one point when she is reaching in the car, if you notice to her right. There's another officer and you can see yellow -- that yellow is the handle of the Taser. The Taser not only feels different, it looks different. But the coloring of it, you can get it in black, but most departments get the Taser in either a bright yellow or a bright green, again making a distinction between the two.

I've watched that video several times and it just looks to me like as she was walking toward Mr. Wright, as he is struggling with the officer, you can see both her hands as she reaches into try to assist and then her hands disappear. It looks like she reached down and grabbed her weapon. Maybe she

thought she had her Taser, but when she fired -- I don't think it was intentional, but it doesn't matter. The results are the same.

And not only that, there was a passenger in the car. If that had been a through and through wound, then it would have struck the passenger as well.

So there were several tactical errors that were made during the entire stop. There's a whole lot of things that are wrong with this particular situation.

COOPER: And Laura, the intention of the officer, how much does that matter?

COATES: I was going to say, I don't -- as a prosecutor, I don't make assumptions of innocence, although, there is a presumption of innocence in this country.

One of the things you have to do is to assume that even if everything they told you is true, you can equally assume that everything they told you is not true as you're investigating it.

You do have a body of law in Minnesota as we are seeing, unintentional based homicide cases -- unintentional murder, where you need not intent to actually kill the person. But if you intend to perform the act that leads to the death or causes grave bodily harm, it is considered the same. That's one of the charges by the way that Derek Chauvin is facing, the idea of unintentional second degree murder in this case.

[20:15:07]

COATES: So in this instance, that's why I mentioned the statement of the Police Chief, the prosecutor can obviously weigh that assessment of an accident, but they can also look at this and say, are there are other factors involved here that could demonstrate that it was not an accident? That somehow it was an unreasonable assumption or too unreasonable to conclude that the officer was actually holding a Taser as opposed to a handgun or vice versa?

So all of the steps leading from the time that that officer was behind the vehicle, approached Mr. Wright and intervened into what was going to be a handcuff, and possibly a fleeing vehicle. All of that gets factored in.

And finally, Anderson, remember, the Supreme Court back in 1985, in a case called Garner talked about how an officer is not entitled to use a certain amount of force or deadly force, obviously, to deal with a fleeing suspect who poses no direct harm to himself, the officers or others.

So that same use of force continuum will have to be contemplated by the prosecution in any evaluation in this case, as well.

COOPER: Andrew, in terms of the prosecutor, hoping to have charges or charging decision on the police officer involved by Wednesday, what goes into that process?

MCCABE: Well, it surprises me that they are -- they expect to have some sort of a resolution of that process tomorrow, because typically, it takes a little bit longer.

In most jurisdictions, any law enforcement shooting has to be presented to the grand jury, so that takes some time to get in front of a grand jury to have relevant witnesses testify, to put whatever information about the incident you want the grand jury to consider. And then of course, the grand jurors vote as to whether or not to return an indictment.

So I'm a little surprised that they believe they can conclude that whole process by tomorrow, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

COOPER: And Chief Ramsey, just lastly, both the Chief of Police and the officer resigned today. Were you surprised that the Chief of Police resigned?

RAMSEY: I was a little surprised he resigned, but then when I heard the press conference, it was clear that he had lost the confidence of the elected leaders. And once that happens, I mean, being a Police Chief is tough enough. If you have no political support from your Mayor or City Manager, or what have you, you know, you may as well step down because there's no way you're going to survive. So he did what was probably in his best interest at the time.

I wasn't surprised the officer resigned. There has to be an enormous amount of pressure on both of them at the time. So you know, the resignations weren't all that surprising, although I really didn't think the Chief would step down as soon.

But if I could just, very quickly, resignations and firing of one or two people is not going to make a difference. There's a serious problem in policing right now and it is systemic in nature. And we have got to address it and stop this believing that fire this guy, fire that guy, charge this and charge that one is going to make the difference.

We have to take a real hard look at policing. I think President Biden is making a mistake by not dealing with this upfront by thinking that Congress is going to do it. Our Congress can't do anything right now. We've got to sit down and have these discussions.

COOPER: So as somebody who has been involved in policing -- as someone who's been involved in policing most of your life, you want to see, you think something fundamental needs to change.

RAMSEY: Yes. There is no question in my mind. I mean -- but you have to look at the entire Criminal Justice System. This isn't just a policing problem. It's bigger than just police. But police are as good a place as any to start.

But there are a lot of -- you know, I was on a conference call with Eric Holder, the former A.G. and he said something that really stuck with me, and that is, we have to stop saying it's just a few bad apples.

If you walk by an orchard and you see a whole lot of apples, the bad apples on the ground. At some point, you've got to look at the tree and then call an arborist or something because there's something wrong with the tree. It's not just bad apples.

And so the majority of people in our profession are good, hardworking people. But we've got some folks that have no business being in policing, and we better face it and we better deal with it or else, this is going to happen over and over and over again.

COOPER: Charles Ramsay, Andrew McCabe, Laura Coates, thank you.

Coming up next, day one for the defense in the Derek Chauvin trial and the defense expert's surprising admission under cross examination by the prosecution about the force used against George Floyd.

And later, there's breaking news that could spell even more trouble for Congressman Matt Gaetz, we will talk to a "New York Times" correspondent about her new reporting on Gaetz's friend and what he is telling the Feds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:23:37]

COOPER: As we look at live pictures, protesters in Brooklyn Center just outside Minneapolis, it is worth remembering the context an area already raw from the killing of George Floyd and reliving it all in the trial of the former police officer charged with Floyd's murder.

Today, the defense began its case. Details from Omar Jimenez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The beginning of the defense's case for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin offered jurors the first expert witness to definitively defend Chauvin's actions.

BARRY BRODD, USE-OF-FORCE EXPERT: I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and was acting with objective reasonableness following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interaction with Mr. Floyd.

JIMENEZ (voice over): A use-of-force consultant saying the officers could have used more force when he resisted.

BRODD: I felt that that level of resistance exhibited by Mr. Floyd justified the officers and higher level use of force that they chose not to select.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But during cross examination, prosecutors push back specifically on the length of time of the use of force asking if the same situational awareness an officer might use to monitor a crowd should also be used to monitor a suspect's medical condition -- STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Particularly if they're

exhibiting signs of distress.

BRODD: Yes.

SCHLEICHER: Loss of consciousness.

BRODD: Yes.

SCHLEICHER: Inability to breathe.

BRODD: Yes.

SCHLEICHER: Loss of pulse.

BRODD: Yes.

[20:25:05]

JIMENEZ (voice over): At times growing tense.

SCHLEICHER: The defendant did not alter the level of force that he was using on Mr. Floyd, did he?

BRODD: No.

SCHLEICHER: Even though Mr. Floyd by this point had become as you put, compliant. Fair?

BRODD: More compliant, yes.

SCHLEICHER: Well, what part of this is not compliant?

BRODD: So I see his arm position in the picture that's posted.

SCHLEICHER: Right.

BRODD: That, you know, a compliant person would have both their hands in the small of their back and just be resting comfortably versus like he is still moving around.

SCHLEICHER: Did you say resting comfortably?

BRODD: Or laying comfortably.

SCHLEICHER: Resting comfortably on the pavement?

BRODD: Yes.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Some of the testimony Tuesday went into George Floyd's past, including a portion of a 2019 arrest, which the Judge allowed because he ruled it was similar to the deadly May 2020 confrontation, a confrontation by police followed by a rapid ingestion of drugs.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So he told you that he had taken a pill at the time the officers were apprehending him.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The paramedic who recommended Floyd go to the hospital that day was called by the defense focusing on drugs taken then and the high blood pressure recorded.

NELSON: Did you record what his blood pressure was at that time?

MICHELLE MOSENG, HENNEPIN COUNTRY EMS (RET): It was 216 over 160.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The prosecutors drew a critical bottom line in their cross examination.

ERIN ELDRIDGE, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: He didn't have a stroke while you were with him?

MOSENG: No.

ELDRIDGE: He was never given Narcan, correct?

MOSENG: Correct.

ELDRIDGE: He didn't stop breathing.

MOSENG: No.

ELDRIDGE: His heart didn't stop.

MOSENG: No.

ELDRIDGE: He didn't go into cardiac arrest.

MOSENG: No.

ELDRIDGE: He didn't go into a coma.

MOSENG: No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Omar Jimenez joins us now from Brooklyn Center. So given the situation in Brooklyn Center the past couple of nights, has the Judge made any announcements to the jury?

JIMENEZ: He has, Anderson and it's actually been a point of concern, at least for the defense attorneys in this and certainly the Judge, specifically when court was dismissed today, the Judge told the jurors, one, have a good night, but also don't talk to anyone and don't watch the news.

He wants them to stay as focused on the Derek Chauvin trial as much as they can even though it is clear to see it is a very tense Minneapolis area in total. And this is actually the exact thing the defense was initially worried about a day and a half -- or a day ago.

They asked the Judge if they could sequester the jury now, just because of how big the news has gotten surrounding, of course, the shooting and killing of Daunte Wright at the hands of police, and especially as we are now seeing curfews going into effect at night, and it just makes it a little bit more difficult to avoid.

And there are fears that it could creep into the jurors' ability to judge that case. But for now, the judge says the jurors can know, that case is different from this one. And on we go to closing arguments potentially on Monday, and then they would be sequestered as they deliberate over a verdict.

COOPER: Omar Jimenez, appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much, Omar.

Antonio Romanucci is an attorney for the Floyd family. He joins us now along with Shareeduh Tate, George Floyd's cousin and President of the George Floyd Foundation.

Shareeduh, it is good to see you again. Thanks for being with us.

Last week, when we spoke, you said you were pessimistically optimistic about a conviction. I wonder how you're doing now, how the Floyd family is doing in general as the defense presents -- starts to present its side?

SHAREEDUH TATE, PRESIDENT, GEORGE FLOYD FOUNDATION: Well, I think my feelings are pretty much still the same. I think that the prosecution did a tremendous job today of backing the expert witness out of his testimony that he did not feel it was excessive force being used. So I thought that was very good.

But my position is pretty much still the same just because I don't have the ability to know what the thoughts are in the minds of each of the jurors.

COOPER: Yes, and which is of course what it all really comes down to in this kind of a trial. Tony, do you think the defense, Tony, accomplished what they set out to do today in your view, because as you heard in Omar's report, the prosecution and as Shareeduh mentioned, the prosecution seemed to dismantle the use of force expert's testimony, or at least poked some pretty big holes in it.

ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: So, if we remember what this case is about, it's about whether or not there was use of force, whether or not it was excessive, and whether that use of force which was excessive caused death.

I think if we always default back to the video, Anderson, I think if we use commonsense, we see that there was an excessive use of force which caused death.

The prosecution today in their cross examination, I think, was able to establish that. I mean, I think this witness came off a little incredible when he was saying, you know, things like George was resting comfortably on the street and even if there was a reasonable use of force, I think he lost credibility with that.

The prosecution did a great job on the cross examination. And whatever he said on direct exam, I think was mooted out by the excellent cross.

[20:30:13]

COOPER: Shareeduh, to be, you know focused on this trial is you obviously in your family have been and then to, you know have in Brooklyn Center this shooting and killing a death occur, what has been that like to have that have yet another person die while this trial is going on?

TATE: Yes, well, first of all my deepest condolences to the Wright family. It's unbelievable to think that something in such close vicinity of the same place that George was murdered for to happen again, it's just really difficult to even process at this point.

COOPER: Toni, do you expect? I mean it in a normal case, the defendant would be very unlikely to take the stand. Do you think Derek Chauvin is going to end up taking the stand?

ROMANUCCI It's hard to really know what he's going to do. But if I were to read tea leaves, and after hearing the testimony today, I would say Derek Chauvin will not take the stand. I don't know that Eric Nelson wants to take the chance of a cross examination of his client. You saw the prosecution did a pretty good job today in the cross exam of the expert. I'd be a little fearful putting up Derek Chauvin watching that cross exam.

This expert today that the defense put up, essentially said everything that Derek Chauvin would say. So I'm going to bet that you're not going to see Derek Chauvin testify. I could be wrong, but that's my bet today.

COOPER: Shareeduh, legal strategy issue aside just on a human level, do you at some point want to hear from Derek Chauvin?

TATE: Not necessarily. I mean, in the clip that they showed where he was actually speaking with Mr. McMillan, where he basically said, you know, I think Mr. McMillan was saying that he thought he was held was on to George for too long or something. And he said, that's your opinion. That's pretty much I mean, that was enough for me. I really don't need to hear anything else from him.

COOPER: Shareeduh Tate, I appreciate you being with us and Attorney Antonio Romanucci as well. Thank you so much.

Up next, we have --

ROMANUCCI: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER (voice-over): -- breaking news on Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz what The New York Times is reporting tonight about an associate of his. I'll talk with the reporter, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:31] COOPER: We're continuing to monitor developments in Brooklyn Center Minnesota where protesters are still gathering after the police shooting of a black man.

Meanwhile, there's breaking news tonight on that federal investigation whether Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking prostitution laws. The New York Times is reporting that at one time associated the Congressman and indicted former local Florida official named Joel Greenberg has been providing authorities with information about Gaetz and his activities since last year. Gaetz has consistently denied all the allegations against him.

Joining me now with the New York or the New York Times, well, actually chief political, I'm sorry, we just lost our guests, having some technical problems. Gloria Borger is here to save the day, chief political analyst. Gloria, thanks so much for being with us.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: As always.

COOPER: So, there is this reporting now from The New York Times about cooperation between this Matt Gaetz, Congressman Gaetz associate, he said to be cooperating with the Justice Department, except for Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Republicans have been largely quiet when it comes to commenting on Gaetz's future no one really wants to, you know, weigh in on this. Marco Rubio today, when asked whether he backs Gaetz said, I don't know anything about the case. You can only keep that up for so long.

BORGER: Right. And look, I think when I hear Marco Rubio, it takes me back a few years to hearing Republicans over and over again. So I didn't read that tweet by Donald Trump. I don't know much about this. I can't really comment on it. The irony is of that is that Matt Gaetz is not a popular person on Capitol Hill.

They don't like him. But Donald Trump has been sort of tepid in his response to this whole Gaetz thing saying, you know, he's denying, denying, denying, and what's being played out here is the Trump playbook. That effectively Republicans have learned that you can deny anything until there's some disposition one way or another in the Justice Department case.

And so, Republicans are hanging back. The only person who called the charges sickening, is Liz Cheney of Wyoming. And she wouldn't comment any further but you'll recall that the Gaetz went to her district to campaign against her after she said that Donald Trump should be out of office.

COOPER: And New York Times reporter Katie Benner, who shares the byline on the story. She joins us now. Katie, you and your colleagues at the Times are reporting that this former Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, who is an interesting character in his own ride, has been talking to federal investigators since last year. What else have you learned?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. One of the reasons why Mr. Greenberg is such a person of interest is because his lawyer indicated very recently as the prosecutors that he would begin the process of a cooperation agreement and a plea to plead guilty and get some sort of leniency from the government. What we learned is these actually been cooperating with investigators to some degree since basically December, giving them information about a variety of people, including Mr. Gaetz.

What's interesting about this is that it remains to be seen whether the information he's given is good or not, whether the prosecutors can trust him. And that trust is going to go a long way to determining whether this deal actually finally comes together in the end, and he gets anything from the government.

COOPER: So does he have a plea deal? Or has this cooperate -- is this cooperation not yet a plea deal?

BENNER: The cooperation is not yet a plea deal. What investigators are doing, what they've been doing, basically, since the end of last year is determine whether or not the things that Joel Greenberg tells them are true, whether they can be backed up or whether he's lying to them.

If you look at Mr. Greenberg's history and the things that he's been indicted for, the idea that he would light a prosecutor is not out of this world. It's something that if he did choose to do in those months before the idea of a plea really came into focus, it would hurt his chances of getting a plea deal. It actually could get them to deeper hot water.

So, it'll be interesting to see whether or not prosecutors feel that he gave them good information, the plea deal whether or not it happens, we'll know in mid May. That's the date set by the judge.

COOPER: And Katie, Joel Greenberg's attorney last week said he was sure Congressman Gaetz was not feeling very confident. How much legal trouble is Congressman Gaetz in potential?

BENNER: That's a really interesting statement by Mr. Greenberg's lawyer. Certainly, it implies the Greenberg has given the prosecutors and the FBI a lot of information on Mr. Gaetz. But again, not even his lawyer can be certain that he is telling the truth.

If you look at Mr. Greenberg's extremely colorful history to your point, this is a man who, you know, threatened a political opponent, stalked a political opponent, you know lied about whether or not this person who molested a child, stole information from the local government at the tax office. And then while he was on bail proceeded then to defraud the government emergency lending program.

[20:40:22]

So, it's clear that he's a witness who could be key to the government investigation, but could also be very troubled.

COOPER: And Gloria, Congressman Gaetz was -- who's certainly has an interesting choice and friends, was denied a meeting with the former president last week. He's been uncharacteristically quiet on Gaetz with the exception of a statement saying that the Congressmen never asked him for a pardon. I mean, Gaetz could not have shown more fealty to the former president.

BORGER: Yes, I mean, the operative word they error in Donald Trump's statement is never asked me for a pardon, because the reporting is that he approached other people about a preemptive pardon for lots of Republicans. And Gaetz was sort of the original groupie loyalists to Donald Trump, did whatever Donald Trump wanted, as I said before, went to Wyoming to rant about Liz Cheney, because she thought the president should be removed from office.

But it I think, Gaetz's instinct right now is to just deny, deny, deny, just like Donald Trump denies, denies, denies, and hang in there until we know something one way or another. And --

COOPER: Yes.

BORGER: -- as long as Donald Trump doesn't bother him, and sort of hangs back because the staff is worried about it. They don't want him to get involved in this, I'm told. So as long as Donald Trump isn't out there attacking him, he probably figures he can survive one way or another.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger, Katie Benner, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

(voice-over): Coming up next, the decision to suspend use of Johnson & Johnson's one shot COVID vaccine after a serious side effect comes to light in just a small number of cases. Given how rare the problem is and how deadly COVID is was the decision the right one? Should you be concerned if you've gotten the shot or relieved? We'll ask Surgeon General and our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:55]

COOPER: There is new reporting, this is the White House scrambling to maintain public confidence in vaccines and the nation's vaccine rollout after surprise recommendation from the CDC and the FDA has led to a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Recommendation we should add that's been criticized by some for being made too quickly.

Now, the agencies say there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot involving women between the ages of 18 and 48, who received the vaccine. One of the women has died and other is in critical condition. The FDA and the CDC stress, however, that these six reported cases right have more than 6.8 million doses of the one shot vaccine administered calling the clots quote, extremely rare. There's also been no evidence tying the vaccinations to the blood clots.

President Biden today responded saying there is still in vaccine for every American. The concern among health officials and governors is what happens to confidence in all vaccines after today's pause.

Want to talk about it now on the decision and administration's response. Joining us now is the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, as well as our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Surgeon General Murthy. Dr. Murthy, thanks for being with us. We know the one death is a Virginia woman who died on March 18th. The New York Times is reporting that another woman has been hospitalized in critical condition in Nebraska. What more can you tell us about the other four women and the timeline that led to the decision about the vaccine?

VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, thanks, Anderson. It's good to be with you. And good to be with you as well Sanjay.

Look, I recognize that when people hear news like they heard today that the vaccine administration has been paused that can be troubling. So, let's talk about what happened. These six women were identified, who had these rare but serious cases of blood clots.

They were between the ages of 18 to 48. And as you mentioned, one of them, unfortunately, has passed away. And what we are trying to figure out right now is whether these unfortunate cases of clots are in fact related to the vaccine itself.

Keep in mind 6.8 million people have received the vaccine, and we're talking about six cases here. But the fact that this is being paused, the tape tells you something about how seriously we're taking adverse events and how safety is really a critical priority when it comes to moving this larger vaccine campaign forward.

COOPER: But just in terms of safety, I mean, the bottom line is, is that vaccine safe? I mean, 6.8 million vaccines given from the Johnson & Johnson is obviously a huge number, six serious cases is six serious cases, or very serious cases. I mean, is it safe? Why pause it?

MURTHY: So the reason to pause Anderson, there are a couple of reasons. One is to do the investigation quickly, to understand whether there's a connection between the vaccine and the adverse events. But there's another reason as well to pause which is to give us time to speak to the medical community, to doctors, nurses and others who are taking care of patients. So we can enlist their help in looking for the kind of symptoms we may be concerned about and then have them reported.

This is a really important part of the process and Anderson it's important to say also that pausing is actually not unusual that both medically not just with vaccines, but with when new drugs come out pauses happen often for these purposes to evaluate new developments, new clinical conditions that arise.

Sometimes it turns out, there is no connection and then you proceed as before. Other times if a connection is found, then the FDA and CDC may come out with recommendations that include warnings, for example, for certain populations that may be at increased risk.

COOPER: Given, you know, vaccine hesitancy I mean, I think Dr. Fauci has said this is a one in a million factor risk factor, you know, if it's six people out of 6 million, it's one to one in a million so far have been impacted by this. Is the cost of pausing, were worth the other side of it.

[20:50:02]

MURTHY: It's a really good question and it was the exact question that the administration deliberated on. And that the CDC and the FDA had to put their heads together on and make a very difficult recommendation there.

Look, there are costs to pausing, right? Questions are raised, people sometimes are troubled and scared by these moves, even though they're made for the reason of actually protecting safety. And so that's all taken into consideration. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is making sure that we are doing the investigations that are needed.

Here's what Anderson what I want to make sure that people out there understand people who may have taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or those who may have family members who have taken the vaccine. I want you to understand number one, these complications that we have seen, may or may not be connected to the vaccine, but even if they are they are rare, very rare.

Second thing to understand is that the other vaccines that people are receiving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not implicated with these findings of this severe clots, they're very different vaccines, or use different mechanisms, more than 100 million people have received them.

And finally, just keep in mind, this is how the system is supposed to work. And part of the reason that you find so many of us out there talking about this is because we want people to understand our confidence in these vaccines is so high, There's nothing that tells us that they are any less effective than the clinical trials have told us. And we want to just make sure the investigations are done completely.

COOPER: Sanjay, you have some questions.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Dr. Murthy, good to see you. Well, I'm curious how big a surprise was this because you remember that back in the fall of last year, the Johnson & Johnson trial was paused at that point. It was described as an unexplained illness. But we subsequently learned that in fact, it was a 25 year old man who had a blood clot in one of the blood vessels in his brain. Was there concern going back then? Or how big a surprise was this?

MURTHY: Well, it's a good question, Sanjay, you know. Certainly, you know, we didn't we did not expect that this would, you know, happen, but we were prepared for it. And that's why the data was being collected and reviewed very carefully. You know, it also, you know, has not escaped any of our attention that the AstraZeneca vaccine has encountered some similar challenges with patients also having had severe blood clots that they caused people to also investigate what was happening there.

So what I would say is that from the clinical trial data, Sanjay, you know, the upshot of all of that the analysis was that the safety profile was strong, and that the effectiveness was also strong. And but as, you know, also, these trials are done with large numbers of people 40,000 plus, but once you get the vaccine out into the population, you're getting it to millions and millions and millions of people, and every now and then you will find some events that occur at a frequency greater than what you had in the trials.

That's why precisely why you continue to collect safety data, and you're very, we're very sensitive about pulling the brakes, then if that signal, safety data gives us a signal that tells us something could be wrong and needs to be investigated.

GUPTA: You know, one thing that this vaccine, one of the assets of it is that it can it's a single dose, as you know, and it can be given more easily because it doesn't require the cold chain storage. So, college campuses, but also homeless communities, transient populations, people who may not show up for their second dose. So even though it's a smaller segment of the overall vaccine rollout, Dr. Murthy, how big an impact would it be if we no longer have this as an option?

MURTHY: Well, it's a good question, Sanjay. And I will say that, yes, when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was first, you know, coming out, that was certainly one of the more attractive pieces that single dose vaccine that is easier to store. The good news is, is that we actually have adequate supply with Moderna and with Pfizer to be able to vaccinate the adult population by the end of July, in the United States and even much of the adolescent population.

But the other pieces with Moderna, we've actually found that we can actually enable it to be stored in manners that primary care doctors can actually stored in their offices and deliver actually family members of mine who are doctors who are now delivering and administering the Moderna vaccine to patients. And in the early days, we weren't sure if that was even going to be possible.

So I'll say is, the more this vaccination campaigns go on going on, the more we've been able to find ways to get it out into the population administer it, and I'm confident even with what's happening with Johnson & Johnson, we will be able to vaccinate the country and do so effectively.

COOPER: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, we appreciate it. Sanjay as well, thanks so much.

(voice-over): Still ahead, we remember slain Capitol Hill Police Officer William "Billy" Evans, who was honored during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda today. Words President Biden told his grieving family, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:51]

COOPER: Just a short time ago, the remains the Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans departed the Capitol after lying in honor for much of the day in the rotunda. Officer Evans was an 18-year veteran who died earlier this month while protecting the Capitol from an individual who investigators say brandish a knife after ramming his vehicle in a police barricade. Officer Evans leaves behind a wife two children who were in attendance today along with Evans fellow officers.

Also in attendance President Joe Biden who spoke of the men stress the Capitol Police have been under after multiple attacks this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Never has there been more strain and I've been here a long time. I've been here since 1972 as U.S. Senator '73. And so much strain and responsibility been placed on the shoulder, shoulder of the Capitol Police. And you hear it, you see it, you watch them. And you watch them do their duty with pure courage and not complain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Evans is the second Capitol Police officer to die in the line of duty this year. The other died after the Capitol riot in January from injury sustained bond duty and two officers also died by suicide after responding to the attack. The President say also spoke at length on the issue of grief and loss of family something with which he is very familiar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Ms. Evans you have some idea what you're feeling like, I bury two of my children. And people have come up to you and are going to come up to you for some time and say I know how you feel. And after a while, you know everybody means well. If you're like saying you have no idea. That's you're all going to know that you're going to make it by holding each other together, most importantly by holding Logan and Abigail as tightly as you can. Because the longer you have them, you've got Billy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:00:07]

COOPER: President also said that his prayer for the family of Officer Evans family is that the memory of him makes them smile before brings a tear to their eyes. I promise you, it's going to come, he said, just takes a while.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.