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Razor-Thin Margins In High-Stakes Pennsylvania Senate Race; NYC Health Chief Joins New Day As City's COVID Alert Goes To "High"; Johnny Depp's Lawyers Grill Amber Heard In Cross-Examination. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 07:30   ET



GLORIA ANDERSON, SISTER-IN-LAW AND BEST FRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM PEARL YOUNG: It's still hard for me. Every time I talk about it, it's hard.

Pearl and I have been friends -- as the kids say, besties -- for 58 years. I met her when she was 19 and I was 22 and introduced her to my brother and she came to Buffalo and married him. And Pam and Damon owe their lives to me because --


ANDERSON: -- I introduced their mother to my brother and they're here because of that.

She's just been my friend down through the years and we did everything together. We did it when we were single and young -- we ran all -- mostly to church, but we went lots of places together.

And then after she married my brother, about six months later, I moved back home to Buffalo. And everybody said oh, you two couldn't even be separated. You had to follow her back to Buffalo.

But she was always a genuine person. She was who she is and you had to just accept her as she was. We all have our foibles or whatever, but she loved people and she loved God. Most of all, she loved God.

She was a missionary and she loved to teach. She taught Sunday School for many, many years at Good Samaritan Church of God in Christ, and taught missionary nights -- she taught.

And then, one of the greatest things in her life was she was able to go back to school at a later stage in her life and get her degree -- her college degree. And she was so proud of that and we were all very proud of her for that.

And then, when she got her job teaching in the Buffalo public schools as a sub teacher, she was just over the hill happy. She was so happy. She felt like she had done something in her life even though she had done many things before that. But it made her feel good.

COLLINS: She sounds like such -- ANDERSON: And on the morning --

COLLINS: -- special person.

ANDERSON: She was. She was.

And, you know, I got -- I guess I've got survivor's whatever they call it because I keep thinking she'd never came to this store to shop. She always went to the one out further.

But where we were at the prayer breakfast, she just -- this is the kind of person she was. She didn't want to ask me to drop her way out there and then have to come all the way back to where I live. So she said well, on your way home, drop me at the Tops on Jefferson. And little did I know less than five minutes after I dropped her she was dead.

COLLINS: And something like that, I know is -- I mean, I just got chills. It's devastating to hear. And you had a friendship that spanned 50 years. So, I'm so sorry for the difficulty and the grief that you are going through right now because she was such a pillar of the community and of your family.

And Damon, and Pamela, and Gloria, I just want to thank you for coming on this morning to talk about her because that is just so critical for people to hear. To know what it's like and to know what has been lost --


COLLINS: -- and who has been lost in this.



COLLINS: Thank you.

And we'll be back in a moment.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage.

They are counting votes in Pennsylvania this morning. The Senate Republican primary there still extremely close. You can see just 2,500 votes separating Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick, hedge fund manager. Ninety-four percent reporting at this point. Still, potentially, thousands of votes left to count.

I want to give you a sense of why we simply don't know which way this is headed right now. Look, for instance, at Philadelphia. This is a Democratic area but Republicans still vote there. Oz is ahead by a few thousand votes -- just 93% reporting. So if more votes come in from Philadelphia, maybe that will help him.

But you look nearby in another key county, Chester County. David McCormick has a little bit of a lead there. There have been more votes coming in from Chester over just the last few hours and McCormick has been able to widen his lead there. Ninety-five percent reporting but still more votes to come.

Now, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This is the area we've been watching all night because we were told thousands of mail-in votes hadn't been counted there yet. Kathy Barnette is leading there -- just 87% reporting. But as more votes come in there that, too, could shift the margins in this very, very close race.

One thing I do want to tell you. This is well within the margin right now for an automatic recount in Pennsylvania. That would just be .05%, well within the margin because just .02% separates the two leaders now, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And joining us now to talk about all of this is national political reporter for Politico, Holly Otterbein, who is covering these 2022 Senate races. Good morning, Holly, and thanks for joining us.

And so, let's start off with what John was just telling us. We are still in this deadlock when it comes to this Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania with Dave McCormick and Mehmet Oz, of course, neck and neck when it comes to these numbers after Barnette fell out last night pretty quickly on.

And I just wonder what stands out to you as someone who is covering this so closely?

HOLLY OTTERBEIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO (via Webex by Cisco): I mean, just the fact that this is such a close race and the irony of it potentially coming down to absentee mail ballots in a Republican primary -- obviously, Republicans and Trump is at the top of the list here has disparaged mail ballots, we might be looking at a recount. It's well within the margin of that and that could be dragged out until June.

So, just given how nasty this race has been, the fact that this could continue on for several weeks is probably not the greatest thing for Republicans right now.

BERMAN: So, you know, Kathy Barnette was surging or thought to be surging at the end of this race. She does seem to be in a distant third.


What happened to this perceived surge, and what role does her candidacy, though, still perhaps play in the ultimate outcome?

OTTERBEIN: I think the surge was real and I think the attacks on her really worked at the end. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen such a concentrated onslaught. Because she surged so late her opponents had, and their allies had to flood the airwaves with attacks after voters really hadn't heard anything about her negative for the entire race.

And you had Trump coming out and saying negative things about her. We counted four super PACs that were running T.V. ads against her. PA voters were given texts attacking her that were pretty forceful. And I think it worked.

Also, Sean Hannity went and criticized her on his T.V. show multiple times, providing probably millions of dollars in free negative media against her.

So I think the surge was real. I think those attacks were just effective.

She might still play a role in the race -- you're absolutely right.

The big question is if she hadn't been in the race or if she hadn't surged, where would those votes have gone? Were they super MAGA votes and they would have gone to Oz because he's the Trump-endorsed candidate? That seems to be the conventional thinking right now but it's not totally clear. I mean, maybe it would have went to McCormick, who painted Oz as insufficiently conservative.

COLLINS: Those are big questions that we are now seeing the consequences of, potentially.

Holly, I do wonder what you made of the Democratic aspect of this -- the Democratic side of this? Fetterman -- John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, winning the Democratic nomination so decisively. And, of course, he was against Conor Lamb, who had framed himself as more of an electable centrist.

But now that Fetterman, of course, got this so easily, what does it say to you about what kind of Democrat is going to be electable?

OTTERBEIN: Well, we don't know who's going to be electable yet until the general election happens, so I don't want to get ahead of myself there.

But the margin of victory was definitely striking and I think it's all the things that people have already said this morning here -- his look, his ability to connect with voters, kind of his outside-the-box persona.

But I would also add that the Democratic establishment really stayed out of this race and I think it was definitely to the detriment of Conor Lamb and to the benefit of John Fetterman. The state party -- you know, Conor Lamb just barely missed the threshold for an endorsement from the state party.

And then more significantly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee decided to stay neutral in the race even though Conor Lamb is like right of central casting in terms of who they would have endorsed and tried to clear the race for in past years.

So I think that also is part of what's going on here in terms of Fetterman's returns. COLLINS: Holly Otterbein, thank you so much for joining us this


BERMAN: So, New York City has escalated to high COVID alert as health officials issue new mask guidance. The city's health commissioner joins us next.

COLLINS: Plus, things are heating up inside court as Johnny Depp's attorneys are cross-examining his ex-wife Amber Heard on the stand in the defamation case. We'll tell you what happened and catch you up on the latest next.



COLLINS: Health officials in New York City have put the city on high COVID alert once again over rising cases and hospitalizations, but the city's mayor says they are not at the point of mandating masks, once again, yet.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is New York City's health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Thank you so much, Doctor, for joining us this morning.

And I just want to talk about what led to this decision and why this is being put in place now.

DR. ASHWIN VASAN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER (via Webex by Cisco): Thanks so much for having me.

You know, we are seeing rising cases across the city and we are seeing a slow rise in hospitalizations as well, which is causing us to say look, we're in an environment of rising risks but we've got all sorts of tools to help keep us safe.

That includes masking in indoor settings. It includes getting vaccinated and boosted if you haven't been already. And it includes getting tested frequently and getting treated, which is accessible, really, for the first time in the two years of the pandemic. We actually have a treatment that works and that can keep you out of the hospital.

So this is really just a message to New Yorkers to use the tools available to them, but to take some extra precautions to keep themselves and their communities safe.

COLLINS: And the mayor has said that it's not to the point of mandating masks once again. I know that's something he has not wanted to go back to.

Is that something that seems like it's possible? What should New Yorkers be preparing for?

VASAN: I think New Yorkers are really prepared and they've done the right things for two years. They've gotten -- you know, nearly 80% of New Yorkers are vaccinated. We're seeing booster rates increase. We're seeing them get tested frequently. And we have a strong mask culture in this city where people are taking those precautions on subways and indoor settings.

And so, that's what we're asking New Yorkers to do now, is to just ramp up those activities and take those extra precautions.

I think over the two years of the pandemic, public health has come to being seen as the mandate people. We do an awful lot more than just mandates, right? We reach for those mandates in emergencies and we are no longer in an emergency even though we're still in this pandemic.

We're in a transitional phase between emergency response and endemicity. I don't know exactly where we are in that transition and I don't think anyone really does, but what we're saying is we've got tools. Use those tools now. Protect yourselves and your community.

COLLINS: And we've heard different things from different experts on what we should expect this summer -- not just in New York but all over.


I wonder what you have -- what you're expecting. What your experts have been telling you about whether or not there's going to be a summer surge. Is it going to be a relatively normal summer or is everyone just watching to see if there is going to be a new variant that emerges?

VASAN: Look, I think this virus has thrown all sorts of curveballs at us throughout these two years. So, people who have tried to predict have often wound up with egg on their face.

Let me just start by saying this wave -- we don't anticipate this wave will -- not only will it not approach anywhere near the early wave in March 2020 or the Omicron wave in January -- December and January of the past year. But that it will be over relatively soon.

I am concerned about, as we enter the fall, the impacts of waning immunity. The impacts of, yes, potential variants. And so, we are getting geared up for any potential surge in the fall but it's a little too early to predict. I think we can prepare to have a really nice summer if we just get through this hump, but I am thinking about the fall as well.

COLLINS: Dr. Ashwin Vasan, that is certainly what everyone is hoping for, but we will be watching it closely. Thank you for joining us this morning.

VASAN: Thanks so much for having me.

COLLINS: Up next, Amber Heard is wrapping up a tense cross- examination in court after Johnny Depp's attorneys questioned her about her accusations of violence and her own drug use.


BERMAN: This morning, actress Amber Heard's legal team is expected to play taped depositions for the jury as Johnny Depp's defamation trial against his ex-wife resumes.

The cross-examination of Heard ended Tuesday with more explosive testimony on serious abuse and drug allegations.

CNN's Chloe Melas joins us now with the latest on this -- Chloe.


It was another contentious day on the stand for Amber Heard as she was cross-examined by Johnny Depp's legal team. They questioned her about her marriage to Johnny Depp and even a former relationship of hers.


MELAS (voice-over): Actress Amber Heard taking the stand for a fourth day Tuesday in ex-husband Johnny Depp's $50 million defamation case against her, answering questions about their relationship, drug use, and violence, including a 2009 incident involving Heard and a previous partner.

CAMILLE VASQUEZ, JOHNNY DEPP'S ATTORNEY: So, Mr. Depp is not the only domestic partner you have assaulted, is he, Ms. Heard?

AMBER HEARD, ACTRESS: I've never assaulted Mr. Depp or anyone else that I've been romantically linked to -- ever.

MELAS (voice-over): Heard denied that she assaulted her former partner at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Heard was arrested but ultimately, not charged in the incident.

Depp's attorney, Camille Vasquez, pressed Heard on her characterization of Depp.

VASQUEZ: Who was the real monster in this relationship, Ms. Heard?

HEARD: It lives in Johnny -- it's half of Johnny. It's not all of Johnny. The other half of him is wonderful and beautiful, and the man I loved. It was always the man who did drugs and beat me up. Yes, that's always been the monster.

MELAS (voice-over): Depp's attorney questioned Heard about her own drug use. According to a wedding plan, the couple had scheduled time for drugs at their 2015 wedding.

VASQUEZ: And the next item on the list says, quote, "After, dance party, and drugs, and music." Right?

HEARD: That is correct.

VASQUEZ: So you planned to have drugs at your wedding to someone you characterize as a drug addict? HEARD: To be fair, we were going to have separate parties, as I mentioned. So, a bridal party before this. The schedule ended up changing quite a bit and this is a draft, clearly, that was sent before there were a lot of changes made.

MELAS (voice-over): Depp and Heard have each accused the other of abuse, which each has denied. Heard has filed a $100 million defamation counterclaim.

The jury also heard a recording of Heard and Depp arguing, about which the actress said --

HEARD: I called him horrible, ugly things, as you can hear. We spoke to each other in a really horrible way.

VASQUEZ: I'm pretty sure we just heard you speak to him in a really horrible way. You called him a sellout, a (INAUDIBLE).

HEARD: I just disagree.

VASQUEZ: You called him a sellout, right, Ms. Heard?

HEARD: I called him a lot of ugly things.

VASQUEZ: And a joke.

HEARD: I called him a lot of ugly things.

VASQUEZ: You called him a joke on that recording. You called him a washed-up piece of (bleep).

MELAS (voice-over): During Tuesday's session, a former friend of the pair testified about their explosive relationship. iO Tillett Wright described an incident while he was on the phone with the actress.

IO TILLETT WRIGHT, AMBER HEARD'S FORMER FRIEND: I heard like a noise and then the phone dropped. And he said to her oh, you think I hit you? You think I (bleep) hit you? What if I peel your (bleep) hair back.

MELAS (voice-over): But over and over again Depp's attorney tried to paint Heard as the aggressor.

VASQUEZ: That night in Australia, after you cut off his finger with a bottle, you weren't scared of him at all, were you?

HEARD: This is a man who tried to kill me. Of course, it's scary. He was also my husband.

MELAS (voice-over): Countering Heard's claims of fear, Depp's attorney asked Heard about journal entries with loving messages to Depp, as well as this one gift.

VASQUEZ: That's the knife you gave to the man who was hitting you, right, Ms. Heard?

HEARD: I wasn't worried he was going to stab me with it when I gave it to him. That's for certain.

VASQUEZ: But you gave it to him while he was abusing you, allegedly.

HEARD: I gave it to him that year.


MELAS: Amber is not expected to take the stand again for the duration of the trial, which is expected to wrap up on May 27. But we will be hearing from some of her family and friends.

NEW DAY continues right now.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, May 18. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins here with me in Washington for a special morning.