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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Protests Continue Over George Floyd Death; Coronavirus Vaccine Optimism Overhyped?; SpaceX's Historic Launch Scrubbed. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: I think you have got a little bit of space nerd in you, if you know all of that.

But, you know, all of those things that you just pointed out, the reason why this -- the Space Coast and Kennedy Space Center is placed here doesn't necessarily align with Mother Nature.

So, there's a lot of reasons why it's here, but, unfortunately, there's a lot of lightning, a lot of precarious weather. So you got to weigh your options.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right.

Rachel, thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting.

President Trump is in Florida. Earlier today, he toured NASA facilities. He was set to watch the launch today.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me now from the Kennedy Space Center.

Kaitlan, I know you're disappointed. This was supposed to be a big moment, especially for the nation, that could really use some uplift right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And they were hoping this was going to mark this next chapter in American spaceflight here.

And the Trump administration was hoping to shepherd that in, and now, of course, it's been put on hold for potentially a few more days, while the president is still here at the Kennedy Space Center. We're not exactly sure where he is right now.

But the reporters traveling with him had just been taken to the observation deck, where they were going to be watching this launch that we were hoping was going to happen any moment now. And now that has been scrapped and pushed to Saturday. And it's raising questions about whether the president is going to return to Florida for that next attempt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump was on his way to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today when the first scheduled launch from American soil was abruptly scrapped.

The SpaceX rocket was scheduled to take off at 4:33 p.m. Eastern, but the moment that hasn't happened in nearly a decade all came down to the weather.

Vice President Mike Pence was also on hand, highlighting a Trump administration priority to revitalize the U.S. space program. Before he left Washington, the president lashed out at Twitter after the social media company slapped fact-checks on his tweets about mail-in voting.

Twitter added a blue link to get the facts about mail-in ballots, after Trump claimed, without evidence, that they would cause substantial election fraud.

In response, Trump threatened to strongly regulate or close down social media platforms that he claims are silencing conservatives.

"We saw what they attempted to do and failed in 2016. We can't let a more sophisticated version of that happen again."

For years, Twitter has been criticized for allowing some world leaders to spread misinformation unchecked, but Trump and his aides say he's being unfairly targeted.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Relying upon the same people who attack him all day long to -- quote -- "fact-check" him.

COLLINS: The president responded by repeating his claims about mail- in voting and also continued to promote a baseless murder conspiracy about the anchor Joe Scarborough.

Liz Cheney, one of the top House Republicans, said the president needs to stop: "He's the commander in chief of this nation, and it's causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died, so I would urge him to stop it."

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial board echoed that criticism and said Trump was smearing Scarborough and said he was debasing his office and hurting the country in doing so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president is still here at the Kennedy Space Center. It was going to be a family affair with the first lady here. Most of his children, if not all of them, are also here.

And he was going to give a speech right here behind me if that launch had gone forward. Now we're waiting to see if he's going to make any remarks at all before returning to Washington tonight.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Just minutes ago, President Trump weighed in on the death of an

African-American man who pleaded he could not breathe while pinned to the ground by a Minnesota police officer.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:38]

TAPPER: In our national lead today: The family of George Floyd says that they want the four police officers involved in his death charged with murder.

And just moments ago, President Trump weighed down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A very sad event, very, very sad, sad event.

And we're going to look at it. And we're going to get a report tomorrow when we get back. And we're going to get a very full report, but a very sad day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Floyd is the man seen in cell phone video from Minneapolis repeatedly telling an officer that he could not breathe, as that officer kept Floyd pinned down by his neck.

Here's a portion of that video. It's a warning here that I want to give you. You might find this disturbing if you have not seen it. If you have any children, you might want to change the channel or turn away for just a few seconds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE FLOYD, MINNEAPOLIS: I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you got him down, man. Let him breathe at least, man.

FLOYD: I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been trying to help out.

(CROSSTALK)

FLOYD: I'm about to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Floyd died after that encounter Monday night.

The four officers involved were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

CNN's Sara Sidner is in Minneapolis.

And, Sara, police initially said Floyd was resisting arrest. But Floyd's family says surveillance video from a restaurant nearby disproves that claim.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're right.

If you look at just the videos that we have all been able to see, both us in the media and the public, many of them taken from bystanders, but also the surveillance video that we'd like to show you ourselves from a store, you can see what happens there.

[16:40:13]

And there is no indication that he was resisting arrest. In fact, you see him sort of slide down and sit on the ground. His hands are cuffed behind him. And then the officer helps him up at the same time.

And so here's the thing. And, look--

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, ma'am. Can you put out there that they kill brown people all the time?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- said it best, man. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the police. They're coming straight from the underground. They got (INAUDIBLE) black (INAUDIBLE).

SIDNER: So, you can hear the pain. You can hear the grief here.

And that pain and grief and frustration with seeing this happen to yet another black person in this country has boiled over into anger. What you're seeing where we're standing right now, Jake, is, this is the 3rd Precinct here in Minneapolis.

The police department is there. If you look on the top of the department, you will see officers standing there. They are holding guns that basically fire tear gas. And, at times, they have pointed it directly at people in the crowd when they think that they're trying to get through a barricade that leads into the parking lot there.

You also will see a bunch of folks with their hands up. This is an old chant that has really taken hold since the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, "Hands up, don't shoot."

But you're also hearing new things from this crowd. You are seeing people that are -- most of them are masked, but there are quite a few people who are not masked. And you're hearing people say, the virus is not as dangerous as the police or that police are the virus.

That is a new chant that you're hearing as coronavirus has taken hold. There is a lot, as I said, of pain here, Jake, people very frustrated with what happened. However, we do know that four of the officers have been fired.

The officer, of course, there with his knee on the neck of George Floyd has a representative, that no one has talked about this from their perspective. And we have not yet seen their body-cam video. And that's video that no one has yet seen. It has not yet been released.

But from the videos that we can see, from what we have been able to see that is available now, it does not appear that he was actually resisting arrest, Jake.

TAPPER: And, initially, the police union cautioned the public, saying, don't rush to judgment on these officers involved.

What are they saying today?

SIDNER: Yes, so what you're actually hearing from different organizations, including actually the mayor of Minneapolis, is that he says that the county attorney, the Hennepin County attorney, needs to prosecute the officer that you see there with his knee on Floyd's neck.

And you're hearing that directly from the mayor. We're also hearing from the major city's chiefs association, who's saying they do not believe that these officers actually followed proper procedure in this particular case.

The family, by the way, Jake, is asking for murder charges, saying that is exactly what happened to their son, brother and father -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Sidner in Minneapolis for us, thank you so much.

Coming up: There's been some optimism in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, but has this optimism been overhyped?

We will dig into that next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:47:51]

TAPPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with CNN today, reiterating his hope that the U.S. will have a viable vaccine ready to go by the end of the year, if -- December or January, without sacrificing safety or scientific integrity.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, you have done a very extensive report on what some feel is an overhyped level of optimism about the prospect for a vaccine. Obviously, we all want the vaccine to be discovered and working by tomorrow. What have you found? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Jake, we have

talked about how this effort to get a vaccine is a marathon, not a sprint.

And some of the ethicists and infectious disease experts that I have been talking to feel a bit like somebody -- a runner is jumping up and down after five miles and saying, look, how well I did, when they have 21 miles left to go, for example, press releases about animal data, press releases about data in humans, but only a very small number of people, when eventually this needs to be tested out in thousands, if not tens of thousands.

One vaccine in particular has come under fire from the people I have been talking to. That's the University of Oxford, one of their lead researchers telling me that they will be the first ones with a vaccine. He was definitive about that. He said that he was 80 percent sure they would be successful.

He then had to walk that back. But concerns that vaccine, that group in particular has been a little bit too overexuberant, some even saying that they put a spin on their monkey data to make it look much more positive than it really was. They deny that.

TAPPER: Elizabeth obviously, these are desperate times. People want good news.

What is the typical process of testing a vaccine and putting it through the approval process?

COHEN: So, first, what you do is, you develop your vaccine, you test out animals to see that it's safe and to see what kind of immune reaction you get in the animals.

And then you move on to small numbers of people. We're talking dozens or hundreds of people -- this is in phases one and two -- to make sure, A, that it's safe and, B, that people are producing neutralizing antibodies, and then you move on to phase three. That's the tough one.

You're vaccinating thousands or tens of thousands of people. You then let them go live their lives. And you see if they're less likely to get COVID than people who you vaccinated with a placebo or with a different kind of vaccine.

[16:50:10]

And that's the tough part. That's -- sometimes, there are vaccines that gets to phase three, but don't actually make it onto the market.

Now, as we heard Dr. Fauci say, he says, we're not going to -- we're going to do this faster, but we're not going to sacrifice safety or efficacy. Instead, what we're going to do is something unusual, which is, while we're studying it, we're also going to have several companies produce their vaccine.

Some of them won't work, and we will have wasted that money and that vaccine will sit on warehouse shelves, but for the ones or one that does work, then we will have it ready.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

With me to discuss is Dr. Dan Barouch. He's director of vaccine research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Barouch, we should point out you're working on one of the vaccines in contention here with Johnson & Johnson.

Do you think enough of the data has been released by the vaccine companies?

DR. DAN BAROUCH, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, thanks, Jake.

I think that it's always best to have more data available to scientists and physicians in the field. And so we always prefer when manuscripts and data sets are available to individuals to review.

TAPPER: For somebody -- I'm a layman. I don't know what the process is. I don't follow it.

So, for the viewers out there who are not familiar with this, is it normal for a company working on a vaccine to put out a press release saying, hey, this worked in chimpanzees, hey, this worked on eight people?

Is that a normal part of the process? Or, normally, do people, do companies -- are they more cautious?

BAROUCH: I think it's very different.

I think a lot of things are very different for COVID-19. And there is a worldwide effort to try to develop a vaccine. I think that it is unusual, the amount of interest and, therefore, exposure of the COVID- 19 vaccine field.

But the goal is to move the vaccines forward as quickly as possible, but, as was said earlier, without sacrificing safety and efficacy. And I think different companies choose different communication strategies.

TAPPER: Some health experts are cautioning that overhyping, with an overly optimistic timetable for the vaccine, is the equivalent of -- quote -- "science by press release."

Do you think there's a danger here of people thinking, OK, by December, January, we're going to have this? I saw the press release about the monkeys. I saw the press release about positive results in eight people.

We're going to -- we're going to go get this. Is that unfair that people criticize that as making people overly optimistic?

BAROUCH: Well, I think that's a very important point.

I think it's very important not to overpromise. The potential of having a vaccine available by the end of this year or early 2021 is really a theoretical possibility, but it depends on many things happening successfully, because we are still in a very early stage of this process.

So we hope that everything will go perfectly the first time, but, of course, it might not. So, we have to communicate very clearly that the most optimistic time frame might be one thing. However, that is in no way guaranteed.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Barouch, there are currently 10 vaccines in human clinical trials worldwide.

Do you assume most of them are going to get through a phase three study on humans and be mass-produced, even if they're not proven yet?

BAROUCH: Well, the vaccine development process typically is more like a pyramid.

There's a lot of vaccines in the laboratory, a smaller number of vaccines in early phase clinical trials, and even a smaller number of vaccines in late-phase clinical trials, and then even a smaller number of vaccines that ultimately pass all those tests and can be mass- produced.

So, it's important to have a number of vaccines being developed now to hopefully get not just one, but ideally several vaccines that ultimately make it for licensure.

TAPPER: All right.

BAROUCH: So I don't expect that all the vaccines that are being tested now will make it into a phase three trial, but hopefully several will be.

TAPPER: All right, hopefully.

Dr. Dan Barouch, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

Coming up ahead: Two of the biggest tourist attractions in the United States now submitting plans to reopen -- what the futures of Disney and SeaWorld will look like ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:58:56]

TAPPER: The death toll this hour from coronavirus still ticking up.

There are now 99,983 deaths here in the United States. Today, we want to remember two of those individuals.

Bernice Green (ph) was 65 years old. She was a teacher, the director of Christian education at her church in Jersey City, New Jersey. Bernice loved gardening and holidays. Her daughter say their mother always looked for the good in people. Her husband says he lost his best friend.

Suin Tan (ph) was a seamstress in Queens, New York. Her family describes her as a perfectionist who loved to host. She was Chinese and migrated to the U.S. from Malaysia in 1987. And at 83 years old, Mrs. Tan volunteered at a retirement center, keeping seniors company.

She had three children, six grandchildren.

To the Green family, to the Tan family, may their memories be a blessing.

We will honor the people who have died from coronavirus this Sunday at noon Eastern. I'm going to host a CNN special called "We Remember," a memorial service for those lost.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.