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House to Vote on Covid Relief Bill; America's Battle Against COVID-19 Raging On; Migrant Surge on Southern U.S. Border; Brazil Reports a Record 1,972 Deaths in One Day; Buckingham Palace Responds to Prince Harry and Meghan's Interview; Piers Morgan Storms Off Set, Quits Morning Show. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 10, 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, Joe Biden's massive COVID relief bill is expected to pass in the House today. Meaning much needed economic aid could find its way into Americans' bank accounts in a matter of days.

Also ahead, a growing crisis at the U.S. southern border as officials call for reinforcements to handle a migrant surge.

And Buckingham Palace breaks its silence. Responding to that bombshell Harry and Meghan interview. We're live in Windsor this hour with the details.

Thanks for joining us. Well, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to hold a final vote on President Joe Biden's massive COVID relief package just hours from now. The House is expected to pass the updated bill with the Senate's revisions. The stimulus package is huge, not only in price tag at $1.9 trillion, but also in its expected impact. Democrats from progressives to moderates are united in their support.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This is the most significant legislation for working people that has been passed in decades.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Tremendous piece of legislation that going to create an awful lot of employment all across this country.


CHURCH: And Republicans, too, are united in their opposition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Socialist wish list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a left of Lenin, neo-socialist wish list. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- it is a left wing giveaway. It is a left

wing social agenda.


CHURCH: No Republicans so far are getting behind the bill, should it pass, Americans waiting for relief could be days away from receiving direct payments.

Well, the sweeping legislation is expected to help millions of Americans, of course. And as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports it's also an early victory for the Biden administration.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well in just a matter of hours, President Biden is going to secure the cornerstone legislative achievement of his first hundred days in office. And on day 50, the U.S. House is expected to pass his sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. His top priority from the moment he set foot in the oval office. What his administration has been working both publicly and behind the scenes every single day since they set foot in the oval office.

Now this proposal, when I say sweeping, it most certainly is. Whether it's direct payments, whether it's hundreds of billions of dollars, for schools, for vaccine development, for testing programs, all across the board. Including several proposals -- several provisions that go much further than I think many Democrats ever thought they would get. They're temporary. But when you talk about the expansions of the child tax credit, or the earned income tax credit. These are policy proposals Democrats have been trying to find a way to get into law for years now, and they're about to. Again, on a temporary basis. But they are about to.

Now one of the biggest questions right now for tens of millions of Americans is, how long is it going to take to get those stimulus checks. Right now, the president has said he expects them out by the end of the month. I'm told the timeline is about to shrink on that thought. The administration wants to get those checks out in days, or at least a couple of weeks. And they're going to build on what the last administration was able to put in place.

Keep in mind, the stimulus checks have gone out twice before. The Treasure Department, the IRS, with a lot of information already on hand to deliver direct deposits, or if they don't have bank account information, be able to send paper checks or debit card. Expect that to happen quickly. One thing that will be different from the last administration, there won't be the president's name on any of those checks. Obviously, it was a priority for former President Trump, not so much for Biden. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're doing everything in our power to expedite the payments and not delay them. Which is white president's name will not appear on the memo line of this round of stimulus checks. The checks will be signed by a career official at the Bureau of Fiscal Service. This is not about him. This is about the American people getting relief all almost 160 million of them.

MATTINGLY: So as you can see a little bit of a different approach. To hear from President Biden, probably not much of a shock when you compare how the two presidents have approached this issue. One thing both presidents will achieve though, a sweeping very large coronavirus relief package.

Democrats, though, the only ones getting behind this package. No Republicans voted for the package in the Senate. No Republicans are expected to vote in the House. So obviously, wide bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate during President Biden's predecessor's time, in a different time.


But certainly, underscoring that this was a Democratic priority and a big win for President Biden.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And while millions of Americans wait for their COVID relief checks, many states are rushing to reopen. Among them, Texas, despite warnings from health officials, the Lone Star state is lifting its mask mandate today. Texas is also allowing business to open at 100 percent capacity.

Meanwhile in Alaska, the governor has announced that vaccines are now available to anyone living or working in the state who is at least 16 years old. That makes Alaska the first state to give all of its residence access to COVID-19 vaccines.

And starting Monday, teachers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. will be eligible to receive vaccines. It is a big step forward for schools trying to return to in-person learning. CNN's Nick Watt has more on the nation's efforts to battle the virus.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly 10 percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated. And there are now CDC guidelines for what they can and still cannot do. But --

CARLOS DEL RIO, EXEC. ASSOC. DEAN, EMORY UNIV. SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: I was a little disappointed that they didn't say anything about travel.

WATT (voice-over): We're told the CDC talked about travel, but there was never a momentum behind a change. Official advice remains just don't. Still, more than 5 million people flew these past five days.

DEL RIO: Already people are traveling, their spring break coming up. I think it's important to tell people how to travel.

WATT (voice-over): About 60 percent of Americans 65 and older the demo in deepest danger have had at least one dose of vaccine. Rhode Island now plans to get at least one dose into all teachers and school staff before the end of the month.

GOV. DAN MCKEE (D-RI): We're going to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that we salvage some of the school year.

WATT (voice-over): This country is now averaging under 60,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, dropped 14 percent in just a week. But --

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: No guarantee that just because we're ramping up our vaccine at record levels nearly every day that we're completely out of the woods.

WATT (voice-over): No more mask mandate in Texas and businesses can open without restriction. Many say they will still ask customers to mask up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see the conflict coming in. The cops will be stuck in the middle just like we always are.

WATT (voice-over): The Magnolia school board outskirts of Houston just voted on what to do about masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have God given rights. And it is time that you guys understand that the masks need to go away.

WATT (voice-over): The decision, no more masks as of April 1st.

By the way, nearly 14 percent of tests are coming back positive in the Lone Star State. Five or under suggests the virus is under control.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: Let's not lose sight of the fact, people are going to get the virus and people are going to die.

WATT: Now, the governor of the state of Ohio has now designated March 9th as a day of remembrance, marking the first anniversary of the first COVID death in that state. Governor of New Jersey also says that March 9th now and going forward will be COVID-19 heroes day. We're still not out of this. But we're already figuring out how we'll remember what we've been through. And those who didn't make it.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: U.S. agents have encountered or arrested more than 100,000 migrants on the southern border over the past month. The most for that time frame in five years. That's according to data obtained by CNN. Most were single adults, but there was also a spike in the number of children and families. Officials are scrambling to deal with the influx which the governor of Texas has blamed on the White House. He says the Biden administration has created a crisis at our southern border through open border policies that give the green light to dangerous cartels and other criminal activity.

On Tuesday, the White House defended its actions and discouraged further border crossings.


PSAKI: We are continuing to work to convey to people in the region that this is not the time to come. That the majority of people who come to the border will be turned away, which is factually accurate. And what we're really talking about in terms of the people who are being let in are unaccompanied children. That is a policy decision which we made because we felt it was the most humane approach to addressing what are very difficult circumstances in the region. And that means there are more children, kids under the age of 18, of course, coming across the border.


CHURCH: The White House press secretary refused to call the situation a crisis, but said it is a challenge they're working to address.


CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with some of the migrants now seeking asylum in the U.S.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a tent city near the U.S.-Mexico border, Lijia Giselle Amador Zavala waits with her two children. She says she left Honduras nine months ago to seek asylum in the United States.

Lijia said she jumped the border two times illegally because of desperation to find work. Both times she was sent back to Mexico. Now, she says she'll wait for a legal way to cross. The anticipation spreading through this tent city in Tijuana, Mexico

speaks to the hope these migrants have that the Biden ministration will be more receptive to their plights.

Sandra Caballero says she has spent a year sitting on the border's edge with her husband and three children. She says they left the endless crisis of violence in Honduras to seek asylum. Sandra tells us she hopes President Biden will open the door to the border because we need a better future for our children.

The increasing surge of migrants on the southern border is reaching emergency levels for the Biden administration. U.S. authorities have arrested and encountered more than a hundred thousand migrants in the four weeks before March 3rd. The highest levels for that same time period in at least five years.

And new data reviewed by CNN shows there are more than 3,400 unaccompanied children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. Federal immigration officials are scrambling to make room.

LAVANDERA: We're here on the town Donna, Texas on the Mexico border, and the CDP has opened up this massive tent facility. LAVANDERA (voice-over): LAVANDERA (voice over): This temporary

processing site for migrants was opened just over a month ago. A Homeland Security official told CNN the facility is significantly overcrowded mostly with children. Republicans and some Democrats say the Biden administration isn't moving fast enough to keep the migration crisis under control.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R) TEXAS: They are completely unprepared for what is going on in the border now and they're going to be even more unprepared for what will be happening in the coming months.

LAVANDERA (voice over): The Biden administration says the majority of migrants are being turned away at the border and refuse to describe the situation as a crisis.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I don't think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed is a top priority for the president.

LAVANDERA (voice over): But many more families are being allowed to wait in the U.S. for their immigration court dates. We met Jose at a church shelter. We were asked to protect his identity. He says desperation and fear is driving them to the border. He left Honduras with his son three months ago.

LAVANDERA: Did you see a lot of children traveling by themselves?

LAVANDERA (voice over): Jose tells us he saw many children along the way begging or cleaning windows for money. He says not all of them will be lucky enough to make it.

LAVANDERA: Critics of the Biden administration say that the president is not acting fast enough to get the migration situation under control on the U.S. southern border. President Biden and his team insist what they're trying to do is develop a much more humanitarian approach to immigration here in this country.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


CHURCH: It has been almost a year since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Now, officials are conceding that perhaps they should have warned more about the dangers of COVID-19, but that some countries did not listen to the warnings when they were given.


DR. MIKE RYAN, EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME EXEC. DIR. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Perception of risk is very much about the perceptive you have and the risk you have. Unfortunately, if you're in the valley of the damn, you're at risk, and you take action. If you're standing on a mountain top you don't feel the same level of risk until the water is right. And I fear too many countries thought they were standing on the mountain top and watching the waters rise to consume and overwhelm others. And what everyone didn't realize is the waters rolls to consume them.

We have to ask ourselves, yes, maybe, we need to shout louder, but maybe some people need hearing aids.


Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that globally, more than 117 million people are known to have been infected. And more than 2.5 million have lost their lives. A toll difficult to imagine, of course, one year ago.

Well, a fast-spreading coronavirus variant and a slow-paced vaccine rollout appear to have worsened the COVID crisis in Brazil. On Tuesday alone, the country reported nearly 2,000 deaths from the virus. Its worse daily death toll since the pandemic began.

Brazil remains one of the hardest hit countries, with the third highest number of infections. And the second highest death toll in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.


Experts fear the crisis could still get worse. Intensive care units in 13 Brazilian states are 90 percent full. And several more are operating at 80 percent capacity. The worst is the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul which is completely full. And the city of Rio de Janeiro is also near the limit with 93 percent of ICU beds now taken.

Well Brazil's health ministry says it has provided extra resources to address the problem and its promising more ICU beds in the weeks to come. Stefano Pozzebon has more now on how the government is managing the crisis.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Coronavirus is still spreading across South America. And the situation is most serious in Brazil, where a local variant of the virus is acting with devastating effects across the country. But the center of the crisis right now is the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro where occupancy rate for ICUs is over 95 percent on Monday.

And on Monday, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that although Brazil has been one of the most affected countries in the world over the last 12 months because of the pandemic, the presidency will not impose a new national lockdown. Bolsonaro said Monday, that although he had the capacity and the power to impose a lockdown, he will not do it. And yet again, he put into questions the seriousness of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a group of governors has started coming together to come up with a contingency plan to try to curb the spread of the virus, at the back of the presidency.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Buckingham palace is grappling with the explosive fallout from Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah. And how the issue of race is discussed. we will have a live report from Windsor, that's next.

Plus, harsh comments about Harry and Meghan from a British broadcaster prompted an angry reaction and his resignation.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, there are many questions about what's next for the British royal family now that Buckingham Palace has broken its silence about Harry and Meghan's explosive television interview with Orpah Winfrey. The palace in a statement on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II says --

The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.

CNN's Anna Stewart joins us now from Windsor with more. Good to see you Anna. So a much anticipated and loaded statement from the queen, but will it be enough to end this crisis?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes, it did take a while to go through, 40 hours after the interview first broadcast. A royal source told CNN, that royal family wants to make sure that the U.K. have had a chance to watch it, to absorb it, and of course, a lot of thought went into that statement. And actually, although it's very short, just three short paragraphs, it is absolutely loaded with meaning.

From the very first line that says the royal family are saddened to learn the full extent of what Harry and Meghan have been through. Now suggesting of course that they were fully aware. And I think the most interesting line is perhaps the bit where it says, well recollections may vary. Which is an incredibly diplomatic way of saying they frankly don't agree with some claims of conversations that were relayed by the Sussex couple in the Oprah Winfrey interview.

And certainly trying to draw a line under the whole affair. It says they're going to discuss this privately. We've also been told by a royal source that it was suggested that perhaps these issues should have been raised in a private conversation which is a bit of a rebuke, frankly.

It ends on a note of love. You know, the royal family has love for Harry, Meghan and Archie. It opens the door for reconciliation. I'm not sure this will be enough to stem some of the outrage, particularly when you consider that it's become something of a Sussex versus royal family debate. It's certainly not an apology. So it will disappoint anyone who was expecting that, it's really just an acknowledgement. We don't expect to hear anything more from the palace and we don't expect a reaction on that statement from team Sussex -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, and Anna, Prince Charles was the first royal to appear in public since Harry and Meghan's tell-all interview. But he ignored question in relation to that interview, talk to us about that.

STEWART: Yes, Prince Charles, many thought was rather brave continuing on with an official visit to a vaccination center in London yesterday. Although frankly, had he cancelled that perhaps would have been more of a story. Inevitably though, someone asked about the interview. Watch what happens.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, can I ask what did you think of the interview?



STEWART (on camera): Obviously, dodged there. I would expect that question to get asked from various members of the royal family in the near future at official engagements. And I expect that it will continually be dodged. Not least of course, because the palace has put out a statement that is so nuanced. It's so clever in its use of words, and frankly can't really be battered I suspect by any off-the- cuff comments. So I think that's going to be the story going forward. No further comment from the palace. Let's see what the reaction is as the day goes as to how people about that statement and whether it's enough.

CHURCH: Yes, it was certainly masterful, wasn't it? Anna Stewart braving the elements there, joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well the problems that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex say they have experienced have thrust the issue of racism inside the monarchy and U.K. back into the spotlight. Last hour, I asked Queen Elizabeth II's former press secretary to comment about the palace's official statement on this sensitive issue, take a listen.


CHARLES ANSON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I don't think it's intended at all to be dismissive. The queen is a fair- minded person.


And she has been head of the commonwealth, the largest multiracial organization in the world for 69 years. So I don't think she needs any lessons in the importance of a multiracial society.

And I think it's quite usual for recollections of sensitive conversations to vary a bit. It's not a judgment about it. It is just saying this is a fact. The queen recognizes that they must be taken very seriously particularly that question of race. And that they wish like any family to be able to discuss family conversations in a private setting and not do it all in public. And I think that's a right that every family in the world has to be able to discuss their problems, their family problems in a private setting. But the --

CHURCH: And Harry did mention in his tell-all with Oprah that Meghan offered the royal family the greatest asset to the commonwealth. An opportunity to become a diverse family reflecting the multicultural society. Why didn't they up take that opportunity? Because they didn't.

ANSON: They did take up that opportunity. Meghan, the Duchess, was made patron of a major commonwealth charity. Prince Harry also is involved in commonwealth youth affairs. They were both engaged in that. And those were patronages which the queen offered alongside being patron of the National Theater and several other philanthropic organizations. So, I think that she was welcomed very warmly.


CHURCH (on camera): Charles Anson there, Queen Elizabeth II's former press secretary.

American singer Beyonce is one of numerous celebrities showing support for Meghan in the wake of her explosive interview. Beyonce posted a message to her official website. And it says --

Thank you, Meghan for your courage and leadership. We are all strengthened and inspired by you.

The star's message includes a photo of the pair exchanging smiles at a movie premier back in 2019.

Well "Good Morning Britain" co-host Piers Morgan is out of a job after some harsh criticism of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And this on- air temper tantrum.


ALEX BERESFORD, CO-HOST, "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN": I understand that you don't like Meghan Markle. You've made it so clear a number of times on this program. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don't think she has, but yet you continue to trash her.


BERESFORD: No, no --

MORGAN: Sorry, no sorry --

BERESFORD: You know, that's pretty frustrating --

MORGAN: -- you can trash me, but not my own self. See you later. Sorry can't do this.

BERESFORD: This is absolutely diabolical behavior. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Broadcaster ITV announced Morgan's departure later in the day. CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has more.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Piers Morgan has joined Harry and Meghan on the front pages of the British newspaper today. His decision to storm off the set of ITV's "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN" and the network's announcement hours later that he's off the show effective immediately is something of a morning mystery. People wonder if they should connect the dots between the two. And wondering what exactly happened. Why did Morgan leave the show?

What we know is that here's Morgan, of course is larger than life, someone with many fans either loved or loved to hate. A former CNN host who has been on ITV for many years now and has crowed about the ratings games for the breakfast program. He has been an incendiary critic of the Meghan Markle. Prince Harry as well, but especially of Meghan on Monday after the Oprah interview. Even question if Meghan really truly had suicidal thoughts.

His criticism of Meghan has caused a torrent of criticism directed in his direction and at ITV. It's been a problem for management. The CEO had to address it on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon Ofcom, a U.K. media regulator, announced it was opening an investigation into Monday's episode of "Good Morning Britain" when Morgan made those charged comments.

About an hour later, ITV said that Morgan decided to leave the show and that network accepted the decision. Morgan hasn't said much since then, but knowing Morgan, he will have a lot to say about this in the coming days or weeks, et cetera.

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Yes, and in fact, Piers Morgan defiant, tweeting just a few hours ago that he still doesn't believe what Meghan said in her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

He says, if you did, OK, freedom of speech is a hill I'm happy tole die on. Thanks for all the love and hate. I'm off to spend more time with my opinions.

Well, jury selection is now under way in the trial of a former police officer whose actions sparked worldwide protests. Coming up, why finding a jury is proving to be a daunting challenge.