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House Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); FDA Considering Emergency Use Authorization For Third Vaccine; FBI Identifies Suspect In Death Of Capitol Police Officer; Former President Looms Large At Annual Conservative Conference; Tiger Woods In "Good Spirits" After Follow-up Surgeries On Leg. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 27, 2021 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:30]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We're one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school. We're one step closer to getting state and local governments the money they need to prevent massive layoffs for essential workers.

Now, now the bill moves to the United States Senate where I hope it will receive quick action. I have -- we have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.

The American Rescue Plan does just that. It relieves the suffering. And it's time to act. I thank you all for being here. Appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Short and sweet right there from President Biden talking about what is a step in the right direction in his view, a first step with the House approving his $1.9 trillion relief package.

But it has its way now in the Senate and if the Senate were to pass it, then the president can consider this his first legislative victory. But a long way to go, particularly on what will remain included and what will not.

Right now, we know for sure at least $1,400 checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually was approved in this package.

We've got a host of reporters to help us break down what is in this relief plan as it stands, and what are the potential obstacles straight ahead.

Suzanne Malveaux is on Capitol Hill, Joe Johns, David Swerdlick among them.

So Suzanne, let's go to you first. The president remaining optimistic, not saying very much more than these are steps in the right direction. But what is potentially next?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I mean you saw that strategy just play out with the president there to move as quickly as possible, not to wait for Republicans to sign onto this but essentially to push this through. And they have managed to do so very successfully so far.

This vote happened at just after 2:00 in the morning. This was a vote of 219-212, just two Democrats who actually defected crossing party lines, all Republicans remaining opposed to this 591-page proposition here, this COVID relief package.

It is going to be more complicated on the Senate side and that is because of the minimum wage increase of $15 an hour proposal that was ultimately included in the House plan.

The Senate parliamentarian has already rejected this saying it doesn't follow the necessary rules required by what's called reconciliation. That's a simple 51-vote majority as opposed to the normal 60. She says this does not -- that provision does not meet those requirements, so it's got to be stripped away. So the Senate very likely will not include that.

That doesn't mean, Fred, however that there are some senators who won't put it forward. But we do know at least two Democratic senators: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as Sinema of Arizona, they're not for that. So that is going to be a very difficult sell.

There's also a lot of House Democrats who are very frustrated, very angry that they do not see that federal -- the minimum wage increase actually getting in this this go-around. They have called to replace the parliamentarian, to fire the parliamentarian, for the vice president to overrule the parliamentarian.

There are no indications, Fred, that the administration is willing to do that. And so very likely what you're going to see coming from the Senate side is a bill very similar, but without that minimum wage increase.

We've already heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday early in the morning saying, yes, they will go ahead and pass that legislation, sign that legislation because it is so critical to the American people. And that they'll deal with the minimum wage increase potentially separately.

We have heard talk about a Plan B from Senator Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders and others who are saying potentially let's put on penalties for companies who are not paying their workers at least $15 an hour. Let's take away their tax breaks, let's provide incentives to small businesses to actually increase those wages. There are different ways of doing this.

[11:04:54]

MALVEAUX: And there's also a proposal on the table by Clyburn -- Representative Clyburn on the House side, saying let's whip up our members and let's see if we can put a standalone bill for that minimum wage increase at a later date.

So they we are not giving up on that fight. But they are looking at this passage of potentially this massive bill.

The date, March 14th is really the goal here. That is when unemployment benefits run out for 11 million Americans. They want that on the president's desk by then, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And on that minimum wage provision, it's not that a sizable majority of lawmakers don't want a minimum wage increase. It's the $15 portion. So perhaps the next legislation or proposal that includes and is directly about the minimum wage increase, it might mean $10 or $12, but we'll see how that goes.

So Joe Johns at the White House, that was a very brief statement coming from the president. Perhaps just like a comma, knowing that there is still a long way to go on the road for this legislation and for his signature, possibly by mid-March.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, speaking to people here at the White House, Fred, I can tell you that the strategy on a Saturday when the president is getting ready to fly off to Delaware for the weekend, to give such a short, concise statement, is essentially to try to bypass the filters, bypass the filters of not just the media covering the president, but also the filters up on Capitol Hill and try to reach those people directly out in the states, out in the congressional districts, where there is opposition up on Capitol Hill to this bill.

The hope is that people, even in Trump country, will understand that what they see in the demographics and the polling is that there are a lot of people in the Republican side who support this bill, despite the fact that there's so much opposition up on the Hill.

One staffer even pointed out to me today that you've got to remember, President Trump himself supported a $2,000 direct payment to Americans there at the end of his tenure.

So this is the focus, to try to reach directly to the people in these states and districts where there is support for this bill. Now, that goes without saying that there are a lot of Democrats up on Capitol Hill, as Suzanne was mentioning, who are upset about the fact that this $15 minimum wage might not be included in the bill.

But there's also this understanding among Democrats that this is Joe Biden's first big initiative and there aren't a lot of people up on Capitol Hill who are going to want to cross him.

So this brief speech today was all about getting rid of the filters, Fred. WHITFIELD: And we've got a graphic of what is in this proposal from

your $1,400, you know, in stimulus checks to you know, unemployment aid, especially before that deadline is reached mid-March, assistance for small businesses, money going to states, as well as localities for their schools.

Matt Egan, this is a massive, you know, bill at nearly $2 trillion. Yes, there, you know, is, you know, a lot of criticism even from at least two Democrats in the House who say it's just simply too much money.

So what are the obstacles ahead particularly as it reaches the Senate?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, that's right, Fred.

This is a massive bill and I think that is what is kind of surprising is when President Biden first introduced this, there was a thought that, ok, this is what he wants, but it's going to get watered down. And at least what we've seen is in the House he's getting pretty much everything that he wants.

And to the point about why it's so popular, even among some Republicans, at least Republican voters, is those stimulus checks. I mean $1,400 direct payments on top of the $600 payments -- $600 payments that were approved in December, the $400 boost to federal unemployment, and also there's some real aid that's going to state and local governments.

That's a big deal because it could really prevent some layoffs in those areas.

I think that the issue in the Senate, of course, as we've been talking about, the minimum wage, it hasn't been raised since 2009. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour.

The last time it was raised, just to give you some context, in 2009, some of the top movies back then were "Fast and Furious" and "Avatar". It's been a long time.

The question is whether or not they can sort of reach a compromise on perhaps something around, you know, $10, $11, $12. $15 -- that's probably not going to get the support that it needs, not even from moderate Democrats. So that is the key.

But I think big picture, Fred, this is a significant win for President Biden and it does appear as though he's going to have a good shot of getting a lot of this passed through the Senate.

[11:09:57]

WHITFIELD: So far.

And so, David, while the president wants there to be bipartisan support, at the same time he doesn't want to alienate any Democrats. He can't afford to lose any in the Senate. So, you know, what signals is he sending? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Fred.

Well, first off, I was struck by the fact that President Biden's speech was on time, on message. He didn't take a victory lap, but he did mark it as progress. It's a marked difference from the previous administration.

In terms of keeping Democrats onboard, I think that ultimately it is going to be hard to get that minimum wage portion of the bill through, but as everyone else has said, Democrats look on track to get a lot of the rest of the president's legislation through if they hold onto senator Manchin and Senator Sinema.

And so it's about negotiating within the party. There was a point here where Republicans came to the White House and made that $600 billion offer, which wasn't a serious offer, and it excused Democrats in a way from taking them seriously.

So now this negotiation is taking place between moderates like Sinema and Manchin, and the more progressive Democrats in the House who want the full bill.

WHITFIELD: That's a fascinating point of view.

CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz also joining us now. So Arlette, you know, with the Capitol siege, impeachment, you know, all that has transpired in the last month -- month and a half, this also kind of paves the way for this president to say this is a turning point, now let's start anew.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. And the president was very clear heading into his time in the White House that he wanted there to be action quickly when it comes to providing relief to American families.

And this passage through the House is just the next step to reach that phase. Of course, there could be still some uphill battles over in the Senate as there are expected to be some amendments and possible changes.

But ultimately the president is getting ever closer to passing this legislation, which marks that first major legislative item that he's trying to push through Congress.

Now, of course, the White House has said that he's disappointed that that $15 federal minimum wage is not included due to those rules from the Senate parliamentarian, and you have to remember that Biden himself is a creature of the Senate and he's an institutionalist.

So any idea that the vice president would have potentially overturned that ruling from the parliamentary is just something that wasn't necessarily going to fly with this White House. They said that they are not going to be pursuing that path.

I think that one thing that you've heard from Republicans, their knock on this bill, is you heard this from the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy yesterday, is that there really wasn't any bipartisan or Republican give and take with this measure.

The president prided himself during the campaign that he would be able to pursue bipartisanship. But right now, as this bill is now heading over to the Senate, it still appears as if the White House is prepared to get this through Congress without Republican support.

Now, just a little over a week ago, the president said he's willing to hear ideas about how to make it less expensive and better. But we'll see if there's still any actual room for negotiation with Republicans as this measure is reaching the Senate.

But certainly, the president is getting just one step closer to providing that relief to the American people, and also state and local communities, which he said would be central in the opening days of his administration.

WHITFIELD: And Suzanne, while there may not be the kind of bipartisan consensus that the president would like to see on Capitol Hill, there is sort of a bipartisan consensus among Americans who say they desperately need some relief.

So while this bill makes its way to the Senate, there will be some changes made and then it makes its way back to the house. Explain what the process and what the road ahead potentially is.

MALVEAUX: Sure, Fred. And one of the things that's really important to the Biden administration is that they're looking at those polls. They're looking at what Americans think and they know and they can see, there's a great deal of support for some sort of massive relief, some sort of help on the way.

And so they're quite comfortable with moving forward without the Republicans despite the pledges that President Biden has made to work across the aisle. One of the things Republicans are saying, it's not targeted enough, that it is too expensive, and that one of the things that we have been seeing and will hopefully continue to see is an economy that is taking a turn, vaccinations more and more getting into the arms of Americans, students returning to school, that there is a sense potentially of progress on the way, and therefore they don't want to throw as much money as the Democrats have at this.

[11:14:55]

MALVEAUX: But if you even just take a listen to Republican mayors as well as governors, they too, are on the side of this massive COVID relief package. They say it is not a partisan issue.

And so what you'll see is, yes, the back and forth as the Senate grapples with the particular legislation, very likely you will not see that minimum wage increase in the ultimate package. It is just too big a fight. That will happen for another day and we'll see just how that plays out.

And hopefully what the goal is, at least from the Democrats, is that you do have this signed and on the president's desk by that critical deadline, that March 14th deadline, when 11 million plus Americans are going to see their unemployment insurance actually expire, among many other benefits as well, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks to all of you. Really appreciate it. Suzanne Malveaux, Joe Johns, Matt Egan, Arlette Saenz, David Swerdlick. Appreciate it.

All right. Straight ahead, the bill still has a long way to go. Will the Democrats be able to get this to the president's desk in time?

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi joining me live next.

Plus the U.S. is on the cusp of a third COVID vaccine. I'll talk to one of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial participants, Dr. Leana Wen, about what this means in the fight against COVID.

[11:16:13]

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WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

President Biden COVID relief bill is heading for the Senate. The House passed the $1.9 trillion legislation early this morning. And then just moments ago, the president applauded the progress in a brief statement from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Good morning, folks.

For a few weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of the American public has made it clear that they support my American Rescue Plan. The House of Representatives took the first step toward making it a reality.

I want to thank, and I called her just a few moments ago, Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary -- Speaker Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership and all those who supported our plan. And with their vote we're one step closer to vaccinating the nation. We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. And one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them.

We're one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We're one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school. And we're one step closer to getting state and local governments the money they need to prevent massive layoffs for essential workers.

Now -- now the bill moves to the United States Senate where I hope it will receive quick action. I have -- we have no time to waste. If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus, we can finally get our economy moving again.

And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering. The American Rescue Plan does just that, it relieves the suffering. And it's time to act. I thank you all for being here. Appreciate it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And that was the totality of the president's remarks at the top of the hour. Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi joins us now from Chicago. Congressman, so good to see you.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So, does it appear to you that the president is taking a rather cautious approach here, talking about this is one step closer? And if so, that you think he's moving cautiously, why do you think so?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's prudent to be cautious because it isn't law yet. And so I'm very -- I'm thrilled that the house passed this incredible relief plan under Speaker Pelosi's leadership. But it still needs to be passed in the Senate, and of course signed into law.

WHITFIELD: Unemployment benefits expiring in just a matter of weeks. Americans are suffering greatly. The president wants to sign this proposed American Rescue Plan by March 14th.

In your view, can it get done after going through those measures you just mentioned, the Senate and possibly back to the House and a signature by the president in time?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely. I think that at this point, you know, it goes to the Senate, the Senate will take it up, I'm sure expeditiously, and then it will get signed into law.

You know, Fredricka, 18 million people are still collecting unemployment benefits today and 11 million of them would see their benefits expire on March 14th if we don't get this done. So it's imperative that we move with all deliberate speed right now.

WHITFIELD: So it sounds like you don't believe the Senate will make any kind of changes, that they will take it as is, and they will vote for it and that will give enough time for it to make it to the president?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, they might make some changes. As you know, unfortunately the Senate parliamentarian did issue a ruling, an advisory opinion, with regard to whether the minimum wage of $15 an hour would remain. I believe that we have to pass this part of the bill because, you know, $7.25 an hour are poverty wages. Nobody is going to escape poverty.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: But that might also be the opposite -- right.

I mean while it's still in the proposal, there's an expectation that the Senate will take that out and they might vote or make some amendments in other fashions, but --

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's right. WHITFIELD: -- it's likely that the minimum wage increase, that is just going to have to be another provision, another proposal at another time?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. And in any case, I hope that either Senator Bernie Sanders or Ron Wyden or someone else introduces a measure to encourage corporations and businesses to adopt a $15 minimum wage over time because that's the right thing to do. $7.25 an hour is completely unacceptable.

[11:24:57]

WHITFIELD: As the Senate might just put its fingerprints on it, what are your concerns that might be taken away? What are the obstacles, as you see it?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that -- look, almost 80 percent of Americans support this bill, including 60 percent of Republicans. And so if Republicans oppose this bill, they're going against their constituents' wishes.

I think much of it is going to pass intact and it can't come a day too soon because, as you know, families are hurting, businesses are struggling, and of course we need to get everyone vaccinated and tested.

And this particular bill provides essential relief in all those regards. And so we've just got to get it done.

WHITFIELD: Let me change the subject, if you don't mind. I want to talk to you about this recently released unclassified report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And you stood on the House Intel Committee, how are you hoping this administration will handle Saudi Arabia?

Because the administration, the president has already said, you know, it's not likely to intend to pursue the Crown Prince directly.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I'm glad that the president declassified this report. The American people and the world need to know that the Crown Prince ordered this particular assassination and brutal and heinous murder of a journalist.

I personally believe that we should put some sanctions on MBS, who is the Crown Prince. This is thuggish behavior. It's completely beyond the pale. And we have to send a strong message that freedom of the press is essential for any country to operate. And certainly, this person happened to be an American resident, to boot. So we have to send a strong message to the Saudi regime.

WHITFIELD: At the same time, do you see that this administration is treading -- or feels it has to tread lightly, given the military obligations and relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, even though it certainly sends a strong signal that this administration released this report that really had been buried, had been completed for the last two years during the last administration? KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that we have to walk and chew gum in our

diplomacy and diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. I think that they rely on us more than we on them. But all that being said, in this particular instance, we know that the Crown Prince ordered the capture or killing of this journalist.

Remember, this person was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and his body was dismembered with a bone saw. And so in this particular instance, I think we have to send a strong message. And I don't think we can countenance or tolerate this type of behavior, regardless of where it comes from.

WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much. Appreciate you being with us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And at any moment now, the U.S. could have a third COVID vaccine. The latest on the expected authorization next.

[11:28:14]

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WHITFIELD: A third coronavirus vaccine could be authorized for emergency use here in the U.S. at any moment now. The FDA working to finalize its decision on Johnson & Johnson's single dose vaccine candidate right now. A CDC panel will then meet tomorrow to determine whether Americans should get the vaccine and who should get priority access. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to sign off on the recommendations by Monday.

Federal officials say nearly four million doses will be available immediately, which could increase vaccination for states by 25 percent.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and a former Baltimore City health commissioner. She's also participating in the clinical trial for Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Good to see you, Doctor.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAN ANALYST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. So in your view and based on your experience now, will this third vaccine be a potential game-changer?

DR. WEN: Absolutely, Fred. And here's why.

First of all, it's important for us to have any new vaccine, because supply is a limiting factor. And so now that we know that there is another vaccine that appears to be safe and very effective, especially at preventing severe disease, because that's what we care about.

We should keep in mind that this vaccine in clinical trials prevented 100 percent of severe disease that was serious enough to cause hospitalization and death. That's really important. And also having a single dose, really important, too, because the simpler your logistics, the easier it is going to be to distribute the vaccine. And the fact that this vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months at a time also simplifies matters a lot and allows for community pharmacies, for regular doctors' offices to have this vaccine for their patients.

WHITFIELD: And playing a role in the trials, your own personal experience. Do you know whether you had the vaccine or whether you had a placebo, and can you describe what you felt, you know, what kind of physical experiences did you have?

[11:34:44]

DR. WEN: So I am in the two-dose arm of the trial. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being studied both as a one dose -- one shot, and a two dose. To see if one dose can be really effective, but will two doses be even more effective. Could you get longer immune protection.

I am -- all the participants are blinded, and so I don't know whether I got two doses of the placebo or two doses of the vaccine. I understand that at some point I am going to be unblinded.

I frankly had no symptoms with the injection, although that doesn't necessarily mean anything. There are some people who have very robust immune responses with no symptoms, some who have quite substantial symptoms. And so we'll see what I got. I'm very excited to find out.

WHITFIELD: My goodness. I imagine you're kind of on the edge of your seat. This is quite the mystery.

All right. So officials, you know, say, you know, having a third vaccine approved for emergency use will certainly, you know, increase the vaccine supply dramatically. How important in your view is it for people to, you know, take the first vaccine that is available to them, even if they are, you know, waiting for a single shot, you know, wherever they are in line?

DR. WEN: Yes. It's a really good question, and I've had this conversation with my patients where people are asking well, which vaccine should I be taking, what are the pros and cons of all the vaccines.

Here is the thing. First of all, supply is the limiting factor, and so we don't really have the choice. And the second thing, too, is the vaccines are not tested head-to-head with one another.

And so there's not really a way for us to say at this point this vaccine is better for you for the following reasons. It may be over time that we find out more.

For example, maybe we find out that people with certain immune conditions or people of a certain age do better with one vaccine over another. We don't have those data, and so it's really critical for you to protect yourself, to get whatever vaccine you have access to, and then over time you can get a booster shot. You can get the other vaccine.

Whatever may happen in the future, that's great. But let's protect ourselves and also that allows us to come to an end of this pandemic a lot faster.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Right now is really key. So a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that a majority of adults have been or now want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 22 percent of Americans still say they want to wait and see and would be more likely to get a vaccine that requires only one dose.

So could Johnson & Johnson's single dose vaccine really help address those who are so hesitant?

DR. Wen; It could, although I am very worried about the vaccine hesitancy that we still have. And the vaccine hesitancy is due to a lot of reasons, as you and I have talked about, that it's not monolithic.

I think there are some people who may be anti-science and anti- vaccine, don't vaccinate their children. I think there maybe other people who have really specific concerns and it's really important for us not only as clinicians and providers, but also as everyday people to talk to our friends, our family members, our colleagues, because we are the most trusted messenger to someone else that we know.

And it's important to approach people with empathy and compassion for where they may be coming from. How we answer someone who says I don't want to get a vaccine now, I want to wait and see, is very different from someone who has a specific concern, for example, thinking that they might get coronavirus from the coronavirus vaccine, which is not true. This vaccine does not contain a live virus.

But understanding the root of their concern and addressing that with compassion is really important.

WHITFIELD: CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, you know, we might be seeing the beginning effects of the spread of these new, you know, coronavirus variants in the recent increase of new cases across the country. So how concerned are you about states beginning to lift restrictions?

DR. WEN: I'm concerned, because I don't think that we are anywhere close to being out of the woods yet. We're actually seeing that after a substantial decline in the number of cases and hospitalizations that we may be plateauing, but we are plateauing at a really high level. Actually at the level that we were before the massive surge over the holidays.

And so this is really not the time to be letting up, especially on something like mask wearing. Of all things, masks are what allow us to keep our schools open, to get our businesses back. We really should not be removing mask mandates at this time.

WHITFIELD: And then let me ask you this. You know, a rally against anti-Asian hate will be held in New York City this afternoon amid that troubling rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. You opened up back in June about the racist messages that you had been receiving when, you know, you would come on television giving people advice.

How disheartening is this to see that this is widespread hate?

DR. WEN: I mean it's a major problem. I've spoken to colleagues who are doctors and nurses who have had patients spit on them or tell them that they refuse to be treated by someone who brought coronavirus, in their words, to this country, who don't believe their advice because of how they look, that they might look like they are of Asian heritage.

And of course, we've seen these violent attacks against Asian- Americans that I think are in large part spurred by fear and by stigma.

[11:39:58]

DR. WEN: And I think this is why the World Health Organization, for example, is so specific about saying we should not be naming diseases or strains after a people or after a country of origin or even the animal they may be associated with, because the fear is -- and that kind of hate is really misplaced and extremely dangerous.

WHITFIELD: So true. All right. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much and thanks for all that you do.

DR. WEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the FBI has identified a suspect in the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick killed in the siege on January 6th. We'll have details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. The FBI has identified a suspect in the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. Law enforcement officials are telling CNN this kind of information that investigators are still waiting on the report from the medical examiner and a full toxicology report.

[11:44:55]

WHITFIELD: CNN's Marshall Cohen has been following the developments. So Marshall, what do investigators know and what are they readying to impart right now?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Fred. It's kind of a good news, bad news situation. The good news is after scrambling for almost two months now to find footage of the attack on Officer Sicknick, the FBI according to sources now does have video of what they think is the moment that that chemical spray, possible Bayer Spray was used against officer Sicknick. That's a key part of their investigation.

Here's the tough part, they don't actually know this person's name yet. They have not apparently identified the name of the suspect, their identity obviously would be a key part of bringing a charge. So things are moving forward. It has been an uphill climb, though.

You know, the Justice Department has brought more than 300 cases in connection with the riot. Nothing yet on the Sicknick death and, you know, that's an important one.

So they're going to keep moving forward. They have this video in hand now and, you know, we'll just have to wait and see what they do with it.

And of course, Fred, it's hard to bring a federal murder charge, but that's not their only option if they don't think they can bring that case, they could always pursue assaulting an officer or other charges.

So they're going to try to find justice here one way or another. And we'll stay on top of it.

WHITFIELD: They're likely to be -- they're likely also to be looking for the cooperation of those who have been arrested or who are already facing charges to assist them in identifying who that subject is.

Marshall Cohen in Washington, thanks so much.

All right. At the annual CPAC conference, there was no question who the face of the Republican Party is. Next, how the former president is still front and center -- some say he's golden.

[11:46:44]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The Conservative Political Action Committee Conference known as CPAC is under way and now it's on its second day in Orlando, Florida. And even though he's no longer president, Donald Trump is looming large, prompting some to say perhaps the conference should be renamed TPAC.

CNN chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Look around this year's Conservative Political Action Conference --

ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: TPAC -- it's what it feels like, guys.

ACOSTA: And it's clear much of the Republican Party still sees Donald Trump as something of a golden idol who will lead the GOP back to the White House.

TOMMY ZEGAN, TRUMP STATUE DESIGNER: I think he was the greatest president that's lived.

ACOSTA: Despite Trump's role in the bloody siege at the Capitol on January 6th.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.

ACOSTA: CPAC's chief organizer Matt Schlapp handed the president a prime speaking slot, closing out the conference Sunday.

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: I like the fact he wants to stay engaged. Now, you can say that he lost the election but his supporters, 73 million --

ACOSTA (on camera): Well, he did lose the election.

SCHLAPP: You can say that he lost the election --

ACOSTA: He did lose the election.

SCHLAPP: Yes, yes. But I'm not quibbling that.

ACOSTA (voice over): But Schlapp insists Trump shouldn't be held responsible for the deadly insurrection.

(on camera): He gave a speech and then there was a violent insurrection at the Capitol. How is that not true.

SCHLAPP: You don't know -- you simply don't know what you're talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work for CNN. Look at me (ph) straight.

ACOSTA: After our interview some CPAC attendees became irate, many of them refusing to believe Trump incited any violence.

(on camera): Don't you feel Trump is at all responsible for that?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGER FARINA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No. Not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

FARINA: Not at all.

ACOSTA: Do you still believe that Donald Trump won the election?

FARINA: Yes.

ACOSTA (voice over): And still believing his big lie that he won the election, a falsehood the former president is expected to repeat this weekend.

SANY DASH, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, what did he do? I mean, he's out there doing a rally. I mean, you've got a bunch of nutcases going out there.

ACOSTA: Trump's presence is overshadowing the other presidential wannabes at the conference like Senator Ted Cruz who made light of his trip to Cancun while constituents were freezing to death in Texas. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): I got to say, Orlando is awesome. It's not as nice as Cancun, but it's nice.

In the immortal words of William Wallace, "Freedom".

ACOSTA: This chaotic post presidency has twisted the GOP into a pretzel with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he could support another Trump campaign.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The nominee of the party, absolutely.

ACOSTA: even though he just condemned the former president right after his impeachment trial.

MCCONNELL: President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.

ACOSTA (on camera): And there were sessions at the CPAC dedicated to advancing Trump's big lie that he won the election, when that's obviously not the case. And Senator Josh Hawley at one point received a standing ovation when he defended his attempts to overturn the election results.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- Orlando.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Also coming up, days after a serious car accident, golfer Tiger Woods has been moved to another L.A. Hospital to carry on with his recovery. Some hopeful news, next.

[11:54:29]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Some hopeful news.

Tiger Woods is in good spirits as he recovers from several surgeries following his very serious car accident earlier in the week. According to his Twitter feed the procedures were successful and he is now recovering.

On Thursday, Woods was transferred to Cedar Sinai, which has a renowned sports rehabilitation institute.

We're all, of course, wishing him the best.

All right. Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with two major developments in the fight against the COVID pandemic.

First President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. Last hour the president made a very brief appearance praising the House of Representatives for passing the bill early this morning and then urging the U.S. Senate to quickly follow suit.

[12:00:00]

BIDEN: We have no time to waste. If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus.