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First COVID Relief Payments Start Hitting Bank Accounts; Spring Break Travel Surges As COVID Restrictions Loosen; Defiant New York Governor Refuses To Resign; GA. Gov. Kemp: There's Vaccine Hesitancy Among White Republicans; Lawyers: Kids At Border Cannot Shower For Days Or Call Parents; Member Of Proud Boys Extremist Group Charged For Allegedly Pepper-Spraying Police On Jan. 6. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 13, 2021 - 18:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): As the first stimulus checks start hitting Americans bank accounts, more states are easing coronavirus restrictions.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eighty-five percent of the households in America will be getting this money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is finally, maybe a light way down the end of the tunnel considering you know, we just hit one year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a symbol of hope for a lot of people that hey, we're finally turning the tide on this virus. Everyone has been really fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was ever a time to put on the mask, this is it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody keeps saying COVID doesn't exist out here in Florida. So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose in ways that are just simply improper.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We want people to have a good time on spring break. But don't put your guard down completely. Just be prudent a bit longer.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday.

It is the major part of the new enormous COVID relief package that millions of American families are desperately waiting for, the money and it is rolling out right now as we speak. Several people today telling CNN, they are already seeing the pending

deposits in their bank accounts, up to $1,400.00 per person, including children in the household for those eligible.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Wilmington, Delaware. So Arlette, this is the President's first major legislation, and that is now bearing fruit for families so severely impacted by the pandemic.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Pamela, and those $1,400.00 checks are really the first tangible impact that American families are feeling from this COVID relief package.

As you mentioned, some Americans already started to receive that money in their bank accounts this weekend. That's if they had direct deposit set up through the I.R.S. There will be more checks and prepaid debit cards going out over the course of the next few weeks.

And those checks are just one of the items that the Biden administration is hoping to remind and sell to American voters over the course of the next few weeks. You're going to see the President, the Vice President and also their spouses and other surrogates fan out across the country on what the White House is calling the Help is Here Tour.

President Biden will be in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the Vice President will be heading out west to Nevada and Colorado before the two of them link up at the end of the week down in Georgia.

And what they are trying to do is remind Americans of the benefits of this plan that they will be feeling very soon.

Now, in addition to that sales pitch that they will be making, they will also be focusing on implementation. This is a massive bill that President Biden has said needs oversight. Take a listen to what he had to say about that in the Rose Garden yesterday.


BIDEN: It's one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan, it is going to be another thing to implement it. It's going to require fastidious oversight to make sure there's no waste or fraud and the law does what it is designed to do, and I mean it, we have to get this right. Details matter.


SAENZ: And President Biden has some experience with implementing a plan like this. Back when he was Vice President, he was charged with overseeing the implementation of the Recovery Act. And the White House says this time around, they will be naming a point person who will oversee the implementation of the American Rescue Plan as they are trying to get those benefits out to Americans as soon as possible -- Pamela.

BROWN: Yes, those benefits already rolling out. All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for that. And with me now, CNN Economics and Political Commentator, Catherine


Catherine, thanks for joining us. This third round of COVID relief cash is starting to hit Americans' bank accounts. What is going to be the impact of this influx of cash not just short term, but also down the road?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this influx of cash is going to make a big deal -- make a big difference in the lives of lower income Americans in particular who have had the majority of the job losses so far, who have suffered greatly in the past year, both medically as well as economically, so it's going to make a big difference in their lives, presumably put many of their risks to bed in terms of housing insecurity, food insecurity, et cetera.

But I want to add that this legislation is not just about those stimulus checks. There's a lot of other stuff in it that has not gotten the same amount of attention. The unemployment insurance benefits for example, additional aid for small businesses, additional aid for states and local governments whose employees have been laid off en masse and potentially will face even more layoffs.

So it's really not just about the stimulus checks, the entire package does a lot for the American economy.


BROWN: And another big part of it, of course, is the impact on child poverty. Tell us about that. What is in this package? What is the benefit? And how will it work?

RAMPELL: So this package does a number of things on behalf of children. The largest centerpiece of which is the expansion of the child tax credit, which in and of itself has the potential to basically cut the child poverty rate in the United States, which is among the highest in the world, by the way, in half.

This has something that's been in the works for many years, Democrats are hoping to put it permanently into law. And among other things, it basically makes the child tax credit available to the very poorest American families who had been excluded from it to date, and potentially will go out monthly in advance rather than once a year upon tax filing time.

So again, for a lot of families, this is going to be a very big deal, and I think this is landmark legislation on behalf of the youngest Americans somewhat poetically delivered by the oldest American President ever elected.

BROWN: And this relief bill, as we know, is opposed by literally every single Republican in the House and every single Republican in the Senate only because of the Democratic majority in Congress did the bill, even make it into law. What is the Republican line to their voters back home, that are now seeing these, you know, the money coming into their bank accounts from the bill or they will see it soon?

RAMPELL: You know, it's a really peculiar political stance in a way, given that this law is so popular, and the many components of it, the individual components of it are very popular as well.

I think that the lesson that Republicans learned from the Obama years and the response to the Great Recession was that they should just oppose any Democratic initiative, wherever possible, and try to obstruct any attempt to help revive the economy and then hope that they can run on a weak economy in the next election.

That will be harder for them to do this time around, of course, because this is a much bigger fiscal package, and it's more popular than the Recovery Act that was passed in 2009 in response to the Great Recession.

So I think Republicans are just sort of counting on this to fail, and then otherwise, trying to distract Americans with culture war issues about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head, but that seems to be their best strategy at the moment.

BROWN: All right, Catherine Rampell, thank you for coming on.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, a year into the pandemic, the U.S. hits an encouraging milestone, more than 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered here. This news comes as President Biden says he will order that all adults go on vaccine eligibility list by May 1st and says July 4th as a possible starting point for a return to normalcy.

But this is no time to throw caution or masks out the window. In Italy, cases are growing exponentially. Regional lockdowns have been ordered and the whole country will be locked down over Easter weekend. It is a sobering reminder that the danger still exists.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has more from Los Angeles where indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms will start to reopen on Monday.

Paul, do health officials agree with this plan?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They do for now, Pam, because this is an extremely limited reopening. They say this is not permission for anyone to go out and hold let's say a maskless huge dance party, but the outlook is brighter.


VERCAMMEN (voice over): Coronavirus restrictions are loosening up from coast to coast, but one of the nation's top health experts is warning governors, if there was ever a time to put on a mask, this is it.

DR. FRANCIS S. COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I would just appeal to all of those leaders who have people's lives in their hands, look at the data. Take some risks with your political base if you need to, but do the right thing.

VERCAMMEN (voice over): Health officials are also deeply concerned Americans are letting their guard down by getting on planes in record numbers since the outbreak began, and by clustering up during spring break.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON, TEXAS: If you come to Texas, you would say hey, the pandemic disappeared overnight. It is amazing.

You go outside, all the clubs are packed, people not wearing masks. It's very disappointing.

VERCAMMEN (voice over): A key vaccine benchmark has been met in California, so they will ease restrictions. State officials announced they met their goal to vaccinate two million people in the hardest hit poor neighborhoods.

Teachers, agriculture workers, restaurant employees all eligible to get shots. The list expands to Californians with certain medical problems on Monday.

Also on the Golden State horizon, more reopenings in California movie theaters, museums, zoos, gyms and restaurants indoors on a very limited basis. Reason for restaurant workers to expect more tips starting at midnight Sunday.


WALTER OROZCO, RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE: There were moments that we didn't really have a lot of customers coming in, so you get frustrated somehow, but right now, everything is fast coming back with the vaccine and reopening, it feels more secure now.

VERCAMMEN (voice over): More good news on the vaccine front, the C.D.C. says more than 100 million people have received a COVID-19 shot and age eligibility requirements dropping in many states.

And AstraZeneca hopes to get emergency authorization approval for its vaccine at the end of this month or into April.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The F.D.A. scientists will review the data very carefully, they'll get access to the complete file and if they don't see -- if they see any signs of any concerns, they are not going to give Emergency Use Authorization to this vaccine.

VERCAMMEN (voice over): But in Mississippi, this memento is a touching and heartbreaking reminder that COVID-19 kills. Jeff Nabors suffered from severe heart disease, rushed to marry his sweetheart of 17 years.

SHERRY NABORS, HUSBAND DIED FROM COVID-19: You know what we had in mind, it was beautiful. It was beautiful. And it was so touching and it was so perfect.

VERCAMMEN (voice over): But Sherry went from newlywed to widow in mere days because of the virus that so far killed 500,000 people in the United States and counting.


VERCAMMEN (on camera): And so hard to listen to, so let me leave you with one shred of better news here in Los Angeles County with its 10 million residents, we have dipped below 1,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19 for the first time in a long time -- Pam.

BROWN: That is encouraging to hear. We will take any bit of encouraging news we can get. Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

Well, meantime AstraZeneca says there is no evidence of blood clot risk from its vaccine as some European nations have totally or partially suspended its use.

Denmark was first to take the precautionary measure when a 60-year-old woman died shortly after receiving the vaccine. Now the drug maker says there is no evidence to support concerns and says that reports of blood clots are mainly in the elderly, where there are already underlying conditions.

Meantime, the company is ready to apply for Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. and could roll out the vaccine here by early April.

And stay with us, I'm going to speak to Dr. Jay Varkey about the AstraZeneca vaccine. He is a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Emory Medical School in Atlanta, and across town, Georgia's Governor is worried about vaccine hesitancy in the state. I'll ask about that as well. That interview airs in just about 15 minutes from now, so stick around for that.

And then later this hour, prosecutors are set to charge more than 400 people for ransacking the U.S. Capitol. Next hour, we speak to actress and comedian, Margaret Cho about the latest spate of crimes against Asian-Americans.

Then in our 8:00 p.m. hour, Senate Democrats make their play to expand background checks on gun sales, and as pressure builds at the border, the former I.C.E. Acting Director says immigration is a lose-lose situation for the President, John Sandweg joins us live.

But before all of that, a defiant Governor Andrew Cuomo is digging in even as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand call on him to resign over sexual harassment allegations.

New York State Senator Julia Salazar also says it is time for Cuomo to quit, she joins me next.



BROWN: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is digging in and defying Democratic calls to step down even though the calls are coming from inside the House, specifically the State House and the House of Representatives.

Now, both New York Senators Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are telling him it is time to go. The Governor is facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted advances making him the subject of an impeachment probe, plus a civil inquiry by the New York Attorney General.

Now, he has apologized for, quote, "making anyone feel uncomfortable," but insisted that he never touched anyone inappropriately.

New York State Senator Julia Salazar joins me now. She is one of nearly 60 Democrats in New York State Legislature calling for Governor Cuomo's resignation. Thank you for coming on.

We're hearing the Governor now borrowing rhetoric from some Republicans saying cancel culture is behind the calls for his resignation. You're calling for him to step down. So how do you respond to this charge of cancel culture?

JULIA SALAZAR (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: I think that it's silly and a distraction for the Governor to call this cancel culture when really we are just seeking to hold him accountable.

It's necessary for us to be calling for resignation, for a truly independent investigation to continue uninhibited. It's essential that we do these things so that we send the message to New Yorkers that when the most powerful person in our state does these things, what the allegations accuse him of, sexual harassment and creating the toxic workplace environment that so many people have said, it is alive and well in the Cuomo administration, when the Governor is doing these things, we have a responsibility as legislators to hold him accountable and to demonstrate to New Yorkers that this isn't acceptable.

BROWN: So clearly, the Governor is digging in against these allegations. He is saying that everyone should wait for an investigation to end before making judgment.

I am curious, though, in your view, is there any response the Governor could have given that would have made it acceptable for him to remain in office?

SALAZAR: I don't think that it's about the words that the Governor says, statements that he makes after the fact. These allegations are very serious and even if he had issued an adequate apology, which I don't think that his apology has been adequate, even if he had, it would not have been sufficient.


SALAZAR: At this point with these very serious allegations, I think that we have our responsibility as legislators in New York to protect the Governor's staff and people who may be interacting with him from any further abuse or harassment.

So it's less about what the Governor says about what happened, and more about protecting people and holding him accountable for what he has already done.

BROWN: How much is your stance about these allegations of harassment and abuse versus the hiding of the nursing home numbers?

SALAZAR: I think that both of these situations, one, the Governor's handling of the devastating high number of nursing home deaths in the state, and the allegations of sexual harassment against him both justify calls for impeachment, and calls for resignation.

But I think collectively, they create an urgency that people are responding to legislators like myself, but also now the majority of New York's congressional delegation, as well as both Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand. I think that all of these things together are what is creating this urgency for him to resign.

BROWN: What is the timeline for the impeachment vote? And do you have the numbers? Do you believe you have the numbers to impeach?

SALAZAR: Right now, I think it's unclear if there is enough support in the Senate to actually impeach the Governor. We're in a pretty early stage. On the one hand, the Attorney General of the State has initiated an independent investigation, and the Judiciary Committee in the State Assembly has initiated an investigation which could lead to an impeachment trial, but right now that's really in the hands of the State Assembly and it's unclear yet if we'll actually be able to proceed with an impeachment trial.

However, with the calls for resignation growing, I think it would be in the best interest of the State if the Governor would resign at this point.

BROWN: OK, New York State Senator Julia Salazar, thank you for coming on.

SALAZAR: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: And those calls for the Governor's resignation may sound a bit familiar to him. That is because for the record, he once issued a very similar call.

In 2018, Cuomo released a statement saying former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman should resign over similar misconduct allegations.

Now, Cuomo based his call for Schneiderman's resignation on a "New Yorker" article detailing multiple claims of assault. At the time Cuomo wrote, quote: "My personal opinion is that given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General and for the good of the office, he should resign."

Well, here we are, three years later and instead of following his own advice, Governor Cuomo says he is going nowhere, accusing politicians of wielding cancel culture against him and bashing him for forming conclusions based on the allegations, which is exactly what he did with Schneiderman.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance.

People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.


BROWN: So by his own standard, was Cuomo bowing to cancel culture when he called for Schneiderman's resignation? Either way, for the record, Schneiderman's response was a bit different than Cuomo's. He resigned hours after the publication of that "New Yorker" story.

And when we come back on this Saturday, Georgia is falling behind on reaching herd immunity in some communities and the Governor says he has seen vaccine doubts in the state mostly among white Republicans.

We'll have more on that, just ahead.



BROWN: Well, this is some very exciting news for people dealing with the living hell that is Alzheimer's disease otherwise known known as the Silver Tsunami.

Now, it's not a cure, but the drug maker Eli Lilly is reporting results of an experimental drug that could slow down the onset of dementia in patients with Alzheimer's.

Now researchers say, early clinical trials show a measurable slowing of Alzheimer's mental decline compared to that in patients who were given a placebo.

The Eli Lilly trial results appear in the latest "New England Journal of Medicine." A huge development on that front.

And as COVID vaccines rollout across the country, the C.D.C. is paying attention to which regions are having trouble actually delivering those doses.

They say Georgia is in last place vaccinating its citizens at a slower rate than any other U.S. state. As of yesterday, Georgia has received nearly four million doses of the vaccine.


But only about 2.5 million doses have gotten into arms there.

Joining me with more is Dr. Jay Varkey, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Varkey, thank you for coming on. Let's listen to something that Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp, said Thursday about vaccine hesitancy and then I'll get your reaction on the other side.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R) GEORGIA: We are seeing vaccine hesitancy, really. As the pharmacists and I were talking about Macon south, and a lot of that is dealing with white Republicans, quite honestly.


BROWN: What is your reaction to that?

DR. JAY VARKEY, ASSOC. PROF. OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, EMORY UNIV. SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, my reaction to this is that it's an opportunity to, again, speak to the people on the importance of getting vaccinated. Again, as a doctor, as an expert in infectious diseases, I strongly recommend that every person, regardless of political persuasion, get a COVID-19 vaccine when it's made available to them.

If you're unhappy that the pandemic has become political, I understand. On behalf of every nurse, doctor that I've been working with in a hospital for the last year on this pandemic, none of us wanted this to be political. But at Emory healthcare 90 percent of our physicians and this is for every specialty, every political persuasion, have chosen to get vaccinated.

My 20 years as a doctor, I'm not sure if there's been any issue that's united physicians of every specialty and political persuasion on this topic.

BROWN: How concerned are you, though, about this wait and see approach among some people with taking the vaccine and how that could impact reaching herd immunity?

VARKEY: Oh, it's critical. I mean, we cannot wait. At this stage, we're really on the cusp of millions of people, actually hundreds of millions of people who have actually chosen to get vaccinated. This is a race between injections and infections. This is a race between vaccination and virus variants. This is a race that we can win, but we need everybody to step up.

This is the reason I got vaccinated. This is the reason why my wife and my children volunteered to be in clinical trials so that they could get vaccinated and be part of the solution. This is the reason why my mother, my mother-in-law, my father and my sister who are both physicians chose to get vaccinated.

This is our way to actually get back towards normal. This is a way to protect the people closest to us, our family and our friends.

BROWN: But there are some people who are watching this play out and say, oh, well, maybe herd immunity can be reached without me having to get vaccinated or I'll just sit on the sidelines until there's more research out. If the U.S. does not reach herd immunity by the fall when there could be another COVID surge, what would that mean for those of us who have been vaccinated? VARKEY: Yes. It'd be tragic. The reality is that any person who's

getting infected today, who might die three, four weeks from now is somebody that could have been vaccinated, somebody who could have been protected within weeks. Again, the time for waiting is over. This is our opportunity to not just bend the curve, but to crush the curve, to actually really win this pandemic.

We need everyone to step up and this idea of waiting or that they're not afraid of COVID, that they had COVID, if we let this smolder, it'll be like a fire. So if you have a forest fire that's been raging for a year, you can't just have a few people pick up a fire hose and try and control it. You need everybody to pitch it and that's what we need the public to do.

BROWN: But just trying to get a better sense, if you're vaccinated and then the fall rolls around, herd immunity still hasn't been reached, what kind of risk does that pose to those who actually have been vaccinated?


BROWN: Because it seems unclear about when booster shots are needed and that kind of thing, so I'm just trying to get the sense of what it means for those who have been vaccinated.

VARKEY: Yes. It's a great question, Pamela. The biggest risk when you let a virus just fester is that you will have these variants that emerge. This is what viruses do, there are pieces of genetic material. They will mutate. But if we let the virus just spread without control, we could see the emergence of a variant that actually evades the immune response that those of us who've gotten vaccinated have.

So in other words, we can select out for virus variants that causes us to start all over again, which is why it's so critical that we take advantage of this opportunity to get vaccinated.

BROWN: That is frightening. Dr. Jay Varkey, thank you for providing that really important information.

VARKEY: My pleasure. Stay safe.

BROWN: A hug. One of the simplest and most powerful things we can give. The virus has forced many of us to keep away from loved ones, so imagine how good it felt for one grandmother after getting a surprise hug from her granddaughter for the first time in over a year.



EVELYN SHAW, GRANDMOTHER: My daughter and granddaughter came to my apartment to give me a little gift they said and the gift was the prescription from the doctor and it said you are allowed to hug your granddaughter. I was definitely not going to let her into my apartment, even though I had completed my vaccines. I was stuck in COVID land and having this prescription from my doctor

gave me the courage to let her in. She was hugging, and hugging, and crying and crying for the first time in a year.


BROWN: If that does not give you chills, I don't know what does. Man, hugging is just so powerful, so good for the soul. I think so many of us took it for granted before this pandemic no more.

Well, we do have some truly heartbreaking news to share with you tonight. As the pressure at the border intensifies, our Rosa Flores is reporting that children detained at the border haven't been able to shower or speak to their parents for days. Rosa Flores joins us live with that story when we come back.



BROWN: The number of unaccompanied children in custody at the U.S.- Mexico border is at a record high. Now, we're learning from lawyers just how severe their living conditions are. Let me get right to CNN's Rosa Flores on the border in Donna, Texas. Rosa, many of these kids are younger than 10. What are they going through?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, we were able to learn this information because an attorney was allowed inside the facility that you see behind me. And she was able to talk to about a dozen children. I should say we are not allowed into the facility. We have asked and we have not been granted access.

But according to this attorney who says that she was handed a manifest of the children that are being held at this facility and she says that the manifest was about a hundred pages long and every page had children under the age of 10. The conditions that she described was overcrowding that the children were terrified, that some of them were crying. Many of them were not able to communicate with their parents or with their family members. They're not able to shower and some of them have been at the facility for five to seven days.

Now, according to this attorney, the children in the facility are divided into pods of about 50 children. Now, they're divided by sex and age which means that if siblings enter the facility, those siblings are separated if they are a brother and sister, for example, in a different age bracket.

Customs and Border Protection officials by law are not allowed to hug these children or console them. So according to this attorney, what happens inside these facilities as children are crying and are terrified, children are consoling children. Children are having to take care of other children in those times of stress and trauma as they're being held in the facility that you see behind me for days beyond what's allowed by law.

Now hygiene is also another concern, according to this attorney. She says that some of the children shower maybe once a week. And once they do get to the shower, sometimes there is no soap. They're having to use shampoo and only shampoo.

Now, I talked to a woman who lives across the street from this facility and as you can see behind me, if you look closely, the fence is covered. So I asked her, what do you see, what do you hear, here's what she had to say. Take a listen.


FLORES: Can you see children?


FLORES: Oh, so you can't see anything but you can hear children.


FLORES: What do you hear children do?

DE LA ROSA: (Inaudible) ...

FLORES: So people talking.


FLORES: Children crying.



FLORES: Now, Pamela, it's important to note that we know what's going on inside this facility because of these attorneys that were allowed in. We know the top aides from the White House have been at this facility and we had not learned these details before. We, of course, have asked for access.

My team and I arrived earlier this week. We've asked repeatedly. I asked again today after we learn these new details and access was denied, Pam.

BROWN: I remember going to one of those facilities in Donna, Texas under the Trump administration. It was heartbreaking to see these young kids there with mud on their pants after making that track. And just hearing those details is just beyond heartbreaking.

Rosa Flores, thank you.

And there's much more to talk about with this story soon. I'll speak to John Sandweg. He is the former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Obama. I'm going to ask about the surge of border crossings and the conditions unaccompanied minors are facing. I'll ask about what do he think of the Biden administration's response. That interview airs at 8 pm right here on CNN.

And while the border search has presented a unique hurdle in Biden's 100-day agenda, he has managed to keep some of his early promises on immigration, reversing key Trump policies like the travel ban and border wall construction. He also put a temporary freeze on deportations as promised, but a judge struck that down.

Now as for how Biden hopes to get a handle on the looming immigration challenge, crisis, whatever you want to call it, it's unclear. We haven't been able to ask him because one thing he hasn't done in these first 53 days is hold a formal press conference. For the record, that is the longest a new president has gone without holding a first media briefing in a century.

Elsewhere, Biden is sprinting through his 100-day to-do list. The president is preparing to set off on his help is here toward a promote the massive relief package he signed into law Thursday. The Marquis accomplishment came on just his 51st day in office.


Our poll found that 61 percent of Americans supported it and that was before it passed and before the check started arriving.

Also accounting for the high marks on Biden's early report card, the country's vaccination rate. He vowed to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days. We are on track to reach that goal on day 60. That's next week.

And we are following new charges in the Capitol Hill insurrection, a Florida member of the Proud Boys has been charged for allegedly pepper spraying police officers. The latest and a live report up next.



BROWN: Well, the massive investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol is kicking into high gear. The huge federal dragnet has unearthed mountains of evidence and could lead to more than 400 arrests. One of the latest, a member of the far-right proud boys who allegedly pepper-sprayed police at the Capitol. CNN's Marshall Cohen joins me now for more on this. So what can you tell us, Marshal, about this new arrests?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Pamela. Well, his name is Christopher Worrell. He's from Florida. Prosecutors say he brought pepper spray to the Capitol and used it against a line of police officers who were defending the building. Photos and videos from that day show Worrell wearing tactical gear, congregating with other Proud Boys and even flashing a known white supremacist hand gesture. And he was also seen at an event earlier previously in Florida with the leader of the proud boys.

Now, he's been charged with five federal crimes. He hasn't yet entered a plea. But a federal judge actually released him from custody yesterday. The Justice Department is appealing that decision. His lawyer did not respond to our request for comment. But Pamela, this man is just one of about 20 proud boys that are already facing charges in connection with the insurrection.

BROWN: And in terms of the broader investigation, when could we see more charges? When can we see plea deals, trials, that kind of thing?

COHEN: Yes. Sure. So here's where things stand right now. We've got more than 300 people that we're tracking that have already been charged, another 100 people could be charged according to the Justice Department. Investigators are looking through 15,000 hours of surveillance tape and police body cam footage.

That's just a massive amount. They've examined 1,600 electronic devices. They've executed 900 search warrants in almost every single state. And this is the good news here, they've received more than 210,000 tips from the public. So that's where things stand now.

Here's what's next, prosecutors said yesterday in court that they're actually starting to prepare some plea deals for some of the rioters. This could always change as things develop. But the first guilty pleas might just be a few weeks away. And for any defendants who do want to take their case to trial, it doesn't happen often, but it could, that could be more than a year away.

Pamela, the courts are already dealing with major backlogs because of Coronavirus. So anyone who wants to go to trial, that's a long way from now. But the investigation continues.

BROWN: All right. I know you'll be staying on top of every new development. Marshall Cohen thanks so much.

And as authorities get a clearer picture of who was behind the Capitol riot, Republican Senator, Ron Johnson, again, tried to deflect attention from those responsible. Here he is in a radio interview explaining why he felt safe during the January 6th riot.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I knew those are people that loved this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law so I wasn't concerned. Now, had the tables been turned Joe, this could get me in trouble, had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.


BROWN: For the record, these people who 'truly respect law enforcement' killed one officer and injured at least 138 others, making them responsible for one of the most dangerous days for law enforcement since 9/11. What's more? Johnson has repeatedly amplified the false claim that the Capitol riot was carried out by left wing radicals disguised as Trump supporters and Republicans.

Well, now Johnson is at the very least promoting tacitly racist claims and appears to be admitting his whole previous theory was a lie.

Well, just weeks after a devastating winter storm hits Texas, there is now a report of a tornado touched down south of Amarillo. And there is also severe weather in Colorado. Residents are bracing for a winter storm that could dump four feet of snow.



BROWN: Well, even as thousands of spring breakers head for the beach, much of the country is under threat of severe late winter storms, including the Eastern Rockies and Western plains where a slow-moving system could bring blizzard conditions and the biggest snowfall in decades. On Sunday, these severe storms will push East into Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

And then in Texas, scenes of that crippling hard freeze just a couple of weeks ago, tornadoes are now the latest concern there. There were multiple touchdowns near Lubbock yesterday. And then a short time ago, the National Weather Service in Amarillo reported a tornado near the Palo Duro Canyon, leaving overturned tractor-trailers on I27.

A tornado watch remains in effect until 9 pm Central for the panhandle. And addition to the potential for intense tornadoes, the forecast also warns of possible damaging wind gusts and large hail.