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Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to Begin Shipping; Health Experts Hope Johnson & Johnson Speed Up Vaccinations; Former President Trump Repeats Election Lies During Speech at CPAC; Gov. Cuomo Responds to Allegations of Sexual Harassment; Anti-Coup Protesters March Day After Deadly Crackdown in Myanmar; Reports: Ang San Suu Kyi Faces Third Charge in Court; Hearing Resume for 47 Hong Kong Activists with Subversion. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a third front opens up in America's fight against the coronavirus. We will look at how the new vaccine compares to those already being used.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away


CHURCH: Former President Donald Trump delivers a not so subtle hint to his supporters about his future plans.

An historic shift or business as usual? President Biden is set to detail how his administration will handle Saudi Arabia. That's after a damming report found the Saudi Crown Prince ordered a journalist's brutal murder.

Good to have you with us. Well, we'll start with some good news in the ongoing coronavirus fight. A third vaccine is ready for use across the United States after clearing the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC signed off on the Johnson & Johnson shot after a panel voted to recommend it on Sunday. So just hours from now shipments of the lifesaving vaccine could be rolling out, ready to go into arms this week.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Now that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is authorized here in the United States and the CDC recommends it, what happens next is the official rollout of the third COVID-19 vaccine here in the United States. And here's what that rollout plan looks like.

Johnson & Johnson says it has 3.9 million doses ready to go. Those doses will be allocated to states, retail pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and community vaccine centers. Now this vaccine can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for three months and it requires only one dose.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says in a statement, quote, it is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.

Now we can expect to see this vaccine being distributed and administered. Back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks for that report.

And now at first glance the Johnson & Johnson vaccine isn't as effective as the Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna shots, but according to trial data, it was 86 percent effective in preventing severe illness and 72 percent effective at preventing moderate illness and perhaps the most important stat, it was 100 percent effective at preventing COVID fatalities. No one who got the vaccine during the trial died from the disease. And while some may still hesitate over the numbers, Dr. Anthony Fauci says you should get the shot as fast as you can.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If I were not vaccinated now and I had a choice of getting the J&J vaccine now or waiting for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible for the simple reason what I said a moment ago, we want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and expeditiously as possible.


CHURCH: And this is a welcome development because it adds another weapon in the arsenal to fight COVID. Officials are hoping this means they can get more shots into arms faster. And here's where vaccinations stand in the United States right now. According to the CDC, more than 96 million doses have been distributed to states and more than 75 million have been admin administered yet only 7 1/2 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated.


Dr. Carlos del Rio joins me now. He's an executive associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine. Thank you for talking with us and for all that you do. DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL

OF MEDICINE: Pleasure to talk to you.

CHURCH: So the CDC has now signed off on the Johnson & Johnson single dose COVID vaccine authorizing its use and of course now giving the U.S. three highly effective vaccines. Some people are suggesting though that they would prefer one of the other two, Moderna or Pfizer because their efficacy is higher. What would you say to that?

DEL RIO: I think the one thing to know is that they're all -- the three of them are very good vaccines otherwise the FDA and CDC would not have done the approvals. I think it's hard to compare those vaccines. You know they were tested at different times. They were tested against different strains in different parts of the world. I am very impressed with the results of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It's very effective in preventing severe disease and preventing death. And that to me is really what matters.

CHURCH: And Johnson & Johnson says the company plans to start testing its vaccine on adolescents next week. When they do that, when might that vaccine be available for kids do you think?

I suspect sometime in the fall we will have not only that vaccine but probably also the Moderna and Pfizer will also be available for younger kids sometime in the fall.

CHURCH: All right, well that's really good news. And of course, COVID- 19 hospitalizations have fallen to less than 50,000 for the first time since early November. But that's still around the same level as last summer's surge and now we are learning from the CDC that recent declines in COVID cases may be stalling. Now significant is all of this and how careful do we still need to be?

DEL RIO: I am very concerned, and I think we should still be careful. Things are going well. Cases were dropping, hospitalizations are dropping with the vaccine rolling out and reaching a higher percentage of the population. I think we'll be in a much better place this summer, but we still need to be careful at this point in time. The last thing we need is yet another surge in the summer.

CHURCH: Right and you know, when do you think we will be at the point where those who want a COVID vaccine will be able to get one easily without this scramble for appointments and lining up for vaccinations?

DEL RIO: You know, I think sometime in May. Looking at what states are doing. I would suspect in May or June everybody would be pretty much available to get a vaccine at that point in time.

CHURCH: Dr. Carlos del Rio many thanks for joining us and for explaining a lot of this to us. We appreciate it.

DEL RIO: Glad to be with you.

CHURCH: Well former U.S. President Donald Trump came out swinging in his first public remarks since leaving the White House. That came Sunday as he took to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. In front of his supporters Trump teased a 2024 presidential run even as he remains fixated on the outcome of the last election. Our Jim Acosta has the details now from Orlando.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF U.S. DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Former president Donald Trump closed out this year's CPAC with a speech that was filled with one lie after another. But there was no falsehood bigger than the big lie that he's been telling since November 3rd insisting that he won the election and that is just not the case. Trump went after the Supreme Court, scolding the Justices for not overturning the election results, and he after those Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him urging his voters to throw them out of office the next time they're up for re-election. Here's more of what Trump had to say.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that must be fixed immediately. This election was rigged.

I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we've begun together, we went through a journey like nobody else. There's never been a journey like it. There's never been a journey so successful. We began it together four years ago and it is far from being over.

This alone should be reason enough for Democrats to suffer withering losses in the mid-terms and to lose the White House decisively four years from now.

Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House but that's one of those things. We're not starting new parties. You know they kept saying, he's going to state a brand new party. We have the Republican Party that's going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party. Wouldn't that be brilliant? Let's start a new party and let's divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we're not interested in that.

ACOSTA: And trump teased the possibility that he may run for president once again in 2024.


But he said he will not do so with another political party or a party that he may start on his own telling the crowd at CPAC he that remains a Republican.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Orlando.



CHURCH: And Larry Sabato joins me now. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Always good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So Donald Trump reemerged Sunday from his self-imposed exile persisting with his election lie. The reality is he lost the House, he lost the Senate, he lost the presidency in his four years in office. He can't bring himself to say it out loud, but Republicans must realize surely. Why would they want a loser leading who led a deadly insurrection on his own government leading their party?

SABATO: That's a great question. The people at CPAC by and large are in his cult. They've all had a gallon or two of the Kool-Aid by now. So they're not going to defect from him under any circumstances. And probably just as Senator Mitt Romney said the other day, Trump, if he runs, will probably get the Republican nomination but Trump has fallen considerably with independence, unaligned voters. People were once willing to consider him. They no longer are and that would hurt him badly in a general election.

CHURCH: What was very interesting, there was a CPAC straw poll of attendees and they showed that Trump attracted 55 percent support as choice for the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. Florida's Governor Ron DeSanctis got 21 percent support and other names received only single digit support. But if the party was as united as Trump claims it is, shouldn't he have received closer to 100 percent support.

SABATO: I was surprised that it was 55. Now 55 is nothing to sneeze at and it is a solid majority. And we need to remember, he won the Republican nomination in 2016 during the competitive part with just 38 percent of the vote. So understanding that he has solid majority of support, this is his base, and I would have thought it would have been 70 percent or higher. So we'll have to watch this.

CHURCH: And of course, the big news was Trump saying he will not be starting a new party. He was very keen on that idea at first. Although he's not admitting it. What do you think changed his mind?

SABATO: It's too much trouble. Donald Trump is not a detail person. Anybody who's worked for him will tell you that. Democrats and Republicans have created state laws that make it very difficult for the pie to be split into three or four. They don't welcome additional parties. And I think Trump figured that out and he thinks he has the clout to control the Republicans and he may well.


CHURCH (on camera): Larry Sabato, talking to me earlier.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is apologizing for conduct that he says may have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. His apology comes as he faces growing backlash over two allegations of sexual harassment. CNN's Brynn Gingras reports.


BRYNN GINGRAS CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor Andrew Cuomo apologizing in a statement following allegations of sexual harassment by a former aide. I'll get to that statement in just a minute.

But first those allegations, they're coming from "The New York Times." He spoke to a former aide, 25-year-old charlotte Bennett who says that she had a lot of interactions with the governor but one in particular made her feel uncomfortable. Where she says the governor asked her very personal questions. Like if she had ever been with an older man. And also, she said he said was open to relationships with women in their 20s. And she interpreted these questions, according to a "Times" reporting, as clear overtures for a sexual relationship.

"The Times" also says they have a lot of text messages to corroborate her story. And again, the governor sent another statement about these allegations, and the first time didn't really say I'm sorry, but certainly apologized the second time. I'll read it for you in full.

It says, at work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do on occasion tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at all briefings hundreds of times.

I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, give my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that. To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody, and I never propositioned anybody, and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.

Now we reached to Bennett but didn't hear back. But this is the second time in a week that there have been harassment allegations against the governor. The first one coming last Wednesday against a different former aide, Lindsey Boylan, who said in a medium post that she received an unwanted kiss from Governor Cuomo back in 2018 when she worked with the administration.


She didn't comment further to CNN as well. But you can imagine how this is just more piling up on the governor and who's administration's really is already facing a lot of heat for its handling of nursing home death data during the pandemic. And now an independent investigator will look into these sexual harassment allegations and essentially the Attorney General is pretty happy with that. Because there was a back and forth about whether or not the subpoena powers would be turned over from the executive power which is an important part of an investigation.

The Attorney General releasing a statement that in part says he will hire a law firm. Deputize them as attorneys of our office and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.

I'm Brynn Gingras, CNN, in New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: Myanmar is now one month into its military takeover and a day after a deadly crackdown on protesters. Coming up, we will take a look at situation there as marchers demand democracy, and what we're learning about the fate of the country's deposed leader.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar are marching again despite a bloody police crackdown over the weekend. These images show the protests and police confrontations earlier today. The U.N. reports security forces killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens more on Sunday. It was the deadliest day in Myanmar since the military coup one month ago. In Yangon, people are paying tribute to the victims with flowers and wreaths. We've also learned the country's detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared before a court here in just a short time ago.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from Hong Kong with more on this. So Ivan, what's the latest on these protests in Myanmar as day after the deadly crackdown, and what more are you learning about Suu Kyi's court appearance.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well there's no sign that the deadly violence on Sunday is doing anything to stop the opposition to the now month-old military coup. As you pointed out, the United Nations Human Rights Office estimates a least 18 people were killed in violence on Sunday and this was not just one incident or one or two isolated incidents. According to that U.N. human rights office, it has credible information of deadly violence in at least six different cities and towns across Myanmar which suggests that there was some kind of an order that went out for the security forces to use deadlier violence on a larger scale than we've seen in the previous weeks suggesting that Sunday really is a turning point.

In the past we'd seen a lot of humor used by the protesters. Protesters engaging in cost play, dressing up, for example, with a lot of humor and now we've seen blood in the streets quite literally of at least six different cities.

This is happening as we've gotten reports from Reuters that Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed civilian leader, that she appeared in court via video conference again and that now she faces a third charge in addition to other charges and this is that she's accused of breaking a law which prohibits publishing information that may cause fear or alarm.

She is said to be in good health. Of course, nobody has seen nor really heard from Aung San Suu Kyi since she was detained along with the president and a number of other top officials on February 1st when the military launched its coup.

The violence of Sunday has been condemned by the United Nations Secretary General, by the U.S. Secretary of State. Who published a tweet saying, quote, we condemn the Burmese security

forces abhorrent violence against the people of Burma and will continue to promote accountability for those responsible. We stand firmly with the courageous people of Burma and encourage all countries to speak with one voice in support of their will.

The military has turned off the internet for nine straight nights in an apparent attempt to try to control the message. And according to state media, the security forces are cracking down on what they describe as illegal rioters -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to Ivan Watson bringing the latest on the situation in Myanmar -- also referred to as Burma -- appreciate it.

Well we are following a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok, Thailand, that turned violent on Sunday as police and demonstrators clashed.

A local medical center says at least one police officer was killed. Officers were also among more than a dozen reported injuries. Police used water cannon and tear gas to push back protesters who marched towards a military base where the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha resides. For months, a youth-led movement has been calling for massive reforms in Thailand. They are demanding the Prime Minister's resignation. The dissolution of Parliament and reforms to the monarchy.

And we're also tracking a crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. A court there resumed a hearing last hour for 47 people accused of breaking a national security law over holding an election primary last July.

Leading opposition figure Joshua Wong is among those charged with conspiring to commit subversion. If found guilty, he and other activists could face life in prison. CNN's Will Ripley joins us now with more on this. So Will, what is the latest on this developing story?


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, things have seemed to have calmed down a bit after some tension that was building over the last couple of hours. We've been out here for about 4 1/2 hours or so. And what's extraordinary, well, one for couple of things, this is the largest gathering that I've seen in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed that national security law, by (INAUDIBLE) restrictions on our side and also here (INAUDIBLE) under this law.

So you have the biggest police presence that I've seen without officers in riot gear in quite some time. And you also have as we kind of walk over this way the largest number of protesters that we've seen in a long time. And they have been peaceful. They have been shouting a few insults here and there at the police. There are times that police have gone on loudspeaker warning people that some of the banners that they're displaying, the things that they're saying could lead to their arrest under the national security law. But for the most part, you see you have a line of officers right over

here. People just walking on by. Not to say things couldn't change. For the last several hours it's been relatively stable out here. But there certainly is a lot of anger on the streets of Hong Kong over the arrest of these 47 pro-democracy politicians who are inside the courthouse in west Kowloon right now, seeing a judge. Being told they might have to stay in jail for the next three months because their requests for bail are being denied.

Prosecutors are saying they need more time to put together their case by going through their computer records, their social media profiles. Prosecutors trying to gather as much evidence as they can accusing these pro-democracy politicians of subversion by trying to device a plot to paralyze the Hong Kong government by winning a majority in the legislative council.

That's their crime, Rosemary, holding a primary last year that was postponed because of the pandemic. Saying that the government accusing them that their crime was to win seats, so they shoot things that pro- Beijing government tries to impose on Hong Kong. In other words, the government here was so insecure that enough people in overwhelming numbers would elect these people, they had to disqualify them and basically charge them with crimes to keep them from getting into the government. And that is the reality of life here in Hong Kong in 2021 post COVID, post national security law. The whole one country, two systems thing seems like a distant memory in the rear view, Rosemary, as you look at the developments unfolding here.

CHURCH: An extraordinary situation. CNN's Will Ripley explaining that so well from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well the Biden administration is set to detail how U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia will change. The big question, will the U.S. live up to its pledge to hold Saudi Arabia to account for the killing of a journalist? That story next.