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Trial Begins For Ex-Officer Charged In George Floyd's Death; CDC Chief Warns Of "Impending Doom" As COVID Cases Spike; Birx: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Deaths Were Likely Preventable. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 29, 2021 - 21:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to my good friend, Chris Cuomo, "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Over to you.

CUOMO: Rebirth and renewal to you and the family, this Easter season.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

This is the season of rebirth and renewal. Christians enter Easter, right, Christ's death and resurrection. Jews celebrate the Angel of Death passing over the homes of true believers.

The message could not be more resonant. Because look, no matter what you choose it to be, we must all believe in something bigger than ourselves. For the religious, like the ones I mentioned, it's God.

But for all of us, religious, secular, whatever, there is still a call to something bigger. It is the Pledge of Allegiance to the collective, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That pledge needs to be reaffirmed right now.

We are in a bad spot. We are mired in a time of a plague like Pandemic and we are mired largely because of us, and a collective lack of faith in the facts, and a lack of faith to that Pledge of Allegiance.

Too many refuse to live the right way, with masks, and with restraint to hold back the Variants. As a result, all of us are suffering.

COVID is rising again. The CDC Director is now warning of impending doom if we don't work together, to ward off a fourth wave. "But the vaccine," people say. Yes, the vaccine, it matters. But it has always been about time, this tension between vaccine and Variants.

The numbers tell the story. We have less than 20 percent of us fully immunized. We need to live right. Otherwise, the Variants are going to make people sick, hospitalized sick, dead from being sick. How many before we can get people vaccinated? You heard the President

today. 90 percent of adults in America will be eligible to get a shot by three weeks from now.

The question is, how many will we let get sick? How many will die when we are so close, and as a function of our own choices? Depends on the question of allegiance, how much do you care about other people?

That question plagues us on the Justice front as well. Did you see the opening statements today in the George Floyd trial, the prosecution showing this 9 minute 29 second sequence?

Yes, it went on longer than the 8-plus minutes we originally thought, and we've been reporting all along, much longer. An agonizing encounter that the prosecution played in full saying, "See the reality!"

The defense suggested, "You may have lying eyes. The accused did exactly what he had been trained to do, and that this situation was more about Floyd's health before the incident, than what was done to him during the incident."

There was also a very surprising use of the crowd that was present on that day by both prosecution and defense.

This is just the beginning. Literally, it was the first day of openings today in court. But the echoes of these events reverberated in the streets of Minnesota, and around this country, and that will continue to be the case.

So, let's start. Let's bring in a better mind to analyze what mattered today in this trial, and why. CNN Legal Analyst, Elliot Williams, former federal prosecutor, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Good to see you, brother.


CUOMO: Macro, what surprised you most today?

E. WILLIAMS: What surprised me? Look, the defense had one job, you know, the saying, "You had one job," they have one job, as they do in any criminal trial, which is not to disprove every fact. It's simply to plant and cast doubt on the facts that the prosecution puts forward.

And those two things were number one, trying to establish Officer Chauvin's actions as quote, objectively reasonable. That's the line and the law. And number two, try to muddy the waters on this question of what killed George Floyd.


Now, on that second point, what killed George Floyd, that's - there're just simply not compelling arguments, Chris. It's - and I think we'll get into that a little bit, in our conversation today.

But the simple fact is the mere fact that he might have had or that he had Fentanyl in his system does not change the fact that we saw, how you saw it, I saw it, everyone in America saw it, the jurors saw it, an individual being choked for 9 minutes.

And so, yes, they did their job, in attempting to cast doubt, but none of it seemed particularly compelling.

CUOMO: They only need one to agree with them.


CUOMO: On that jury.


CUOMO: All right, let's highlight some of the points and get your take.


CUOMO: For the prosecution, the play was very simple and direct. This was not a split-second decision, where you can play to choice. This was deliberative. There were lots of chances to bailout. Let's listen.



JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: Once we have his final words, you'll see that for roughly 53 seconds, he is completely silent and virtually motionless with just sporadic movements.

It is the body's automatic reflex when breathing has stopped due to oxygen deprivation.

He does not let up and that he does not get up, even when Mr. Floyd does not even have a pulse.


CUOMO: What was defense response on that point?

E. WILLIAMS: Right. Well, again, it's just - the central point in any homicide trial, Chris, that one person ends the life of another person. And the defense tried to make the case that "Well, he didn't end George Floyd's life" that George Floyd might have had other circumstances.

Now look, let me be candid, and even frankly, a little graphic here, Chris. As a prosecutor, I've seen autopsy photographs. I've gone through toxicology reports. They're graphic. They're disturbing.

But what you learn is that every human body has a lot of complications in it that are frankly, quite ugly. And so, on anyone's death, you can point to any number of circumstances that might have been abnormal inside a person.

The simple fact is we saw an individual get choked to death, the mere fact that there might have been other circumstances that might have complicated his personal health, which is more than compelling. But again, it's you know, that's the defense. And that's how it works.

The fact that it's their argument and their best argument doesn't necessarily make it a winning one. But like you said, at the beginning of this, Chris, they just have to convince one. It's not about winning over the hearts and minds of every one of the 12 jurors.

CUOMO: And I promised myself, I wouldn't jump ahead, but it's how my mind works!

You're going to hear a lot about autopsy and science here. The defense will put on a Case-in-Chief. What does that mean? They will put on a case. They don't have to, all right?


CUOMO: Or they could just sit there and check all the defense - the prosecution's witnesses. They're not. They're going to put on witnesses here.

And a big point that they're going to make is how much Fentanyl was in the system, because they did get that report from at least one examiner that said he had a lethal amount of Fentanyl in his system.

Now, how do you deal with that as the prosecution?

E. WILLIAMS: Well, OK, if he didn't die of Fentanyl overdose yesterday, he may not have died of Fentanyl overdose yesterday. But there's an astonishing coincidence that he seemed to die after he had someone's knee, on his neck, for 9 minutes.

And if you're the prosecution, that's the point that you get back to. It's you can cast - you can find circumstances in people, even the consumption of substances that complicate their individual health in any given moment.

CUOMO: Right.

E. WILLIAMS: But I think the defense is going to have a really hard time getting over that 9-minute video, like even Chris, you know, it's even important point that in the defense's opening statement, they said, "Look, there's 50,000 pieces of evidence in this trial," and there are. But of the 49,999, we didn't see, one of them was an image of a man--

CUOMO: Right.

E. WILLIAMS: --choking another man to death.

CUOMO: And it was--

E. WILLIAMS: So, yes, there might be 50,000 pieces of evidence but. CUOMO: And it was long.


CUOMO: It was long.


CUOMO: And the length is impressive here, because that is a lifetime of decision-making.


CUOMO: Nine minutes. It's one thing an assailant and a policeman or whatever the situation is, and it had to be done right now. Did he do the right thing or not? Very different standard for jurors than so much time, so much chatter, so many opportunities to make different choices.

All right, let's hit a couple of the other high points. The 9/11--


CUOMO: --the 911 dispatcher was interesting to me to use here by the prosecution. The defense argues that, as Elliot is laying out, it was about adrenaline. It was about these other things and that.

Listen to the 911 dispatcher.


JENA SCURRY, 911 DISPATCHER: My instincts were telling me that something's wrong, something is not right. I don't know what but something wasn't right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you decide to do?

SCURRY: I took that instinct, and I called the circuit.


CUOMO: The context here was very interesting. She felt this was taking too long at the scene. Relevance?


E. WILLIAMS: Right. So, what the defense says is number one, she's not a law enforcement professional, and number two, even if she is, she's only on a handful of situations, seen surveillance video.

That's undercut by the fact that number one by any objective measure she's a credible witness. Number two, she does this for a living, you know?

CUOMO: Right. E. WILLIAMS: She's a law enforcement professional. And number three, she saw the videos just like everybody else did. And to a point, she even says, to a supervisor, she thinks her screen is frozen, because of how long it's going on for.

CUOMO: That's right. The duration.

E. WILLIAMS: So, yes, they have a point, but it's just undercut, yes.

CUOMO: And it was reasonable to her, who does this all the time that this was taking--


CUOMO: --too long.

The use of crowd, on both sides, was very interesting. Ordinarily, you ignore that, as atmospherics, but not here. Let's listen to the competing attributes that prosecution and defense tried to draw out, from the people watching the event that day. Listen.


BLACKWELL: You have older people, younger people. But you will see that what they all had in common, as they were going about their business, is that they saw something that was shocking to them that was disturbing to them.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is a growing crowd and what officers perceive to be a threat. They're called names. You heard him this morning, "A (BLEEP) bum." They're screaming at them, causing the officers to divert their attention, from the terror of Mr. Floyd, to the threat that was growing in front of him.


CUOMO: Now, let's do this a little differently than I had planned. I want to jump right to the witness that they had on today, Donald Wynn Williams. We had him on exclusively, on this show, when this was going on.

Because I felt that the answer to the suggestion there, by the defense, of what that crowds' role was, that they were freaking out the officers, that's not what this - that's not what this witness says.

Listen to the witness.



DONALD WYNN WILLIAMS, WITNESS: He was going through distress because of the knee. And he vocalized it, that "I can't breathe, I need to get up, and I'm sorry." And his eyes slowly roll to the back of his head. You're seeing the blood coming out of his nose. You actually can hear him, you can see him, struggling to actually

gasp for air, while he was trying to breathe. And he barely can move while he was trying to get here.


CUOMO: We had him on the show. He was brought to tears because he felt he should have rushed in, and gotten them off of him, and that one of the officers was violent with him, and he was restraining himself, because he was so nervous about the situation.

And every time you listen to people there, they were saying "It's too much! It's too much! It's too much!"


CUOMO: Who wins on the point of the crowd?

E. WILLIAMS: It's hard to say who wins. He was saying "It's too much!" as well. I don't believe we saw this today. But there's video of people overhearing him saying "It's too much! It's too much! It's too much!"

Look, that the whole--

CUOMO: He said it to us, he was begging them.


CUOMO: He was begging them.


CUOMO: Because he has training in mixed martial arts, he was saying--


CUOMO: --"You're choking him off. It's a blood choke. You got to stop!"

E. WILLIAMS: Yes. This whole question of being diverted from the care of Mr. Floyd, I heard that. And that's - it was just - it was a head- scratching point.

It's a little bit bizarre because he only needed care, because he was being asphyxiated by a Police officer, not because he was having a heart attack or going into some other form of shock or something like that. So it was a very odd argument.

The other thing about Williams, that's particularly compelling, or, at least, interesting here is he made at least one statement that drew an objection from the defense, which is that, "I thought he was going in for the kill. I know this from mixed martial arts." And that drew an objection. And the Judge said, "No, no, no, no, no, you can't consider that." Well the jury heard it.


E. WILLIAMS: And this is one of those tricky things in trials where yes, the judge can instruct people not to consider something that they heard, but they heard it, and the information is out there.

And you have this guy, who's got martial arts training, specifically saying, "You know what? This looks like lethal force to me."

CUOMO: And he's a security guard. And he's also something else.


CUOMO: Really, really earnest. His interview--


CUOMO: --haunted me for days, because I felt so badly for him, we spoke after the interview, that he had put so much of this on him. "I should have run in, I should have run in. So what, I would have gotten arrested. So what, maybe they would have done it to me. I could have saved that man."

For a citizen to feel that way, and for officers to not have acted that way, is one of the most confounding parts of this trial. It was a big first day because the lines have been drawn.

Elliot Williams, thank you very much. I hope to have you back early and often, as we go step by step through what will matter in the ultimate verdict in this case. Appreciate you, brother.

10 months later--

E. WILLIAMS: Take care, Chris.

CUOMO: 10 months later, you got it in court, but absolutely the court of public opinion. This is about systemic inequality. This is about liberty and justice for all. It will play out in court. But you only know what you can show there.

There is an entirely different dialog that those in the political minority are worried about, policing and having their rights stripped away.


The fear is no different systematically between "They're going to hurt us with Police and now they're going to hurt us at the polls." It is connected. You must see it that way, even if you don't agree.

So, let's bring in somebody, who is genius, at understanding the role of dynamics in broader society, Van Jones, with the reality playing out before our eyes, next.








PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: If we can't get justice, for a Black man, here, in America--


FLOYD: --we will get justice everywhere else in America.


FLOYD: This is a starting point. This is not a finishing point. We will be around the world to get justice for all others.


CUOMO: We learned a couple of things in the trial today.


That was Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother. His mask says "8:46." That is what we had believed was the total running time of the incident. It was extended by prosecutors till 9 minutes and almost 30 seconds.

We also learned that the defense is going to play with the health of George Floyd, but not necessarily his character. And that's an interesting point because that is what is going to reverberate about how this is perceived in society.

We've all seen, heard and felt cries for racial justice across this country. But for all the calls for change, and the hard discussions, where are we? And how big a deal is this, in the understanding? Van Jones joins me now.

Van, good to see you.


CUOMO: What did you take from today, and the reactions to today around the country?

JONES: Look, I mean, everybody I'm talking to is - are frustrated, retriggered, re-traumatized, seeing that video, seeing the complete contempt for life. You have a generation of African Americans, and their allies, I'm talking about this entire young generation that is watching this to see if America is it - listen, the system is on trial here.

The system is on trial. And I can tell you, people have tried to push away from this, move on from this, today brought it all back home, for tens of millions of people.

And if this is considered legal conduct, from a Police officer, if you can do this, in broad daylight, and not go to jail, it will be perceived as Open Season, telling Police officers, from coast to coast, "You can literally get away with murder in broad daylight."

So this was a - I think today was a - was a brutal day for the people, who were able to watch. A lot of people weren't even able to watch. They said "I just can't even put myself through this again."

CUOMO: And who knows that it was even 30 seconds longer?

JONES: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: Almost 45 seconds longer--

JONES: Right.

CUOMO: --than we - you know? We all went with 8:46. You see it, and it hurts.


CUOMO: And it hurts Black people, and it hurts White people, who care about Black people.

JONES: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And you believe we got to be better than this. And time and time again, you see in trial there. Elliot disagrees with me. Better legal minds do. And I'm happy. I think this is a case that is not as easy to make, as people expect. If you get one juror--

JONES: Well--

CUOMO: --to believe--


CUOMO: --that the amount of drugs in his system may have contributed to what happened to him that day, it could be over.


CUOMO: What would that mean?

JONES: Well, I mean, I think it'd be terrible.

Look, I'm an older guy. And I was born in '68. I was in law school when Rodney King went down. And that was the first time we had seen a videotaped beating that the whole world saw.

Back then, videotapes, you know, we barely saw a video camera off of a movie set, maybe at like the Thanksgiving dinner or something that we might bring one out.

To have a videotape-beating, where we could finally say "This is what's been happening in the community," and when they came back with the initial verdict, that it was OK for Police officers to do this, I mean, you lost a whole generation, including me.

I went to the left side of Pluto, after that. I said, "I cannot be a part of" - I was - I was studying in law school. And I'm saying "This is not liberty and justice for all. What is this?"

Now, this is a different precipice, we're hanging over now, because you now have an entire generate - and it's not just African Americans, it's all of our allies. A part of what happened with the election, in 2016. You had the suburbs move away, from this negative racial politics, as well as Black people coming out in record numbers.

This is the system on trial for a generation. And listen, you can ask any of the people, who have been marching out here, in the middle of the Pandemic, this is going to be with - there will be half a billion people watching, when the verdict comes out.

CUOMO: I've heard so many people recently, especially people of color, say, "I knew they would screw us for coming out, and voting the way we did. I knew it. I knew they were going to do this to us."

Now, that is hard to hear on several different levels. One, the expectation that you will be held down, you will be disenfranchised, and this idea of "They," there is this growing idea of "Us and Them" in this society in a way I've never seen it in my lifetime before.


CUOMO: And these, you know, look, the Georgia bill, yes, OK, you can exaggerate it and say "It's all Jim Crow type stuff in there," it isn't. But the spirit of it, the spirit of it--


CUOMO: --and what motivated it in these other ones, do you see a connection between the fear that when people put their hand on their heart, and say "I pledge allegiance dot, dot, dot, indivisible, liberty and justice for all," George Floyd is just as resonant is what happens with these laws to people, who believe they are not equal under the system.

JONES: Yes. Well, we're at a crossroads now.


This is a new experiment, the idea that you're going to be a democratic republic, multi-racial, every kind of human being ever born, every faith, every gender expression, every race, every kind of human being ever born, in one country, as a multi-racial, democratic republic, that's just been in our lifetime.

I mean, I'm a ninth-generation American. I'm the first person in my family that was born with all my rights. I was born in '68. The - all the big bills passed '64, '65. So, you have literally inside a generation trying to pull this off.

And the question is will half of the country accept that when we follow the rules - we read the rulebook in Georgia that was written for elections, by Republicans, signed into law by a Republican. We read the rulebook, and we followed their rules. And we won.

Are you now telling us that Black success is by definition, illegitimate, that it is inconceivable that Black people can follow the rules in this democracy, do what you told us to do, and went fair and square?

Because when we went by the rules, you now change the rules, that you're putting us in a very dangerous situation when you do that, because what you're now saying is, "It doesn't matter, if you follow the rules, we are still going to come and get you."

Once you have 40 million people in a country, who no matter what we do, we break the law, we get in trouble, we follow the law, we get in trouble, no matter what we do, you are not going to accept us, then what do we have here?

You've got a potential time bomb on both sides. And I think, on the other side, what I'm seeing is we talk a lot about White rage, White anger, the angry White man. There's some White grief that hasn't been talked about.

This country is changing in ways that a bunch of White folks did not sign up for, didn't expect, and don't know what to do with. And so their - a lot of this rage is unprocessed grief, that we need to be able to talk about.

No, we are not going to back off. It is true. It may be the fact that your grandkids may not look like your grandparents. This country is changing. But it can be a greater country as a result.

We need these White voters, who are supporting Republicans doing stuff that they know is wrong, need to be called to a higher purpose. The Republican Party, which used to be the Party of Lincoln, should not be the Party of Steve Bannon and all these terrible ideas, and there's no reason for it.

And so, you got fear on one side, grief on the other side, and the clock is ticking. But I'm going to tell you right now, these bills that are being passed, to chop us off of the voting bloc, and juries that come out, and say it's OK to kill us, are putting us in a very dangerous position, as a country and as Americans.

CUOMO: Van Jones, thank you very much. I appreciate you.

JONES: Thank you. CUOMO: "Impending doom!" Those are heavy words from a scientist. That's the warning we're getting one year into this Pandemic, about what the stakes are with the Variants, from the Head of the CDC.

She was scared when she said those words. She is frightened by what she sees in the expectations of how many COVID cases were going to be. What does that mean? How do we avoid it?

Top Doc, let's test it, next.









CUOMO: We had written here a question. What will it take for everyone to heed the dangers of COVID? It's not going to happen.

It's not going to happen, because there are too many bad reasons for people to ignore the obvious. Politics has crept into it. It's somehow empowering to the Left, if you wear a mask, it was deemed a muzzle by some in the opposition party.

Even the CDC Director literally getting emotional with her concerns about how bad this could be. Listen.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Now is one of those times, when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen. I'm going to pause here. I'm going to lose the script. And I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.

We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I'm scared.


CUOMO: The warning comes as cases are trending up. More people and States are relaxing, because we're all like, "Hey, we've had enough, and the vaccine is coming."

Let's discuss with Dr. Ashish Jha.

Good to see you, brother. Let's play to the idea this is full panic. "Look, vaccine is coming. People are getting sick. They don't seem to be getting as sick as they used to. Hospitalization rates are up, but they're nothing like what we saw before. I'm just not buying it. Save your panic for somebody else."

What do you say to those people?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, first, Chris, thanks for having me on.

What I would say to those folks is we're still getting about 60,000 people infected every single day. Hospitalizations are up. No doubt about it, it's not as bad as it was over the holidays. A lot of very high risk people have been vaccinated.

But there's still a lot of vulnerable people out there. A lot of people are going to get sick and die unnecessarily, when we're so close to the finish line.

CUOMO: Young adults are driving the rise in cases.

JHA: Yes.

CUOMO: The Ipsos polling shows 54 percent of those under 30 will wait or not get vaccine. Relevancy?

JHA: Yes, look, one of the things that one of the many pieces of misinformation that's been spread for over a year is that young people don't get sick from this disease. That's not true. They don't get as sick as older people. They don't get die as often. But a lot of them will end up having long-term complications.


And so, we've got to both educate people, and also help them understand that they're not just doing it for themselves. They're doing it for a friend, who might have a chronic condition and they're doing it for their family, who may not be able to get vaccinated. Lots of reasons for young people to get vaccinated.

CUOMO: Vaccine passport? Good idea? Bad idea?

JHA: I think it's a little bit inevitable at this point. I mean I think a lot of companies are going to be demanding it.

If the government doesn't get involved in it, you'll see a lot of private vendors doing it. Countries are going to demand it, if Americans want to travel to those places. So, I think it would - it's sort of inevitable. We just got to make sure we do it in a way that's fair to people and protects people's privacy.

CUOMO: Many on the Right are playing this as "Big Brother." But they've been anti-Pandemic and anti any kind of prophylaxis to begin with.

Here's the Florida Governor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.


CUOMO: Can't go to school, if your kids aren't vaccinated. Why is this so different?

JHA: Yes, look, private companies can do what they want. And that's clearly something the Governor understands.

Private companies may say "Look, I don't want people, who are going to come in, and infect other people. I don't want my place of business to be a super-spreading place." That's very much within their rights to do so.

I think you are going to see companies doing those kinds of things, and I think that's part of the reason why you're going to probably see a lot of people, who are on the fence, jump off the fence, and get vaccinated.

CUOMO: But that kind of talk is what keeps people from getting vaccinated.

"Big Brother telling you what to do, you shouldn't even be telling people to get the vaccine," this is a little bit of this mission creep, on the Right, about "The Pandemic is a hoax. You don't really need the mask."

The vaccine, which was Trump's whole call to fame, right, now he's quiet on it basically, and they're saying "Don't let them push you around." It's not getting us to a better place anytime fast.

Dr. Ashish Jha, be well.

JHA: Thank you so much, Chris.

CUOMO: So, if you look at it this way, Pandemic's scary, right? What is scarier than the Pandemic?

How about the response to it by an Administration that banked on deep denial, even though they knew it was making us sick, so much so that, Dr. Birx, right, of Trump Administration fame says "You know what? After the first 100,000 or so, that big surge, we really could have prevented a lot of those deaths." That's from Trump's own COVID Task Force.

So, more proof of why so many of them went along with bad messaging for so long. Someone who was on the inside, and heard the private conversations versus the public conversations, Olivia Troye's take, next.









CUOMO: Right on cue, Trump put out this screaming statement, going after Birx and Fauci, why? Because he wanted to make it perfectly clear to you that the type of environment they feared was real.

And that's all his screed is, in response to Birx telling CNN the truth, that hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19 could have been avoided if they hadn't been engaged in a campaign of deep denial that made us sick and die.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: I look at it this way: The first time, we have an excuse, there were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.


CUOMO: First, I hear you. She should have said it, then. "Oh, but she didn't want to lose her job." Maybe it would have sent a message. When was the better time? Now? Who cares now? Yes, it's part of the autopsy of this to understand for later. But where was it then?

Dr. Birx goes so far as to even praise, then-President Trump, listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Easter's a very special day for me.

And I say "Wouldn't it be great to have all of the churches full?" You know, the churches aren't allowed, essentially to have much of a congregation there.

So, I think Easter Sunday, and you'll have packed churches all over our country.

BIRX: He's been so attentive to the scientific literature, and the details, and the data.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There are those who lean to the point of giving hope and saying "Give that person the option of having access to that drug."

And then you have the other group, which is my job, as a scientist, to say "My job is to ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe, but that it actually works."

I've got to do my job as a scientist and others have other things to do.


CUOMO: Now look, am I completely objective on Fauci? No. Why? Because I said at the time, you need to keep Fauci in that position. We needed him there.

Birx was in a different position, OK? She was in like that Scott Atlas mix, part of the White House apparatus. There was a political demonstration message as part of hers. And she's praising Trump that he's attentive to the literature? That can't be true. I don't know why she said it.

But it could never have been true, because he always defied the literature, except when his own ass was on the line. Then he said "I don't want that Hydroxychloroquine" right? That was the reporting. "I want the good stuff," right?

That's what we see time and time again. They lied to you about the Pandemic. "It was a hoax," they said. They lied.

They lied to you about the election. And now, their attorney is saying, "Shouldn't have believed me!" Sidney Powell. "Yes, you can't sue me for what I said. Who would have believed it in their right mind?" That's why people died.

Joining us now, Mike Pence's former Homeland Security Adviser, worked with the Coronavirus Task Force, before resigning, last August, and choosing to speak out again, against the Trump administration's practices, in real-time.




CUOMO: Olivia Troye, good to see you.


[21:45:00] CUOMO: Now, you may tell me that I am wrong, and that I am being too tough on Birx, because of the system, as it existed, in that dynamic, in a way that I don't understand, but you do. Tell me.

TROYE: Well, it was a toxic environment. And I think that there were a lot of factions and dynamics inside the White House that made it very hard for all of these doctors, on the Task Force, to do their job and do it well.

And look, I watched that clip of Dr. Birx. I think I remember being inside the White House and I remember sort of shuttering when she did say that that he reviews the data.

I think, at the time, though, I think she was probably communicating that they were reviewing the data. The problem is that they were not actually communicating what the data said, right, that it was going to be bad that the cases were increasing.

There was a push for a narrative that made it seem like everything was OK. And that started very much early on. And then we did the 15 days, to slow the spread, plus the 30 days, right? And all of that happened.

But there was a significant pressure then, after that, to open up the country to be open by Easter, they wanted the churches open. And I've stated this, that's where it was all about the campaign. And that is for me, I think, a moral decision.

Everybody has their own time, where you decide, "I can't do this, any of that - anymore." And for me, I had to speak out because I felt that what was happening was morally not only reprehensible and wrong, people were dying. But I was also worried about what this would mean for the country, if this man remained in office and what would that mean for today.

CUOMO: Tell people what it was like, talking to Dr. Birx, when Atlas came in.

Scott Atlas, a guy that Trump liked seeing on Fox TV, no experience with pandemics, not an epidemiologist, not a disease doctor. I think that he is a - what is his specialty? He's a radiologist or something like that. Not to defame radiologists, but they don't talk to you about pandemics.

What was it like for her when that happened?

TROYE: She was horrified. I did have a conversation with Dr. Birx, in late August, and she was frustrated at the fact that she was not - no longer briefing the President and that Scott Atlas had his ear, and he was the one, at the Task Force meetings, briefing misinformation.

And when I read Trump's statement, tonight, about Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, that statement to me read like it was written about Scott Atlas.

Because those are all the things that were said by the doctors, about Scott Atlas, and they did not want to be in the room with him. And so, I think that was Donald Trump projecting what his main adviser was doing behind-the-scenes.

And when you have a force like that, Donald Trump's going to pay attention to the person that's going to tell him the truth that he wants to hear. That is what the Donald Trump machine has always been.

He chooses to listen to the people that are going to tell him what he wants to hear, even if it's not based in any facts or reality or science. And so, these people just got pushed to the side.

And you see Dr. Birx, she hits the road, and she goes on travel, and decides that she's going to go speak frankly and directly to governors and States, because she no longer is allowed access to the podium. She is no longer briefing.

And she does that one briefing in August that I think was talked about, where she gives very strong warning about the cases, and what was going to happen. And that was it.

And I know that people, even on the Vice President's team, went out of their way, to block her, from speaking on national TV, and they didn't want her reports going out to governors. And this is the dynamic that was happening.

And when you're fighting a Pandemic of this magnitude, you can't have this sort of dynamic going on internally. It's got to be all-hands-on- deck, because every day matters on this virus.

CUOMO: Yes. Look?

TROYE: And - you know?

CUOMO: It's on Trump. At the end of the day, it's on Trump, OK? The buck stops with him.

TROYE: That's definitely it.

CUOMO: He was about the deep denial. He was about telling the lies. And if you didn't play along, you are out. And I get the pressure.

But imagine what would have happened, if Dr. Birx had quit, and gone public, and went to Congress, and testified, and said, "This guy is lying to you for his own advantage."

Sure, she would have got beat up, but she got beat up anyway. I just wonder what it would have changed. It's not about Birx. But she does fall into the category of evil can spread when good men stand by and do nothing.

Now, I'm not saying she wasn't doing nothing. But saying now, what we all knew was true then, just not as helpful as what you did, in real- time, coming out, telling how it was happening, and it changed people's perception.

Olivia Troye, thank you for your perspective, once again. Appreciate you.

TROYE: Thank you.

CUOMO: And again, I don't like blaming people for saying the right thing. But timing matters, OK?


And now you see the opponents, the opposition party, what are they doing now? More lies. "You know why COVID is surging? Migrants!" Really? Is that really what's happening? Pinning the crisis of unaccompanied migrant children on Biden? Really? Is what's happening at the border new?

What's fair? What isn't? I have the ammunition needed, for someone, who wants to talk truth, on this issue, next.








CUOMO: BOLO, remember that? Be On The Lookout!

Be on the lookout, a humanitarian crisis is brewing on our southern border. But we've seen it before, when the Trump Administration faced a surge of mostly families and children.

Remember? Thousands stuck in border camps, officials directed to separate families, put kids in cages. Trump liked the message. We showed you on this show documents that reflected they had different choices they could have made, but chose that for the harshness.


Republicans, then, paid little mind. But now, we have another surge. It's seasonal, right? But because there's a new president, suddenly, it's a passion project. "It's all about Bad Biden!"

Never mind that the Pandemic, natural disasters, economic crises, also play a major role, right? Fluctuations in migration, they go up and down, and we all know it. Anybody who studies the issue does, especially seasonally.

But Biden absolutely faces a major challenge in the months ahead. What we're seeing right now, isn't really different from what we saw, during the last crisis in 2019. And that's why, when people say it, is, you got to call it BS. You've got to expose it and oppose it, because there's a pattern. Migrant patterns increase during the spring and summer. Look at your screen. Apprehensions increase by a third during the same period. Why? More people, more urgency.

Take into account that orange line, OK, that's the recidivism rate, people who keep trying it. It tells us why arrests have reached since - such a high level since March. Many of them are repeat crossers. The numbers show this crisis is not much different from the peaks we saw in 2019.

But here's where the bigger challenge is, unaccompanied minors a.k.a. kids. We are on track to easily surpass the high we saw in May 2019. That's when 11,000 kids were arrested at the border. Last month, you had more than 9,200 taken into custody.

They will increase. Why? Look, Border officials are overwhelmed. The White House is working to solve it. Removing Trump's policies of harshness was a good move. But if you don't replace them with something better, you'll have an even bigger problem. That's the truth.

We'll be right back.



CUOMO (on camera): Let's bring in the big man, Don Lemon, and the big show, CNN Tonight. America is watching what's happening in Minnesota, my brother.