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Dramatic Spike in How Long Migrant Children Are Being Held; Pressure Mounts Amid "Overwhelming" Migrant Surge on Border; Former Gov. Charlie Crist (D-Fl) Discusses Texts Showing Vaccine Tent for Wealthy Community Set Up to Help DeSantis Politically; Emotional Please to LeBron James to Publicly Endorse Vaccine; CNN: Markle Made Former Complaint to Piers Morgan's TV Network; Black Britons on Royal Racism: Markle "Laying It Bare"; Soon, Congress to Pass Biden's Massive $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Including CNN correspondent, Rosa Flores, who is on the border in Donna, Texas, and Jonathan Blitzer, who is a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and who has covered this extensively.

Rosa, to you first.

We are hearing from the Biden border czar. She is reticent to call this a crisis. That's not what she's calling it.

She does admit that because of the policies of the Biden administration, which look objectively more humane than the Trump administration, that may have attracted more people to come to the border.

But then there's also this question about, do they have what they need, are they responding appropriately to deal with the influx, especially of unaccompanied minors?

Tell us what you thought about what she said and what you're seeing there on the ground, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brianna, what really stood out to me is that a lot of what she talked about are medium to long- term solutions to this problem.

I didn't hear much about what is going to be dope right now to deal with the increase of migrants.

In the past four weeks, more than 100,000 either arrests or encounters have happened here along the border. And so what are those solutions?

And, like you said, she did contest that because of the change in policy, because, like you said, objectively, it is more humane under the Biden administration, could they have foreseen something like this and prepared for it?

You know, this is nothing new, having surges across the border. We've covered a multiple of these.

And we know what usually happens. After the surge, then extra Border Patrol agents, extra reinforcements are brought in to deal with the issue, to process migrants, to be able to process them through the system.

One of the biggest concerns of courses involves children. Under U.S. law children cannot be held for more than 72 hours.

And we know, based on reporting from my colleague, Priscilla Alverez, that that is not happening. Migrant children are staying in facilities for much longer than that. So, that of course, also.

If we were to look at the long-term solution to this, the big question is, well, at some point, is Congress going to invest in some of these facilities so that the proper facilities can be used to process these migrants timely?

I don't know if we have pictures. But there are tweets that were tweeted out by the chief of patrol here at Border Patrol in south Texas.

And you'll see that these migrants are coming in, in large groups. And they are being received under a bridge. They have to wait there to be transported. Again, this has happened before.

So, while the medium and long-term solutions are great, what is being done now to make sure that this area has the resources to deal with this problem, regardless, if you call it a crisis or a challenge?

KEILAR: Jonathan, what stood out to you?

JONATHAN BLITZER, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": First of all, Roberta Jacobson is talking about a regional approach in Central America. And I don't fault her, per se, for not going into details about how the U.S. government is processing people specifically at the border. It's not exactly her arena.

I'm happy to hear kind of more holistic-minded view of how to address this problem in the region. I think it's important. And it has to happen simultaneously to measures being taken at the border itself.

At the border itself, what struck me that was left out of that press conference, and a context that I think is important to include here, is the fact that you have -- the regular exodus from Central America, which we've seen before, which will continue, which never ceased to be a problem.

In addition to that, you have the fact of an unprecedented global pandemic. People in the region are reeling from that. You have two recent hurricanes.

You have a change in administration, which doesn't just mean that there's a moment of opportunity for people to come to the U.S. because of their perception of a more humane border policy in the new administration.

But also you're talking about an outgoing administration that has, quite frankly, devastated the asylum system and the government's processing capacity at the border.

So right now, what the current administration is dealing with is both all of these other factors and all of the humanitarian consequences of all these other factors.

Plus the fact that you had an outgoing administration that effectively froze tens of thousands of people in northern Mexico for the last year and change.

And so mixed among the people who are arriving at the border now are, of course, also tens of thousands of people who have been there already waiting.

So, I don't envy the current administration, the sort of policy conundrum of how to deal with it all.

And I think Nora's (sic) right to point out that the main thing we should all be paying attention to is the amount of time children are spending in the facilities run by Border Patrol, by Customs and Border Protection.

You want to minimize the amount of time that children spend in those facilities. They're not made to deal with children.

[13:35:01]

And so the priority for the administration is to get children out of those facilities and into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked specifically with dealing with unaccompanied immigrant children. That's the thing to look out for.

I know HHS is trying its best. And, look, there are flaws in how it's responding to the problem.

But I just mean to supply a little bit more context around the fact that they are trying to create these emergency influx facilities to deal with the new arrivals.

But, again, remember, HHS right now has 13,000-plus beds available for unaccompanied children. Because of the pandemic, they can only use 60 percent of that capacity.

So, there's a whole slew of complications to deal with.

I don't dispute for one second that we're dealing with a crisis. I just think our sense of what the crisis is has to predate this very specific moment in which we find ourselves.

KEILAR: That's a very good point, Jonathan.

We appreciate you joining us for that. Jonathan Blitzer, thank you.

Rosa Flores, on the ground in Texas, thank you.

Underway right now, the House is now voting on the massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. It's one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history. Stand by for the final result.

Plus, CNN is learning that Meghan Markle filed a formal complaint against Piers Morgan's TV network just before he stormed off and quit his show.

And damning text messages show a vaccine tent was set up outside a wealthy Florida community to help Governor Ron DeSantis politically.

This is CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:40:53]

KEILAR: A vaccine scandal is rocking Florida politics. A Manatee County commissioner and a developer are being criticized for organizing a vaccine drive for residents in two primary zip codes with a largely white, wealthy population.

Explosive text messages between the two talk about how the event would give Governor Ron DeSantis more exposure for the 2022 election.

Democratic congressman and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist, is joining us now. He is considering a second run for governor.

Congressman, thank you for being with us.

You requested that the Department of Justice investigate Governor DeSantis and whether the vaccine drives benefitted his political allies and donors. Have you heard back from the DOJ?

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): No, Brianna, not as yet. I anticipate that we will hear shortly.

The new attorney general, Merrick Garland, is being sworn in today. And so I'm sending him a letter this afternoon that will remake that request to investigate what Governor DeSantis is doing in terms of the distribution of the vaccines in Florida.

And try to get to the bottom of the fact of whether or not what this is doing is, in essence, picking winners and losers in Florida, those who get vaccinated, those who do not.

And, as you said in your intro, they're targeting what they call pop- ups in wealthy, white, Republican neighborhoods in Florida. And doing so for the political gain of the governor which is absolutely unconscionable.

They talk about, in these texts you referred to, you know, '22, meaning 2022, his re-election opportunity is just around the corner. And so it's clear and obvious to me that this is inappropriate, that

it's immoral.

Because what's happening here, if the governor is choosing who gets the vaccines first, those are people who more likely than not are going to live.

And those on the flip side of that coin, the darker side of the coin, if you will, are the ones who potentially have a greater opportunity to die.

This is life and death, Brianna. It's unbelievable that anyone would use that for a political gain.

This is supposed to be fair, straightforward, honest, and done right. And as they say, do the right thing.

Right now, it looks to me completely as though Governor DeSantis is doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason at the wrong time. And that's bad for people.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: DeSantis says that your request is just politically motivated since you are considering a run for governor. Surely, you cannot deny that there's a political advantage in making this argument that you're making.

CRIST: There's a people advantage at making this argument today. I'm trying to make sure that my fellow Floridians get the vaccine equitably, fairly distributed to them, and not on an unequal basis as the governor is doing right now.

This has nothing to do with politics. This has everything to do with people. We're supposed to have a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And for Governor DeSantis, it's all about politics. And it's an abuse of office. It is absolutely wrong to be doing this.

And when you are in a life-and-death situation, it's beyond wrong. It's outrageous.

And I just can't believe that they're doing this. I can't believe that the text messages were found, which then went to the "Tampa Bay Times," and now to you.

And thank god that happened, that good journalists are doing their job and finding the truth of what went down here. It's unbelievable.

I hope the new attorney general, Merrick Garland, will get our letter this afternoon, requesting that he launch an investigation by the Department of Justice of the United States of America, into what's going on in Florida with Governor DeSantis' office and the distribution of these life-saving vaccines.

(CROSSTALK)

CRIST: It's a miracle we have them.

Go ahead.

KEILAR: No, it is a miracle. And I think people can agree that they should not be favored politically as they're handed out.

There are a lot of Floridians who say that Governor DeSantis, they think he's doing a good job in the pandemic. What do you say to them?

CRIST: Well, they just heard about this today, if they've heard about it today, or they're watching CNN right now. They're just hearing this being revealed. And it's outrageous.

And if you hear this revealed and you see the character of the man that's in the governor's office right now, you can't help but be disappointed and heartbroken.

[13:45:06]

I mean, as to the minority citizens of Manatee County, Florida, where this happened, at Lakewood Ranch, the ones that are Hispanic, the ones that are black that aren't getting this kind of attention.

And what's reason why? Well, it sure looks right now that it's purely political. So maybe his numbers were high yesterday. I don't think they're high today.

KEILAR: I want to thank you so much for coming on. Congressman Charlie Crist, appreciate it.

CRIST: My pleasure, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: An emotional plea to NBA super star, LeBron James, to break his silence on whether he plans to get a COVID vaccination.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith makes his plea to James in pointing to the disproportionate rate of which black Americans are dying from the coronavirus in doing so.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN A. SMITH, COMMENTATOR, ESPN: This COVID pandemic and its impact on the African-American community has made me rethink the hesitation I once had. Primarily, on keeping things like this so private.

Why is simple. It's because people are dying. My people are dying.

LeBron James has done almost everything right since he entered the National Basketball Association. He's spoken out and been on the right side on huge issues impacting the black community over and over and over again. He's been a leader, an influencer. LeBron James has been an example. I

encourage him to continue to be that shining example on this. Again, it's necessary.

King James, it really is necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And here is what LeBron James had to say over the weekend about making his COVID vaccination decision public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, NBA BASKETBALL STAR: That's a conversation, you know, that my family and I will have, you know, and pretty much keep that to a private thing.

Obviously, Adam had his comments about the vaccination and what not.

But days like that, when you decide to do something, that's a conversation between you and your family, and not for everybody. So I'll keep it that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Jemele Hill is joining us to talk about this. She is a contributing writer for "The Atlantic" and she is the host of the "Jemele Hill Is Unbothered" podcast. And she's also a co-host of "Stick to Sports."

Jemele, how are people in the sports world reacting overall to Smith's plea for LeBron James to go public with his vaccination plans?

JEMELE HILL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC" & HOST, "JEMELE HILL IS UNBOTHERED" PODCAST & CO-HOST, "STICK TO SPORTS": Well, I mean, I think certainly a lot of people understand why Stephen A. Smith, my former colleague, would say that.

Because he is right. The rate in which the pandemic has affected the African-American community has been staggering.

And so there's certainly been a push from our health officials that people in a prominent position should make it known that they plan to get vaccinated.

For the record, I plan to get vaccinated.

So, I understand where Stephen is coming from. But on the other side of it, I think we need to allow LeBron James a little bit of grace and, frankly, a little bit of privacy.

As he pointed out, LeBron has been there on the front lines for virtually every issue or a number of issues that impact our community. And I understand why people would want to pull him into this one.

But he's right, this is a personal, private decision. This is concerning his health.

I know that when people are celebrities and I know when they are in his position, we feel entitled to know everything that they do. But I think there are certain issues where they have a right to not always let us into their world.

We see what LeBron James has done when it comes to political issues, what he just did with voting, how he still remains engaged in trying to fight voter suppression.

Do we have to put everything on LeBron James' shoulder? I know that he's a very prominent figure in our community, but he's also not a public health official. He's not in charge of vaccinations.

Yes, his endorsement will probably mean a lot. But there will be a number of other black athletes that I'm sure will step to the forefront and talk about being vaccinated.

As it is, we've seen the vice president, Kamala Harris. Last I checked, she was black. She's been vaccinated.

So there's a number of people already I think in this arena who are more than willing to show other people in the African-American community that it's safe to get this vaccination.

KEILAR: If he decides not to get vaccinated and that decision became public, how do you think that could impact black Americans who are on the fence about getting vaccinated or are really leaning towards not getting vaccinated?

HILL: Well, one, though, I think we need to not unfairly target the African-American community.

And it we're going discuss why there's a reluctance, then we need to discuss why, and we need to discuss how, generally, out public health system has failed this community, our community.

[13:50:03]

And so we need to have that conversation rather than point the fingers at black people who are a little reluctant to get vaccinated.

I mean, can you blame them, looking at the history of inequity in the health care system in this system?

I certainly understand a lot of the reservations. And because of that, I feel like that's where we need to kind of center what the conversation in on.

But, you know, listen, I don't know if people, given how polarizing the vaccination has been, I don't know that people who are on the fence, there's a certain reluctance there's going to always carry.

And I don't know if LeBron James is going to push them in one direction of another. Because that's to say that, yes, it would be great if, certainly, he came forward and says, hey, I'm getting vaccinated. I'm sure some people, they will look at his decision and say, OK, maybe this is something I should at least investigate further.

But to then put him in a position where he can be blamed in either direction, I think, is really being very unfair to somebody who has been a strong leader in our community.

KEILAR: Yes. I know a lot of people, they'll be waiting. Either way, they're going to waiting to see what he does.

Jemele, thanks for coming on. It's always great to have you.

Under way right now, the House voting on the massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Stand by because we are awaiting the results.

Plus, black Britons react to the racist allegations against the royal family as we learn that Meghan Markle made a formal complaint against Piers Morgan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: CNN has learned that Meghan Markle made a formal complaint to British broadcaster, ITV, about Piers Morgan's comments about her mental health.

The ITV network announcing on Tuesday that Morgan would lose the program that he hosted, "Good Morning, Britain," after he casted doubt on whether Meghan had suicidal thoughts, one of the major revelations from her blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Here's what Morgan said about Markle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERS MORGAN, FORMER ITV HOST, "GOOD MORNING, BRITAIN": Who did she go to? What did they say to you?

I'm sorry. I don't believe a word she says, Meghan Markle.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: I wouldn't believe her if she read the weather report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: U.K. regulator, Ofcom, launching an investigation after receiving more than 41,000 complaints related to Morgan's comments.

I want to bring in CNN's royal correspondent, Max Foster, covering this for us from Windsor, England.

Max, what more are you learning about Markle's complaint?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have these multiple complaints that went into Ofcom, which is the independent regulator responsible for keep impartiality, really, on news programs like Piers Morgan's.

The thing is Piers Morgan has always been pushing and pushing the opinion sort of anchor position on that show and it's always become an issue for Ofcom. So that's what they're dealing with right now.

He had a meeting with the chief executive with ITV. And then, after that, he resigned.

And the assumption being that he was asked to apologize for his remarks in relation to Meghan Markle and he wouldn't do that.

[13:55:03]

Even today he is saying he will not be apologizing for that. He sees it as a freedom of speech issue.

The duchess sees it differently. She sees it as an issue of mental health awareness.

So he doesn't believe her story about feeling suicidal. She feels that's damaging to other people -- she's not necessarily talking about herself -- and how seriously people take mental-health issues.

That's why she made a complaint, not to Ofcom, incidentally, but directly to ITV.

ITV aren't commenting on how that played into the Piers Morgan discussion, as it were, which resulted in him leaving the program. But that's where we're at.

The duchess' side very much of the view, I think, probably, that this is a public-policy issue. It's not about this row that's existed for some time between Piers and Meghan.

KEILAR: Max Foster, in England, thank you so much.

I want to bring in now Momodou Taal, who is host of "The Malcolm Effect" podcast and is a social activist now living in Cairo. He grew up in the U.K.

And you call the royal family, quote, "the lasting remnant of a brutal British empire."

Tell us what you mean. And tell us how that related to what you have been seeing play out in the last few days.

MOMODOU TAAL, HOST, "THE MALCOLM EFFECT PODCAST & SOCIAL ACTIVIST: Thank you so much for having me, Brianna.

I mean, I'm unaware of the American kind of viewership in relation to the story and how it's been broken around the interview. And it's been framed as, this is a shocking revelation.

And people have asked me, am I shocked that there are accusations of racism leveled at the royal family?

And my only response to that is, am I shocked that a country that refuses to acknowledge its role in the trans-Atlantic slave tried is potentially racist?

Am I shocked that a country that roots its national identity in a brutal empire that propelled itself to become an economic global house, powerhouse, around the world, on the back -- on the backs of forced labor of, all too often, black and brown bodies is now potentially racist?

I grew up in the U.K. and I can tell you that white supremacy is embedded into the social fabric of that country.

So I -- a find it quite laughable, the suggestion that it's revelation of the royal family that represents racism and white supremacy.

That institution, at its helm, is a figurehead that, all too often, engaged in violent acts and tried to cover up those violent acts that we know.

Right now, in 2021, we have a prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is on the record to having called black people having watermelon smiles, who refer to black people as pickaninnies, who said that he feels uncomfortable and unsafe when he goes out at nighttime when he sees black boys at nighttime.

So, of course, I'm not shocked.

I know that was a very long-winded answer to the question --

KEILAR: No --

TAAL: -- but that is how I feel, Brianna.

KEILAR: No, I appreciate your answer. And a lot of people agree with you. You are not alone in this assessment when they look at the history of the monarch, and when they look at the history of Britain.

This statement that came out from Buckingham Palace called the allegations of racism concerning. And it went on to say, "While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously, and will be addressed by the family privately."

I mean, what is your reaction to that statement, and what is your expectation of how this will be handled?

TAAL: It is expected -- and for all of us who know that family is wrapped up and engulfed in secrecy.

But whenever their backs are against the wall, they stay kind of refer -- they kind of go back and say, this is a family affair, and will be dealt privately.

I mean, I find it laughable when Boris Johnson was asked, our current prime minister, what do you think of the interview? He said, I haven't watched it but racism has no part to play in our society.

Those who are black and brown, like myself, from minority ethnic groups, we intimately know what racism looks like. And we intimately can relate to the charges that Meghan has stated against that family.

There was no concerns over how light the baby would be but rather concerns over how dark the baby would be. The nuance is in the language.

KEILAR: Momodou Taal, I want to thank you so much for joining us from Cairo to discuss this.

TAAL: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

TAAL: Thank you so much for having me.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

It is the top of the hour. I am Brianna Keilar. And thank you so much for joining me.

We are moments away from seeing the final results as the House is voting on whether to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill.

[13:59:59]

If passed, it would just need his signature to become officially one of the largest relief programs in American history. The White House says that the signing is set for Friday.

And this legislation will provide a new round of direct payments to many Americans.