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Arbery Murder Trial Begins Today; Juror Booted from Rittenhouse Trial; Voter Turnout and Democrats; Some GOP Lawmakers Trying to Change on Climate; Gregory Zuckerman is Interviewed about COVID News. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 05, 2021 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[06:30:00]

STACEY RICHMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And so it is fair play but we do have to question whether or not this has been properly deployed here.

As was just stated, the judge remarked, yes, I saw discrimination. And if we contrast what happened just yesterday in Kenosha, where a judge eliminated a jury -- juror for a comment because of the potentiality of bias. But the judges, they're there to be referees. The judge has made the call as he saw the call and what was noted was, as was just stated by my colleague, that race neutral reasons weren't given, and that's all that is necessary to overcome Batson.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We're going to talk about that, quote/unquote joke in the Kyle Rittenhouse case in a second.

But I do wonder what you think about this debate over what should be allowed in.

This video of a gravely wounded Ahmaud Arbery, this is like police video after the response. And then also this license plate with the confederate flag. What do you think? Do you think that those should be allowed in?

RICHMAN: Well, in both cases, what you look is, is it evidence more prejudicial than probative? So what is probative to the facts that are going to be decided to the jury?

The death of Ahmaud Arbery is, and his final moments, is going to be horrific for the family, horrific in terms of how it may affect the jury. Does those -- do those last dying moments, are they probative to what happened to lead to the death? Do they tell us what was the intent? Are they indicative of that? So that will be one of the things that the judge is factoring.

Similarly, with the license plate, the prosecution properly argued, this goes to the mentality of the defendants. This is what they were out doing that day. This is what seeds -- what informs us as to their mind-set. But the question that the defense raises, well, you know, it's more, again, what they're saying again, they're using what was to be concern for the defense, what was more -- is it more prejudicial than probative.

KEILAR: How significant, Bakari, do you think the outcome is going to be in this? I mean are you worried there will be unrest depending on how this turns out?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I dare not use my platform to talk about unrest just yet. I would instead say that the kind of slow walking -- yes, I'm afraid of a not guilty verdict in Kenosha and a not guilty verdict in the trial of the three men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery, both of which are very plausible. And part of the reason that it worries me is people are seeing the uneven way in which justice is doled out in this country.

When you have a nearly -- a county that's nearly a third black and you have a jury that's 11-1, of course you can talk about voter registration, et cetera, but that doesn't necessarily fix the problem that we have. I mean one white woman was replaced by another. So it even shows you the alternates are white.

And in Kenosha, you have a judge that's more interested in being a Fox News contributor and attacking colleagues like Jeffrey Toobin than he is in actually issuing out justice. And he has to be pressed up against the wall figuratively by a juror just being outright racist. I know we call it a joke, but it was a -- it was one of those dark, racists jokes.

KEILAR: Well, so let's -- let's be clear about what that is. The juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, and people will recall Kyle Rittenhouse is the one in Kenosha who, during a night of protest and unrest, shot and killed two people and injured another. A juror in this case was dismissed for telling a joke about Jacob Blake. And Jacob Blake, of course, was the reason behind why there was all of this unrest. He'd been shot multiple times by police. And this joke was about why it -- why he was shot so many times. The judge did remove him, but, clearly, you think that that's just sort of, you know, that's not much?

SELLERS: Well, I mean, the -- well, I can't recall the joke, but it was a -- it was along the lines of the fact that he was shot seven or eight times and the only reason he was shot seven or eight times was because they -- because they ran out of bullets. I mean it was -- it was a very gruesome, dark joke.

And so -- and you -- one of the things that my colleague and I will tell you is that, when you're in court, one of the things you try to do is exclude people who may not help your case. But you definitely try to exclude the racist on the jury. And that apparently didn't work.

And if this is the mind-set or mind frame of one of the jurors in this case in Kenosha, by the way, which I think is going to be a much more difficult and uphill battle for the prosecution then what's going on down in Georgia, then it's going to be a long day for justice in this country. It really is.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, you would think, ideally, that jurors should be thoughtful people. And I think that's certainly what we saw there in Wisconsin challenged that notion.

[06:35:02]

Bakari, thank you so much.

Stacey, really appreciate you being with us as well.

SELLERS: Thank you.

RICHMAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: After a week of losses for Democrats, does high voter turnout benefit them anymore? We should say a swing in some of these races. Of course, the New Jersey race was won. But Harry Enten is at the wall, the magic wall, with the numbers.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Actor Will Smith revealing some very dark truths about his upbringing. What he contemplated doing to his abusive, alcoholic father.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Political consultants and TV analysts get paid millions for this crucial observation about what it takes to win an election. It all comes down to turnout. And it truly does. Definitionally.

[06:40:01]

But for whom? Some often conventional wisdom is that high turnout always helps Democrats. Is it true?

Joining me now, Harry Enten, CNN senior data reporter.

So, Harry, you know, these off-year weird elections, people tend to think, oh turnout will drop way off here. Turn turnout was pretty high.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Turnout was pretty high.

You know the other question was, in the post-Trump era, would all of a sudden the enthusiasm for voting go down. Turns out, no.

Look at this, in New Jersey and Virginia, we still have some votes to be counted. And just look at this, the turnout up about 400,000. Look at this, Virginia, the turnout, up a little less than a million. But turnout in both places, the story in both New jersey and Virginia, it's just not a Virginia-specific story, turnout was higher even with Trump not in the White House anymore.

BERMAN: The post-Trump era, turnout still going up.

As I said, conventional wisdom has been high turnout helps Democrats.

ENTEN: Yes.

BERMAN: True this time?

ENTEN: Not really. Look, here again, turnout, again, this is the change in votes for -- by party for governor from 2021 -- from 2017 to 2021. Look, Democrats gained votes in both New Jersey and Virginia, up at this point again. We still have votes to count in New Jersey, up nearly 70,000, up in Virginia nearly 200,000.

But look on the Republican side. Look how many more votes the Republican candidates got. Ciattarelli in New Jersey, up over 300,000. In Virginia, nearly 500,000 more votes for Youngkin than for Gillespie back in 2017. So it turns out that the people who actually were more likely to turn out this time around may, in fact, been Republicans, not Democrats.

BERMAN: So there's often a debate in political circles, is it better to go out and try to turn your voter out, to get the hard core Democrats out, work to get the people who support you to the polls, or to change minds. That's called persuasion.

ENTEN: That is correct. That is called persuasion. You know, one group who can be persuadable are inspects. And look at how much their votes changed in Virginia over the last five years.

Back in 2016, Trump won independents by five. Go to the 2018 Senate race, Kaine won by 14. Kaine won, obviously. Look at this, in 2020, Biden winning independents by 19 points. 2021 governor, look at this, Glenn Youngkin won independents by nine points. So it turns out that there are, in fact, voters out there who are not set in their ways.

There are plenty of people, specifically among independents who are willing to change their minds. And with see it clearly in the numbers.

BERMAN: It's worth trying on change people's minds when you run for office.

ENTEN: Yes. There are swing voters out there, believe it or not.

BERMAN: So, in 2020, when we're talking about turnout, one of the questions has been, oh, was Joe Biden able to turn out all these new voters or more Democratic voters? And it's hard to tell.

ENTEN: It really is. You know, one of the ways we can do this, we can look at a Pew research study that looked at verified voters, voters we know are on the voter file and turned out to vote.

Look at those who voted in 2020 but not 2016. These were the new voters, right? Many of these were actually younger folks and they were under the age of 18 in 2016 that weren't even eligible to vote. So that should be a very Democratic crowd.

It turns out they just favored Joe Biden by only 8 points. That's only slightly more than the folks who voted in both of those elections. In fact, if you look at those over the age of 30, those who we definitely know were eligible in both elections, there was no difference. And you can see, all these numbers are pretty much the same. So it turns out that the people who turned out in 2020 but not 2016, these new voters, basically the same politics.

BERMAN: OK, so changing minds again was important in 2020.

ENTEN: Again. Yes, persuasion, persuasion, persuasion.

BERMAN: What do we think about 2022 as we look forward?

ENTEN: Yes. I think we're going to get high turnout again, right? You know, again, we saw in 2021 higher turnout in 2021 than back in 2017, even with Trump not on the ballot. Look at this, extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms. Look at this, 48 percent among registered voters. That is higher than in any of the past cycles at this particular point leading into a midterm. That, again, is a sign that turnout, even in the post Trump era, in the 2022, may, in fact, exceed 2018. We'll see if it happens. But, right now in the polling, it looks quite possible.

BERMAN: It's good when people want to vote.

ENTEN: Correct. It is absolutely good. Good -- good for Americans. We're very proud.

BERMAN: All right, one thing I know for sure is today is Friday.

ENTEN: Yes.

BERMAN: Which means that it's soon going to be Sunday.

ENTEN: That is correct. It is soon going to be Sunday. And you know I love the Buffalo Bills. You love your New England Patriots. Look, you got more Super Bowl wins than we do at 6-0. But this year's chance of winning the Super Bowl, Bills at 16 percent. That actually leads the National Football League. Your New England Patriots, John, lagging. They're lagging at just 1 percent.

So I feel pretty good this year. This is our best shot of winner (ph). I used to have the line that the Bills hadn't made the playoff since my Bar mitzvah. I can no longer use that line. It looks good to me.

BERMAN: I will tell you one thing, I look at this and I say, so you're saying there's a chance?

ENTEN: Yes, there's always a chance. There's a chance that I could go up into space, but it's probably not going to happen.

BERMAN: I'm old enough to remember when the Bills were in the Super Bowl, you know, every year.

ENTEN: I am not old enough to remember that.

BERMAN: It's a good thing because they lost every time they were in.

[06:45:01]

ENTEN: I do recall but they did win the AFL championship in 1964 and 1965.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, living in the past but here with us to share --

ENTEN: Living on a dream, I like to say.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, I don't know, these days, Harry, you might have a better chance of going to space than your Bills winning it, I just have to say.

BERMAN: Wow!

ENTEN: We'll see what happens in February, OK.

BERMAN: Wow!

ENTEN: Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

BERMAN: Wow!

KEILAR: I don't know, both those numbers are pretty terrible, you guys, but I'm here for you for moral support, FYI.

ENTEN: Thank you. Thank you.

KEILAR: All right.

BERMAN: Long-distance smackdown.

ENTEN: That's not that far.

KEILAR: I don't have to deal with the fallout.

We have some breaking news in what could be a major development in the long-term fight against COVID. What we now know about a new pill. This is really amazing. You have to hear this.

Plus, as the world sounds the alarm on a climate crisis, new CNN reporting on a group of Republicans working to change the party's image on the issue. But there is one big obstacle. I'll give you one guess.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:50:11]

KEILAR: Donald Trump may say that it is a hoax. Many Republicans may follow suit. But some in the GOP in Congress are taking the climate crisis seriously and they're trying to change the GOP's image on the issue, but that's no easy task when your party's defacto leader is a total climate change denier.

CNN's Melanie Zanona has some new reporting this morning.

Yes, this is really interesting to see this shift happening but also the obstacles these Republicans are facing.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, well, climate change is a top priority for young voters in both parties. That's not just Democrats. And Republicans recognize that. They think this is the potential electoral weakness for them if they don't do more to not only acknowledge the problem, but also offer up their own solutions aside from just railing against the Green New Deal.

And we have seen a really concerted effort, at least in this past year among Republicans, to address the issue. There's a delegation of Republicans who are heading to the climate conference next week in Scotland. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed a task force this year. And there's also a newly formed Conservative Climate Caucus.

I think Lindsey Graham really summed it up well. He's the South Carolina Republican. He's very conservative. He told CNN, I keep telling Republicans, we could win the solution debate, but if we're in the denial camp, we've got a problem. I think in 2024 we need to have a platform in our party that speaks to the issue.

OK, well, here's the problem with that statement. You know what else might happen in 2024? Donald Trump. And the last time he ran, they didn't even adopt a policy platform. But even if they did, Trump has continued to call climate change a hoax, including multiple times this week. I believe in one email he called it the seventh greatest hoax in America. Not the first, the seventh, alongside the Russia investigation and the 2020 election.

KEILAR: Look, I don't want to know all six, but, yes, OK.

ZANONA: Right. And so, I mean, this just really speaks to the problem here. Republicans won't push back on him. And, in fact, a lot of them sound like him or echo him. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, whose home state has been hit really hard by flooding and hurricanes, was asked at a press conference this week, what are your party's plans to address climate change? And his response was to downplay the impact of climate change on natural disasters. And so I just think that this GOP mission of trying to shake their image as the party of climate change deniers has a long way to go.

KEILAR: Yes. And, I will say, Conservative Climate Caucus. Say that like three times fast.

ZANONA: Right, right, right.

KEILAR: It's not easy. It's not easy.

ZANONA: No, it's not.

KEILAR: Mel, thank you so much for the reporting.

ZANONA: Thank you.

KEILAR: We do have some breaking news because Pfizer just announced that its new anti-COVID pill is 89 percent effective at preventing deaths and hospitalizations. What more we are learning about that drug, next.

BERMAN: So, we're about an hour away from learning if they will take a big vote in the House of Representatives. This could be the day the House finally weighs in on President Biden's agenda. A huge day for his presidency if it goes forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:57:09]

BERMAN: Breaking news, moments ago, drug maker Pfizer announced that its pill, designed to battle coronavirus after you get it, reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 89 percent among people at high risk. This is a huge deal potentially in the battle against the pandemic. A pill that fights COVID once you get it.

Joining us now to discuss is Gregory Zuckerman, special writer for "The Wall Street Journal" and the author of "A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life or Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine."

Greg, thanks so much for being with us.

GREGORY ZUCKERMAN, AUTHOR, "A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD": A pleasure.

BERMAN: And I want to get to what's in the book in a moment, but it's very connected to the breaking news this morning, which is this anti- viral pill. Pfizer announced its own results, not peer reviewed yet. Other people have to look at this. But about 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalization after you get COVID. How significant is this?

ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it's really remarkable. It's impressive. It's another sign that modern science has got this under control. I don't want to go crazy. It hasn't been approved yet, as you suggest. But we have to really embrace it and it's a prodious (ph) inhibitor. It has to be given early on. You still need a vaccine. So we have to emphasize that. But it's going to be a great tool for us all, for mankind.

BERMAN: Yes, just to -- you know, to rewind a little bit, had something like this existed early on in the pandemic, it could have saved a lot of lives.

ZUCKERMAN: Save a lot of lives, along with the vaccines. I mean we need to make sure to emphasize, we still need the vaccines. But this is going to be a great one-two kind of punch for us all, to help us all.

BERMAN: And it didn't exist. This is something that did not exist before.

Talk to me about how hard it is to come up with something like this as quickly as it did.

ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes, I don't think we appreciate -- we're a little too close to it, perhaps, the enormity of these achievements, the scientific achievements. I mean until last year the average vaccine took 10 years to develop. The fastest one, mumps, was four years, and then we did it in a year. I do -- or under a year. I do have to emphasize that we didn't cut corners. There was a lot of research, which I uncovered in by book, which was dramatic and really surprising over the years, interesting scientists, interesting companies, surprising types of people and it all led up to 2020. So I want to emphasize for the viewers that it wasn't like they cut corners to get either the drugs or the vaccines done.

BERMAN: So your book goes into great detail about the development of the vaccines. I call it a miracle. It don't mind being hyperbolic about it because it really is unprecedented.

ZUCKERMAN: Yes. It's also fascinating to me who did it. I mean it's a company like Moderna, who no one really heard of over a year ago. BioNTech in Germany, they're the ones behind the -- the Pfizer vaccine. Fascinating characters. Scientists laboring. A lot of immigrants. Real American kind of story. Scientists who have ignored the skepticism of mRNA. For years people dismissed mRNA. Don't waste you time on it. These scientists were skeptical and yet they focused on it. They ignored all the doubters. And, to me, there was a lot of drama that I didn't really realize until I started doing the research for the book.

BERMAN: Like what?

[07:00:00]

ZUCKERMAN: Well, the fact that Moderna almost didn't have money to pull off this -- make these vaccines. Even as late -- recently as May of 2020, they went to the government.