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Cuomo Prime Time

The Derek Chauvin Trial; GOP Rep Gaetz Says He's Victim Of Criminal Extortion; Fourth Wave Looms As COVID-19 Cases Spike Across U.S. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 30, 2021 - 21:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It is a busy news night and the news continues. So, let's turn it over to my good friend, Chris Cuomo, "PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Appreciate you, Jim. Thank you very much. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Imagine, you're watching men kill another man. That's what you believe. And they keep trying to kill him, despite your screams, you're begging them to stop. And you can't call the cops because the men are the cops.

The second day of testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin, brought that pain that for most of us, thank God is just imaginary. But for too many, it is real. And it was said in full, with deeply emotional accounts from witnesses as young as nine years old. Most weren't allowed to be shown on camera because they are under age. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recognize this man?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember what he was doing? How do you know him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was pushing knee in neck with George Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see him in the courtroom today?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, how about him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having been there on this day and seeing the officer on top of George Floyd, how did you feel about that, how did it affect you? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sad and kind of mad.


CUOMO: Nine years old. One after another, kids, young adults, parents, first responders, all with uncommonly consistent recollections of the event. Remember, it is rare for eyewitnesses, even though they see the exact same thing to see it the exact same way.

But that's the case here, each echoing the same agony of pleading with officers to free Floyd from the knee that he was pinned under for more than nine minutes. These are emotions that reverberate in the streets, outside the court and all over the country.

Let's be honest, this is not just another trial. It is a flashpoint. And absolutely, what happens in that courtroom can't be about politics, it must be about fairness, under fact and law. But also, it is dishonest to say that the outcome won't have a major influence on society, potentially.

Now, one of the most powerful accounts came from that nine-year-old girl's cousin. The cousin is the teenager who recorded the most crucial piece of evidence at this trial. The video of Floyd's death that set off a national reckoning on systemic injustice.


DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS: It's been night, I stayed up, apologizing, and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting, and not saving his life. It's like, it's not what I should have done. It's what he should have done.


CUOMO: That is Darnella Frazier breaking down in tears on the stand. So, did a Minneapolis firefighter who testified she was prevented from helping Floyd by the officers, who are now suspects in his murder. The helplessness, the pain of those who were forced to look on as a man died, was brought home by a young man who told the jury, he believes it was murder. And that's why he called the cops on the cops in that moment. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At some point, did you make a 911 call?

DONALD WYNN WILLIAMS II, WITNESS: That is correct. They call the police on the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.


CUOMO: You are going to hear a lot in the media about Donald Williams. He first appeared on this show, by the way, we had an exclusive interview with him after Floyd's killing, but you're hearing about it because of what occurred in the cross examination with defense counsel. And I'm going to show you that.

But his real impact today of that testimony didn't come from what happened with the defense attorney. It came from what the defense counsel failed to do during his testimony. It is the first major mistake that I've seen in this young trial. But it could be a major factor for the jury. What is it? Let's discuss.

Back with us tonight, a better mind who knows what it's like to prosecute a case like this former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, a former deputy assistant AG, Attorney General. It's good to see you again, brother.


CUOMO: So, the reason people are talking about Williams is.


Because of a contentious back and forth during cross with defense counsel. Let's play one of the most pertinent parts of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that statement, you said, like I really wanted to beat the shit out of the police officers. You said that?

WILLIAMS: Yes, that's what I thought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were angry?

WILLIAMS: No, you can't paint me on angry. I was there, I was in a position where I had to be controlled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those terms grew more and more angry. Would you agree with that?

WILLIAMS: They grew more and more pleading for life.


CUOMO: Now, Elliot, one you've got just bad optics here, right? You're trying to paint the black guy as an angry guy, defending the white guy who killed the black guy. Right. that's the allegation. Those are optics.

What you and I agree on here, is that's not what makes William's testimony so powerful for the jury. It's what defense counsel failed to do when Williams uttered his - these reverberating words of I thought I was witnessing a murder. What did the defense counsel do when he said that?

WILLIAMS: We did nothing and he should have objected to it. That was a statement that on its face should not have been allowed in court. And we haven't been seeing a lot of objections in this trial. And that's common to something - more common than law and order.

People don't in real trials don't object all the time. But when a witness says, I thought I was witnessing a murder, what that witness has done is made a legal conclusion. And that is not the role of a witness in a criminal trial. It's the role of the judge to instruct the jury as to what murder is, and then the jury to apply the facts to the law and say, well, either we think this was a murder, or we don't.

What the witness was doing was, was making a legal opinion. And immediately the defense attorney should have objected to that. And frankly, the judge could have stepped in at that point too, and said, you know what, you can say what you saw, you can say you saw the knee on the neck or whatever. But you can't use that word murder, and the jury heard it, you can't unring that bell, and now it's out there.

CUOMO: Well, one, the zone was flooded with poignant testimony. So, you can see how if you're not on your game, you could get lulled. But for those who aren't lawyers who are at home as his lawyer speak, no, this matter, the jury now heard as acceptable to the record, as a matter of fact that this witness believes what he saw was a murder. How powerful can that be in deliberations?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's almost like they put a 13th juror in there now. And you put someone who's come across as a relatively credible witness, now the defensive attacked him a little bit. And you know, with his mixed martial arts and his opinions, and that he was angry, like you said, a black man, they didn't use the word but painting him as a black man who's angry.

But the word has been said, and it's someone that can at least back if the jury wishes to convict, they can say, look, this guy we heard who was there at the scene also believes this was a murder, perhaps maybe it wasn't murder.

Remember, jurors are picked on the basis of they're just not understanding - not having an understanding of the case and being willing to be blank slates about the law. And when someone tells him what a murder is, maybe they'll credit it and maybe they'll believe it.

CUOMO: Two interesting choices by the prosecution today. The first one is bringing kids on. Why? Some people are turned off by it. Don't do this to the kids. Make your case, you've got plenty of adults, but there was power in hearing these kids speak today. What did you think of the tactic? How do you think it worked out?

WILLIAMS: Look, kids are very compelling witnesses, you have to be delicate, and careful. And both sides, no matter who is questioning a child needs to be careful, make them feel frankly loved and respected. Because they're just delicate. And the fact, there's a nine-year-old, who was clearly traumatized, they had to make her feel heard.

The other thing though is that kids are to some extent, to some extent inherently credible, they have far less of a desire, they don't have the baggage that we have as adults far less of a desire to get involved in matters and right now, again, in a way, they're also less credible, because they're kids, and they're young, and they don't know as much, but they're in a way the innocence of youth is a very powerful thing to put on - but it is a stage of sorts to put on trial.


WILLIAMS: Again, it just requires a tremendous amount of care. And if you notice at least one of the times and maybe even all of them, I don't recall off the top of my head. The defense didn't cross examine some of the child witnesses.

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIAMS: Because it's just dangerous to cross examine a kid. There is so many pitfalls there.

CUOMO: And what you get here is a very interesting dividing line in the case between wrong and illegal. Those witnesses today all went to the fact that what they watched was so obviously wrong. It was wrong to the 911 dispatcher; it was wrong to the nine-year-old. It was wrong all the way around. It was wrong to the point where a.


Firefighter was watching and said, hey, I've got to help this guy. He's obviously in extremists. He's obviously in a very bad state. And she wasn't allowed to do so. Let's play some of that.


GENEVIEVE HANSEN, MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER: In my memory, I offered to what kind of walk them through it or told them, if he doesn't have a pulse, you need to start compressions. And that wasn't done either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, when - well, is this, are these things that you wanted to do?

HANSEN: It's what I would have done for anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you couldn't do that, how did that make you feel?

HANSEN: Totally distressed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you frustrated?



CUOMO: Now you've got to remember where we are on this. A lawyer asking a firefighter, how did you feel? Now that question doesn't come up in court as often as you may think. Reporters use it all the time. Because how people feel isn't really relevant most of the time, except it goes to their intent.

Here, they are building a case, Elliot, that everybody got in their head and their heart that this was wrong. The kid, the adult, the trained first responder all knew that what was happening was wrong, and she could have helped and so could they, but they chose not to. Effectiveness level?

WILLIAMS: Quite effective. Chris says it with me, objection. The defendant did - the defense didn't object to that and probably should have, why are her feelings relevant to the fundamental question of whether Derek Chauvin kills George Floyd, they're just not relevant.

Now, what I think that - what the defense did do today was try to attack her credibility. Well, you know, you're an EMT versus a paramedic, you were off duty, you were joining the mob of people that was attacking the police, and so on.

And that's a common tactic of defense attorneys to poke holes in the credibility of individual witnesses. Because here's the thing, most of the facts aren't in dispute right now until you get to the toxicology reports. And the other sort of science stuff that we're going to see either later this week or next week or beyond.

Nothing is really up for debate that we've seen, everybody has the videos, all of the witnesses are largely - no one's really contradicting each other. And they're all testifying to the same things. So, it's really the defense's job at this point to just try to poke holes in the credibility of the witnesses.

But the problem here is that what they had was a firefighter in her dress whites breaking down into tears on the stand and being quite credible. So, it's just a challenging - it's just a challenging witness to really dirty up, I think.

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIAMS: And they didn't need it. But you could have brought on an expert. And the difference between an EMT training and paramedic training for the purposes of this kind of observation is irrelevant. But it was overwhelming this aspect of the case, but as Elliot just alluded.

Now, the way I want to do this with him as much as I can get him every night is, we're going to go through what we see. We do not have to take a step farther from that. Speculation gets to be a dangerous game in these trials, especially one with the impact that this one is going to have, depending on the outcome.

But forensics and the medical opinions and the look at George Floyd's body and his condition is going to be the best chance for doubt the defense has that is yet to come. So, we'll cover that, but not now because we're not going to speculate. When they offer it up, that's when we'll take it apart.

Now, I do want to keep you though Elliot if I can. Stay across the break because we have developing news that is very confusing to me and I want Elliot's help on this. Congressman Matt Gaetz, you know him, the firebrand, Trump looking from Florida. There is a report tonight that he is under federal investigation for

trafficking in an underage female for purposes of sex. His response is every bit as shocking as the allegation. A lot to unpack. Let's do it next.



CUOMO: This may be a first, it's developing on our watch. In terms of an allegation of this nature. Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is denying that he had any kind of sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Now why does he have to do that? Because the New York Times citing sources is reporting that the DOJ is investigating, the actual word they use is that there is an inquiry at the Department of Justice about a possible sexual relationship and whether Gaetz paid for this young woman to travel with him.

Under federal law 18 is the statutory minimum age, not as it is in some states 16 or 17. Trafficking would mean you move the person from one state to another that triggers a federal potential law.

Now in a statement of CNN, Gaetz says in part, no part of the allegations against me are true. He also tweets again quoting over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.

We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction to catch these criminals. The Justice Department is not commenting, and the FBI in Florida has not responded to a request for comment.

Lucky for us. We already have a former federal prosecutor with us, Elliot Williams tonight that's why I asked him to stay. Inquiry versus investigation, same thing?

WILLIAMS: No, of course not. But look, they have enough information or they have enough evidence to at least be suspicious.


Enough to open an inquiry into the matter. And they certainly have more evidence to gather and more information to find. But this is troubling and should be troubling for him, for anyone else involved.

CUOMO: Here's what I don't like Elliot, it doesn't smell right to me. Six months, the reporting says they've been looking at this, six months to figure out whether or not somebody had sex with somebody else and they traveled. That's a six-day investigation, not a six- month investigation, it makes me wonder if he's right about what he said.

WILLIAMS: No, Chris, I disagree with you on that, just because it's not just a question of whether the underlying act happened. Number one, what they have to do is seize the phone records, the text chat, the text messages, and so on to a step - the plane tickets, the bank receipts, the financial records to really establish that it happened. Like look, he might have texted or had some personal relationship with someone who was underage, but you have to document and establish everything and investigations just take a long time.

And it's also a question of--

CUOMO: Six months?

WILLIAMS: Chris, investigations take a while to build. And it's also what other charges are they looking at. When - look, when I saw the New York Times article, just as you did, there's any number of sex trafficking statutes that could be in play here.

The obvious one is crossing state lines with a minor to solicit an individual in a sexual activity. There's also force fraud and coercion, labor, all kinds of other questions, but also obstruction of justice, if he's using encrypted materials to try to communicate and so on.

These are all the universe of things the Justice Department could be looking at. It's not as open and shut as law-and-order SVU--

CUOMO: All right, I'll give it to you. I'll give it to you. I'm just wondering if that block of time is suggestive of what he says. Now, an extortion scheme from a former official would be a total separate matter, even if it were related to this underlying inquiry, it would be a separate inquiry.

But let's listen to Gaetz defense of the allegation.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): On March 16th, my father got a text message, demanding a meeting, wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away. Our family was so troubled by that.

We went to the local FBI. And the FBI and the Department of Justice were so concerned about this attempted extortion of a member of Congress that they asked my dad to wear a wire, which he did with the former Department of Justice official.

Tonight, I am demanding that the Department of Justice and the FBI release the audio recordings that were made under their supervision and at their direction, which will prove my innocence.


CUOMO: Now, look, first, if Gaetz wants to be taken seriously, he shouldn't be on that clown show. Because it immediately takes away from whether or not you can believe him. But look, Fox has defended that show in court by saying it's not to be taken credibly, you want people to believe you, go on and be asked the questions in a place that people will take seriously.

Now, if that's true, what he just said that this guy was trying to pinch them for money, and they've been working with the Feds. I know that you guys - I know the FBI never wants to say it's doing anything. But in fairness to Matt Gaetz, if any of that is true, shouldn't they say so given that the allegation is in public?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. If someone's extorting somebody else, let's indict that guy too and investigate. That's a serious crime. And he's alleging something serious. And if it's true, it should be investigated. And people who are engaging in acts of extortion should--

CUOMO: No, I'm saying I want the DOJ or the FBI, to say what Matt Gaetz is saying is true, there is an ongoing matter, we won't comment anymore, because right now they're leaving him out to dry. Is that really fair to him?

WILLIAMS: Well again, if there is - there are standards as to when the Justice Department is going to announce a particular investigation or not. I'm learning this in real-time, just as you are, if it is real, and if it's serious, it should lead to charges.

And there's no question about that. And I don't think that just because it's a member of Congress that many people might disagree with that, we should be applauding it or applauding the extortion or so on.

What I found more interesting was Matt Gaetz's initial statement out of the block, which was, well, you know look, when I was a single guy, I paid for plane tickets for all kinds of people like come on, that's certainly not the most credible defense to an individual - to an individual who has been alleged, or at least might be alleged to have engaged in an unlawful sex trafficking act. So, the more information--

CUOMO: The key point is, that's not the right answer. The right answer is no. Right. The right answer is no, I never did this. I had nothing to do with this.


CUOMO: And to be honest, you shine light on, it won't be satisfying, but both things could be true, the allegation about him and that they're looking at it could be true and the allegation that somebody tried to extort.


Because they had knowledge of it or whatever, could also be true. Elliot Williams.

WILLIAMS: You know, Chris.


WILLIAMS: Real quick point. He can - he's free to name the DOJ official that he says extorts him.

CUOMO: He did.

WILLIAMS: If he knows, name that person.

CUOMO: He did.

WILLIAMS: Put that person's name out there.

CUOMO: He did. He put it out there and I'm sure the person is going to be dug into right away. Well, they take developments as we can. Because you've got to get stuff like this right. You really only got one chance at it. Elliot Williams, thank you very much for being our guide. Appreciate you.


CUOMO: Now back to our lead story. OK. This Chauvin trial, absolutely it has to be about law and fact. Nobody should say anything differently. But we also can't be dishonest about the relevance in greater society, systemic inequality is real. George Floyd became a flashpoint and a metaphor for what so many people fear for themselves and their families around this country.

Michael Eric Dyson is joining us tonight to talk about what this trial means, especially if there is an acquittal. And he met with President Biden. I want to ask him a couple of questions about what he really thinks about Biden, and what Biden needs to do. Next.



FRAZIER: When I look at George Floyd, I look at look at my dad. I look at.


My brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all black. I have a black father, I have a black brother, I have black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.


CUOMO: Now, as I was speaking earlier in the show, the first major mistake was made in this trial today by defense counsel. That is very powerful, what you just heard, and absolutely true for so many people who testified today and all over this country, which is why George Floyd story resonated. But those comments had no place in a criminal trial.

They should have been objected to when Mr. Williams said, I thought I was witnessing a murder. It should have been objected to as speculation and drawing a conclusion, which is not what that witnesses supposed to be doing. But he didn't. And that is a really interesting call, which could come back to haunt this defense.

Now, the larger significance here is why we played that sound. Let's bring in renowned race and religion scholar, professor, writer, friend Michael Eric Dyson, good to see you, brother.


CUOMO: Long time coming is the name of one of your works. And that is how many are looking at this trial. Is that unfair in a way? Yes. It's putting too much of a burden on this jury in terms of - they're supposed to just do their job of law and facts, but it's going to reverberate. How do you see this trial, in terms of its significance in the national dialogue on systemic injustice?

DYSON: Well, it's quite revelatory. There's no question that you're absolutely right in terms of the jurisprudential rationality, the legal thinking that says certain things are admissible, certain things are not to be admitted.

On the other hand, we're sandwiched between that jurisprudential outlook, on the one hand. And on the other hand, common sense, the jurisprudence, and the legal reasoning says, hey, just use your common sense. We tell the juries, use your common sense.

And what they're sandwiched between here is legal rationality and common sense that tells us something horrible went down, these people are moved to tears, the young women who are on the stand, articulating ideals, and emotions, you're absolutely right that in a usual courtroom, they would be objected to.

Perhaps, the defense attorney calculated the risk of looking hostile to these young women. But I think in the larger world, black people are on trial with George Floyd. This is our father, our brother, our son, our cousin, it's us, we look at him and say, what more do you have to do in order to prove that you were murdered unfairly and I'll end by saying this, isn't it interesting that the defense says there was fentanyl and other drugs found, when they opened up the body of Martin Luther King, Jr. after he was murdered in 1968. in Memphis, they said he had the heart of a 60-year-old man.

So, there were other things that weren't there. But the overwhelming evidence is that what killed him was that bullet. I think many people here are clear that what killed this man was not fentanyl, or drugs or heart disease, but the knee of a cop.

CUOMO: Well, as always, you've put your finger on exactly what will be most important. I believe the reason that this defense counsel allowed people to draw conclusions and say how they felt, which is not great practitioning, as a defense counsel, is because he's making a bet that he wins this on the forensics, so he doesn't want to upset the jury by getting in the way of all this palpable emotion that makes a lot of sense, giving people watching something that was so wrong, was definitely wrong.

Can they show the prosecutor that it was illegal? We'll see. Joe Biden, President, do you believe he is an ally to the cause of systemic justice in this country? 100 percent.

DYSON: Without question. Having met with the president, having known him for many years, I think that there is no doubt that his commitment is too serious and sustained racial justice. And he is a man who has put his reputation on the line far more many times than has been publicly acknowledged.

As he made mistakes along the way, in a long 45, 50-year career. Absolutely. But what he has done most especially has been self- critical, willing to be introspective, examine his own beliefs, commit himself to the principles that will be transcendent. Bring in folk who know better than he does, consult them, and then engage in public policy that will make a difference. I think there's no question about his commitment.

CUOMO: He says he wants to go big. I remember Harry Belafonte, a very good friend of my family, talking to my father and saying, you know what we need to hear Mario and what, he said nothing. We need to see. What do you need.


To see from Joe Biden to show he wants to go big. What is big? What does that look like?

DYSON: Well, looking at the system itself. We don't have to agree on the specificities and particularities of say police reform. But we need teeth in these oversight committees that are charged with looking at the police.

If you don't want to defund the police, fine, if that's your position to reform them, then have real reform, put teeth in those committees, have subpoena power assigned to them, look at ways to distribute more equitably, what we consider to be public safety, the police are not the exclusive preserve of that.

And then finally, use your bully pulpit to identify with the victims of misconduct and deep and profound injustice in this country.

CUOMO: So, my brother and my mentor, when we get closer into the forensics, I want you back to talk about what the forensics mean, in terms of people's reckoning of what this is really about. Because I think it was a wakeup call for a lot of allies in our society, people like me, white, I don't live it, I don't understand it. I'll never be able to imagine it. But when I hear from the people I care about, I listen. And when people said that could have been me, that could have been my kid.

The forensics are going to be the next layer on that in terms of how that contrasts with people's version of reality. I need you back then, please come back.

DYSON: I'd love to, we're caught between toxicology and the toxic racial atmosphere that we are being choked by. That's the choice we have in this country. CUOMO: As always, that's what I wanted to say. And you said it better.

Pandemic progress. All 50 states have now expanded or have dates to expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older. That is phenomenal.

We could have never imagined a year ago when I was first sick, that we wouldn't be where we are now. Then why are we more worried than ever about a fourth wave? The expert who predicted we were in the eye of the hurricane three weeks ago, gives us forecast now, Next.



CUOMO: We are facing another COVID-19 surge. That's what the science says. That's what the trends show. I know a lot of states are taking steps to roll back their mask mandates and I know most of us are happy about it. We're tired of it. We're frustrated. We're broke. People want to get back to business. They want to get back to life. YOLO. I know I hear it all. I feel it.

But you heard the CDC Director, she warned of impending doom. She said, the cases could spike all over the country. Our next guest warned of a Category 5 hurricane just last month due to variants. Michael Osterholm joins us now to share his thoughts on where we are.

It's always good to see you, but let's have this conversation with the people that you need to have it with. Too often we're preaching to the converted here. You hear this, I don't care. They are not going to be hospitalized in any big ways, people aren't getting sick as bad as they used to.

The death rates aren't spiking. I get that the variants are more contagious, but we've had enough. We got the vaccine; it's going to be the nice summer months. We've got to get back to life now. There'll be more cases, but people will be OK. What do you say?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CONTROL FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: First of all, what we have to understand is, we do have that potential for a really different life later the summer when vaccines are readily available and that we all can have a chance to get vaccinated.

But right now, we have very limited vaccine for most of the public and well over 50 percent of our country's population still is vulnerable to this virus. And what's happening now, we have this new virus, the variant B117, which is 70 to 100 percent more infectious, it's 50 to 60 percent more likely to cause severe disease and is doing something that the other viruses and COVID-19 didn't do and that's infecting young kids a lot, and they're spreading the virus now and this is really fundamentally changing the entire picture of what's happening.

CUOMO: So, you're saying the variant isn't just something that spreads more, it can make you more sick. How sure are we of that and what does that mean? OSTERHOLM: Well, unfortunately, we have a number of roadmaps to

follow. Right now, the countries in the world that actually have the highest rates of disease which are just really skyrocketing are in East Central Europe, all due to B117.

We've watched it go through Europe. We're watching it around the world right now and in each instance, we see what it's doing and it's in fact causing much more severe illness in 20- to 49-year-old than we saw with the other strains.

And because kids are readily spreading it, we now actually see a number of 20- to 49-year-old getting infected that we didn't see before. So, this is in a sense rewriting the playbook and that's what we have to adjust to.

Now, if we can just hold out, if we can just get enough vaccine between now and the summer, we can actually beat this one. But what as you described so very well, we're not, we're impatient. It's like we want to believe gravity doesn't exist anymore. Well, it does and that's what we're up against right now.

CUOMO: The CDC Director said vaccinated people do not carry the virus and don't get sick. Now, I've heard reports of people getting vaccinated and then getting COVID. There is a disconnect. What do you believe?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think what she was referring to basically is it largely protects. The vaccine is 90 to 95 percent protective in most young healthy adults up to middle age. The older you get, it is less effective and we know that for all vaccines. If you look at influenza vaccine, the same is true.

We are seeing cases that do have breakthroughs. But generally, even if you do get sick after you've been vaccinated, you're less ill, you're not as likely to be hospitalized and that's the good news.

CUOMO: How much worse do you think it gets?

OSTERHOLM: Well, worldwide, where the darkest days are just upon us. We are going to see the highest number of cases globally in the next three to five weeks, we've seen all toll.

CUOMO: What about here?

OSTERHOLM: In the United States, it's going to be totally up to.


How much are we going to open. Right now, we're the only country in the world, get this, only country in the world where B117, this variant is spreading that's opening up as opposed to closing down. So, I mean in a sense we're creating the perfect storm and who's going to be the person is going to die three days before they were scheduled to get their vaccine. I hope no one, but what we're doing right now, I think there's going to be a lot of people. CUOMO: Michael Osterholm, as always. I have you on because you're

usually right, but I hope you're wrong. I thank you for giving your perspective.

OSTERHOLM: I do too.

CUOMO: Be well. I'll talk to you again soon.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Look, I mean this is heavy. I feel you. I feel all of it. I feel why people are frustrated, but I believe guys like him and I hate to see the pain. I just do. Not only are the vaccines sparing us from getting sick, but there is a controversy coming here and I've got to tell you, I haven't put a lot of stock in it, but it's time that I start covering it, OK.

There are people who have had COVID, who swear they feel better after getting the vaccine. Is one of my next guests a long hauler no more because of the vaccine. A doctor I respect, who I go to for help, who studies this is going to help us understand what is possible. Next.



CUOMO: As you know, about a year ago, today, I became one of the many who have had COVID-19 and I am still suffering from long haul syndrome. I have good luck compared to most people. And now I just had some more good luck. Just this morning, I received my first Pfizer shot of the vaccine. I've spoken to people who said the vaccines helped their symptoms subside, especially the Pfizer one.

My next guest says she experienced just that. Last spring, Judy Dodd, a teacher began struggling with long COVID symptoms, shortness of breath, headaches, exhaustion, after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, she says, her symptoms disappeared.

Judy joins us now with Dr. William Li, President, Medical Director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. He has been studying long haulers like Judy, and Mina. Judy, I know you're with family here. I'm not here to judge you. I hope that you are right. But just give us - let's keep this light and tight.

Why do you believe that only after the second vaccine of Pfizer, right? Did you have Pfizer?


CUOMO: That you really saw a notable difference. tell the audience.

DODD: OK, so after my first vaccine, I was miserable, low grade fever, fatigue, headaches, sort of mimicked kind of long haul COVID symptoms. And then, after my second vaccine, the next day I had a high fever. Then I followed up with a couple days of fatigue and severe headaches. And then I woke up, it was a Sunday morning, it was the fourth day, day four. I woke up and it was like those coffee commercials you see where that the sun is just coming up. I felt great. Attitude change.

I woke up ready to go. I have energy now. The shortness of breath is gone. The headaches are gone. Mainly the fatigue is gone. I mean, I can do things now like normal person, you know, I can cook dinner for my kids. I work all day. I can come home cooked dinner for my kids, grade papers and not feel like I've been flattened by a bulldozer. So--

CUOMO: And it was the vaccine. It was the vaccine that was a demarcation for you. Not the Folgers flavor crystals in the coffee. All right.

DODD: Sure, it was the vaccine.

CUOMO: I got you on that. And I want you to be right. Now, Dr. Li, you've been looking at this. What is the chance that there is correlation and causation for a long hauler like Judy?

DR. WILLIAM LI, PRESIDENT, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF ANGIOGENESIS FOUNDATION: You know, long haulers has been one of these twists and mysteries in COVID-19. It's a disease that has actually confounded us almost at every turn. And long haulers is another one of them.

And as the vaccines have been rolling out and about 40 percent of people who have received a vaccine according to a recent patient survey, people with long haulers report that they're long haulers are symptoms are reduced and some people actually have remission of their symptoms.

So, a surprise, very unlikely to be a placebo effect.


LI: And now, we need to pay attention to understand why because--

CUOMO: Why? Because I was going to whack Judy with the placebo effect. So, why is it not that?

LI: Well, first of all, there's no reason to think that placebo effect usually there's an expectation for something to happen. Expectation for vaccines is not to get infected. These people have already been affected like Judy and so there's our suffering.

And you know, the one thing about long haulers as you know very well, Chris, that you're really exquisitely sensitive to how your body feels. So, when somebody and Judy is not the only person. I've got a couple of patients I've been taking care of who remarkably will text me out of the blue after they get their vaccine and say, Dr. Li, I am feeling so much better. I can't believe it.

And so, we can't - we don't have the explanation yet, but we need to pay attention. Something seems to be going on.

CUOMO: What percentage better do you think you are Judy?

DODD: Oh, my goodness. I would say like 90 percent, 95 percent. I have to lose the COVID weight. That's the next hurdle. It didn't do that for me, unfortunately. But yes, like I'm almost back where I was pre- COVID. So, yes, 90 percent. I would say.

CUOMO: Well Judy, know this, I love that this is your reality, and I hope it becomes a reality for others.


Health. I'd love it for myself, but I hope it more for people who have more severe, long haul, one of the things that's been helping me. Dr. William Li can put out the supplements that he gave me to take, not a doctor, I'm not in the business of pushing anything like that. But I do trust him.

If you want to put out what you gave me, I have felt better during the course of treatment he has given me. So, which is good for him because it means I'm not bothering him as much, Judy Dodd, thank you for sharing your stories. And I am so thankful for you and your family that you're back to feeling like yourself and doing what you want to do and being your best self.

And Dr. William Li, thank you for helping people understand the possibilities here, including me. Appreciate you, brother.

LI: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, we'll be right back.


CUOMO: If you think about it, so many of the major things that we're struggling with right now are within our own control, systemic equality, racism, liberty, and justice for all that's within our control. It's a function of choice. vaccine is a function of choice, living with masks are not in cutting this period, it's a matter of choice. Who do we want to be?

"CNN TONIGHT" the big show, with the big star, the number one selling "New York Times" bestselling author, D. Lemon right now.