Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

FDA Considering Booster for All Adults; Defense Begins in Arbery Trial; Closing Arguments in Unite The Right Civil Trial; Migrants in Belarus Moved to Processing Center. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired November 17, 2021 - 09:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Key decisions on Pfizer vaccine boosters for all adults could come this week. The FDA is considering a request to amend the Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine so all adults, those 18 and older, would be eligible for a booster shot. The CDC confirmed its vaccine advisers will meet Friday on that same topic.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so what does it all mean?

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

So, Elizabeth, when do we expect a final decision? When we say adults, this is everybody 18 and up?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, everybody 18 and up. I mean, to be honest here, pretty much everyone can get a booster right now. At least 90 percent of the population qualifies because they're overweight or they have depression or asthma or one of a number of conditions, or they're a teacher, or a healthcare worker. But, this would make it official. Everyone 18 and up.

We expect a decision from the FDA either today or tomorrow and then from the CDC on Friday. It is expected that there will be a green light after much discussion, but it is expected that likely they will authorize it.

Let's talk about why this is different than a few months ago, when they said no to 18 and up. First of all, there's more data coming in that shows that the vaccine immunity wanes after about six months or so. Also, cases are starting to tick up.

I want to show you a map of the United States. So right now there are 22 states in red, 22 states where Covid numbers are going up. Now I want to take us back to October 21st, so not even a month ago, look at this map. Only one state is red. You can see that's a big difference. We are seeing an uptick in some cases.

Jim. Erica. HILL: We also know Pfizer and Merck are seeking FDA authorization, Emergency Use Authorization, for their antiviral coronavirus treatment pills. Where does that stand and what do we know about those treatments?

COHEN: Right. So this is an antiviral pill that in some ways is similar to the one that Merck has already talked about. So Merck has also applied for Emergency Use Authorization. Merck will have its FDA advisers meeting on November 30th. We don't know when that meeting would be for Pfizer. They work in different ways, but they basically both stop the virus from replicating.

So as with the vaccines, the U.S. government has already announced that if these pills get the green light, and that's an if, if these pills get the green light from the FDA and the CDC, that they will be making purchases.

So, let's take a look. The federal government has said for Merck that they will purchase 1.7 million courses and for Pfizer that will be 10 million doses. And we're expecting that then that drug would be free to Americans given that that's what happened with the vaccines and with -- also with other drugs.


Jim. Erica.

HILL: Elizabeth Cohen, great to see you this morning. Thank you.

Navy Sailors who have been denied an exemption from the Covid vaccine now have five days to begin that vaccination process or the Pentagon says they could be discharged.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the Navy's not messing around here. And we should note that 99.5 percent of the 350,000 active duty sailors have already gotten at least one shot. 99.5 percent. That's the highest rate of all the branches of the military. So, we should note, this only impacts a little under 2,000 sailors. The service is still reviewing medical and religious exemption requests. As of last week, a total of six, only six, have been approved.

HILL: Just ahead, white nationalists on the stand defending themselves over the deadly 2017 Unite The Right Rally, and what is happening in that courtroom today. We'll take a closer look, next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, the defense begins its case in the trial of the three white men charged with chasing down and killing Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging. The defense could call up, we're told, up to 30 witnesses.

HILL: Prosecutors rested their case yesterday after a medical examiner testified that Arbery's wounds were so severe nothing could have been done at the scene to save his life.

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge is live in Brunswick, Georgia, this morning.

So, first, defense witnesses, what are we expecting today, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be an interesting day because we're going to see a total different portrayal of the same events, but this time coming from, of course, the mindset of the defense team here. And its defenses, it's not just one team, but you've got three different defense teams.

Going on right now are requests for a direct motion from the judge. What that really means is that the defense is saying, your honor, look, the state has not proven its case here and we ask you to acquit these three defendants. It's almost standard practice. And almost every time it is denied by a judge. But that's what's happening right now.

We also anticipate there's going to be some controversial debate over records in the community where the shooting took place that depict the level of crime. The state is going to fight those records being introduced because they're going to say they're just going to try to portray this community as being on edge and that's the reason that Gregory and Travis McMichael and William Roddie Bryan went after Ahmaud Arbery, because of this fear of crime.

Meanwhile, the real question is, will any of those defendants take the witness stand? And that question and how she would react to it was asked to Wanda Cooper Jones.

Here's what she said.


WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I would really like all three to get up and actually address the court because I really want to know their mindset on how they were thinking on that day.


SAVIDGE: You could understand, a mother just cannot believe that anyone would kill her son. And she has to hear it from one of those or all three to somehow rectify it in her mind. But it will never, of course, make sense to her.

So, it's likely we're going to see a dramatic change in the way that this is -- this whole case is portrayed.

Erica and Jim.

HILL: Martin Savidge, appreciate it. Thank you.

Closing arguments expected to begin tomorrow in the Unite The Right civil trial. A federal lawsuit accuses organizers of the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of intending to commit racially motivated violence during that two-day event.

SCIUTTO: You may remember one person was killed, dozens others injured, when a man rammed his car into the crowd.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been covering this.

Brynn, nearly three weeks of testimony so far. The defense, it's going to call its final witnesses today. What comes next?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Jim and Erica, that witness, one of them, is on the stand right now as the courtroom has begun for today. And there have really been moments in this trial where you almost have to stop and remember, this is happening in a federal courtroom. The defendants make up roughly two dozen leaders of white supremacists or neo-Nazi groups who organized that Unite The Right Rally. Some who didn't even hire lawyers and are defending themselves, cross-examining each other, and in doing so we're seeing some of these men really place blame on each other, saying that they didn't even know each other in some cases, even taking jabs at one another in the courtroom.

The defendants telling jurors, they don't have to like them or their cause, but they say there was no conspiracy, no great big plan or intention to bring violence to the streets of Charlottesville that day. Of course, though, that's exactly what we saw when 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and dozens more people injured.

Now, nine of those people injured are plaintiffs in this case. And attorneys for them were recalling text exchanges, dark chat room conversations amongst defendants to show that they were provoking this violence that we saw, encouraging participants to even use flagpoles, for example, as weapons.

And they also brought up a particular conversation with one defendant saying, quote, privately we can tout 800 to 1,000. It's better for our enemies to underestimate us. And then they were shown a permit that only estimated 400 people to be at that event and not requesting any street closures.

So, the organization representing these plaintiffs saying this in a statement, our plaintiffs have provided overwhelming evidence that Unite The Right was never intended to be peaceful protest.


Rather, it was a meticulously planned weekend of racist, anti-Semitic violence.

Now, as you guys mentioned, closing arguments in the civil trial set to begin tomorrow with deliberations, of course, after that. And jurors needing to decide if they believe these groups caused this violence. And, if so, what's the monetary value to that for each of these defendants.


SCIUTTO: Well, the images of that protest still stick in your mind.


SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras, thanks so much.

More than 125 victims now, the deadly Astroworld concert in Houston, have filed a $750 million lawsuit. This against the performer, Travis Scott, as well as Drake and Apple Music, Live Nation, the promoters. The lead plaintiff in the case is the family of 21-year-old Axel Acosta Avila. He is one of ten people who died from injuries suffered when the crowd surged toward that stage. All of them young people.

HILL: This latest lawsuit seeks damages for loss of life, as well as loss of mental and physical health. Lawyers say they also want to, quote, make an example of all involved in the streaming, promotion, organization and failed execution of the concert. And also to encourage those to engage in such activity in the future to do so with safety at the forefront. More than 140 lawsuits in total have been filed in the wake of that tragedy.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, new violence is erupting along one of Europe's key boarders as the situation there turns even more desperate. Who's behind all this? What's happening now? CNN's camera right in the middle of it all.



SCIUTTO: Right now, about 1,000 migrants are sheltering at what is normally a logistics center used for cargo near the Belarus/Poland border. Belarusian authorities moved the refugees to the processing center after yesterday's violent clashes at the main border crossing. There are a lot of geo-power politics going on here in this clash.

HILL: Yes, there certainly are. Polish border guards, as you see there, firing water cannons, teargas at migrants after stones and other objects were thrown at members of the Polish border guard.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is at the processing center this morning with more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are right in the middle of this processing center. Over the course of the past just 12 hours or so, since last night, after that violence ended, Belarusian officials and forces have been moving the migrants from that forest camp, bringing them indoors at this location about a mile back from the border crossing with Poland. It's still, you know, pretty -- you know, rudimentary conditions that people are in, but at least we are inside with some shelter from the increasingly cold weather conditions outside.

You know, people have got mattresses to sleep on. They've got blankets to put over them. They're being given food outside. They've been given hot tea and bread. The Belarusian officials that we've spoken to say they aim to provide these people with at least one hot meal a day. Still not very much, but it's better than no hot meals a day. And you can see the general atmosphere here is a lot -- sort of -- I wouldn't say happy, but people are a lot more comfortable than they were outside in the freezing forest camp right up against the razor wire of the Polish border.

The big question is, of course, what is going to happen next to these people? Are they ever going to achieve their, you know, objective of getting into the European Union? It doesn't look like it at the moment. The reaction of the Polish authorities yesterday spraying the crowds with water cannons to push them back from any prospect of getting near to the barricades. It was an indication that the Pols, at least, and the European Union in general, are reluctant to take these people in.

We're being told by Belarusian officials that they are awaiting for a decision from Germany about whether there is some kind of humanitarian corridor that could be opened, possibly via Poland, possibly by air straight from here to Germany. But that is not confirmed at all. And, in fact, over the past couple of days, the Germans have made it clear they don't intend to take these people in either.

The alternative, according to Belorussian officials, is that these people will ultimately be deported back to their countries of origin. For the most part, that would be Iraq. The majority of people here are from Iraqi Kurdistan.


SCIUTTO: Matthew Chance there along the border.

One person is dead in what officials in British Columbia are calling the worst weather storm in a century. The body of a woman recovered yesterday after a mudslide swept across a highway. At least two others still missing. Just remarkable pictures from there.

HILL: They really are.

Some 300 drivers had to be rescued from roadways across the region. Thousands of people remain under evacuation orders as flooding there remains a concern. And that same storm, by the way, also flooding cities further south. The mayor of Sumas, Washington, said about 75 percent, three-quarters of the city's homes, have been damaged. As floodwaters begin to recede, officials are hoping to reopen roads and ultimately restore powers to thousands. What a massive cleanup effort as well.

SCIUTTO: We are watching for a potential verdict this morning. The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial is reconvening in just a few minutes.


We're live again at the courthouse. That's coming up.


HILL: Good Wednesday morning. Top of the hour here. I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Right now, day two in deliberations of the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. At any moment, the jury is expected to arrive back at the courthouse, resume those deliberations. The jury, five men, seven women, they spent seven hours behind closed doors on Tuesday. They are weighing whether to convict Rittenhouse of homicide, reckless endangerment after he shot three men last year, killing two.


There's a range of charges they're now considering. The big question, did his legal team make the case for self-defense?