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The Situation Room
Vaccine Progress; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Republicans At War; CDC: Pace Of Vaccinations Down, U.S. Now Averaging 2.4 Million Shots Daily; CNN Exclusive: Doctor Dies As Hospital Runs Out Of Oxygen; Interview With Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Andrew Brown Jr. Laid To Rest In North Carolina Funeral Amid Calls For Police Body Cam Footage To Be Released. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 03, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
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.
Happening now: Republicans at war. Representative Liz Cheney, the number three Republican leader in the House, is firing back at former President Trump once again tonight. She's just warned fellow Republicans to reject Trump's attempts to, in her word, poison American democracy by spreading the big lie of election fraud and by trying to whitewash the Capitol insurrection.
She went on to say that what Trump did on January 6 is -- and I'm quoting here once again now -- "a line that cannot be crossed."
Cheney is doubling down as Republicans are ratcheting up the already intense pressure to ouster from the GOP leadership.
Also this hour, we're following the slowing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations here in the United States, the U.S. now averaging 2.4 million shots a day. That's down from a peak of 3.4 million. Experts are warning that vaccine hesitancy, coupled with COVID variants, could potentially prevent the U.S. from ever achieving the widespread protection of what's called herd immunity.
Our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, broke this story about Liz Cheney's newest comments. We're going to get to her in a moment.
First, let's go to our congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill.
Ryan, former President Trump is also pouring fuel on all this fire, releasing yet another statement directly attacking Liz Cheney just a little while ago.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, what we are witnessing right now is a battle for the soul and the future of the Republican Party. And, right now, it is pitting Liz Cheney, the congresswoman from Wyoming, against the former President Donald Trump.
And the former president out with a tough statement against Cheney tonight, calling her a warmonger and predicting that she will never win elected office in Wyoming again. The big reason? Because Cheney refuses to buy into President Trump's big lie that he actually won the election in 2020.
NOBLES (voice-over): Tensions in the Republican Party appear to be at a breaking point.
NOBLES: The future of the GOP is unclear, as two factions battle over the party's past and, more specifically, one question: Do you buy into former President Donald Trump's false assertion that the 2020 presidential election was rigged?
For Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the answer to that question is simple. "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen," Cheney tweeted Monday. "Anyone who claims it was is spreading the big lie, turning their back on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system."
That message today from the number three Republican in the House came shortly after Trump himself doubled down on his claims about the election results, issuing a statement where he attempted to twist the meaning of the big lie, instead applying it to Biden's victory.
Cheney's vocal criticism of the former president and his willingness to continue to peddle a false narrative about the election results has put many Republican leaders in a bind. They are caught between not wanting to fully embrace Trump's lie, but very much unwilling to break from the man who still enjoys strong support with the party's base.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Aren't you embarrassed?
NOBLES: Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, once the party's nominee for president, booed at a state convention, in part because of his vote to convict Trump during the last impeachment trial.
You might call me an old-fashioned Republican. I am. I have been in our party...
ROMNEY: Oh, yes, you can -- you can boo all you want. But I have been a Republican all my life.
NOBLES: As a result, many Republicans, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, dance around the topic, leaning into the big lie by claiming there were irregularities in November, while praising Trump and his presidency.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If you want to unite this nation, you got to start with having integrity in your elections. There's questions out here.
NOBLES: McCarthy is worried Cheney's public opposition to Trump is hurting his party's chances to regain control of the House. While he originally defended her, he is now refusing to.
QUESTION: Is Cheney still a good fit for your leadership team, do you believe?
MCCARTHY: That's a question for the conference.
NOBLES: And now some House Republicans are pushing once again for another vote challenging Cheney's leadership, a showdown that could rip open the party divide in a big way and one Maine Senator Susan Collins believes could make things worse.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): She did what she felt was right. And I salute her for that. We need to be accepting of differences in our party.
NOBLES: And, to be clear, this battle that's playing out within the Republican Party, it is not balanced in any way, shape or form.
Polls show that, overwhelmingly, Republican voters side with the former president, as opposed to someone like Liz Cheney. But there are leading Republicans that are cautioning against that being the future of the Republican Party, the former President George W. Bush saying that the Republican Party cannot only stand for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant values, that it needs to be more inclusive.
And, Wolf, the former president saying that, if the Republican Party doesn't make an effort to do so, it won't be around for very much longer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, is joining us. Jamie, you have this excellent brand-new reporting on what Representative Cheney told a closed-door Republican Conference today. Tell us about this.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: This was the A.E. conference -- AEI -- sorry -- conference in Sea Island, Georgia. It was off the record. Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan interviewed her.
And what you saw today was Liz Cheney fighting for what she believes is the heart and soul of the Republican Party and for democracy. She believes, according to two sources in the room, that this is about truth vs. lies.
And here's some of what she said, Wolf. She said: "We can't rebuild the party or the conservative movement on a foundation of lies. We can't embrace the notion the election is stolen. It's a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy."
She then went on to say: "We can't be a cult of personality. We can't whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump's big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed."
And Wolf, as Ryan just said, this is not necessarily popular, to say the least with the Republican base. But Liz Cheney is determined from people around her to keep standing up to Donald Trump, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're doing a lot of reporting on this, Jamie.
Why is she speaking out like this, when she knows it isn't necessarily going to help her politically?
GANGEL: You know, before she was in Congress, she worked in the State Department and she worked all over the world.
And this notion of the importance of democracy, the Constitution, is paramount to her. She also said -- let me read you another quote from her today. She said -- quote -- The Constitution is our shield. The peaceful transfer of power must be defended.
I have worked in many countries around the world where they don't have a peaceful transfer of power. We must be clear on this and move forward on substance, policy ideas to win back the voters who left us in 2020."
This is not going to be the end of this, Wolf. We are going to see her continue in the next couple of weeks, months, maybe years to take on Donald Trump. She voted for impeachment. And whether or not she wins or loses her election, whether or not she stays in leadership, she is determined to continue to speak out against Trump.
BLITZER: Yes, as I have said before, she's got guts. She really does.
Jamie, stay with us.
I want to bring in also our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and former Republican Senator CNN political commentator Jeff Flake.
Senator Flake, what's your reaction to these latest comments by Liz Cheney? And what will it say about your party, the Republican Party, if she's actually pushed out for telling the truth?
JEFF FLAKE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, good for her for speaking up and saying what she knows is true.
I can't believe that that's where we are as a party, to stand for truth or falsehoods. And it should be an easy choice. But, politically, it's not. And she knows that. And I think that she -- whether she wins reelection or not, whether she keeps her leadership post, she's going to stand for truth.
And I hope that it moves some of her colleagues and it moves some votes as well, but she has an inner compass, and she knows that she has to stand for truth. So, good for her.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, does Representative Cheney see this as the moment Republicans have to choose between various conspiracy theories or the actual future of our democracy?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she does.
And I think it's very clear from what Jamie reported that she said to fellow Republicans today and what she has been saying publicly. This, she believes, is an existential moment for the future of democracy in this country.
And unless you get straight that your election was free and your election was fair, you have a real problem. And I was talking to a Republican today who is an ally of Cheney's, and what he said to me is that something broke with her on November 3 and January 6.
He said she thinks this is all a big lie, and she can't live with it. And I think that is exactly what we're seeing play out. And let the chips fall where they may. She may very well get kicked out of the -- of leadership. She may not run for reelection. She may run for reelection. She could lose.
Who knows what her political future holds, but I think this is for history, and I think she feels a need to say: This is what I believe, and this is what should matter to us.
BLITZER: Yes, and good for her for saying it.
You know, Jamie, Representative Cheney survived the last vote to remove her from the House Republican leadership. She's number three in that leadership right now. But how much have things actually changed since then?
GANGEL: So, that vote in February was, I think, 145 to 61.
That also tells you that many of these Republicans behind the scenes agree with her. I think the real question here comes down to Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy is doing this, he's pushing this vote because Donald Trump wants him to.
And Kevin McCarthy, who, on January 13, called out Trump and blamed him, has walked that back. He wants back in Trump's good graces. And going after Liz Cheney and taking her down is a way for Kevin McCarthy to get back in Trump's good graces.
The real question now is, when you do the whip count of the Republican Conference, how many people will stay with Liz Cheney, how many people will go with Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump, Wolf?
BLITZER: We shall see at some point.
Senator Flake, when you see your former colleague Senator Mitt Romney of Utah aggressively booed in his home state, by fellow Republicans, I should add, what does that say to you about where the GOP is headed?
FLAKE: Well, I went through it in Arizona. Others have elsewhere. He wears it as a badge of honor, as he should.
But it doesn't say much good about the Republican Party and where the base or that subset of a subset that controls Republican primary votes is. The fact is, though, that they tried to censure him and couldn't get the votes to do it. That's a good sign. Utah is a little different place that way. There's a bit more of an aversion to Trump-style politics.
So I think that Republicans in general will view it a little better than perhaps -- view him a little better than Republicans in that room.
BLITZER: Gloria, is there any real concern out there among Republicans that all this infighting could actually hurt them?
I think that's what Kevin McCarthy is so upset about. I mean, he doesn't want this to be out there on the front pages or us talking about this every day. He wants his conference to be on the same page, to be talking about what Biden is doing in this country, talking about what Biden is doing wrong, talking about Democratic big spending programs and all the rest, because, after all, they have to have something else that they can run on.
And, right now, what they are doing is talking about where they're going to line up on this question of the big lie and how many of them are willing to swallow what they really believe happened in order to save their political hides.
I think that's what's going on right now. And it's uncomfortable for everybody. And Liz Cheney is saying: You know what? I took a stand. You need to take one too.
BLITZER: We will see who else does.
All right, guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead: Can Rudy Giuliani block federal prosecutors from accessing his phones and computers following those raids by federal agents on his home in office? We will talk about that and more with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.
As you can see, he's standing by live.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, a prominent adviser to Rudy Giuliani is appealing publicly for help from Donald Trump after the FBI raid on the former president's longtime personal lawyer.
Alan Dershowitz says he hopes Trump will join a court fight to block the feds from getting access to materials seized from Giuliani's home and office. Dershowitz says he believes the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Let's discuss this and more with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
And you're an expert in this area. What do you think? How likely is it that Giuliani, potentially with the former president's help, could successfully fight this in court and block federal prosecutors from accessing his phones and computers?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think it's very unlikely that he could succeed, any more than Michael Cohen, who tried the same thing when his materials were seized.
The Justice Department will set up an independent, walled-off team to review whatever they have taken to make sure that anything attorney- client is put to the side and is not used in a prosecution.
But I want to underscore just how serious the allegations are that seem to be coming out about this investigation. And that is, was Rudy Giuliani acting as an agent of a foreign power, when, for example, he was smearing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch?
Because, if he had the ear of the president, which he did, and if he had the ear of members of Congress, which, apparently, he did, and was advocating for her removal, both as a way to get her out of the way, so that he could help dig up dirt on Joe Biden for the president, but also because he was doing the work of corrupt Ukrainian politicians, that's a really serious offense.
[18:20:13] And so, as we look at the attorney-client issues, they're important, but what is very important here is that we get to the bottom of whether Rudy Giuliani or anyone else was acting as a foreign agent without informing the U.S. government.
BLITZER: One Trump adviser tells CNN, Congressman, that the Giuliani raid, in this adviser's word, sent a strong message that the Justice Department here in Washington may be more willing to go after Trump and his inner circle.
Where do you potentially see the biggest legal exposure for the former president and his close allies?
SCHIFF: Well, I think the biggest exposure for the president, the former president, is the indictment in the Southern District of New York, in which he was identified as Individual No. 1.
That was the campaign fraud scheme, the hush money scheme to pay these porn stars to keep silent, so that it wouldn't impact his election. Michael Cohen had to go to jail over that. The Justice Department said that he should go to jail. Individual 1 was the person that directed him in that scheme.
So, that's the president's, I think, greatest exposure. Now, he may have a lot of other exposure in terms of fraud with his businesses or tax fraud. But, there, it may be more challenging for prosecutors to show whether that knowledge and criminality and liability goes all the way to him personally, as opposed to just his company.
But in terms of the indictment in the Southern District of Individual No. 1, that, to me, is great exposure.
BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on a major development today while I have you, Mr. Chairman.
President Biden just a little while ago publicly announced that he's raising the refugee cap for this year, refugees to come to the United States, raising it to 62,500 people. He faced enormous backlash, as you know, for initially keeping former President Trump's historically low cap of only 15,000 refugees allowed into this country.
What's your reaction to the president's reversal?
SCHIFF: Well, I'm pleased with the announcement. I was part of that backlash.
Look, we had historically low numbers of refugees during the Trump administration. And that's just not consistent with who we are as a people and who we are as a country. We have always given refuge to people that were seeking a better life. It's part and parcel of who we are.
So I'm glad to see President Biden following through on something he committed to do, another promise kept, and an important one, because it really goes to what the United States is about. And there are so many people in desperate straits around the world right now, that we ought to live up to that historic and cherished legacy.
BLITZER: Yes, I couldn't agree more. As a child of refugees, it is so, so important that we allow these folks to come into our country and build a new life.
Congressman Schiff, thank you so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to show you how and where more Americans are casting aside COVID restrictions. Should they be worried that the U.S. may never reach herd immunity?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As the United States makes headway against the coronavirus pandemic, some experts are now actually warning that virus variants and vaccine hesitancy could make it unlikely that the U.S. will reach what's now known as herd immunity. That's when the virus can no longer effectively spread because so much of the population has been vaccinated against it, had it, or both.
CNN national correspondent Erica Hill has more on the late-breaking developments.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back to work in New York City.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I woke up pretty early just to put makeup on for the first time in a year-and-a-half.
HILL: Eighty thousand municipal workers returning to the office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ready. I'm ready. We are ready.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: City Hall is abuzz today. It's a great feeling.
HILL: Twenty-four/seven subway service set to resume May 17, after more than a year, in preparation for much of the tristate area reopening on May 19.
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Getting a fair amount of coordination to get the region right, we -- all three of us thought that made sense.
HILL: Air travel also picking up, more than 1.6 million people passing through TSA checkpoints on Sunday, nearly 10 times the traffic airports saw on that same day a year ago.
Airlines pushing to reopen the U.S.-U.K. travel corridor, the E.U. could welcome fully vaccinated tourists next month. Things are getting better, new cases up in just seven states over the past week, as average daily cases dip below 50,000 for the first time in more than six months, deaths and hospitalizations also on the decline.
DR. JAY VARKEY, EMORY UNIVERSITY: One of the things we have learned is that, as we vaccinate people, infections plummet, hospitalizations plummet, deaths plummet.
HILL: More than 105 million people, nearly a third of the U.S. population, now fully vaccinated, though the average number of shots administered daily, currently 2.3 million, has been slipping since mid-April.
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: What I really worry about is that those people who are already on the fence don't get vaccinated, we don't return immunity come the fall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then with the winter, we have resurgence.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Massachusetts, one of the latest states to relax outdoor mass requirements, pre- pandemic life is slowly returning.
BROOKE COCHRANE, BOSTON RESIDENCE: It's different, you know, it's almost like you feel naked without a mask.
HILL: But not in Brookline, just outside Boston, the town of nearly 60,000 keeping its order in place, out of a, quote, abundance of caution.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I don't think outer mask mandate makes any. Again, outside of large crowds, where maybe important, I don't think they make any sense. And I wish that the locality would follow the CDC guidelines.
HILL: The president once again touting vaccine as the path to normalcy.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think by the end of the summer, we'll be in a very different position than we are now.
HILL: As some experts push Mr. Biden to model CDC guidelines and the benefits of being fully vaccinated.
JHA: At this point and on outdoors things, I think the president can lose his mask.
HILL (on camera): And, Wolf, an important development on the vaccine front. CNN is learning that the FDA is poised to authorize Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine for 12-15-year-olds early next week, an official telling CNN of that development. And the FDA, of course, is currently reviewing its data. But you may even recall that back in March, Pfizer said its clinical trials show that the vaccine was well tolerated in 12 to 15-year-olds and showed 100 percent efficacy. The Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for those 16 and older under that emergency used authorization here in the U.S., Wolf.
BLITZER: Erica Hill in New York for us, very important news. Thank you very much.
And joining us now, Dr. Richard Besser, the former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Besser, thanks for joining us.
Vaccination rates are lagging, so making more teens, or preteens eligible could certainly help. But is reaching herd immunity here in the United States still a realistic goal?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, Wolf, for a long time, I've felt that talking about herd immunity wasn't a very useful concept. What really matters is the more people who get vaccinated, the less transmission there's going to be.
But in this country, there's a real divide around vaccination. And so you will see communities that have very high vaccination rates and communities that have much lower vaccination rates, because people tend to live among people with similar beliefs. And when that happens, you will continue to see significant amount of transmission in those communities that haven't vaccinated at the same high rate.
And the other point, Wolf, that ties into the reporting we just heard is that, so far, there's no vaccines for children. So that means the opportunity for reaching herd immunity is very slim.
BLITZER: Critics say the CDC is behind the curve on, when it comes to outdoor mask guidelines, Dr. Besser, that President Biden, for example, should lose his mask when he's outdoors to signal to the American people that he has confidence in the vaccines. He's, of course, fully vaccinated. As the former head of the CDC, do you agree?
BESSER: Yes. You know, I think that the CDC guidance in terms of outdoor activity made a lot of sense and it is really helpful when you see your political leaders modeling that behavior. You know, there are reporting that some communities are doing more done what the CDC is recommending.
I think over a short -- pretty short period of time, they're going to come around and recognize that outdoors without masks for fully vaccinated people is a very safe thing to do.
BLITZER: And some of us just keep wearing the mask even though we're fully vaccinated out of habit. We're doing it for more than a year. We just sort of do it but you make an important point, Dr. Besser, thank you so much for joining us.
Just ahead, we're going to go inside a hospital in India where COVID patients are dying for lack of oxygen, including one of the hospital's own doctors.
Also we're going to go one-on-one with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. We'll talk about President Biden's giant infrastructure spending plan and more. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive. We go inside a Delhi hospital that saw multiple patients, including one of its own doctors, die from COVID as oxygen supplies ran out. It's a horrible scene being repeated across India right now, as the country reels from the pandemic. CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is there.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tears for a much-loved colleague. Dr. R.K. Himthani killed by COVID-19 in the same hospital where he'd spent a year treating other victims of the coronavirus. Grief and the inevitable silent question, who's next?
He died here in this intensive care unit because the Batra Hospital where he worked ran out of the most basic necessity, oxygen.
He was not alone. The medical director of the hospital, SCL GUPTA, gave the mid-afternoon casualty figures in this war against the virus.
DR. SCL GUPTA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BATRA HOSPITAL: Eight patients died today.
GUPTA: Died just now, and five, they are under resuscitation, may or may not survive, just because in the capital city of Delhi and because of want of oxygen, which is the lifeline.
KILEY: He knew the chances of reviving the five were slim.
When you heard this morning that you had just a few hours of oxygen and then eight patients died, what does that do to you to the soul of a doctor?
GUPTA: I cannot explain to them my feelings. We are dying inside, we are the saviors, not the murderers. And we cannot express our feelings. I cannot express my feelings because how I'm feeling inside.
KILEY: Is it destroying you?
KILEY: How long have you been a doctor?
GUPTA: What, sir? KILEY: How long you have been a doctor?
GUPTA: 45 years.
KILEY: Must be so destroying. I can't imagine what it must be like for you. I'm sorry.
GUPTA: I'm sorry, sir.
KILEY: Over the next hour, four of the five resuscitation patients died.
In a space of about two hours, when the oxygen ran out, 12 people died in this hospital, which in every other respect, is a first world facility. They're simply asphyxiated.
The hospital copes by having patients to source their own supplies of oxygen to cover its erratic supplies. Local and international efforts to get enough of the gas into India's capital are still failing. India's central and national governments have been unable to explain the oxygen shortages, and as the numbers of people infected with COVID-19 soar in India along with the daily death toll, the Batra Hospital, like many others, will admit no more patients. There's no point.
SHINU VERGHESE, HEAD OF NURSING, BATRA HOSPITAL: We will not take more admissions because we don't want people to die in front of us. So they can go to the other hospital where the oxygens available.
KILEY: Dr. Kishore Chawla runs a Hindu temple charity. He pulled through COVID-19 before the oxygen started to run out.
DR. KISHORE CHAWLA, CEO OF CHATTARPUR MANDIR: From housekeeping, even the nursing staff, the supervisors, all are working very hard.
KILEY: Fair enough. But the Indian's government's failure to ensure basic supplies to hospitals in the face of a long-term pandemic is simply not going to wash.
KILEY (on camera): Now, Wolf, the Indian government was given until midnight, just the night that's gone past here locally, to sort all this out by none other than the Supreme Court of India, what sanctions they may face if they don't supply oxygen. It's unclear, but it's a very important symbolic moment.
The real tragedy here, notwithstanding the amount of new international aid that's coming in to help produce oxygen particularly for the city of Delhi, is that we know we're nowhere near the peak of this latest wave in the corona pandemic here in India. Wolf?
BLITZER: It's so devastating, so heartbreaking. Sam Kiley in New Delhi for us, Sam, thank you for your amazing, excellent reporting, we are grateful to you. Please stay safe over there. Coming up, can President Biden win support for his giant infrastructure plan from congressional Republicans? I'll talk about that and more with the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He's standing by live, you can see him. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: President Biden on the road once again today promoting key pieces of his nearly $4 trillion spending plans, which are facing serious Republican resistance in Congress.
Let's talk about that and more with the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
How real are the chances that President Biden breaks off at least part of this massive plan and tries to pass a more narrow, what's called traditional infrastructure bill first?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, we believe these things fit together. And that's why the president rolled them out the way he did.
But we also believe in having this conversation across the aisle and in both chambers to see where there might be support for something bipartisan. That's a process that's ongoing. We welcome the Republicans coming to the table with specific ideas. And that's exactly what we're looking forward to getting into in the days ahead.
BLITZER: Infrastructure is so, so important. Everyone agrees on that. But you say inaction is not an option. Inaction is not an option.
So if you could gain some traction with a bipartisan compromise, what would you want to see in a smaller bill? Because, you know, there's agreement on traditional -- what's called traditional infrastructure. But what about other areas, broadband, water, manufacturing, schools, for example?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we think that broadband is absolutely infrastructure in the 21st century. I mean, having a connection to the Internet now matters as much as having that connection to the interstate highway system. Same thing with water. I mean, that's as simple as the fact that you need water to leave.
The word infrastructure means beneath. And what's beneath our cities are water pipes have in too many cases have lead in them. So, we believe these things are tightly connected with infrastructure. We see a lot of agreement around that.
Now, we also see a lot of major bipartisan support among the American people for what we're seeking to do to improve our schools, to make sure elder care is not a barrier for Americans wanting to be able to get through life and enter the workforce, to make sure that we're supporting families.
To us, these things put together, and, you know, we don't want to get too sucked into academic arguments over what labels to put on what provisions. We want to focus to be on what's good public policy and how much consensus can we get around the good policies that are ahead.
BLITZER: The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, in his words, there are zero Republican support for President Biden's proposals which McConnell calls a $4 trillion grab bag.
But right now, you don't necessarily even have 50 Democrat votes in the Senate either, do you?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, that's exactly the process we're going through right now, seeing where the interest lies and where the consensus lies. And, by the way, you know, we got folks in our party saying it should be bigger in addition to those who are asking questions about the size and scope of it. But that's a very natural part of the process, and the president has, as you seen, hosted members of both parties in both chambers in the Oval Office.
I've been on the phone literally every day with Republican and Democratic members to have these conversations. We're going to plunge into them.
But we can't do this forever. The president has said the one thing that he will absolutely not stand for is sitting on our hands and not acting because the American people are rightly impatient for us to actually do something.
So, I expect the days and weeks ahead to be very, very active. We have debate, discussions and negotiations and ultimately coming up with a way to move forward.
BLITZER: Yeah. We'll see.
One issue -- and I have been doing some research on this. The economy here in the United States continues to improve, the annualized GDP, more than 6 percent of the first quarter, Wall Street is doing great right now, record highs on the Dow Jones and the S&P 500.
Are you at all concerned, Mr. Secretary, that there won't necessarily be the appetite for trillions in new spending?
BUTTIGIEG: We're never going to be concerned about great economic news like we are seeing. But what I want to emphasize is the American jobs plan isn't just about growth in this quarter or the next quarter or next year. It is about setting up America to win the future. We're talking about infrastructure investments that we will be living with for the rest of my lifetime.
And by the same token, my generation and the generation to come, we'll be living with the consequences if we failed to invest, if we fail to tackle the climate challenge, if we fail to compete with our allies and our strategic competitors like China who are not hesitating to make big infrastructure investments at such a defining moment since the early 2020s are proven to be.
BLITZER: Yeah. Let's not forget, these proposals put forward by the president are ten-year proposals. That's really important.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, thanks as usual for joining us. You are always welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. Always a pleasure.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Coming up, a funeral for Andrew Brown Jr. amid new calls for the police to release body camera video of his shooting.
BLITZER: There are new calls tonight for police to release body camera footage of the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., an unarmed African- American man who was killed as deputies tried to serve an arrest warrant. Brown was laid to rest today in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
CNN's Brian Todd is there for us.
Brian, I take it protesters are out once again tonight.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Just a few seconds ago, one of the more heated confrontations between police and protesters here at Elizabeth City. Police handcuffed and detained at least four protesters that we saw, and the police are now trying to force them down the street.
I asked the police lieutenant why they did that, he said because they stopped in the middle of the street. Police are trying to suppress these protests tonight even though they are small and very peaceful.
And while there's anguish on the streets tonight, Wolf, just a short time ago, a gut-wrenching farewell to Andrew Brown.
TODD (voice-over): An emotional service as family and friends remembering Andrew Brown Jr., shot and killed by sheriff's deputies executing a warrant in North Carolina, 12 days ago.
SANDRA WHITE, RELATIVE OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: I do know him as a very good person. Did nobody no harm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, pops.
TODD: A message for his sons. REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH: He looked
them in the eyes with no gun (ph). Comfort, let that comfort you. Your daddy was a man.
TODD: Also, calls for change.
JHARON FEREBEE, SON OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: We're going to get justice behind this. I appreciate everybody.
TODD: Civil rights advocates calling for law enforcement accountability.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN JR.'S FAMILY: Andrew was killed on justifiably, as many black men in America have been killed, shot in the back.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: You don't need time to get a tape out. Put it out. Let the world see what it is to see. If you've got nothing to hide, then what are you hiding?
TODD: Advocates pledging to pressure Congress and the Justice Department to change police tactics and reduce the deaths of black man in police encounters.
CRUMP: We're going to be going to Washington D.C. arguing for the United States Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Now, another name added to that argument would be Andrew Brown Jr.
TODD: And protesters planning to keep up the pressure to release all the body camera footage in Brown's case. The public has only seen video showing deputies arriving and shouting commands.
Only two family members and one family attorney have seen a short 22- second clip of the incident, and say Brown was shot as he sat in his car and then backed away.
CHANTEL CHERRY LASITER, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN JR.'S FAMILY: At no time in the 20 seconds that we saw when he was threatening the officers in any kind of way.
TODD: The district attorney's version, Brown moved his car backward then forward, making contact with law enforcement both times.
ANDREW WOMBLE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, PASQUOTANK COUNTY: It is then and only then that you were shot.
TODD: And just a short time ago, we got word from an attorney for the Brown family that the Brown family, through its lawyers, we're going to call for the local district attorney, Andrew Womble to recuse himself from the investigation and from the prosecution because they believe Womble has worked to closely with sheriff's deputies. We've reached out to Womble for comment, we've not heard back -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in North Carolina. Thanks very
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.