Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

GOP Senator Cassidy Says Won't Be Voting For Trump In 2024; Top U.S. Envoy To Afghanistan Expected To Step Down; Ahmaud Arbery's Mother Says I Have Concerns About Jury Selection; Trump Wraps Up Deposition On 2015 Tower Assault Case. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 15:30   ET



NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we're still in trouble. I think there's still a conversation to be had about democracy and voting rights.

You know, so many voting legislation bills have been introduced to slant elections so that the will of the people is not seen. So again, maybe he's right. Maybe Trump won't be the nominee. But some version of Trump, if he or she is the nominee, I think we still have huge problems on our hands.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, and if he does it with the nomination, I mean as we saw in 2020, that he may claim that he won it anyway, and that will be a huge swath of the Republican base that will believe that, that he was cheated out of the nomination, too.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, I mean true, and I mean, I agree, all I'm saying is that it starts with people being able to say the truth out loud, and it's just so rare right now, so we just heard a Republican Senator do it.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: That's all.

ALFORD: And that's the power of words, right, one person can start a movement.

BLACKWELL: Natasha Alford --

CAMEROTA: Thanks. Natasha.

BLACKWELL: -- we'll see where it goes from here. Thank you so much.

ALFORD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, the good news is the COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the decline in the U.S. But there is a potential new strain of a new variant that is spreading in the U.K. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says more urgent research is needed so what you need to know, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CAMEROTA: Tributes are pouring in for General Colin Powell, the 84- year-old former Secretary of State died this morning from complications due to COVID. Powell was fully vaccinated but we've learned he was also suffering from Parkinson's and a form of blood cancer which made him extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now, CNN medical analyst and Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Dr, Reiner, welcome back. I want to play for you something that we heard from Vice President Harris, and the question of those who are immunocompromised, the vaccines, and the realities of this virus and then let's talk.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What happens in terms of his health situation is exactly what the doctors have told us can happen, right, in terms of people who are immunocompromised, people who have preexisting conditions. I think it's, that today is a day to really reflect on the life of the man and his extraordinary service and not to politicize the efficacy of vaccines.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Reiner, both Parkinson's, and this melanoma, multiple myeloma, I should say, the effectiveness of the vaccine, what can you tell us?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: First of all, I agree with Vice President Harris that, you know, today is certainly not the day nor is any day to politicize vaccines. But as it pertains to Secretary Powell -- General Powell, he really fell into the highest risk group. Now he was over the age of 80, and he had an illness that made him prone to infection and would even actually compromise the ability of vaccines to work.

So, he had multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cells. The plasma cells are the cells that actually produce antibodies, so he had a disease that impaired his immunity, and then the treatment that he received for that disease also impaired his immunity.

And you know when I think about General Powell, I think about he is sort of the index case for why we need to vaccinate the public and why young people need to be vaccinated. Because it's not just protecting the person who receives the vaccine, it's also protecting -- who may be a young person who may do quite well if they get infected. It's really protecting the rest of society.

And General Powell was very vulnerable to dying from this virus, should he be infected. I understand he had not yet received a booster. And this is why we want to boost everyone over the age of 65 years. We particular want to boost people like General Powell who are really at risk of a severe outcome should they get a breakthrough infection.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I wanted it ask you about that, Dr. Reiner because it's sad to hear that he was scheduled to get his booster this week, and then he got sick. And so do we have research that shows that boosters are effective for somebody who has that perfect storm that he had of complications. Can boosters help?

REINER: Yes, so we do, and again, that data comes out of Israel. And what Israeli was noting was that most of the people with severe breakthrough infections, you know, in late June and early July were the elderly, and after boosting the death rate dropped 90 percent.

So, we do note that boosters can reduce the risk of severe illness and death in our most vulnerable population. Which again, is why the FDA, and CDC have rolled out boosters to particularly this population, people over the age of 65 and other folks younger who are at risk like General Powell was.


And again, I urge everyone who falls into those categories to go ahead and get your booster shot if you've had Pfizer and soon with Moderna and J&J.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Reiner, the trends are good here in the U.S. new cases, hospitalizations, deaths, all trending downward. But the former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has a degree of concern about new variant in the U.K. how concerned are you?

REINER: Right now, I'm not concerned. But I think it does warrant surveillance. So, this new variant is being found in increasing numbers in the U.K. and the U.K. has been a bit of an outlier in Europe, where they're doing much less well than the rest of Europe. Cases have increased in the U.K. by about 60 percent over the last month.

That particular sort of sub variant of Delta has actually been seen in declining quantities in the United States through our surveillance program, but it does bear watching, you need to learn a lot more about it. It does have a mutation in the spike protein. And like very variant, we need to understand whether that has implications for the way our vaccine works. So, there will be more to come on that.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, always good to have you, sir, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

BLACKWELL: All right, it's breaking news now, two months since the chaotic U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, the top U.S. envoy in Afghanistan is expected to step down.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is here with details. So, the Biden administration asked this official to stay on after he served in the Trump administration. Do we know why he's leaving now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, simply put, Victor, and Alisyn, it's time. He was asked to stay on not just into the Biden administration after serving as the special representative for Afghan reconciliation under the Trump administration and brokering that deal with the Taliban but who was also asked to stay on longer during the Biden administration.

And my understanding from one source who was told about the State Department's plans is that he had been asked to stay on until May and that was when that initial deal with the Taliban had been set for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. You'll remember that when President Joe Biden came into office that he reconsidered that deal, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces and diplomats from Afghanistan, and according to one source, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to stay on until October.

But now we have multiple sources telling us that the Biden administration is set to announce the resignation, the stepping down of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad soon, and that he will be replaced by his deputy Tom West who has taken on an increasingly visible role with the Taliban now that they control the country.

CAMEROTA: Alex Marquardt, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Jury selection has begun in the trial of three men accused of chasing down and killing Ahmaud Arbery an unarmed black man who was out for a jog in Georgia last year.



BLACKWELL: Jury selection is happening now in Georgia for the three men accused of chasing and fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery. He was 25- years-old, unarmed and out for a jog in a neighborhood near the city of Brunswick last year.

CAMEROTA: Three white men are charged in the murder. Two of them, Gregory and Travis McMichael claimed that they were conducting a citizen's arrest and acted in self-defense. The third man, William Bryan joined the chase and recorded Arbery's death.

CNN's Martin Savidge has been covering this case all along for us. So, Martin, what do we know about jury selection and how long it's expected to take?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's complicated, Alisyn, complicated for a number of reasons.

Number one, the fact that we're still living in a COVID world. So as a result of that, about a thousand notices were sent out for jurors in Glynn County and the first couple hundred began showing up today.

But then instead of going directly to the courthouse, they went to a gymnasium where they're being social distanced and then in groups of 20 being taken to the courthouse where they are questioned and where the process begins. So, you can imagine that adds time.

On top to have that, these three defendants are all going on trial at the same time and each of those defendants has two attorneys, so you got six attorneys on the defense side, you got the prosecution and you've got the judge, all who can weigh in now on the questioning that will take place of jurors. So again, more time needed for that.

One of the key things when they have a jury, they'll be looking at is the video. The video that shows the death of Ahmaud Arbery. That changed everything.

Wanda Cooper Jones is Ahmaud Arbery's mother. She talks about both the video and whether or not an impartial jury can be selected.


WANDA COOPER JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I think without that video, we wouldn't have an arrest, but I thank God that the video came and we got an arrest, and now we're here to select the jury to finally get justice to Ahmaud.

I have my concerns being that the jurors will be picked from this community. There has been lots of miscommunications in the beginning of what happened on that day. But hopefully we get the right people in the right place to make the right decision.


SAVIDGE: Doing all of that, it's anticipated that jury selection alone could take about two weeks to maybe two and a half weeks -- Alisyn and Victor.

CAMEROTA: OK, thanks for explaining all of that, Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: All right, we're following breaking news, former President Donald Trump was questioned today for four hours as part of this 2015 assault case at Trump Tower. We're now hearing from the plaintiff's attorney about the former president's deposition. We'll have that for you.



BLACKWELL: Breaking news just into CNN. After more than four hours of questioning, under oath, former President Trump has just wrapped up his video deposition. It's tied to an alleged assault of protesters outside of Trump Tower in 2015.

CAMEROTA: The lawsuit alleges that Trump's then head of security hit one of the protesters who was demonstrating against Trump's immigration rhetoric. And CNN's Kara Scannell is covering these developments. So, Kara, do we know what Donald Trump said in the deposition? KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Alisyn and Victor, we learned from

the plaintiff's lawyer, the man representing those individuals who sued, that Donald Trump sat for this deposition for 4 1/2 hours at Trump Tower. He said he rose his right hand and swore to tell the truth and the whole truth, and here's a sound bite from what the lawyers described how Donald Trump -- what the types of questions they asked Trump and his answers.


BENJAMIN DICTOR, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF: We examined Mr. Trump concerning a variety of issues including statements he has made at various campaign events and rallies that counsel believes encouraged violence at those events or encouraged security guards to engage in violence or the confiscation of property. We secured answers to those questions and we intend to present Mr. Trump's sworn testimony to a jury in this matter as soon as possible.


SCANNELL: So that's Benjamin Dictor, he's the attorney representative of the plaintiffs. Now we had asked him if he believed Donald Trump's testimony, if he thought he was truthful. And we asked him exactly what the former president answered and Dictor said that he would not get into the specifics of the testimony nor would he characterize what Trump said.

But he did say that Donald Trump answered the questions the way you'd expect him to answer them and he conducted himself the way that you'd expect him to conduct himself saying all of us have seen the former president on TV.


So, it's not really clear how to read and interpret what he was saying there. But Dictor did go on to say that they believe that this was though a victory for the rule of law, that the former president, after years of evading this deposition, was finally brought in, treated like anyone else and had to answer these questions under oath. -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: So, Kara, what's next for this case?

SCANNELL: So Dictor also said there were some questions that Trump did not answer. And so, they would go to the judge and see if the judge would rule whether he needed to or if he didn't need to and they'd follow up in some fashion.

There's also a hearing later this month where the judge will likely set future hearing dates, possibly a trial date and that's when this video deposition will be played. So, the deposition will become part of a public record at some point -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kara Scannell for us there in front of Trump Tower, thank you. CAMEROTA: OK, now to this, the country's national and state teachers

of the year which recognize work inside and outside the classroom were just honored this afternoon at the White House. First lady Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher herself, hosted the event on the north lawn.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single most consequential people in the world beyond our parents -- God willing, if we have them -- is our teachers. You are the ones -- you are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft. I mean not a joke. It's a reality.

DR. JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: Everyone here today is here for a reason. Maybe it was a teacher who pushed you to dream that you could make a difference. A child who inspired you to make the world work a little better for her. A time that when you realize that no one was going to do the hard work of changing things if you didn't answer the call.


CAMEROTA: Yes, and needless to say, Victor, it's been an incredibly challenging year for teachers as some school boards have faced threats of course over the opposition to mask policies and COVID protocols not to mention, you know, their own health risk that they've taken being in the classroom during this time.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is a struggle. And it's not gotten easier this year. Thanks for being with us for the last two hours.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is up after a short break.