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House of Representatives Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package with No Republican Votes; Senate Parliamentarian Rules $15 Minimum Wage Increase Cannot be Included in Reconciliation Bill; FDA Expected to Recommend Emergency Use Authorization Johnson & Johnson Single-Dose Coronavirus Vaccine; Conservative Political Action Conference Does Not Invite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Speak at Event; FBI Identifies Suspect in Death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick During January 6th Riot; Ohio High School has Successfully Reopened to In-Person Instruction Despite Not Following All CDC Guidelines concerning COVID-19. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 27, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Saturday, February 27th. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: And we are standing by to hear from President Biden this morning. He's set to speak next hour on the House passing his $1.9 trillion rescue bill. That happened overnight.

BLACKWELL: No Republicans voted for the plan. Two Democrats opposed it. The bill is now headed to a 50-50 Senate. The package passed by the House includes $1,400 in direct checks to Americans making under $75,000 a year, direct aid to small businesses, an increase in the child tax credit, direct funding to state and local governments, funding for schools, more money for vaccine distribution. Now, this version of the bill also has the provision to increase the minimum wage, but that won't make it through the Senate.

Let's go to CNN's White House reporter Jasmine Wright. So, what are we expecting to hear from the president?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden will praise house Democrats for passing that $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill last night in really the first step for -- the important first step for defeating the coronavirus pandemic. This will be the first time that we hear from President Biden since that bill passed late last night. He's slated to speak in the Roosevelt Room. But last night on the White House lawn, talking to CNN, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield spoke about what the bill could do if passed. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: We are extremely hopeful that it is going to pass the House tonight. We believe that it will.

In this bill you've got direct checks, you have $1,400 to finish the job to getting $2,000 checks directly to people who need it the most. You have money to get vaccines and get our vaccination program up and running so that Americans can get shots in arms and we can get this virus under control. So this is critically important aid that's going to crush the virus.


WRIGHT: Now, one White House official tells me that the president today in his remarks will double down on that message, talking about how the passing of this bill will lead to helping the White House scale up on their efforts for vaccinations, help the White House reopen those schools nationwide, two things that they say they want to do again. President Biden has been clear that he views this bill as a necessary tool to accomplishing his top priority, which is defeating this pandemic.

The official tells me that President Biden will also look to the Senate, pressuring them, telling them that this bill needs to move along and along quickly, because we know that House Democrats would like to get this bill on President Biden's desk by March, next month, before those unemployment benefits expire, so that needs to happen quickly. And President Biden will really make the case for the Senate to take up this bill and get it done and have it on his desk. Christi, Victor?

PAUL: Jasmine Wright, good to see you this morning. Thank you, ma'am.

CNN's Daniella Diaz joins us. Daniella, the House has done its job, obviously. Talk to me about, talk to all of us about what is next as it heads into the Senate.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's exactly right, Christi. the House voted very early this morning on passing Biden's massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package. This is a major priority for Biden. This is going to be the first huge piece of legislation for his administration. Two Democrats did not support this legislation, Jared Golden and Kurt Schrader, and no Republicans voted to support this legislation at all. It was a party line vote.

As you guys have talked about, this includes $1,400 stimulus checks, direct funding for state and local governments, as well as additional vaccine distribution funding.

So what happens now? Well, this package will go to the Senate where Chuck Schumer is trying to pass this using budget reconciliation, which means they only need 51 votes in the Senate. But one thing I really want to note is that even though the House voted on this, a $15 minimum wage increase provision will not be included in the Senate version of this bill. That is because the Senate parliamentarian ruled this week that that legislation cannot be included in this package because they're passing it as budget reconciliation.

This is a huge loss for progressive Democrats who are very angry and wanted this included in the legislation. So we'll just have to wait and see how that plays out. There are already talks of them introducing separate legislation on this issue. But the clock is ticking. The Biden administration wants to sign this legislation by mid-March, as my colleague Jasmine was talking, because millions of Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits by mid-March, and the goal is to try to get this legislation passed in the Senate before then.


BLACKWELL: Daniella Diaz for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Daniella.

Jim Tankersley, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" with us now. Jim, good to see you again as well. Let's listen together to Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan. He's a Republican and he's a member of the problem-solver caucus. This is what he said just a bit ago.


REP. PETER MEIJER, (R-MI): Now, this is billed as a COVID stimulus relief package. All the previous COVID relief packages have been overwhelmingly bipartisan. They have been open to debate, to discussion, to negotiation. This was not. And the American Rescue Plan has some good components, maybe $500 billion that are really kind of well-spent money, and then it has another $1.5 trillion that is exceedingly questionable.


PAUL: So, I want to pair that with Jared Golden. He's from Maine, and he is one of the Democrats, one of the two who voted against the bill. He said "During challenging times the country needs its elected leaders to work together to meet the most urgent needs in their community. This bill addresses urgent needs, then buries them under a mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending." Democratic and Republican views here seem to align, which is unusual, for one thing, at least some of them do. Is there credence to the arguments they're making? And what elements of the bill, particularly, are questionable?

JIM TANKERSLEY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, necessary and tailored is often in the eyes of the economist, or the eyes of the beholder. But in this case what you see is a lot of political anger, I think. Republicans did negotiate with Democrats because they had to under President Trump to get a bill. In this case, the Biden administration wants a bill quickly, they want it to move quickly, and so they have essentially taken the Republicans' offer, looked at it, and said it wasn't good enough.

The things that Republicans are objecting to here as wasteful include the more than $300 billion for state and local governments and the more than $400 billion in direct checks. The latter is incredibly popular, and so this is one of the real tricks for Republicans here. They are claiming that this is not targeted spending, but something like 80 percent of Americans want those checks, including a majority of Republicans. So it's a bit of a tricky basket that congressional Republicans are in as they are unified in opposition to this bill even as their own voters are to some degree for it.

PAUL: You mentioned they're unified. This is not the kind of unity, though, that President Biden was talking about. He is going to address this very issue in just about a little less than an hour at this point, we're told. What should his messaging be?

TANKERSLEY: Well, I certainly am not going to tell the president what to say, but I can tell you what the White House has been previewing about his messaging. The messaging is that he is being bipartisan across the country, that the Republican mayors and governors are in favor of this, that, again, you have at least a plurality in some polls, and in some a majority of Republicans who support this measure. And he's saying like congressional Republicans are the ones who are laggards here.

The response to that of course from the Republicans has been, hey, you said you were going to negotiate with us, and you didn't. And that is certainly true. Biden has talked to Republicans, but he has not given them a hand in crafting what would be a much smaller bill if it was a bipartisan compromise that could clear with 60 votes.

PAUL: Which I think is what Representative Meijer was getting at. So, we know this goes to the Senate. The minimum wage is not going to happen there. We know that much. Speaker Pelosi said last night we will not rest, and that's a quote, we will not rest until we pass $15 minimum wage. Senator Tim Kaine yesterday said Democrats are unified about raising the minimum wage, but the reality is they're not. They're actually divided. You've got Manchin and Sinema, too, who say $15 is just too much. Does this have enough oxygen after this to stand on its own as a separate bill?

TANKERSLEY: I think it's going to be very difficult for Democrats to get $15 an hour through as a separate bill. They do not, as you know, have majority support for that in their caucus. But they have support for raising the minimum wage, and there is bipartisan support for raising the minimum wage. The question is, can and will they cut a deal to raise it to something smaller, maybe $10 or $11 an hour, depending, to pick up enough Republicans to do it. Do they include it in a future reconciliation bill at a number may be a little higher than that? Or do they find some sort of work-around in this bill, as Bernie Sanders and Ron Wyden in the Senate are already talking about, some sort of way of penalizing corporations who don't pay $15 an hour to their workers.

PAUL: I want to listen to Representative Pramila Jayapal here, Democrat from Washington and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, talking about this issue.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): So, yes, I think we really believe that it is essential that we deliver on this promise.


Voters are not going to understand if we go back in two years and say, you know what, there's a parliamentarian who told us we couldn't do it, so I'm sorry we couldn't deliver what we promised. That is simply not going to cut it. And this is an emergency for so many of the lowest wage workers in the country.


PAUL: Is it possible to make a firm statement like that and then support it when it comes back around without the minimum wage intact?

TANKERSLEY: Well, there will certainly be pressure to support the bill from Democratic leadership. They cannot afford to lose very many votes in the House if this clears the Senate by the skin of its teeth, which is the only way it's going to clear it.

The question is whether taking part of a victory on minimum wage is enough for progressives, or a promise of a future fight later. And the representative is right, the parliamentarian is a difficult political argument to make. But the true political argument here is that there just aren't 50 Democratic votes in the Senate for a $15 an hour minimum wage, and so the argument Democrats are having are a little bit with themselves. They could do a bunch of tricks to overrule the parliamentarian, legislative maneuvers, budgetary maneuvers. Kamala Harris could override the parliamentarian, but it wouldn't matter if you don't have 50 votes for that provision, and they don't.

PAUL: Jim Tankersley, always appreciate your perspective and your reporting. Thank you for being here.

TANKERSLEY: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Always. There should soon be a new weapon in the fight against questions COVID. The FDA is expected to recommend emergency use authorization for a third vaccine. This one, of course, from Johnson & Johnson. We'll take a look at how soon that may be distributed here in the U.S.

BLACKWELL: Plus, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is going on right now. A live look there in Orlando. This year's theme, America uncanceled. So why have they effectively canceled the most powerful Republican in Washington?



PAUL: It's 15 minutes past the hour, and we are waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will grant that emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The decision could come at any moment, so we're watching it for you. But the FDA says they are moving quickly after an advisory committee did recommend the shots. BLACKWELL: The company says once it's authorized, they could ship out

close to 4 million doses as early as next week. Right now, almost seven percent of the country has been fully vaccinated. Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot would likely bump that number up significantly. We have team coverage following all of the angles of the story. Our correspondents are at mass vaccination sites. Polo Sandoval is in New York, Natasha Chen is near Atlanta.

PAUL: Let's start in New York. Polo, we know the CDC is going to have the final say here on this Johnson & Johnson shot, and that they're scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss. Talk to us about the timeline that's involved here.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, that single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can't come soon enough. I know we say that often, but it really does continue to hold true, especially when you look at the incomes numbers that were highlighted in the latest White House briefing, mainly Dr. Rochelle Walensky, saying what's concerning right now among experts here is that the decline in the number of hospitalizations and the number of new COVID cases, that much needed decline seems to be the slowing or even stalling, and that's highly concerning, especially with these new variants that have been reported on, especially most recently in California and one that's thought to have mutated here in New York.

And it's really why members of the FDA Advisory Committee have voted just yesterday to recommend this Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are really stressing the urgency in terms of getting this authorization as soon as possible so that they can get those doses out to the places that desperately need them, and also to those places that are trying to keep up with demand, including here in Brooklyn, Victor and Christi. We saw people lining up with their appointments even hours before they opened up at 8:00 a.m., and we have seen a steady flow of people here at the New York state largest vaccination site. So many people that they've had to call in members of the Coast Guard, the Air Force. FEMA is here assisting as well.

But the goal here, or at least the hope is that the addition of a third vaccine could almost immediately add up to 4 million more doses to those stockpiles that have been sent out throughout the country. But then there's the other challenge here that health officials are trying to really clear up any kind of misconception about this vaccine with its lower efficacy compared to its other counterparts, Moderna and Pfizer, but as Dr. Matthews (ph) says, the clinical trials here have demonstrated that this vaccine is able to not only keep people alive, but keep them out of the hospital, too.

PAUL: Polo Sandoval, good to know. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Let's get to CNN's Natasha Chen. She's near Atlanta. Natasha, so we heard there were shipping delays with the vaccines because of the weather. How are things going now?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Christi, this is a vaccination site outside of Atlanta, DeKalb County, and it would typically be running on a Saturday until about noon. But today it's running until 4:00. You see the people lined up around the tent behind us. They're getting the Moderna vaccine. Another tent is offering the Pfizer vaccine. And, yes, there were shipping delays because of the winter storm that affected Texas and the Midwest. Of course, this part of the country saw none of that weather, but they're feeling the effects of it nonetheless. They had to delay about six days' worth of scheduled appointments, most of them second doses of the Moderna vaccine. And so, they're playing catchup right now. The public information officer for the DeKalb County Board of Health tells me that, luckily, none of these second doses are being administered beyond the CDC's recommended time window. Here's what he also said about the challenges of catching up with those delays.



ERIC NICKENS JR., DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH SPOKESMAN: It really didn't dawn on a lot of people that that would affect the supply chain for vaccine throughout the country. I'm sure there are going to be many takeaways as everyone does the hot wash moving forward, and hopefully we can learn from those lessons as far as potentially diversifying our options as far as where the vaccine is stored.


CHEN: And he says there are a few frayed nerves here. It's a challenge to keep up with this all. But they're getting back on track.

And of course, right now if we take a look at how Georgia is doing overall as far as vaccinating its residents, this is one of the county-run vaccination sites. The state also has four now, four mass vaccination sites, and the governor says that as of Friday they're seeing about 85 percent capacity at those state-run sites. About 6.6 percent of Georgians are now vaccinated, more than 700,000 fully vaccinated, more than 1.2 million people in the state at least having one shot. So, progress is being made.

And then of course, in a little over a week here in Georgia teachers will become eligible to receive the vaccine as well. So, we can expect a lot more people trying to sign up at that point. Victor and Christi?

PAUL: Good to know, Natasha Chen. Thank you.

So, let's talk about this with New York emergency room physician Dr. Arabia Mollette. Good morning to you, Doctor. It's so good to have you here.


PAUL: So, let's talk about Johnson & Johnson. After just hearing what Natasha was reporting about the difficulty they've had in Georgia, is that one-dose shot when it becomes available a game-changer when it comes to some of the difficulties, they've had in administering the vaccine? MOLLETTE: I think it is a game-changer, and it's because -- for one,

we know the efficacy of the vaccine here in the United States is approximately 70 percent, while in South Africa it was noted to be approximately 58 percent effective or protective against moderate to severe disease. And even though the vaccine did not prevent COVID-19 infections in a vast majority of individuals that received it, however as noted earlier, there was a decrease of at least 85 percent in hospitalizations against the severe disease, deaths, as well as -- sorry, death as well as hospitalizations and severe symptoms of the disease.

So, it is a game-changer, it's one shot. If people do not have an option as far as Pfizer or Moderna, then I suggest that people get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine one-shot deal.

PAUL: And because it's a single dose and when it's approved, or if it's approved, what would you say that might do to the onset of herd immunity that so many have been pushing for? What kind of timeline, how might it expedite the possibility of getting to herd immunity faster because it's a one dose?

MOLLETTE: I would say this, and at the end I think Dr. Fauci has mentioned this last year back in 2020, science doesn't go by dates, it goes by data. And so, we have to be patient and give science a chance to prove itself, because, right now, again, this pandemic, this virus is still relatively new. We're still studying it. We're still discovering things that we didn't know last year and learning different ways of treating this virus. So I would say right now it's kind of hard to say when we will have herd immunity, but, again, science doesn't go by dates, it goes by data.

PAUL: And you're so right that this is such a fluid situation and that's why there's been so many different patches of information where things come out, and that has made it confusing to a lot of people. But we know that we're all doing the best that we can because this is new, and in being new we are seeing another new variant now in New York City, as I understand it, the South African variant is there. Is there anything about that that is particularly concerning to you, that South African variant?

MOLLETTE: Well, as we all know, back in 2020 New York City was the former epicenter of the coronavirus, and so if the New York variant weakens the effectiveness of the vaccine, what's going to be more concerning for me is the more devastating impact it will have on black and brown communities. Black and brown communities already carried the burden, already bared the burden of essential work during the pandemic, as well as are challenged by inequalities in health care. When we have high levels of infection, we are actually giving this virus a lot of chances to adapt itself, and it can cause a delay in recovery from the pandemic.


So, there is room for this virus to have mutations in the genome, which would then make copies of itself slightly different from the original virus. So, we are concerned about it being more contagious and/or evading protection from these vaccines.

PAUL: I think that a lot of people out there who have been vaccinated who wonder am I going to need a booster shot of some sort after this. To that you say what?

MOLLETTE: Again, we have the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, so those are two-dose shots, and they're scheduled for two doses three weeks apart. And so, people, if you have an option to take those vaccines, go ahead and get it, if you can.

But, again, going back to Johnson & Johnson, if the option is that you can take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one shot, take it. The best thing is to protect yourself, continue to wear a mask until more people become vaccinated, and continue to practice physical distancing and be patient and be kind to each other. I think that we have to start really thinking of ourselves, no matter which community you live in, no matter which ethnicity or race, to start thinking of ourselves as a national community, as a national family. We have seen this in other countries around the world when people come together in solidarity to fight against this pandemic. We could do the same here in the United States. We are a great nation.

PAUL: Dr. Arabia Mollette, your expertise and your perspective is important to us. Thank you for taking the time for us today.

MOLLETTE: Thank you for having me. Stay safe.

PAUL: You as well.

BLACKWELL: Former President Donald Trump is set to make his first post-presidency speech at the CPAC. What does his presence and the absence of other top Republicans say about the future of the party?



BLACKWELL: Live pictures, we have them for you, from Orlando, Florida. Let's put them up. Republican politicians, conservative activists are gathered for the annual CPAC. The event is going to feature former President Trump tomorrow. He will make his first speech since leaving the White House. I think this event is called who's the boss, where is my applesauce. Catchy names. We'll get into those.

Joining me now, Republican strategist and president of Robinson Republic PR Brian Robinson, and Tharon Johnson, former south regional director for President Obama's 2012 campaign and president of CEO of Paramount Consulting Group. Gentlemen, welcome back. The three of us have not been together in some time. It's good to see you.


BLACKWELL: Brian, let me start with you and CPAC. Do you see the irony in this being called America Uncanceled and CPAC effectively canceling, not inviting the most powerful Republican in Washington, Mitch McConnell? ROBINSON: Let me start off by saying that I am a great admirer of

Mitch McConnell. I think it would be hard to find a conservative legislative leader who has accomplished more for the conservative agenda in their career than Mitch McConnell has. But this is a private group, and not giving somebody a platform isn't necessarily canceling them. Canceling them is when you seek out to destroy people's career because you disagree with their politics, you want to destroy them personally. I don't see anybody trying to do that in a serious way to --

BLACKWELL: President Trump, did you read the four-page statement?

ROBINSON: -- cancel culture is.

BLACKWELL: But did you read that four-page statement the former President Trump sent out about Mitch McConnell? That would be effectively trying to end his career. He actually calls for it.

ROBINSON: Look, there's an intra-party squabble right here, no doubt about it, and in my opinion, Victor, that inner party squabble is one that is destructive to our goal of winning majorities back in 2022. It's time to move past this. But Mitch McConnell doesn't want to go speak at CPAC. He would get booed there right now. So, it's not like he is begging to be on this platform.

BLACKWELL: Tharon, let me come to you. So, we had Princeton Professor Julian Zelizer on earlier, and he said that President Biden should just ignore whatever the former president says tomorrow, don't focus on him or it. Do you think that's the right strategy?

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTHERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: Absolutely. Not only should he ignore him, he should just not even listen to the speech, because ultimately, he defeated former President Donald Trump. And more importantly, I think that President Biden wants to continue to focus on American people.

Now, what's very interesting is that President Trump really should be taking his time to do some soul searching. The Republican Party should be taking this time to do a political autopsy. But what's going to happen tomorrow is exactly what destroyed the Republican Party, and that is that President Trump is going to get up here and say some of the most divisive things not only to divide the country, but to continue to destroy the Republican Party. So absolutely, President Biden is probably not going to respond to some of the false and baseless claims that I'm sure he's going to make about the president.

BLACKWELL: One of the issues that we're told the president, former president will focus on tomorrow, Brian, is immigration policy. That's if he stays on script. Immigration didn't work for Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Are you convinced it will work in 2022?

ROBINSON: It's an issue that moves Republican voters, particularly in primaries. Look, it's one where the middle of America agreed with a lot of what Republicans are saying. If you look at what Democrats really say, they really are for open borders. They want to allow for an amnesty that would incentivize more border crossings. [10:35:00]

We're already seeing a move toward more border crossings because people in Central and South America thinks that the Biden administration is going to be much more lenient than the Trump administration was. And that is going to cause human suffering for those families trying to do that, particularly those kids. We are creating a problem. Americans want borders and they want a legal immigration system that is fair and makes sense. We are way behind on immigration reform. That is a bipartisan failing. The Republicans stopped stuff that we should have done, and Democrats have stopped stuff that we should have done because they won't bend on amnesty. So, we do need a solution, but, yes, I think it is an effective political tool because most Americans agree with a basis of what Republicans are saying.

BLACKWELL: So, they just had an option to choose Republicans to lead the Senate, the House, and to occupy the White House, and the American people chose Republicans to do none of those things. Tharon, let me give you 15 seconds on open borders and then I want to move to something else.

JOHNSON: I'll be real quick, Victor. President Biden has a plan to make sure that we protect the Dreamers in this country, and we make sure that we have an immigration plan that is very fair. And so I think ultimately, I think the plan is the right move for this country.

BLACKWELL: Tharon, let me stay with you. Can Democrats hold onto majorities next year without delivering on an increase of the federal minimum wage?

JOHNSON: I'll tell you, this, Victor, it is the top issue amongst a lot of Democrats, and not only Democrats. This is an issue that a lot of people in this country agree that we should really increase the minimum wage. We have not increased the federal minimum wage in over a decade. It's been in place since 1938. And so I think that this is going to be something that Democrats are going to focus on, they're going to continue to articulate why it's needed for a lot of our workers right now that are trying to get through this deadly pandemic.

BLACKWELL: Brian, to you. Republicans, are you confident you're on the right side of this argument? The latest Pew poll shows that 67 percent of Americans, two-thirds favor a $15 minimum wage increase. And in an economic crisis, do you want to in 2020 go to the American people and defend blocking more money for families that are struggling?

ROBINSON: I think Republicans would get on board with a more modest increase. What we're talking about is doubling it. And we aren't in an economic crisis, Victor. And what's going to happen when we put a new cost mandate on small businesses who are already struggling? They're going to reduce their workforce. This is going to expedite the move toward automation. More and more often you're going to go to a fast- food restaurant and instead of their being a cashier, you're going to do it on a kiosk. That eliminates jobs. But that is going to be what businesses have to move toward. This has killed job growth. Let's hold off for a bit. Let's let small businesses get through this crisis, and then have an incremental increase.

BLACKWELL: An incremental increase is the plan. This is not going to be $15 starting the day that it's signed.

ROBINSON: It's a doubling in four years. That's a lot.

BLACKWELL: Brian Robinson and Tharon Johnson, I've gone over the time allotted. I thank you both. We'll do this again.

ROBINSON: Thanks, Victor.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Victor.


PAUL: There is new information that we need to tell you in the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. Also, stunning testimony this week that militia groups involved in the Capitol riots were reportedly planning their next attack.



PAUL: The FBI has identified a suspect in the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. This is according to law enforcement officials.

BLACKWELL: As we've reported, the working theory is that rioters sprayed him with bear repellant, and he may have gotten sick from it. The medical examiner's report has not yet been completed. So far more than 300 people have been charged in connection to the January 6th insurrection.

Let's go to CNN's Marshall Cohen. He's live in Washington this morning. So the investigation into Officer Sicknick's death has been weeks now going on since, obviously, early January. What more do you know about where it is now?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, well, guys, there's a possible breakthrough in that investigation into the death of officer Sicknick. The FBI now has video of what they think is their main suspect using those chemical irritants against Sicknick, possibly bear spray, which may have contributed to his death. They still don't know this suspect's name, so clearly the prosecutors have more work to do as they try to build this difficult federal murder case.

It's no easy task. But one case, guys, that is moving forward, that's the case against Jessica Watkins. She's the alleged ringleader of the Oath Keepers conspiracy to attack the Capitol. A federal judge ruled yesterday that she's too dangerous to release and will stay in jail before her trial. Her efforts to recruit and train other militants were a key part of that decision. And Watkins even spoke out yesterday for the first time since her arrest. In a stunning moment, she disavowed the Oath Keepers and said she was going to disband her own militia that she runs in Ohio. Also, I want to show you some horrifying new body cam footage that we

got this week. This is Thomas Webster, who you're going to see on your screen. He's a retired New York City police officer, and this is him allegedly attacking police at the Capitol with a metal pole. At one point he even tackled another officer to the ground and tried to rip away his helmet. Victor and Christi, this is the most shocking part of this video. Webster, who you see on the screen, he used to protect New York City Hall during his career at the NYPD. Guys?

PAUL: Wow. And I know that these Capitol Hill hearings, they showed that police weren't even remotely ready for what we were looking at there. Tell us more about that.

COHEN: It was a long week of hearings, guys. We heard testimony from six current and former security officials.


Some admitted mistakes, others pushed back. There was a lot of frustration to go around. I want to play for you a key moment from Yogananda Pittman, she's the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. Listen to this.


YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: The department was not ignorant of intelligence indicating an attack of the size and scale we encountered on the sixth. There was no such intelligence.


COHEN: There was no such intelligence. And she later went on to point the finger directly at the FBI. But we'll hear from the FBI later this week as well as officials from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. They'll have their chance to tell their side of the story and testify before the Senate on Wednesday. Victor and Christi?

PAUL: My goodness. Marshall Cohen, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, we'll tell you about a public high school in Ohio that's had in-person learning since August. The school is not following all of the CDC guidelines, but it's staying open. Should other schools do the same?

PAUL: And listen, we want to remind you to be sure to watch an all new "Stanley Tucci, Searching for Italy." Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to love the ingredients. You have to caress them. Hi there, ingredient. Hi, love Parmigiano.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both Gino (ph) and Massimo (ph) see these cheeses not as mere products, but precious babies. Ones, happily, that you can eat. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I'm going to do with you, you are just born.

This is the cheese of this morning. It's called Tozone (ph). Taste it. It's unbelievable. It's so good. It's like a mozzarella, no, but less intense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So good. Oh, my God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 550 liters of milk compressed into this every morning.


PAUL: Stanley Tucci, I would love that job. "Stanley Tucci, Searching for Italy" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. eastern.



PAUL: Live pictures here of the White House. President Biden set to speak at the top of the hour here following the passage of that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package overnight. Our Jasmine Wright reports the president is planning to praise this as an important first step.

BLACKWELL: And part of the funding is to help schools return to in- person learning. Let's go to Ohio where the state will return to some form of in-person learning on Monday, every school there. But there's a district near Columbus that has figured out how to safely reopen schools, and they figured this out months ago.

PAUL: CNN's Bianna Golodyrga has more on how the superintendent was able to manage this.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's 9:48 a.m. and time for students at Watkins Memorial High School to get to their next class.

I have to say this is surreal for me to be inside of a high school.

Besides masks and social distancing, it's almost like school before the pandemic hit in Licking County outside of Columbus, Ohio.

MELISSA LADOWITZ, PRINCIPAL, WATKINS MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL: High schoolers typically have a lot more freedom than students in the elementary level, but we knew that we could teach them the new routines and procedures, and that is what it's really all come down to.

GOLODRYGA: Less freedom, but they're here in school, in person, five days a week since August. A lower middle-class rustbelt town where currently 75 percent of the district's 4,500 K through 12 students are in school full-time. To get here, overcrowded hallways are now one way. Students go outside to change classes and allow in fresh air. They've implemented some of the CDC's guidelines, such as masking, cleaning, and contact tracing. But under the guidance of local health officials, they've foregone other recommendations, most significantly cutting the recommended six feet of separation in half.

ALISHA SLEEPER, INSTRUCTIONAL COACH, SOUTHWEST LICKING, OHIO: I'm going to be honest. In the fall I didn't know what to expect. We are going to be all in, we're going to see what happens. The guidance was six feet, and here we are going with three feet. I was scared. And now, over time, I've seen that the spread is not there like we thought it would be.

GOLODRYGA: K through 12 math coach and vice president of the local teachers union, Alicia Sleeper, is frustrated that her own two children, who attend a nearby district, don't have a full in-person option like her students do in Licking County.

SLEEPER: I would love to see my kids in school because they could use these mitigation strategies.

GOLODRYGA: What is your response to many who argue that you're doing this at the expense of teachers and their lives?

SLEEPER: I would ask for teachers to look at the data, to really dive in.

GOLODRYGA: Currently enrollment at Watkins Middle School is over capacity, so they've gotten creative with their use of space.

RYAN BROWN, PRINCIPAL, WATKINS MIDDLE SCHOOL, OHIO: We're currently in our media center. But we've had to use it, multitask. We've turned the back half of it into a classroom.

GOLODRYGA: The district has been vaccinating teachers since mid- February. So far more than 70 percent have received their first dose.

LADOWITZ: I don't think that vaccines are required in order to open schools safely.

GOLODRYGA: They have seen positive COVID-19 cases in schools. The school district says it has less than a two percent positivity infection rate of students and staff. And superintendent Kasey Perkins was confident in her decision to open her schools and keep them open.

SUPERINTENDENT KASEY PERKINS, SOUTHWEST LICKING, OHIO: They haven't had one case all year that has spread from being in schools.


GOLODRYGA: Her message to other school districts still hesitant to reopen, call me.

PERKINS: Come take a look. Come tour our school, see our transition times. Take a look at our classrooms, see our cafeteria. Look at what we've done that we've had success with so you can model it for yourself.

GOLODRYGA: A message fully endorsed by sophomore D'Mya Brown.

D'MYA BROWN, SOPHOMORE, WATKINS MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL: I am really, really grateful that our district was able to open up and allow us back in the school building because I can't imagine how hard it must be for students who are online to not be able to interact with their peers or get one-on-one help from their teachers. They somehow made it work pretty seamlessly.


PAUL: Figured it out. Great reporting from CNN's Bianna Golodyrga. Thank you, there.

And thank you so much for watching. We hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: There is much more ahead in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up after a short break.