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The Situation Room

Republicans In Conflict; Interview With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Family Of Andrew Brown Jr. Releases Autopsy Report; President Biden Lays Out New Guidelines For Vaccinated; Republicans Brazenly Peddling False Claims On Eve Of Biden's Address To Congress; CNN: 400 People Now Charged In January 6 Attack On Capitol; India Breaks COVID-19 Record. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we begin with very important new guidance for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC now says it's OK to go maskless outdoors in many situations, including dining, exercising, socializing in small groups.

But masks are still being recommended for everyone at crowded outdoor locations, including sporting events, concerts and parades, and at public places indoors, such as hair salons and houses of worship.

We're going to break it all down in my interview coming up with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. He's standing by live.

There's another major story we're following right now. A curfew begins very soon in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, as the FBI is now opening a civil rights investigation into the police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

Brown's family says an independent autopsy shows he was shot five times, with the fatal shot penetrating the back of his head.

Let's start our coverage this hour with our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, President Biden is hoping the new CDC guidelines will help persuade a lot more people here in the United States to get vaccinated.


For months, President Biden, his top administration officials have implored Americans to abide by CDC mask guidelines. But now those guidelines are starting to shift for vaccinated individuals, yes, a nod, in some sense, to the science, but also one helping to incentivize individuals to get vaccinated.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made stunning progress because of all of you, the American people.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, President Joe Biden, facing a nation exhausted by the pandemic and declining vaccination numbers, touting progress and incentives.

BIDEN: If you're fully vaccinated, and you're outdoors, you need -- and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask.

MATTINGLY: The CDC announcing new mask guidance for vaccinated individuals.

BIDEN: Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, going for a picnic, as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without a mask.

MATTINGLY: A carrot of sorts.

BIDEN: For those who haven't gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you're younger or thinking you don't need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now, now.

MATTINGLY: After more than a year of sticks, in the form of pandemic- driven restrictions. It's an evolution, driven, officials say, by data.

BIDEN: The CDC is able to make this announcement because our scientists are convinced by the data that the odds of getting or giving the virus to others is very, very low if you have both been fully vaccinated and out in the open air.

MATTINGLY: But it also marks a noticeable messaging shift among top officials, as concern about vaccine hesitancy rises.

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The message is clear. You're vaccinated, guess what? You get to return to a more normal lifestyle. If you're not vaccinated, you're still a danger -- you're still in danger as well. So, get vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: That concern borne out by the numbers. For 10 of the last 11 days, the number of fully vaccinated people has risen more than those getting their first dose, daily vaccination numbers still high, but, at an average of 2.7 million, less than the daily average for the last several weeks.

The top CDC official acknowledging the mask requirement for the fully vaccinated who are indoors or in large groups is more about protecting the unvaccinated.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: A lot of that is the inability to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated and to say that, in those settings, when you have those -- that density, we really do worry about protecting the unvaccinated people.

BIDEN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All as Biden prepares for his prime-time moment, his speech to a joint session of Congress.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Over the last several days, he's been editing -- line-editing it, meeting with his speechwriters, getting advice and counsel from senior advisers, checking in with members of his family.

MATTINGLY: But the pandemic changing the face of the House chamber, with fewer than 200 expected in the audience, no guests for the first lady's box, and just a single Supreme Court justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, slated to attend.

For Biden, a moment to look back on his first 100 days, but also an opportunity to unveil his new $1.5 trillion education and childcare proposal and push forward on an ambitious agenda for the coming months.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, we're just now getting more details about that proposal that will be a centerpiece of the president's remarks to Congress tomorrow night.

That $1.5 trillion to $1.8 trillion proposal will include $200 billion, a White House official tells me, for universal pre-K, for preschool students ages 3 and 4 around the country.

The goal, Biden administration officials say, is twofold. One, there are numerous studies that show that individuals that have quality pre- K do better in school as the years go on.


But it's also about employment as well, parents who have been ravaged by the pandemic and the restrictions they have had to deal with. It helps boost employment, two issues the administration is trying to hit, one central component of another sweeping legislative agenda item the president will talk about tomorrow night and push in the weeks ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he certainly will.

All right, Phil Mattingly, at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's discuss this more with the surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us.

Just how much of a step forward are these new CDC guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated? Because, as you know, many fully vaccinated Americans have already been walking and dining outdoors without masks.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Wolf, it's good to be with you today.

And today's announcement from the CDC, their outdoor mask guidance saying that now people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks outside, except if they're in crowded events, like ball games or concerts, this represents another step forward, and one step closer toward getting back to our normal lives.

And it's another demonstration of what science has been telling us over the last many months, which is that vaccines are effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus from infecting us. And the more people who get vaccinated, the more quickly we can resume our activities.

And some of today's announcement, for example, answered some questions that people had had about what they can do outdoors. For example, now, under the new guidance, if you are vaccinated, you do not need a mask to get together with other friends in small groups, even if -- whether they're vaccinated or not.

So, you can imagine picnics. You can imagine getting together just to catch up with old friends and take a walk together. You can also get together and dine outdoors in outdoor restaurants and other such locations.

These are the kinds of things people have missed for so many months now. And now, with the vaccines, being able to engage in those activities is within reach.

BLITZER: As you know, 26 states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, for that matter, they still have mask requirements in place.

I want to be very clear about this, Dr. Murthy. Do vaccinated people in those places tonight, do they still need to wear masks when they're outside?

MURTHY: Well, certainly, if there are localities or states that have rules in place, we want people to be aware of and to observe those rules.

But what -- the reason the CDC is putting out this guidance is actually to help states and local government as well to inform the measures that they have put in place. Now, people have been waiting for science-based guidance. And that's what this represents today.

But this is just, again, one more step, Wolf. It's not the last step. And what we're going to see, as more and more people get vaccinated, is that we're going to be able to open up, including indoors down the line, such that people can engage in indoor activities without masks.

But right now, given the fact that there are still many people who are unvaccinated in the country, given that we still have many people who are being infected each day, I mean, that there's still a lot of virus in the environment, we have to still observe the practice of masking indoors, even if we're vaccinated.

It's still lower risk if you're vaccinated than if you're not in terms of indoor activities, but we want people to wear masks. But, again, more people get vaccinated, we get cases down, and that will start to change as well.

BLITZER: It certainly will.

The new CDC guidance says -- you know better than I do -- says vaccinated people, people who are fully vaccinated, can take off their masks at what they describe as small outdoor gatherings.

What exactly, Dr. Murthy, constitutes a small event? Is it five people, 10 people, 50 people?

MURTHY: Well, it's a great question, Wolf.

And while there is not a hard-and-fast number that CDC put out, part of what constitutes small has to do with how many people you can come together with without crowding.

So, what we don't want is people jammed up in enclosed spaces, because, in that setting, even if you're outdoors, there may be a greater risk that you may be able to, again, have virus pass between two individuals.

So, groups where people can be reasonably spaced and distanced, where they're not jammed into one space, those are -- those kind of smaller group settings are the ones that are safer, and where you can be unmasked if you're gathering with people, whether they're vaccinated or not.

BLITZER: I know you have spoken publicly, Dr. Murthy, about how you have lost seven members of your own family to this horrible virus. And I understand two of them were here in the United States, where five were back in India, which is seeing a horrific surge, as we all know, in this coronavirus right now.

Is the United States, from your perspective -- and I know this is very personal for you -- is the U.S. doing enough to help the people of India?

MURTHY: Well, Wolf, I'm so glad you brought up India, because, as you mentioned, I have lost seven family members to COVID, both in the United States and India.


And we talk to our family there on a daily basis. And they're really struggling. And the stories coming out of India are just absolutely heart-wrenching, and they're horrifying, where it's the kind of circumstance that we hope never comes to be in our country or in our communities.

But what India is seeing now are more than 350,000 people a day getting infected. They're seeing the hospital systems in many cities on the brink, unable to meet the full demands, and they're running out of oxygen. They're in a very, very difficult place right now.

And I was very pleased to see the United States step up and respond to that by extending this weekend a series of aid that included oxygen, including machines to produce oxygen, therapeutics, protective equipment like masks and gowns, as well as funding to help assist in setting up and expanding manufacturing capacity for vaccines and even filters that can actually be helpful in the production of greater amounts of vaccine, which is certainly needed right now.

These are a number of steps that I hope will be helpful. And the U.S. government will also be sending strike teams from the CDC and the USAID, Agency for International Development, to help India by working with their teams to strengthen laboratory capacity, to help with infection prevention and control.

This is what we have to do broadly across the world, because global pandemics require global cooperation and mutual support. And we know that, when there's uncontrolled spread of the virus in any part of the world, that means that variants can arise, variants which may over time become resistant to the protection that we get from vaccines, which could mean a real problem for us here in the United States.

So it's in all of our interests to make sure that countries around the world are protected, that they have vaccine, that they have the ability to limit the spread of infection by using PPE and other methods. And that's what we have got to do, Wolf. We can't stop until COVID has been conquered all over the world.

That's the only way we're going to remain safe in the long term.

BLITZER: I couldn't agree more. That was so well said.

And our hearts go out to all the folks in India right now, especially in India, but, indeed, all over the world. This pandemic still continues, and it's continuing, as you know, right here in the United States as well.

Hundreds of Americans are still dying every single day. Thousands are getting COVID.

Dr. Murthy, good luck. Thanks so much for joining us.

MURTHY: Thanks so much, Wolf. Good to be with you. Take care.

BLITZER: You too, please. Thank you.

Just ahead: new video showing events around the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina. We will share it with you when we come back.



BLITZER: A curfew is about to take effect in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, amid deep concerns about possible unrest over the fatal sheriff's department shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. and the department's refusal so far to release all the body camera video of the encounter.

And now the FBI has opened an official investigation. CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new video emerging showing some of the final moments before Andrew Brown Jr. was killed during an encounter with law enforcement.

CNN has obtained video that a source says shows sheriff's deputies arriving in a pickup truck to serve a warrant on Brown last Wednesday as part of a drug task force probe. They move in quickly, shouting commands as they arrive.

Soon after, Brown was dead, shot in his car as he tried to flee, his family says. More new video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the moments after, as deputies surrounded his crashed car. Tonight, the FBI confirming it has launched a civil rights probe into the incident, and the state's governor calling for a special prosecutor to handle any decisions on whether to bring criminal charges in order to ensure public confidence.

Now, six days after Brown's death, seven deputies involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave. Two others have resigned and one retired. And despite mounting pressure, officials are still not releasing body camera footage of what happened, instead, only showing the family a 20-clip behind closed doors.

WAYNE KENDALL, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: The first initial shots were through the front windshield.

TODD: According to an independent autopsy commissioned by the family, Andrew Brown was first hit in the arm by four shots. Then:

KENDALL: As these shots were coming into the vehicle, he was able to back up, turn the vehicle around, spin off across a vacant lot. And, at that time, he was hit in the back of the head here, and that is the fatal bullet wound.

TODD: The report says the bullet entered the back of his skull.

KHALIL FEREBEE, SON OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: It's obvious he was trying to get away. It's obvious. And they going to shoot him in the back of the head? Man, that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is not right. That's not right at all, man.

PROTESTER: Release the tape!

PROTESTERS: Release the tape!

PROTESTER: The videotape!

PROTESTERS: The videotape!

TODD: The family, protesters and civil rights advocates calling for all body camera videos to be released to the public.

BAKARI SELLERS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: We don't know what the video is going to show because they ain't shown us nothing.

TODD: Still, some experts are warning about the policing tactics it could show.

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: And if he's trying to drive away and you didn't stop him, then you let him go. You regroup. You have come up with another way.

TODD (on camera): Would you gentlemen be able to tell us what you were looking for in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, not at this time.


TODD (voice-over): Late today, agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation searched Andrew Brown's house for security cameras, according to his landlord.

ANDRE SIMPSON, LANDLORD: They was informed that there were cameras at the house prior to the incident. And right after the incident, there were cameras there. But they didn't -- they noticed that the cameras are gone.

TODD (on camera): You know who might have taken them?

SIMPSON: No, sir.


TODD: and another protest march is under way tonight here in Elizabeth City. We're at a major intersection where protesters have blocked this. This is a common tactic they have been using throughout this process, blocking major intersections, disrupting commerce here.


They could be getting ready to go on the move again. We have got a curfew coming up starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight. We will see if these people adhere to it or not. But we can tell you these protests have been very, very peaceful the entire time we have been here.

Wolf, one last thing tonight. The county of Pasquotank has put out a message on its Web site essentially defending its actions here, saying that they showed the Brown family and its representatives the entire encounter, that the entire encounter with Andrew Brown lasted only 20 seconds.

They refute the idea that they're hiding anything. And they say that any suggestion that this video has been edited is incorrect -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us now, the former federal prosecutor CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates and CNN political commentator Van Jones.

Van, let's talk about this new video that we just saw.

Ben Crump, an attorney for the Brown family, says the video shows -- and I'm quoting him now -- this is him saying -- quote -- A militarized police force rushing to kill Andrew Brown. This has become a constant sight across America, the evolution of policing that's now terrorizing communities of color" -- close quote.

Is that what you see in this video?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I see a big deployment there, and we just don't have enough information.

Is there some reason to believe that this guy requires this kind of aggression just to do a search warrant or even an arrest warrant? It's just we -- they are keeping us in the dark. I think they are making it very, very bad on themselves. Whatever they are covering up at this point, it's the cover-up that has become the problem, I think, from a community point of view.

They keep pointing out that they have to have a court order. Maybe the law should be changed, so there's a presumption that this stuff is available. And I think the governor would support that.

But don't fight the court order. Expedite it. Get the information out there, so people aren't guessing. I guarantee you what people are guessing about at this point could be a lot worse than what's actually shown. But this -- part of what you're seeing across the country is a fatigue in the black community with the overpolicing, the militarized policing, the excessive policing, and the recklessness when it comes to life.

And this is playing right into that.

BLITZER: Yes, we're showing our viewers, Laura, live pictures coming in, demonstrators obviously very, very angry.

The FBI, Laura, is conducting now, they have officially announced, a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Should that give Mr. Brown's family some confidence that justice will be done?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the expectation when you bring in the federal authorities is to get that independent overseeing agency that is not close to the community, that has some distance to actually be able to show there is some objectivity in the approach there.

The idea of having the federal government have an oversight or a backstop function is what's envisioned to try to close the trust gap that Van has explained already. But, of course, the idea here is, the transparency can be the antiseptic to a lot of things. And the idea here of having the investigation continue, either at the

federal level or at the state level, the whole prospect of it is about a closed universe set of facts here, Wolf. We're talking about an incident that they say lasted under 30 seconds.

So, the idea of withholding the information in the form of the video because it might undermine an investigation that has only a beginning, middle and end, in the sense of, an officer has to justify the use of any force, up to an including deadly force.

Now, we know the encounter was likely short. So what prompted officers to believe that they were entitled to use deadly force or any force? It's that same use of force continuum we have all learned about painstakingly over the better part of a month in the Derek Chauvin trial.

You don't just have carte blanche because somebody has a warrant to be able to shoot at them. And the Supreme Court has said, look, even have a fleeing suspect, they have to pose a deadly -- a deadly and imminent threat to themselves, the community or the officers to justify the use of force at a deadly level.

And so, if you're using deadly force as a substitute for cardio or pursuit, that is not permitted. We will have to see what the video shows.

BLITZER: And let's hope we all see that video sooner, rather than later.

All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up: Some Republicans are now doubling down on conspiracy theories and falsehoods involving books, hamburgers, and a lot more.

We will be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, former President Trump is fanning the flames of the war within the Republican Party.

He's out with a new statement condemning one of his most vocal GOP critics, Representative Liz Cheney. And this comes in the midst of a new rash of right-wing conspiracy theories and brazenly false claims.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles.

Ryan, as some Republicans are turning on one another, they're also going after President Biden. What's the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

It seems in many ways, though, that the opposition to President Biden is about the only unifying force within the Republican Party, as they search for exactly what their future holds and who exactly is the leader of the Republican Party.


NOBLES (voice-over): On the eve of President Joe Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress, national Republicans insist their focus is on policy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If you're sitting here at a retreat, it's focused on policy and focused on the future of making America the next century.

NOBLES: But the actions of GOP leaders in several states show otherwise.

In Arizona, state Republicans are again dredging up months-old false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and are conducting a fourth audit of ballots in Maricopa County, insisting former President Donald Trump won there by 200,000 votes.


DAUG LOGAN, CEO, CYBER NINJAS: There's a lot of Americans here and myself included, they're really bothered at the way our country is being ripped apart right now.

NOBLES: Another popular target of Trump supporters, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump and who insists the party needs to cut ties with the former president if it hopes to move forward.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think our elected leaders are the ones in charge of the Republican Party. And I think as we look at '22 and '24 we're very much going to be focused on substance and on the issues.

NOBLES: Cheney, who hasn't ruled out a run for president herself in 2024, argued that anyone who challenged the 2020 results should be disqualified from running for the GOP nomination. Senator Josh Hawley, a potential candidate himself, fired back saying Cheney is on in island in her view point. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy arguing that Trump and his supporters are a key to Republican winning back the House in 2022.

SEN. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I just spoke to the former president yesterday, talk to him quite often.

NOBLES: McCarthy trying to have it both ways, refusing to condemn new whacky conspiracy theories, like accusations the Biden administration inserted a children's book written by Vice President Kamala Harris into care packages for migrant children. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel even demanding to know if Harris was paid for the books. It turns out the books were placed there by a local advocacy group and the White House knew nothing about it.

But that's not all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say goodbye to your burgers if you want to sign up for the Biden climate agenda.

NOBLES: The right-wing media parroting a narrative that the Biden administration has plans to restrict the consumption of red meat to reduce carbon emissions. Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene calling the president the hamburgler in a Tweet, but with the lie quickly disproven, even FOX News making a retraction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The graphic and the script incorrectly implied that it was part of Biden's plan for dealing with climate change. That is not the case.


NOBLES (on camera): And, of course, at the center of all this is the former president, Donald Trump. And while he doesn't have access to any social media accounts anymore, he still has press releases that he can send out to reporters like me. And he sent one out this afternoon attacking Liz Cheney.

It read in part, Liz Cheney is polling so low in Wyoming and has so little support even from the Wyoming Republican Party that she's looking for a way out of her congressional race. Based on all polling there is no way she can win. She'll either be another lobbyist or maybe embarrass her family by running for president in order to save face.

Of course, Cheney does not like to engage with the former president on any level, but she has made it clear, Wolf, that she thinks the future of the Republican Party should do everything they possibly can to remove Donald Trump from that vision.

BLITZER: Yes. He also called her a warmongering fool, his words, Trump's word. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Let's get some more in all of this, joining us now our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and our Senior Commentator, former Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Dana, Trump slamming Liz Cheney not much of a surprise. What is a bit of a surprise, however, is the distance that Kevin McCarthy seems to have started to put between himself and Liz Cheney. Is she on a bit of an island here, as Josh Hawley is claiming?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly that's what the former president is trying to do, but they're certainly making it an elevated island by continuing to talk about her, especially this statement from the former president.

You know, he's giving her attention. He is giving her publicity for the kind of message that she's trying to push for the Republican Party, which shouldn't be that out there. It's conservative principles and the truth. I'm guessing that's something that the governor could sign onto.

BLITZER: Let's ask him. What about these false claims as well, you know Governor, that Republicans are peddling, a whole bunch of them right now, pretty outrageous claims about the Biden administration supposedly wanting to ban red meat or distributing the vice president's book at the border. Is this just desperation on the Republicans' part? And you're a lifelong Republican, of course.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Yes. First of all, I hope Liz Cheney asks me to go out and campaign for her, because I would do it. And I don't always see eye to eye with her father, but this is one where we'd be joined at the hip. I would love to go out and stump for her. I'm not -- I like to help her anyway I (INAUDIBLE) be for or against, whatever that's going to help her to get elected.

Number two, Wolf, you know when you think about, where you think where the party is today, you know, it's like all these cultural issues. And, you know, you have Kevin McCarthy reading a book about some goofy thing while they were debating the stimulus package, but where are they are on climate, where are they on health care, where are they on immigration, where are they on any of these?


So we're off to a great start, right? They're having this policy meeting and they're fighting one another and then Trump is weighing and he's fighting him and she's fighting somebody else. And what kind of a program is that? So maybe they're going to have to go farther down before they get up.

I wonder if Dana would agree with this. I think that despite all this, the Republicans historically have a chance to win either the House or the Senate back, despite the fact that they don't have any issues at this point.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think, Dana?

BASH: Sure. I mean, if you look at historical trends, the president's party almost always loses seats and he doesn't have a lot to lose on the Democratic side. It seems like it's going to be helped with the census and some of the reapportionment that is going on because of the census. But it's still an open question.

I mean, you asked the question Wolf, and the governor talked about the culture issues. I mean, the fact that they're talking about hamburgers -- and good for John Roberts that he retracted that -- but things that are just not true when it comes to an issue that is true, which is an existential threat to humanity in the climate crisis. How about talking about solutions and not making up tropes that aren't really relevant?

BLITZER: Yes. That would be good.

KASICH: Wolf, when the Republicans won the majority in 1994 in that election, it was because we had the contract with American and we had a number of things that we pledged to do. Now, they're at a policy meeting trying to figure out what they're for. They kind to have an idea about that some time ago.

But, look, I hope and pray they get their act together because you do need a competitive two-party system in this country and maybe a three- party system.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, thanks very much. Dana, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, what does President Biden need to do in his address to Congress tomorrow night to get bipartisan support for his extremely ambitious agenda?



BLITZER: Senate Democrats are holding a lottery for tickets to President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night. Not all members can attend due to COVID restrictions.

Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York is joining us right now. He's the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Congressman thanks so much for joining us.

How important is it that in his address tomorrow night, President Biden will attempt to get not only Democratic support but also Republican support behind his very ambitious agenda?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, I think he's going to layout a very comprehensive agenda for America that will appeal to people all across the country, across the ideological spectrum, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Joe Biden has recognized from the very beginning that his objective and our objective, which has been to crush the virus, provide direct relief to everyday Americans who are struggling and lay a foundation to super charge the economy, that's not a Democratic issue or Republican issue or an Independent issue. It's an American issue. And he's shown great leadership in that regard.

BLITZER: As you know, it's typical that there's a Republican response to these speeches if the president is a Democrat. Senator Tim Scott, the Republican from South Carolina, is going to be giving the Republican response this time around.

But interestingly, there will also be a progressive response given by one of your fellow New York Democrats, Congressman Jamaal Bowman. Is that problematic given how essential Democratic Party unity will be to get the president's agenda passed?

JEFFRIES: I don't think it's problematic. And Congressman Jamaal Bowman has hit the ground running. He's doing a tremendous job. He's an important voice for racial and economic and social justice within the Congress and within the New York delegation here at home.

And as, I believe, Congressman Bowman has indicated, a lot of what President Biden has already gotten done aligns squarely with his views in terms of the right thing to do for America and he's looking forward to continuing to work closely with the Biden administration to push a visionary agenda forward over the next few months. BLITZER: This will be the first joint session of Congress since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Speaker Pelosi says she's confident about security for tomorrow night's speech. Do you share that confidence?

JEFFRIES: I'm very confident that all of the necessary precautions are being taken. The Capitol is our citadel of democracy. The violent insurrection that occurred on January 6th incited by the rhetoric of the former president of the United States of America and the big lie that he perpetrated and that he's continuing to tell along with his co-conspirators on the other side of the aisle, House Republican, and some Senate Republicans, that's unfortunate.

But I believe we are going to be prepared to make sure that President Biden can deliver this speech, layout an affirmative vision for dealing with the challenges we confront in America, both as it relates to COVID-19 and he's already done a tremendous job, more than 200 million vaccination shots in less than 100 days. 30 percent of the American people have already been fully vaccinated. We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we're going to see ourselves free and clear of this by July 4th or certainly by Labor Day, in terms of some return to normalcy.

But I think President Biden has also recognized that we have to build back better. And that's why he's going to lean into the American jobs plan, which we believe will create at least 15 million good paying jobs and also layout a vision for supporting America's children and families.


It's going to be a great day.

BLITZER: I assume you're going to be inside for the speech. You'll be among the 200 who will be allowed inside.

Normally, what, there are about 1,600 members of the House and Senate and their guests who are inside, very -- a much smaller number this time around because of COVID.

JEFFRIES: It's normally the toughest seat to secure in any given year, but because of the COVID-19 restrictions and we're following the guidance of the Capitol physician, it will be a limited number of members of the House and the Senate who are there, I think a limited number of cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

So it will be an adjustment, but the most important thing is that tens of millions of people will be able to see President Biden deliver that speech and historically staying behind him will be our dynamic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and our dynamic Vice President Kamala Harris, and he'll be able to say "madam speaker, madam vice president," and he will be the first president of the United States of America to ever have uttered those words from our chamber.

BLITZER: Yeah, it will be historic indeed, and there won't be a designated survivor because a lot of members of the cabinet will not be attending because of the COVID protocols.

Congressman Jeffries, thanks so much for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, new details of the growing investigation into the Capitol siege and the number of people now facing charges.



BLITZER: A CNN review of court documents show that the Justice Department has now charged at least 400 people in connection with the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the details for us.

Jessica, this sweeping investigation continues to grow and grow.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It does, Wolf, and it likely isn't even the end of all the arrest and charges. We're now almost four months post January 6th, and the Department of Justice has charged at least 400 people federally by our account at this point. And they're from all over the country. They came from 43 different states and even Washington, D.C. to take part in the Capitol attack that's according to prosecutors.

And in a recent court filing, prosecutors revealed that they expect to charge at least 100 more people bringing the potential number of people charged to 500. Of course, this is a massive federal inquiry where several new defendants have been charged nearly everyday since January 6th. But notably, there are still hundreds of unidentified rioters whose photographs are still on the FBI's website.

And when I talked to the FBI recently, they told me in particular, ten people they identified last month for assaulting law enforcement. They still have not been tracked down. So, Wolf, there is still a lot of work yet to do in this massive case.

BLITZER: Prosecutors, Jessica, they're also revealing new information of what was sprayed at that Capitol police officer who died after the attack. What's the latest?

SCHNEIDER: Right. So, prosecutors now definitively saying bear spray was not used in the chemical assault on those three officers, including Officer Sicknick. Instead, they were saying it was a chemical spray but they haven't specifically identified it.

Now, it's notable -- it's notable revelation because prosecutors previously documented how these two accused men, Julian Khater and George Tanios, had bear spray in their possession. But the fact that prosecutors are saying bear spray was never used and won't affect this larger case against these men because they were still facing serious charges including conspiring to injure police and assaulting officers using a dangerous weapon.

And in fact, prosecutors revealed last night that they now believe these two accused men actually contributed to the fall of the Capitol building because they sprayed those three officers who were really acting as a crucial line of defense between the rioters and the Capitol. So, these are still serious accusations and charges and they really aren't lessen much by the fact that this was chemical spray and not bear spray after all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Schneider reporting, thank you.

Up next, we'll have the latest on the very dire situation in India right now. It's the world's top COVID hot spot. We're going there live.



BLITZER: Tonight, India is experiencing what's currently the best ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the world. Thousands and thousands of people are dying daily as the number of new cases breaks records.

CNN's Vedika Sud is in New Delhi for us tonight. She's joining us live.

Vedika, families are searching for hospital beds, oxygen, even places to cremate their loved ones. Tell us what you're seeing there on the ground.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, India is just seeing a long nightmare and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel as of now. I was at the crematorium today, those were heartbreaking scenes. You had so many bodies being dropped in every five minutes.

And you had children there saying their final good-byes to their mothers that they've lost or their father. People as old as 90 are being buried out there, being cremated out there, rather, and children as young as five witnessing those scenes, truly heartbreaking.

We had people who were brought in cars by the family members because there are no ambulances to get them to the spot. Ambulances are really out of supply at this point in time. They're not enough because they're ferrying people from homes to hospitals and they've been again, taking people from hospitals to homes because they're turning them away because we have no beds, we have no oxygen, so it's best to go home. It's as bad as that on the ground, not only in India's national capital, Delhi, but all around.

Also, we did see people gasping for breaths, rushing to these hospitals with patients at the backseat of cars. You know, they just to give them one bed for the night and give them some oxygen. This is really going to stay with me. These were heartbreaking scenes.

Just to even give you a few figures from here in New Delhi, as far as India is concerned, they've added another million cases in just 3-1/2 days, staggering numbers indeed. For the sixth consecutive day, India has recorded over 300,000 new daily cases. And on Monday, India had more than 2,700 deaths.

This is too close from home. Every one from my team here in Delhi has lost someone who's a family member or has someone in hospital or has someone who's been denied a bed in hospital, Wolf.

BLITZER: It is so, so heartbreaking. Vedika Sud, be careful over there. We will stay in close touch.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. Be sure to join us at our new time 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.