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AstraZeneca Pauses Vaccine Trial after Unexplained Illness in Volunteer; Seventh Night of Protests in Rochester over Death of Daniel Prude. DOJ Wants to Defend Trump in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Suit. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 9, 2020 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is in New Day.

And there has been a setback in the search for a coronavirus vaccine. AstraZeneca pausing its phase three clinical trial here and overseas because of an unexplained illness in a study participant.

As of this morning, the number of new coronavirus case appears to have leveled off, but leveled off at 40,000 a day.

We're also learning more than half a million children in the U.S. have tested positive at some point for coronavirus. That's an increase of 16 percent over just the last two weeks. So what's going on? Is this all about kids returning to school?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: So you know what doctors say is saving lives? Masks. you know who wasn't wearing one at a rally in North Carolina? President Trump. Not just ignoring, but really openly flouting a mask mandate in that state. Not just him too. Look at the crowd there. There are a few people with mask behind him. But, by and large, it seems as if the majority of the crowd was mask-free, not just mask-free, but all over each other. I mean, they were really close together. No social distancing there.

This morning, Joe Biden, former vice president, has unveiled new details of an economic plan. He heads to Michigan today.

We're going to start though with the pandemic and the news about AstraZeneca halting their vaccine trial, pausing it.

Joining us, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CNN Medical Analyst and Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Sanjay, what happened here is that one of the participants in the AstraZeneca trial has become sick. We don't know exactly with what, but they paused the trial to check it out. Just broadly speaking, what does this mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it shows in part that the process worked the way it should work. I mean, this was a voluntary pausing of the trial. So they looked at what was happening with these trial participants. They saw what sounds like a very serious adverse effect. I mean, we know that there had been adverse effects from this particular trial earlier on, things like fever and chills and muscle aches and the fatigue. This was a serious effect.

We still don't know what it is. I've been talking to a few folks this morning. Still not confirmed exactly what happened to this person, but serious enough to warrant this. And keep in mind that these are typically healthy volunteers, right, so healthy people going into this and having this serious effect.

Now, they've got to figure out was it, in fact, due to the vaccine? And they're not sure yet, and obviously very suspicious given the sort of time course of things. And they want to figure out what does this mean now for the trial going forward.

When you think about this, you've got to remember a scale. I mean, if you have a rare side effect that shows up in 0.1 percent of people, if you vaccinate 100 million people, that means 100,000 people could potentially be affected by this rare side effect. So this is really important and, again, an indication of hopefully how things are supposed to go, obviously not the person getting sick, but in terms of finding a side effect like this and pausing things.

CAMEROTA: But, Dr. Walensky, in terms of the vaccine foot race, that different pharmaceuticals are involved in, the AstraZeneca pause doesn't affect, as we understand, the Moderna one or all of the other ones that we report on, because is it true that each different company has kind of a different cocktail. So just because you have an adverse effect with one, it doesn't mean that it would be bad for the other?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You're absolutely right. Good morning, Alisyn. So this is a pause. I would reiterate, this is exactly how vaccine trials are supposed to work. when you see an adverse event, the due diligence needs to occur to see if it's related to the vaccine and to interrogate it and make sure it's safe to move forward. But as you note, you know, what happens in the AstraZeneca trial is unrelated to what happens in the Moderna trial or the Pfizer trial, for example.

I do want to highlight though that we've had a slight pause in what's happening with AstraZeneca.


We'll see how this pans out. This week, we also had a pause with Moderna -- or not a pause but a slowing down with Moderna as they were trying to enroll more African-Americans, more Hispanic communities, more vulnerable populations. So things have paused or moved more slowly in at least two of these trials.

I want to highlight that it's really important. There's an enormous vaccine hesitancy in this country at baseline. And it is so much more important to have a vaccine that we trust that comes in February than one that we're skeptical about that comes in November, because that skeptical vaccine is going to be really hard to overcome in the long- term.

So I would applaud the due diligence that is happening. We hope this person does well. And we just need to understand what the impact of this vaccine was.

BERMAN: Sanjay, any sense of how long the pause will be? And what does this mean for the people who are in the trial, that it's paused? I mean, there have been a number of people who have already taken the vaccine. What happens with them? Does it mean they don't get the second dose? What's going on here?

GUPTA: Yes, no, the vaccine trial was paused, which means that people won't be getting a second dose. There is an independent board that is continuously reviewing the data. So they will look at data and see even, perhaps, if there's any evidence of whatever this adverse effect was in other trial participants. It's something that they were doing anyway.

I was talking to a couple of sources this morning. Again, we're not sure. We know that there has been some reporting of what the adverse effect may have been. We're still not certain what the adverse effect was, but sometimes there are certain biomarkers.

One of my sources was telling me that they may go back and test those biomarkers to see even if other participants doesn't have symptoms, do they have some evidence in their blood that they did develop this sort of adverse effect as well. So it's a pause. It's not a halt. It's a pause. And it can take a while. The person who has the adverse effect, they need to see if this person recovers from this.

And, again, for the most part, these are healthy volunteers going into this, right? This is a big difference from sort of thinking about a trial for a therapeutic for a disease that's -- or someone is in the hospital. In those situations, your bar may be a little bit lower in terms of what you're going to accept. Here, healthy volunteer walked in healthy, now has a significant problem. They've got to investigate that.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So let's talk about the therapeutic that we know of, Dr. Walensky, that you held a press conference about yesterday, remdesivir. So, remdesivir seems to, what, ameliorate symptoms a little bit, but doesn't cut down necessarily on the mortality rate. But what are you trying to do with remdesivir?

WALENSKY: Right, thank you. So, remdesivir is currently the only antiviral that we have with proven efficacy against this disease. We know that it decreases the duration of the disease from 15 to 11 days in its clinical trials. It had a signal for mortality difference, although we haven't seen any statistical significance with that as of yet.

Here is the challenge. There are more and more people, you announced at the top of the hour, 40,000 people per day with -- being diagnosed with COVID. Last week, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization, so more people are eligible to receive remdesivir. And what we have is a shortage of remdesivir. There was a report that 38 hospitals in 12 states have reported not having remdesivir when they need it.

Part of that shortage or most of that shortage is related to the fact that there's currently only one manufacturer in the United States, Gilead, that is making the drug. And they're not making it fast enough. They can't keep up. There is an opaque process of allocation to the states and hospitals who need it, and it's not always going to the places that need it the most.

So what we're proposing and suggesting is that the government use this authorization for government patent use to allow generic manufacturers, there are plenty of them making plenty of drug outside the United States, to bring that drug into the United States so that when we have more and more cases, that we don't have to sit at the bedside and worry about whether we're going to run out of drug tomorrow.

BERMAN: There has been a perplexing lack of emphasis on the few things that have been proven to work, remdesivir and steroids, and a perplexing overemphasis on things like hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, where the data isn't completely there yet, be that as it may.

Sanjay, another development overnight. We're getting a sense of just how many children have tested positive. Over half a million children have now tested positive with coronavirus. And I understand there's a 16 percent increase in just the last two weeks, which is happening as kids are heading back to school. What does this tell you?


GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you know, I think this tells us a couple of things. First of all, we are still very much learning about children. And this may surprise people so many months into this pandemic, there's still a lot that's unknown. I think especially for younger children, this is the time when they've really started to become mobile because of this return to school, and the expectation was that there would be an increase in the number of children who were infected.

I think what still holds up to be true is, children do seem to be far less likely to get sick from this virus, still able to contain this virus within their nose and their mouths. But despite that, we still don't know just how much they're transmitting it. The numbers are going up, as you point out, but is there going to be a significant sort of upward tick, as millions of children are starting to become more mobile? Obviously, a lot of children doing virtual school, but there's still a lot more mobility here.

We still don't know. I mean, this is sort of interesting to me and, frankly, a little counterintuitive. Because, typically, you think of respiratory viruses in kids, and you think, they are the ones who are the big spreaders. I mean, you know, a kid got a cold in my house, pretty much everyone in the house is going to get that cold. That's how it was when my kids were little, especially. But we still don't know with this. So it's something we're watching really closely.

There are a few school districts around the country that are doing regular testing. As you know, most can't. But we're following that data very carefully. But kids can carry the virus, kids are less likely to get sick. The question mark right now, how much do they transmit this virus?

BERMAN: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

WALENSKY: Thanks for having us.

BERMAN: So, new developments overnight, protests in Rochester, New York, over the death of Daniel Prude. He died in March with police covering his head with a spit sock, a spit hood, and holding him to the ground before he stopped breathing. These demonstrations unfolded hours after what really is news here. The city's police chief and several of his highest ranking officials either resigned or took demotions.

Alexandra Field joins us now with the latest. A lot of this has to do with how they handled the case and how much information they came forward with and told the mayor over the last several months, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly it, John. The entire top command of the Rochester Police Department walking away from those positions, because of accusations that information in the death of Daniel Prude was withheld and that a video showing the incident was delayed.

Now, the police chief himself, La'Ron Singletary, says he is going to retire because of the mischaracterization and politicization of his handling of the recent events. Protesters responded for yet another night overnight, this time painting the words, murderers, outside police headquarters and the words Black Lives Matter on the street.

Seven officers have already been suspended with pay for their roles in the incident. None of them is facing charges at this point. The police union has come to their defense, and overnight, the union is defending the entire Rochester Police Department with this statement saying, what is clear is that the problems of leadership go directly to the mayor's office. Our members remain focused and committed to serving the citizens of this city despite the lack of leadership that we are witnessing coming from our elected officials in city hall.

The mayor has spoken out saying that she is committed to working to reform the police department. John, all of this is coming as the sister of Daniel Prude has filed a lawsuit against the city of Rochester, the police chief and 13 members of the police department and that comes just days after the attorney general announced she would be in paneling a grand jury to take up this case. John?

BERMAN: All right. Alexandra Field, please keep us posted on this. Obviously, things developing quickly there.

The Justice Department stepping in to defend President Trump for a case involving a woman accusing him of sexual assault. And this could have an impact for anyone who was president in the future and whether he or she can really say anything with impunity. We'll discuss, next.



BERMAN: All right. Developing this morning, an unprecedented legal move involving the president. The Justice Department is asking a federal judge for permission to take over President Trump's defense in a defamation lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. Now, I said Donald Trump, because the assault occurred in the 1990s, long before the Trump presidency.

But the DOJ argues that since his denials of Carroll's claim while he was in office, its lawyers, the Justice Department lawyers, paid by taxpayers, should be defending the president.

Joining us now, CNN Commentators Bakari Sellers and Scott Jennings.

And, Bakari, I want to start with you, counselor, in your role as a lawyer here. As a legal move, how do you assess this? The Justice Department of the United States of America stepping in in a case where Donald Trump is accused of something in the 1990s?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think this is unheard of. I think this is probably most legal scholars would tell you this is patently absurd and there is no grounding for them to do so. Look, Donald Trump, he has to handle and he needs to handle his personal business, his personal lawsuits on his own time. I don't understand the strategy behind having the Department of Justice come in and represent you.

I will also say, and this is to add an ounce of whataboutism to this morning, that if we had a case where there was a Democratic president, even let's say a Bill Clinton, who had the Department of Justice represent him in matters of a personal nature, you would have a great deal of issue and Republicans would be jumping up and down and screaming that the house was on fire.

And so I just think that this is a really awful precedent. And I think this is a further deconstruction of norms.


And I also don't know why you would do this to raise this story again. And I think Scott may agree with that. I don't know why you would do that to raise this story this close to an election. It just seems like awful communication tactics.

BERMAN: Scott? SCOTT JENNIGNS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I understand why you would do it. I think it's to delay, I mean, right? I mean, you get the Justice Department involved, it probably strings out the case and you delay it past the election. I mean, look, it's a weird one. The conduct occurred back in the 90s and it's a hard one to explain.

And so I'm sure there's a lawyer somewhere who says -- and I'm not a lawyer. I'm in a disadvantage to Bakari, by the way, because I'm not a counselor. However, but I have watched a lot of Law & Order. What I would argue is, is that maybe you don't want open season on the president for defamation cases while they're the sitting president. And so you're trying to guard against future onslaughts of presidents, especially the ones running for re-election. But that's one argument.

But I agree with Bakari, having the DOJ involved in the case that doesn't have anything to do with sitting presidential conduct, it's a weird one.

BERMAN: Yes. The defamation -- the alleged defamation did happen while he was president, so that's the thin legal read that they're resting it on. But, Bakari, to your point, there's something slightly analogous in the Clinton administration where the Justice Department did not defend President Clinton during the Paula Jones at all. There was an amicus brief that the DOJ filed but the taxpayers never got involved in that. We'll move on, Scott.

On legal matters, although I'm not asking your legal opinion here, you know Ben Ginsberg, I would imagine, from Bush World. Ben Ginsberg has been synonymous with Republican election law for decades, but preeminent, I think, Republican campaign lawyer or election lawyer.

Well, he wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post overnight responding to the president's repeated calls, which he made again last night at a rally in North Carolina, for people to vote twice, to vote absentee and then show up at the polls and try to vote in-person to check in whether their ballot was registered. And I want to read you what Ben, a Republican election lawyer, has written.

He says, the president's actions urging his followers to commit an illegal act and seeking to undermine confidence and the credibility of election results are doubly wrong. They impose an obligation of this campaign and the Republican Party to reevaluate their position in the more than 40 voting cases they're involved in around the country.

He goes on to write, Republicans need to rethink their arguments in many of the cases in which they're involved, quickly. Otherwise, they risk harming the fundamental principle of our democracy that all eligible voters must be allowed to cast their ballots. If that happens, Americans will deservedly render the GOP a minority party for a long, long time.

Scott, your reaction?

JENNIGNS: Well, look, the president needs to tell his supporters, simply, vote however you can, whenever you can according to the legal rules of your state. I mean, period. That should be the message. And, by the way, that's the message of his campaign. It's the message of Republican campaigns, it's the message of his party. They're sending mailers and information to voters, saying, here is the rules about voting this year.

So what you don't want to do is encourage people to do things that are wrong, or encourage people to believe that the system I which they are voting can somehow or is corrupted. What you want to do engender confidence in the system so that the maximum number of people that support you go to the polls. And so that's what I think the advertising strategy of the party and of the campaign is, is that it's just that the president is sometimes is not on that message.

You do not want to give your people the idea that the system isn't working for you, because, look, I mean, people who love Donald Trump are going to vote, they're going to vote no matter what. But there's a sort of low-propensity, low-information voter on the margin that both campaigns are trying to turn out. And if you give them the idea that it's not going to work or there's some problem, maybe they don't vote. And in a state that could be decided by a few thousands votes, it's obviously a problem.

BERMAN: So, Scott, just to be clear, you think the stuff that the president is saying out loud again last night is a bad idea?

JENNINGS: Yes. The Republican Party, led by the president, needs to tell people how to vote legally, whenever and wherever they can based on the rules and their jurisdiction. That should be the clear message of the president and of his campaign.

BERMAN: So, Bakari, different issue here. I want to talk Latino voters. Because, yes, there has been polling, and I'm not just responding to any one poll in any one state, but there has been polling in recent days in Florida, which shows the president making gains among Latino voters, and Joe Biden underperforming among Latino voters, which he did in the primaries, as well, underperformed with Latino voters. It was an issue a little bit during the Democratic National convention, where there were some people saying that Latinos were underrepresented in the convention. What's going on here, do you think, Bakari?

SELLERS: I mean, well, first of all, I think it's unfair just to throw a blanket generalization over Latino voters. I mean, we have many subsets. We have Dominican voters, we have Puerto Rican voters, we have Cuban voters and many more all found in Florida, that are going to have an impact on this election.

What Joe Biden has to do and what Joe Biden has begun to do, I believe it was Caputo in Politico was saying that, finally, the campaign is ramping up. Although, it may be somewhat late, they are ramping up and you're starting to see some of those things kind of chip away around the edges.


You saw Kamala Harris go down and do this Caribbean radio. You've seen Joe Biden sit down and do interviews on various Hispanic T.V. stations. So you're starting to see that activism and that outreach. In fact, Kamala Harris will be in Miami on Thursday.

But Florida is going to be a very, very close state. For anybody who thinks that Joe Biden or Donald Trump is going to win Florida by five or six points, they are out of their mind. This is going to be a race that's going to be determined by 80,000 votes here or there. And so every vote counts. And Democrats have to focus on all of these Hispanic groups, from Cuban Americans to Puerto Ricans to Dominicans and show them that we hear them, we see them, and they want them to vote for us.

And so that's going to take effort, time and money. But one thing Joe Biden has is a whole lot of money.

BERMAN: I will say, you just created a straw man there. No one thinks that anyone is going to win Florida by four or five or six points because no one ever wins Florida by four, five --

SELLERS: I was just looking at the polls (INAUDIBLE), because we're proverbial bed wetters. So I just have to let them know that if we're not -- it's going to be a close, close race. Just get used to it. Buckle in.

BERMAN: So, Scott, along those notes, what has the president done right, do you think, with Latinos? But in Florida, the same polling, and you're also seeing it nationwide, he's overperforming where he was in 2016 with Latinos, but he's underperforming with seniors, which I know has got to be concerning for Republicans.

JENNINGS: Yes. Well, absolutely. I mean, if you're a Democrat, as Bakari just expressed, this underperformance with Hispanics isn't just an issue in Florida, it's an issue in Arizona, it's an issue in New Mexico or Nevada. There's a lot of states where you have these populations, senior voters, as well, Florida and Arizona, large senior populations. And I think some of that has to do with the coronavirus job approval.

And so if you're the president, you cannot afford to have your senior numbers degrade. But at the same time, if you're a Democrat, you really can't afford to have some of these Hispanic voters go away from your ticket. They could be a nightmare scenario.

One of the surveys out of Florida, I think, I heard this morning, two- thirds of the respondents, John, who chose to answer the questions in Spanish preferred Trump over Biden, and so they have a lot of worked to. The Cuban community, by the way, I think, in Miami, does not prefer the direction of the Democratic Party right now. It gives Trump a huge advantage there.

So I agree though with everything that's been said about Florida, a very close race and a few thousand votes in one place or the other could be the difference.

BERMAN: I have to let you both go. But -- literally, ten second or less, but the maskless rally, the president holding a big rally, people shoulder to shoulder, the crowds. Was that a good -- if you're trying to promote the idea that you're taking coronavirus seriously, Scott, as you just said, is that a helpful image for the president?

JENNIGNS: No. Wear a mask, everyone. Please wear a mask. I'm holding up my mask this morning. I want to wear a mask, please. Just wear a mask. It's the easiest thing you can do to help your fellow Americans. Wear it. Wear it.

BERMAN: And, conversely, Bakari, ten seconds or less, does Joe Biden need to go out and have more events, have at least a few more people, albeit, socially distancing, wearing a mask?

SELLERS: Yes. I want Joe Biden and I want Kamala Harris to be out and touching the flesh and pounding the streets and doing all of those necessary, wear a mask, be safe and socially distanced, but let the people see you. You're starting to see that more and more, and I just think the campaign will do more and more of that, as they can, safely.

BERMAN: If Scott Jennings is willing to cover that beautiful face, then everyone should be willing, as well.

JENNINGS: Believe me, huge sacrifice. It's a huge sacrifice. My wife complains about it all the time. She says, take that mask off, I didn't marry you to look at a masked face.

BERMAN: America suffers but we get better at the same time. All right, Scott, Bakari, thank you very much.

So, a leading drug trial has put its coronavirus vaccine trials on hold after a participant developed an unexplained illness. So what does this mean for the pace of this trial? What does it for vaccine development? We're going to speak to someone who has been in the middle of the vaccine discussion for years, next.