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U.S. House Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package; FDA Expected to Authorize Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Saturday; Saudi Crown Prince Approved Khashoggi Killing; U.S. Airstrikes Hit Iran- Backed Militia in Syria; Biden Promises to Help Texas Post-Storms; Latin American Officials in Vaccine Scandal; More than 300 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria; Prince Harry Opens Up to James Corden. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 27, 2021 - 05:00   ET

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


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KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Help is closer for millions of Americans, hurt by the pandemic. We look at what is in a massive aid package that's cleared its first hurdles and what comes next.

Another vaccine could, soon, be on the way in the U.S. We'll explain what makes it different and how soon it could start going into arms.

And Saudi Arabia responds to a U.S. intelligence report on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and where it lays the blame.

Live, from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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BRUNHUBER: Financially struggling Americans are one step closer to getting help, as President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill heads to the Senate.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The yeas are 219. The nays are 212. The bill is passed without objection. A motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

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BRUNHUBER: So that was just after 2:00 am Washington time. It cleared the House of Representatives early Saturday, in a mostly party line vote. No Republicans were for it and two Democrats were against it.

The bill provides billions in various forms of financial assistance, along with money for businesses and schools. Now it'll face changes in the Senate, including removal of a provision raising the minimum wage. A Senate vote is expected next week, followed by a final House vote on the changed Senate version.

In a few hours, U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on that relief bill that just passed the House. But Democrats don't have much time to celebrate because, now, the work begins in the Senate. Congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has more.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took into the early morning hours of Saturday, but Democrats have finally passed that $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, a key priority for President Biden in the early days of his administration.

This is just the first step in the legislative process. It still needs to be passed by the Senate. They will likely change the bill before it goes back to the House for final passage.

This version of the bill that was passed on Saturday does include that increase to $15 an hour of the federal minimum wage. When it makes its way back to the Senate, that will likely be stripped out because of a ruling by the Senate parliamentarians, saying that it cannot be passed under reconciliation which would mean that with only 51 votes in the Senate, which is how this legislation is making its way through Congress.

Aside from the minimum wage, there's still a lot of other important things that Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are really wanting to be a part of the package. That includes an extension of unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to sunset in the middle of March.

Also, an expansion of the child tax credit. And then there's the direct payments to Americans, $1,400 a person for most Americans under a certain income level, getting the full amount of aid to folks to that $2,000 mark, which was a big key debate that happened at the end of 2020.

This is a big priority for Democrats and President Biden but it's something that Republicans are still pushing back in a big way, Republicans very roundly against this in the House of Representatives, most voting against the bill on Saturday.

And it's expected that it will be the same when it makes its way to the Senate as well. But there are more Democrats than Republicans on Capitol Hill right now. They don't need Republicans to pass this legislation and it looks to be the path that this bill will take as it makes its way through the House and Senate.

The leaders up here hoping they have the bill on President Biden's desk by March 14th --- Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

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BRUNHUBER: All right. For perspective, we turn now to Leslie Vinjamuri, the head of the U.S. and the Americas Programme with Chatham House at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and she joins me now, live, from London.

Thanks so much for being here. I want to start with that increase to the minimum wage, even before the Senate parliamentarian ruled against it. Some Democrats were crafting plans for an alternative.

So what do you think happens next, with that?

What's the most realistic way forward here?

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LESLIE VINJAMURI, CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, I think that people have been anticipating that this would be the sticking point, especially, since there is this desire to take it through the budget reconciliation process because it only requires that simple majority.

My guess is that it gets pulled from the legislation simply, to make it possible to pass it in a timely fashion, because, as you know, those unemployment benefits run out for so many Americans in the middle of March.

And the number one priority is really to get that stimulus into the pockets of people across the country, including the $1,400 checks. So, the Democrats in the House have made it pretty clear that it -- even if that minimum wage provision is pulled, they will still pass the bill.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, but I mean, so many Democrats, especially progressive ones, see it as key and it's popular with voters, too. I saw one -- one poll showed that white, non-college men are -- are now basically the only demographic group where a majority are against raising the minimum wage.

So how do Republicans go about opposing it, if it -- if it's, you know, a clear, standalone bill and they can't raise the -- the specter of the swamp of Democratic earmarks?

VINJAMURI: No, it's a really important point. There have -- has been some discussion that, in the Senate, the Democrats might try to use other levers to push large corporations, for example, to -- to -- to use that minimum threshold on the wages by, for example, raising taxes for corporations that don't.

It's going to be very difficult to get this through, you know, in the timeframe that -- that's necessary to really -- to get those, again, those unemployment checks into people's pockets by middle of March.

So, it might be, the loss, which, of course, would be devastating for a lot of Americans. But I think that this Congress will continue to return to the question of raising the minimum wage even if they don't get it through in this very large package.

Remember, at $1.9 billion (sic), this is the large -- second largest fiscal stimulus package in the history of the U.S. to be passed. So, it's very significant and broadly supported by the majority of -- the vast majority of Americans. It's far less partisan amongst the American public, than it is in

Congress where, of course, it's deep -- remains deeply partisan.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, but exactly. That's -- that's what I wanted to ask. I mean, talking about the mechanics of the vote, here, what we saw there, the unanimity of Republicans and, you know, the defections, the two defections, I think, that we saw on the Democratic side.

Does -- does it underline the fragility of the Democratic alliance and the tightrope Biden will have to walk, going forward?

VINJAMURI: It, certainly, does. It shows that, you know, Congress is pushing back, again, against the -- the popular -- the public opinion on this. People want to see that stimulus. The stimulus checks are important. It's capped off at a pretty low level of income. Those working-class Americans need that income.

The aid to states is incredibly important, to small businesses and on vaccine distribution and public health there's a lot in that bill. But the -- in Congress and the House, we -- we have seen that this is really, you know, every single Republican's lined up against it.

And for President Biden, looking forward, of course, this is important because what he wants to be able to do is not only to build bipartisanship, generally but specifically, to get a bipartisan support for those things, like infrastructure, immigration, that he won't be able to pass through budget reconciliation, where he's going to need a -- a much-larger number of Republicans to support legislation.

So it doesn't bode well; however, the number one priority, right now, in the U.S. is really keeping people secure, economically, while we move through the next few months, where that vaccine delivery is looking promising but it's still very behind. It's not where it needs to be, yet.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. All right. Thank you, so much, for joining us, Leslie Vinjamuri, always appreciate it.

VINJAMURI: Thank you. Thanks so much, Kim.

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BRUNHUBER: A new weapon in the battle against the coronavirus could be just days away in the U.S. On Friday, a panel of vaccine advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend an emergency use authorization for the COVID vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

While that's expected to be granted today and it could start going into arms early next week after a few other regulatory steps, CNN's Alexandra Field explains just how important these developments are.

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DR. H. CODY MEISSNER, FDA VACCINES AND RELATED BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We need every tool that we can possibly get to curtail the spread of this pandemic.

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ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Initially Johnson & Johnson won't be able to produce as many shots as the Biden administration had hoped but the ease of the country's first single- dose vaccine should boost critical efforts to vaccinate more Americans.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: The more vaccines that have high efficacy, that we can get into play, the better.

FIELD (voice-over): With the possibility now of a third vaccine in the U.S., health officials say people should get any vaccine they can get. Studies show Johnson & Johnson's is 85 percent effective at protecting against severe illness.

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Also, everybody who got the J&J vaccine, no one was hospitalized and no one died. I know we're so used to the 95 percent number with Moderna and Pfizer, it's a very good, safe and effective vaccine.

FIELD (voice-over): This as new cases and hospitalizations are down significantly from all-time highs. But the CDC says they're seeing a concerning shift. Those declines may be stalling at a high level, with cases increasing for the past three days.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: CDC has been sounding the alarm about the continued spread of variants. We may now be seeing the beginning effects of these variants.

FIELD (voice-over): More Americans are getting vaccinated, more than 2 million in the last day. And more Americans are willing to get vaccinated, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study. But officials remain concerned about a fourth surge.

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The variants that are popping up are not only just evading our immune response. They look like they're going to be more dangerous than the original strain.

FIELD (voice-over): As to whether vaccines could help combat potential new surges, Fauci is saying they can play a big role. They don't have to specifically target a new variant in order to be effective.

FAUCI: Get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can. Everything you throw at us about a mutant is going to be countered by getting people vaccinated.

FIELD: The Biden administration says it's preparing to be able to immediately distribute Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. But before any shots can go in arms, a CDC advisory committee will meet over the weekend to make its recommendation on whether Americans should get it and who should get priority access to it -- in New York, Alexandra Field, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: A long-awaited report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi squarely blames the Saudi crown prince. But MBS won't face any punishment from the U.S. We'll have those details just ahead.

Plus, President Biden says U.S. airstrikes in Syria put Iran on notice. But members of his own party are questioning the legality of the military operation. We'll have a live report, from Baghdad, coming up next. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: A U.S. intelligence report says it flat out: the Saudi crown prince approved the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report isn't new but former president Donald Trump refused to release it.

The Biden administration made it public Friday and announced actions against several Saudis but not the crown prince. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancee was waiting for him outside. She spoke to our Christiane Amanpour.

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HATICE CENGIZ, JAMAL KHASHOGGI'S FIANCEE: I am devastated than ever before. Now I believe he will never come back.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: You tweeted "justice for Jamal" in one of those beautiful pictures that you put out.

CENGIZ: Yes, I took it in our house. I took it, yes, most beautiful picture of Jamal. So I would like to see the world leaders to take action for justice for Jamal, I can say that just now.

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BRUNHUBER: Well, CNN's Nic Robertson is live in London with more.

Nic, Biden has promised, you know, changes are coming. The kingdom will be held accountable.

What do you expect the administration to do?

And -- and what might it mean for U.S.-Saudi relations, which the Biden administration has explicitly said they want to reset?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think it does seem that we're heading into a bumpy period of relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, not something that appears that it's going to break the relationship.

There has been support for the Saudi position from other Gulf states, from Bahrain, from Kuwait, from the United Arab Emirates.

The foreign ministry there, putting out a very terse and, I have to say, very quick, by Saudi standards, statement, saying, you know, again, that the crown prince wasn't responsible, that it's been investigated in Saudi Arabia, that -- that -- that the operatives that were -- that were given the -- given the task, didn't, you know, communicate effectively amongst themselves and -- and -- and went beyond the bounds of what they were told to do. That's Saudi's position.

So, this is an argument now that's sort of playing out in -- in public and that makes the relationship a little bumpy.

How does it go from here?

Well, we're told to expect more from Biden's administration, on Monday. We're told, as well, by Biden's head of communications at the White House that he was very clear with the king, that this -- these sorts of actions won't be tolerated. So, I think, we've really got to see what the next steps are.

BRUNHUBER: But do you think, you know, they can afford to, kind of, conveniently, sort of, sweep this under the -- the -- the rug here, without being called to task, especially, you know, when they are dealing with other nations, like -- like Russia and China, being accused of a double standard here?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I think there is a certain amount of realpolitik. You know, other European nations, allies of the United States, perhaps, Germany less so but France, the U.K., are still doing business with Saudi Arabia.

You know, it was the United States that sat on its report for a couple of years and these other countries will have had their own assessments.

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ROBERTSON: So, I think how they view what the United States has to say about democracy and what President Biden has to say about valuing human rights. And that's -- and that is a, sort of, gives the United States its -- its moral authority around the world to sort of hold other countries to a higher standard.

You know, I think some of that's baked into relationship, already. There -- there is a realpolitik element to it here. But -- but yes, I mean, you know, I think, in the court of international opinion, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has already been judged to be guilty.

So that -- that does put the Biden administration in a bad light when it wants to talk about, you know, the values that it stands up for and reflects. So, this is a very difficult balance, I think, for President Biden, at the moment. And that's, you know, beyond the constraints he may get put on him by

Congress in his relationship with Saudi Arabia going forward. It's in a -- it's in a bumpy moment, right now.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Thanks, again, for your analysis, Nic Robertson, in London.

Some congressional Democrats are pushing back against President Biden for authorizing airstrikes in Syria. They question the legal basis for the strikes, and some are complaining that the administration's notification of Congress was inadequate.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Technically, yes. We were given advanced notification, but it was done in such a manner that it wasn't meaningful notification.

And so, we have gone back to the administration and tried to make sure that, where it's necessary, in the future, that we get more effective notice, in advance.

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BRUNHUBER: But the White House says the president has the constitutional authority to defend U.S. forces. And Mr. Biden said the airstrike sent an important message to Iran and its proxies.

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BIDEN: You can't get -- you can't act with impunity. Be careful.

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BRUNHUBER: The U.S. alleges the border site was used by Iranian-backed militias to smuggle weapons and are the same militias that had been firing rockets at U.S. forces in Iraq, in recent weeks.

And that's where CNN's Arwa Damon joins us from. She is in Baghdad.

Arwa, we have heard condemnation from Syria, from Iran.

What's been the reaction there, in Iraq?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Deafening silence, Kim, mostly, because, even though these were Iraqi Iranian-backed militias that were targeted by the U.S. inside Syria, the Iraqi government really does not want to get dragged into, yet, another page of this ongoing proxy war saga unfolding between the U.S. and Iran.

And it's worth noting that the United States did take the deliberate decision to go after not a target inside Iraq, itself, of which there are plenty, but one that actually was inside Syria.

And it does seem that, among the messages that the U.S. is trying to send is, yes, as we heard from the president, that, you know, these attacks will not be allowed to continue with impunity, that there will be consequences.

But there is, also, another message there, Kim, and that message is that the U.S. does not want to escalate the situation. They do not want to see this taken any further. But they will be responding.

Now this is, though, very much something of the status quo because, for years now, we have been having these indirect mortar and rocket attacks against U.S. interests inside Iraq, the vast majority of them targeting Baghdad's green zone and, of course, the U.S. embassy that is head -- that is based there.

But you do get the sense that, right now, neither side, perhaps, wants to further escalate the situation. And when it comes to the Iraqis, they know the price of being the battlefield for Iran and the United States. They've been paying it, pretty much, ever since the U.S. first set foot here.

And they're stuck because, on the one hand, the United States is a key ally economically, militarily and, on the other hand, Iran is, also, an ally when it comes to the economics, the realities of a shared border, of shared cultural ties.

And so, the Iraqi government would, actually, want nothing more than to be able to fully distance itself from this. And if you ask the population here, they want nothing more than for the United States and for Iran to leave them alone.

But this country finds itself, once again, in a potentially extraordinarily tricky situation. because the other reality that Iraq faces is the force of these Iranian-backed paramilitary forces.

They are formidable, when it comes to their military capabilities. And so, the Iraqis don't necessarily know how to untangle themselves from this or even begin to try to eliminate that kind of an armed force from within their own country.

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DAMON: Because it is, very much or, rather, has become very much a part of the fabric of the armed groups that do exist here. So it's an extraordinarily complicated situation for Iraq.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Well said. Appreciate your insights there, from Baghdad, Arwa Damon. Thanks so much.

A new report by Amnesty International says Eritrean forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in a massacre in Ethiopia, which could constitute crimes against humanity. The human rights organization says it spoke to 41 survivors and witnesses, who say the violence in the Tigray region began after forces captured the city of Axum last year during a religious festival.

Witnesses say they saw house-to-house raids, on-the-spot execution and widespread looting. They also saw Eritrean soldiers shot at anyone who tried to move the bodies of the dead. The report says there could be more than 240 possible victims and

satellite footage of mass burial sites seems to corroborate witness accounts. Eritrea's information minister said the report is utterly false and says Amnesty International often produces false reports on Eritrea. So far, Ethiopia hasn't responded.

One country in Europe says it has too much vaccine in storage. Just ahead, we will find out how Germany expects to step up its vaccine program in the coming days.

And riding the rails takes on new meaning for diplomats trying to leave North Korea. We'll explain, when we return. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: Welcome to all of you watching here, in the United States, Canada and around the world.

U.S. President Joe Biden says he's in it for the long haul when it comes to helping the state of Texas recover from last week's deadly winter storm. While touring the Lone Star State, he promised to not only help Texans rebuild after the severe weather but to help them fight the ongoing COVID crisis. CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.

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ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One week after that severe winter storm battered the state of Texas, leaving millions without power, heat and water, President Biden was on the ground here, in Houston, to get his first in-person assessment of the recovery efforts in the state.

The president was joined by Republican governor Greg Abbott and also senator John Cornyn as the president toured an emergency operations center in Harris County, as well as visited -- visited a food bank.

But the president talked about how the federal government will be long-term partners for Texas, not just in the wake of the storm but also, amid the pandemic and the economic crisis. Take a listen.

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BIDEN: When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it's not a Republican or a Democrat that's hurting. It's our fellow Americans that are hurting. And it's our job to help everyone in need, look out for one another, leave nobody behind.

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SAENZ: The president spoke at a federal mass vaccination site here at NRG Stadium in Houston. This is one of several federally run vaccination centers, as the administration is trying to get more vaccines out to Americans.

This site is expected to administer about 6,000 vaccines a day. And the president talked about some of those logistical challenges that his administration is trying to overcome, as they're trying to get more vaccines out to Americans.

The president said that they are weeks ahead of their delivery schedule, as he is trying to put a keen focus on these vaccinations to get the pandemic under control -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Houston, Texas.

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BRUNHUBER: Germany's health minister says his country needs to step up its vaccination rollout because they have, quote, "too much vaccine in the fridge." Only 4.5 percent of the population have received a first dose. Over 2 percent have received a second. Germany plans to distribute 11 million vaccines across the country by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, a committee on vaccinations in Britain is advising the government to continue its vaccine rollout based on age only. The country is currently vaccinating the nine highest risk groups and advisers feel that prioritizing doses based on other factors, like frontline occupations, would slow the rollout.

For more on that, let's go to London and I am joined by CNN's Scott McLean.

Scott, so, explain what's behind this decision here.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Kim. So, the government says that this all comes down to speed and that, simpler is better. So the U.K. government has already given the first shot of the vaccine to more than one-third of the adult population right now it is focused on getting it out to people over 65 and people of all ages with specific, underlying health conditions that make them more likely to be at serious risk of -- of illness or dying from the virus.

The goal is to offer it to everybody, over 50, by mid-April.

The question, the debate, in this country right now is, who gets it after that?

Because there are certain -- certain demographic groups that are at a higher risk for being hospitalized. We're talking about men, poor people, obese people, certain ethnic minority groups as well.

Not surprisingly, there is, also, a higher risk for people in certain public-facing jobs. And with schools set to go back to in-person learning, in just over a week from now, there were also calls to put teachers at the front of the line. But here's the British health secretary, yesterday, explaining why they won't be.

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MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Thankfully, teachers are no more likely to catch COVID, than any other member of the population who goes to work. And so, trying to come up with a scheme, which prioritizes one professional group over another would have been -- well, would've been complicated.

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MCLEAN: So, while the government says that there may be merit to putting one demographic group, one occupation, ahead of another, ultimately, a complex scheme like that would slow down the very rapid pace of this vaccination effort.

And so, the government, instead, is making the next phase of vaccinations, purely, based on age. They'll start with 40-plus. Then, 30-plus. Ultimately, they want to offer the shot to everybody over the age of 18, by the end of July, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. That's interesting, as you say. Simpler is better. That seems to be the motto for many states, here, that have had successful vaccine rollouts. So maybe, there's something to that. Thanks so much. CNN's Scott McLean, in London.

Access to the coronavirus vaccine is causing an uproar in Latin America.

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BRUNHUBER: Political leaders in three countries have resigned, after using their positions to allow some VIPs to jump the line. Stefano Pozzebon has the details.

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STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three separate scandals are rocking South American politics over what is, essentially, the same issue, the privileged access to the coronavirus vaccine.

The latest one, in Ecuador, where on Friday morning, the local health minister presented his resignation after it became known that the health ministry had offered access to the vaccine to groups linked with the government, such as directors of universities or relatives of government officials.

The same took place in Peru, where, on Friday, a preliminary report declared that over 100 people, either in government or linked with the government, were given access to the vaccine even before that vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the Peruvian health authority.

Now among that group was the former Peruvian health minister, who had resigned. A similar situation took place in Argentina a little over a week ago when the local health minister had to resign, after it became known that a VIP group, with links to the government, had received a vaccine ahead of that country vaccination campaign. It's a similar situation that is repeating itself, all across the

continent in at least three different countries.

Venezuelans have taken a completely different approach. And president Nicolas Maduro declared politicians and government officials a priority category, in its own right. And this is why we are seeing lawmakers already receiving the vaccine, ahead of doctors and nurses -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.

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BRUNHUBER: North Korea is enforcing some of the strictest COVID measures of any country. And that's making it difficult to get even the most basic necessities. It has many diplomats headed home and some of them, well, they've had to get creative, as CNN's Will Ripley explains.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leaving North Korea, in the age of COVID-19, a group of Russian diplomats and their families push a trolley full of their belongings.

This is the final leg of their journey after 32 hours on a train, two more, in a bus. They cross, alone, traveling one kilometer, more than half a mile, creeping across the barren border, back home, to Russia.

CHAD O'CARROLL, KOREA RISK GROUP: A Russian man, who is very sick, was required to cross on the same, kind of, trolley. And it's just a really extreme way to get people from one of North Korea's friendliest allies out.

RIPLEY: If this is how you treat your friends, what does that say about North Korea's view about North Korea's view about COVID?

O'CARROLL: It -- it says that they take no exceptions.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea sealed off its borders at the start of the pandemic more than a year ago. It claims not to have a single confirmed case.

Longtime North Korea watcher, Chad O'Carroll, says supreme leader Kim Jong-un views the virus as an existential threat, fearful of foreigners trying to sneak coronavirus into his country.

O'CARROLL: Because if the virus comes in, it's very likely to create huge havoc. North Korea has a very dilapidated health infrastructure.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Only a handful of foreign diplomats and aid workers remain in Pyongyang. Essentially, nothing is allowed in, cutting off cash flow and supplies.

This week, the U.N. World Food Programme warned it may have to end its work in North Korea this year, stoking fears of another deadly famine, like the one that ravaged the hunger-stricken country more than 25 years ago. On a visit in 2017, I asked a North Korean family how they survived.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We ate tree bark after going up to the mountain for food and wondered just how long we will have to do this.

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RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea still relies on foreign aid to feed many of its people. They remain highly vulnerable to shortages of food and medicine.

ZOE STEPHENS, KORYO TOURS: All of the -- the aid, if that, you know, comes to a halt, it will have an impact on -- on everyone's life, whether -- whether it be people in the countryside or -- or those more well off in Pyongyang.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea tour guide, Zoe Stephens, speaks to me from Tonga, one of just a dozen or so places in the world without a single confirmed COVID case. She understands the extreme measures North Korea is taking to keep the virus out, even if it means treating friends like this -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.

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BRUNHUBER: Another mass kidnapping in Nigeria; this time, hundreds of girls were taken at gunpoint from their school. Coming up, the latest on the search-and-rescue efforts.

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BRUNHUBER: Nigerian authorities are searching for more than 300 girls, who were taken from their school, on Friday. A government official says gunmen stormed a secondary school in Jangebe in northwest Nigeria.

Parents are desperate for their daughters' return. It's the latest kidnapping from schools in recent weeks and it comes nearly seven years after Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok. More than 100 of them are still missing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Isha Sesay is the author of "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," a book about the schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram in 2014 and she is, of course, a former anchor and reporter here at CNN.

It is a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us. First of all, I just want to start, do you have any more details about

this incident?

Who may have been behind it?

Was it a kidnapping by -- by bandits or by ideologues?

ISHA SESAY, BRITISH JOURNALIST: Hi, there, Kim. Thanks for having me. The way it's been described right now is these girls taken from a government boarding school were taken by bandits, which is the -- the common phrasing on the part of government authorities when these things happen in northwestern Nigeria.

But I think, the question we all have to ask ourselves is, with increasing regularity of these school attacks, is this banditry or is it really terrorism?

So, we are playing a game of semantics. What we know is large groups operate in that area and they routinely take people and demand ransom. To date, all we know is that some 317 girls were taken in the early hours of Friday morning.

Parents are distraught. The government's saying that there is a search-and-rescue operation underway to find them.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. So, as you say, that -- that operation's underway. Sometimes, you know, when we -- we saw that case in -- in December, when some, you know, 300 boys were kidnapped. Hundreds were returned. But we -- we never hear about any arrests.

Do we -- do we know what happens to the perpetrators here?

Or should we assume that they're -- they're quietly paid off?

[05:45:00]

SESAY: Yes, that's -- that's a really good question.

What does happen?

Or what's the mechanism that leads to the release of the hostages?

It's generally assumed that a ransom was paid. We know that in Zamfara state specifically, where this abduction happened, this one on Friday, that there have been, I guess, what you could call informal amnesties in place between the government and these groups.

And -- and payments or certainly accommodations have been made when people have been taken. One thing that President Buhari said in a statement, released on Friday, was that local governments need to stop this, kind of, negotiation, if you will, with people who take students or take anyone.

The suggestion, being that there is this accommodation, for lack of a better word, that is leading to this rise in kidnapping. But we don't hear of prosecutions. We don't hear of arrests. We just know that, in cases where people are released, the assumption is that a ransom was paid.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, you have sadly covered this issue, for years.

Why does this keep happening?

I mean, it's hard for -- for many, on the outside, to understand how these -- these schools can't be protected, why it keeps happening, why the government isn't able to -- to respond strongly enough to -- to prevent it.

SESAY: The reality of -- of the situation on the ground in Nigeria is that this is a country, in turmoil. That is indisputable. You have the situation in the northwest, which we're discussing. Banditry or what you would call terrorism, by this stage.

And the taking of people for ransom. You have, in the northeast, Boko Haram and the insurgency, which has been going on for so many years. Famously, brought to the world's attention with the abduction of the Chibok girls in 2014.

You have a problem, between the farmers and the cattle herders, in the middle belt of Nigeria, increasingly, becoming more violent. International crisis groups say that conflict is six times deadlier than what's happening in the northeast with Boko Haram.

You have unrest in the Niger delta, the area known for its oil. There are so many problems at -- at play in Nigeria that the military is, basically, overstretched. And that's what has been cited as this inability for a robust response to these rapid and rapidly escalating abductions.

BRUNHUBER: Before we let you go, I did, definitely, want to ask you about this since you've -- you have written about it. The Chibok girls captured as you say by Boko Haram in 2014. A story you have been following ever since.

Can -- can you give us an update?

SESAY: Yes, I speak to several of them regularly. There are some who actually are here in the United States and doing -- doing well in school here, in the United States.

I think that -- and it's pretty well known that the majority are in a school in northern Nigeria, where they are really trying to get back into the classroom or, rather, carry on with their studies.

And -- and that's the thing that I -- I always like to stress when I talk about the story. There is the assumption that, having been held for so long, that -- that their lives have been broken and that, you know, there is nothing to -- to look forward to.

On the contrary. When it comes to the Chibok girls, those who have returned, there is such incredible resilience, such incredible strength and determination to carry on learning, even though they were stolen from a school. They want to make something of themselves, many of the girls that I have spoken to. And so, every child that is taken, the government needs to do

everything to bring them back so that they, too, can come back and pick up their lives.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. That story, heartbreaking and heartwarming, at the same time with their resilience. Thank you so much for speaking with us. We appreciate it, Isha Sesay.

We are learning 42 people who were kidnapped from another Nigerian school, last week, have been released. That's according to the vice principal of the school in northwest Nigeria.

Witnesses say gunmen stormed the government-run school in Niger state. The released group includes 27 students, teachers and family members.

Prince Harry is opening up like few have seen before. When we come back, we will bring you what he says about leaving the U.K. and his position in the royal family. Stay with us.

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[05:50:00]

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BRUNHUBER: In a rare one on one, Britain's Prince Harry is opening up after stepping back from his royal duties. The Duke of Sussex had a candid conversation with talk show host James Corden, while traveling the streets of California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CORDEN, CBS HOST: I thought this would be a nice way to see L.A., right?

Right. We're going to have a great day. Just pay the fare and hop on up, OK?

HENRY, PRINCE OF WALES: You know, us royals, we don't carry cash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: CNN's Anna Stewart joins me, now, from London.

Anna, what'd we glean from this -- this very unorthodox interview there?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, unorthodox. Really feel what Prince Harry's new life is like in California with his family. We learned lot of interesting facts, like Archie's first word was "crocodile."

Prince Harry calls the duchess Meg and she calls him Haz. We learn that the queen gave Archie a waffle maker for Christmas. But in addition to all that fun, there were some really serious moments, not least when Prince Harry talked about why he left the U.K.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY: It was never -- it was never walking away. It was -- it was stepping back rather than stepping down.

CORDEN: Right.

PRINCE HARRY: You know, it was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like. And it was destroying my mental health.

CORDEN: Really?

PRINCE HARRY: I was like this is toxic.

CORDEN: Yes.

PRINCE HARRY: So, I did what any husband and what any father would do is, I -- I need to get my family out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: Prince Harry's been very open about his feelings towards the British press and his mental health. He also said that he had watched Netflix. That was the first time we had heard that.

And he preferred the fiction of Netflix than what he calls the fiction of his own life, which is how he sees the British media portraying his life or how they did when he was back in the U.K.

[05:55:00]

STEWART: This interview, though, was, of course, very different just from the style of it, very entertaining television. And, of course, it doesn't end here, Kim. Next weekend, we will see the interview they've done with Oprah.

BRUNHUBER: Very interesting. We'll be tuning in for that one. Thank you so much, Anna Stewart, in London. Appreciate it.

And before we go, golfing great, Tiger Woods, is sending word that he's recovering from his injuries in a car wreck, on Tuesday. A post on his Twitter account says he received successful follow-up procedures at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and he is in good spirits.

Now it didn't say what procedures he underwent. Woods had already had emergency surgery to insert a rod, pins and screws into his fractured, right leg and ankle. The 15-time major champ thanked his fans for their support. But the tweet says there won't be more updates, for now. Fans wishing him well there.

Los Angeles police say Lady Gaga's two stolen dogs have been returned, unharmed. They were turned over to a police station in Los Angeles, two nights after they were taken in a brutal robbery. They still don't know who took them or who attacked the singer's dog walker, Wednesday.

That's when the assailant shot the dog walker and drove away with the French bulldogs. Now a source, close to the singer, says the dog walker is recovering well, in hospital. And Lady Gaga calls him a hero. She offered a $0.5 million reward for the return of the dogs.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our viewers in the U.S. and Canada, "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For international viewers, it's "QUEST'S WORLD OF WONDER."