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Stimulus Payments out to Americans This Weekend; AstraZeneca Defends Vaccine amid Blood Clot Fears; New York Governor Won't Resign; Minneapolis Pays $27 to Settle George Floyd Lawsuit; New CDC Child Care Program Guidance; U.S. to Restore Humanitarian Assistance to Northern Yemen; Harry and Meghan's Foundation, Archewell. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 13, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Kim Brunhuber and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Coming up, relief at last. Stimulus checks could be in Americans' pockets as soon as today.

Plus, our rare and exclusive interview with a Houthi leader in Yemen. Why he says America is seen as a murderer in the Arab world.

And this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never get to a point where I'm over what happened to her.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): One year after the shooting of Breonna Taylor, her mother is speaking with CNN. The latest on her quest for justice.


BRUNHUBER: In the coming hours, many Americans could wake up to long awaited Treasury payments in their bank accounts. The first payments were processed Friday and are being distributed this weekend.

President Biden took a victory lap in the Rose Garden Friday after signing the legislation. He offered a message of hope for struggling Americans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think of the millions of people going to sleep at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking, my God, what am I going to do tomorrow?

I lost my health care. Don't have a job. Unemployment runs out. I'm behind on my mortgage.

What are we going to do? Well, guess what?

They're going to be getting that check soon.


BRUNHUBER: Here is chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with more.


BIDEN: I wish I could come out and shake hands with every one of you.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moments ago, a Rose Garden victory dance for President Biden, as he touted his first major piece of legislation.

BIDEN: It's one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan. It is going to be another thing to implement it.

COLLINS: Because the plan was passed with zero Republican support, the ceremony was bicameral, but not bipartisan.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We Democrats made promises. We said, if we gained the Senate, kept the House and elected the president, we would finally get things done.

COLLINS: President Biden, Vice President Harris and their spouses will fan out across the country next week as he seeks to ensure that the American Rescue Plan lives up to its name.

On the road, Biden is also expected to tell the promises he made in his prime-time address.

BIDEN: If we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.

COLLINS: But Biden said his July 4 timeline comes with conditions.

BIDEN: I need every American to do their part. That's not hyperbole, I need you.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, his top aides are cautioning it won't be a complete return to normal by July 4.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not talking about a July 4th celebration on the Mall. We're not quite there yet, right? And we're not talking about soccer stadiums being filled in communities across the country.

COLLINS: To achieve his goal, Biden is directing states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine no later than May 1 with this caveat:

BIDEN: Let me be clear. That doesn't mean everyone's going to have that shot immediately. But it means you will be able to get in line beginning May 1.

COLLINS: One challenge federal health officials are still facing is vaccine hesitancy, including polls showing Republicans are more reluctant to get vaccinated than Democrats.

PSAKI: We recognize, as a Democratic administration, with a Democratic president, that we may not be the most effective messenger to communicate with hard-core supporters of the former president.

COLLINS: Now this bill has been signed and they've had the celebration ceremony, next is going to actually be the implementation of this massive, wide-ranging bill. And President Biden says he does understand the devil is in the details. He was in charge of helping implement that 2009 stimulus plan, when he was vice president.

So, this is what they're focused on next. President Biden said they're going to have an event here at the White House on Monday to talk about that. They have yet to name which official it is who is going to be in charge of overseeing how this bill gets dispersed and how timely that is -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. coronavirus case numbers have been dropping and the country is making strides on vaccinations. More than 101 million Americans, about 20 percent of the population, have had at least one vaccine dose and more than 10 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated.

The U.S. could soon have a fourth vaccine. Sources tell Reuters News Agency that AstraZeneca will apply for U.S. authorization once data from phase III clinical tests data is available.


BRUNHUBER: According to Reuters, that could come later this month. But AstraZeneca's vaccine is under scrutiny in Europe after Denmark and a handful of other countries paused its use. But others are standing by the shot. Melissa Bell joins us live from Paris to explain.

Melissa, we spoke yesterday about all the confusion surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine and the fears of blood clots.

What's the latest?

Is there any more clarity?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been hearing from the World Health Organization, from the European Medicines Agency, from the national health agency here in France and, of course, from the company itself that, in fact, sort of batting back that idea that there is any evidence for the time being that there could be a link between patients developing blood clots and having been inoculated with the vaccine.

Pushing back, of course, because, as you say, the list has just been growing of the countries who have either paused the distribution of the vaccine entirely or stopped some of its batches being used instead over those fears.

So, a real divide here in Europe on that question and, of course, the consequences are twofold. First of all, that there is a fear, even as the United States begins to look towards the AstraZeneca vaccine, that there could be doubts more globally about its safety.

We saw on Friday morning the -- Thailand announced that it was pausing the -- what had been planned to be the beginning of its vaccination program with the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday. The prime minister was meant to get vaccinated.

All of that was put on pause as long as these European investigations are ongoing. So that is one consequence of this particular division here in Europe and this row.

The other is due to the supply problems that we've been talking about, one of the three main vaccines now available in Europe, a fourth has been approved, the Johnson & Johnson. One of them now is no longer going to be delivered as easily in those countries that have decided on that suspension.

BRUNHUBER: Thanks so much for the update. Melissa Bell in Paris. Appreciate it.

Let's talk more about all of this with Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider. She is an internal medicine specialist and founder of, with us this hour from San Francisco.

Thanks so much for joining us, Doctor. Every day now we hear about states and local government abandoning mask mandates and restrictions, despite the warnings from most medical experts and the president.

The argument is, you must have heard it a thousand times, it's been a year now. All of the trend lines are going in the right direction. Cases are down, shots in arms are going up.

DR. SHOSHANA UNGERLEIDER, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER: We have seen a downturn in cases since mid-January and we're headed in the right direction. But the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths are still too high.

We're so close to the finish line here with three vaccines now available to the American public and with the rollout efforts ramping up.

But this is all in the setting of new, more transmissible variants circulating. And states that are making purely politically driven decisions, which really do fly in the face of science by opening up to full capacity and removing these mask mandates, this is hugely problematic.

And it's not just for those states but for all of America. You know, of course, I understand the desire to open things up. But we need to do this in concert with public health officials. This virus is still circulating, and people need to know that, just because you're allowed to do something in your state does not mean that it's safe.

BRUNHUBER: On the positive side, I mean, as you say, we are seeing more and more people, especially the elderly, getting the shots. We had on the program yesterday morning such a touching piece, showing elderly who finally got the vaccine finally being reunited with their loved ones.

It really underscored the long wait that so many people here in the U.S. have been going through and still going through. So the CDC guidelines for those vaccinated people were released. Obviously, it's important not to rush and abandon all the precautions.

But many accuse the CDC of being too conservative here.

What do you think?

UNGERLEIDER: Well, Kim, I don't know about that. It was great to have the CDC announce this week, as a clear reminder to Americans, that vaccines work and we are getting closer every day to being able to return to our normal lives.

You know, as you said, the most exciting update is, of course, that fully vaccinated people, meaning if you're two weeks after the J&J shot or the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. That is a huge departure from where we have been.


UNGERLEIDER: We still don't know if those who are vaccinated can spread the virus to those who haven't been vaccinated. So the recommendations don't change when you're out in public or have a friend who is unvaccinated. We all need to keep wearing masks and avoid indoor gatherings.

What we do expect to happen very soon is new guidelines on travel for vaccinated people, which are coming soon and will help us, you know, slowly return back to normal life.

BRUNHUBER: Now we could soon have another vaccine as part of the arsenal. We were told AstraZeneca was looking for approval for its vaccine here in the U.S. maybe this month or in April.

What are we to make of the number of countries that have suspended using the vaccine because of reports of blood clots?

UNGERLEIDER: You know, Kim, I think it's important to point out in this situation, when you vaccinate millions and millions of people, as we have across the world, medical problems turn up by chance for people in proximity to receiving a vaccine.

But they don't have anything to do with each other. So, in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, millions of people have received doses without any problems. There's actually no evidence of any causal link between the vaccine and blood clots. We do have extensive data showing that this vaccine is safe and

effective and especially good at preventing severe illness and death. And in many places across the world, it's the only shot available.

And I think most importantly, the risk to people's health and safety from getting COVID is much higher than the risk of extremely rare adverse events from this vaccine.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's what it always comes down to, right?

Thank you so much for joining us, Doctor. Appreciate your time.

UNGERLEIDER: Thank you for having me.

BRUNHUBER: A ray of hope in Brazil's desperate fight to stop the coronavirus. Health regulators there have given final approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine. They say a Brazilian company will now start making it.

And that's important because they say that vaccine appears to be effective against the variant called P.1 that is ravaging Brazil. The country's death toll is second only to the U.S. and the number of new cases is rising daily. Only 4 percent of the country's 210 million people have been vaccinated so far.

New York's governor is rejecting all suggestions that he should resign following a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment. But it's the members and leaders of his own party that are now calling the loudest for him to step down. We'll have those details straight ahead.

And George Floyd died under the knee of a police officer. Now Minneapolis has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with his family. Details, just ahead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: New York governor Andrew Cuomo says he has no intention of stepping down and he denies ever having an inappropriate relationship with several women who have publicly accused him of sexual harassment. But the governor's denials are running up against growing calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats. Among them, U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. CNN's Meredith Wood has the details.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I'm not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians. I was elected by the people.

MEREDITH WOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York governor Andrew Cuomo refusing to resign, despite growing calls for him to step down.

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

WOOD (voice-over): Cuomo now facing harassment and sexual assault accusations from multiple women. "New York" magazine reports the latest accuser is a former staffer, who accuses Cuomo of repeatedly berating her and making suggestive remarks about her looks. Cuomo continues to deny all accusations against him.

CUOMO: I have not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period.

WOOD (voice-over): A majority of New York state congressional Democrats are now calling for Cuomo's resignation. And Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand have joined the calls, saying in a joint statement, "It is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York."

President Joe Biden has yet to weigh in.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There also is an independent investigation that is ongoing, of course, in the state, with subpoena power overseen by the attorney general. And he certainly supports that moving forward.

WOOD (voice-over): I'm Meredith Wood reporting.


BRUNHUBER: It's one of the biggest settlements of its kind in the U.S. The City of Minneapolis will pay $27 million to the family of George Floyd. He was the African American man whose death sparked global protests against police brutality. Following the announcement, Floyd's brother had this message for the world.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE'S BROTHER: Everybody around this world who helped march with us on the front line or on the couch, it doesn't matter. Your heart was in a good place and I'd like to thank everyone for that. Thank you all so much. May George live in power.


BRUNHUBER: Former police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on tape kneeling on Floyd's neck for almost eight minutes. He has pleaded not guilty. CNN's Omar Jimenez has a deeper look at why the settlement for George Floyd's family is so important, what it will be used for and the jury selection so far in Derek Chauvin's trial.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Minneapolis now looks ahead to week two of jury selection in the trial for Derek Chauvin after week one, where we saw seven jurors seated, which means we're at the halfway point for the 14 necessary for trial.

Now of the jurors seated so far, we know three are white men in their 20s and 30s. One a Black man in his 30s; another, a Hispanic man in his 20s; another a biracial woman in her 20s and then a white woman in her 50s.


JIMENEZ: This, of course, came right after we learned that the city settled a $27 million civil wrongful death lawsuit with the George Floyd family, which is the largest the city has ever seen and the second the city has settled involving a police officer in less than five years alone.

Attorney Benjamin Crump for the family said that this was the largest settlement for a wrongful death pretrial ever and said, for it to be for the life of a Black man, shows that Black Lives Matter, as he called for police reform to be Floyd's legacy.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY: It's not just enough for America to say that George Floyd life matters. We have to show that George Floyd life matters by our actions.

JIMENEZ: And of the money settled, $500,000 of it goes to the George Floyd makeshift memorial site, which has seen violence at points this week but has also served as a central grieving point throughout this.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the settlement on the same day they voted 11-2 to advance a proposal that would basically dismantle the city's police department in favor of a more encompassing public safety department.

It is now being sent to a city charter commission and, for context, this is the second time the city has tried to do this. The first time, it stalled at the city charter commission step. It's important to note, the civil settlement is separate and different from the ongoing criminal proceedings that Derek Chauvin is currently facing.

As a reminder, he has pleaded not guilty to second degree unintentional murder, second degree manslaughter and he is now facing a third degree murder charge which will all come back into play when trial resumes Monday morning -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


BRUNHUBER: It's been exactly one year since the tragic shooting of Breonna Taylor. Her mother says it's so unbelievable, there's been no justice for her daughter in all that time. The 26-year old was shot and killed by police officers in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, during a flawed forced entry raid. CNN's Jason Carroll spoke to Taylor's mom, and takes us through what happens.


TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: I'll never get to a point where I'm over what happened to her.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tamika Palmer says she will mark the one year anniversary of her daughter Breonna Taylor's death by attending a rally Saturday to remind people justice has not been served.

PALMER: It has been a year for people, but every day has been March the 13th for me still.

CARROLL: Every day?

PALMER: Every day.

CARROLL (voice-over): March 13, 2020, the day Taylor was killed during a botched police raid at her apartment.

PALMER: It will always be that sense of anger because you know that she should be here.

CARROLL (voice-over): None of the officers who raided Taylor's apartment have been charged in her death. Instead, a grand jury brought charges of felony wanton endangerment against one of them, Brett Hankison, for firing through Taylor's wall into a neighboring apartment.

The state's attorney general defended the officer's action, saying they were justified because Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the officers first that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The male was holding a gun, arms extended in a shooting stance.

CARROLL (voice-over): Walker argued he fired in self-defense, thinking someone was trying to break in. He says the officers never identified themselves, but the officers say they did. Just this week, a Kentucky judge permanently dismissed charges against Walker, who was initially accused of attempted murder for shooting at the officers.

STEVE ROMINES, ATTORNEY FOR KENNETH WALKER: He's just supposed to say thank you and walk away? No, there has to be a consequence. There has to be accountability.

CARROLL (voice-over): Accountability is a key not only to people like Walker and Tamika Palmer --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they boxed us in.

CARROLL (voice-over): -- but to thousands of demonstrators such as Pastor Timothy Findley, who protested over the past year calling for police reforms in the wake of Taylor's death and the deaths of other African Americans at the hands of police.

TIMOTHY FINDLEY, PASTOR: When we think about March 13th now, it's Breonna Taylor not just remembering her name, but has really become a rally call, a rally call for justice in our city, justice in our state. CARROLL (voice-over): Last year, the city of Louisville paid Taylor's family $12 million in a civil settlement and passed Breonna's law, which bans no know warrants and mandates the use of body cameras during searches and the city's mayor says there has been a top-to- bottom review of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot to do. We have done a lot. But we're going to keep working at this.

CARROLL (voice-over): But it's still not enough for Palmer. With no officers charged in her daughter's death, she says justice is something that still eludes her. With the help of her attorney, she penned an open letter to President Joe Biden in The Washington Post, asking his administration to enact national policies to hold police accountable.

LONITA BAKER, TAYLOR FAMILY ATTORNEY: I guess I'm hopeful because we're at a point of reckoning where if we don't fix it, we're going to be in a lot of trouble.


PALMER: She's more hopeful than me.

CARROLL: And why is that?

PALMER: It's a trust thing at this point. I don't trust them.

CARROLL: This update: Taylor's mother filed a complaint with the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department's Professional Standards Unit, basically alleging that six of the officers there filed false information about Breonna Taylor related to that raid.

Tonight, we have a statement from the police department which says, in part, they believe in transparency and that they will investigate that complaint thoroughly.


BRUNHUBER: That was CNN's Jason Carroll with that report.

Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, as the U.S. begins to open up more and more, we will review the CDC's latest guidance on reopening childcare programs and the safest way to do it.

And we'll find out how science is giving students and educators a path forward in getting back to school. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Friday came out with new guidance on how to safely operate childcare programs. Here are a few of their recommendations.

Everyone 2 years of age and older should wear a mask, except when eating or sleeping. It also recommends strategies like cohorting, where groups of children are kept together with their peers and staff to reduce the risk of spread and increasing air ventilation by opening doors and windows.


BRUNHUBER: The guidance also lists other strategies for lowering the risk of COVID clusters and how to prepare for when someone is sick.

And across the U.S., school systems are beginning to reopen for older children. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona how soon can we expect all students to be full time back in school.


MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Jake, as soon as possible. And I'd like to think that in many places, we can do that this spring.

I know schools that are functioning all day, every day, five days a week, for all students currently. And we need to continue to grow and make sure that we're giving students an opportunity to be in school as much as possible.

It is a process. This is unprecedented. I mean, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I do feel that they're following the science. And I do think that this is hard work. There is no playbook for this.


BRUNHUBER: Obviously reopening safely is the goal for school systems across the U.S. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at how students and educators are using the science laid out by experts to tackle the problem.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): School in the age of COVID-19, temperature scans, plastic dividers, eating outside, all of it to lower risk.

LISA HERRING, SUPERINTENDENT, ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Decisions, tied to health risks, feel very much out of our wheelhouse. It felt scary.

GUPTA (voice-over): It was the weight of the world that Atlanta Public School Superintendent, Lisa Herring carried when the city schools reopened on January 25th.

GUPTA (on camera): There was huge surge post-holidays that we were still in the midst of. So how did you arrive at these decisions? HERRING: We became more and more aware of the high level of focus around mitigation for safety and health risks.

You start by looking down.

GUPTA (voice-over): Herring shows me what that means at David T. Howard Middle School.

The CDC's guidance for schools to reopen safely considers community spread and relies on five familiar strategies, masking, physical distancing, washing hands, cleaning facilities and improving ventilation, as well as contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

HERRING: All of the doors open, so we're very intentional.

GUPTA (on camera): All the doors there you open.


GUPTA (voice-over): The few studies that have been done looking at in- school transmission have found few Coronavirus cases when those mitigation measures are in place. One study of 11 North Carolina School Districts found just 32 cases of

in-school transmission, among nearly 100,000 students and staff. Not one of those cases involved a child infecting an adult.

Another study looking at more than 200,000 people, in the New York City public schools, between October and December, found just 0.4 percent of those tests were positive.

Still, sixth grade social studies teacher, Patrick Dougherty (ph) had his doubts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely was leaning towards "We should stay virtual." Now there's not a lot of crowding, they hand-sanitize, they keep their masks on. So, I feel safe. And I'm getting vaccinated tomorrow, first dose.

GUPTA (on camera): Should teachers get the vaccine before coming back to school?

HERRING: In a perfect scenario, absolutely, Dr. Gupta, absolutely. This just simply was not the perfect scenario.

GUPTA (voice-over): Weekly testing of staff and students that began in February spotted 32 cases so far.

GUPTA (on camera): Can school districts open, if they don't have that level of surveillance testing?

HERRING: There are school districts that are open who don't have that, so the answer is yes. Does it give another layer of protection? It absolutely does.

GUPTA (voice-over): More than a third of the district's 52,000 students have now returned.

GUPTA (on camera): By show of hands, does everyone feel safe being back in school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hadn't been in-person for like a year. I haven't socialized with anyone at all. But it was better than I thought it was going to be.

GUPTA: Overall, we know kids are far less likely to become infected, far less likely to be hospitalized and far less likely to die from COVID.

We also know, looking at the research, that counties where schools were in-person versus counties where schools were virtual had really no difference between overall county hospitalizations for children or adults.

And we know that outbreaks that often occurred in schools typically occurred because of some sort of failure of the basic mitigation measures. So schools can reopen safely and they don't need to have people vaccinated nor do they have to have testing.

But they do need to have these basic resources. Some school districts simply don't, which is why the $125 billion that they're talking about, that is going towards schools, could help address ventilation, address square footage, address simple things as masks.

As we're learning over and over again that can go a long way.


BRUNHUBER: That was our Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting.

So in the next hour, we're looking at how remote learning is taking a toll on childhood health and the parents who took their fight to court. But first, the U.S. is giving Yemen's Houthi rebels a cease- fire plan.

But does it have a chance of ending Yemen's brutal civil war?


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you trust America to take forward negotiations to bring peace here in Yemen?


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Coming up, CNN's Nima Elbagir in Yemen speaks with a top Houthi official about what it will take to stop the conflict and the humanitarian catastrophe it's brought.




BRUNHUBER: Witnesses in Myanmar tell CNN two people in Mandalay were killed today when police fired weapons during a street protest. Witnesses there say police used live ammunition to disperse an angry crowd outside a police station.

The U.N. estimates at least 80 civilians have died so far in the recent crackdowns on public demonstrations. The U.N. report on the situation concludes the military's systemic use of deadly force likely constitutes crimes against humanity.

The ongoing violence has prompted the Biden administration to offer temporary sanctuary to people from Myanmar who are already in the U.S.

The United States says it will be restoring humanitarian aid to northern Yemen, an area largely under control of the Houthi rebels. It comes as the country is on the verge of the biggest famine in modern history. The head of the World Food Programme told the United Nations he was frustrated by the lack of coverage it's receiving.


DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WFP: The demands are catastrophic right now. And, you know, you turn on the media, the United States right now, it's all about Harry and Meghan. I mean, OK, that's fine. But, my God, I have people dying right now.


BRUNHUBER: The director also says he spoke with Houthi leadership about a cease-fire plain that the U.S. presented a number of days ago. He says an agreement is imperative to prevent more deaths.

In an exclusive interview, a senior Houthi official said down with CNN at an undisclosed location in Yemen. He told our Nima Elbagir the Saudi official is responsible and denied Houthis are responsible for worsening conditions in Ma'rib.



ELBAGIR: Do you trust America to take forward negotiations to bring peace here in Yemen?

MOHAMMED ALI AL-HOUTHI, SENIOR HOUTHI OFFICIAL (through translator): Today, America is seen as a murderer by whole of the Middle East and Islamic world and most of the countries that it has reached. We consider America as the murderer of our people.

First of all, President Biden were a partner of President Obama. And during the time, they declared they would join the coalition against our country.

They also agreed and gave the green light for the coalition to perpetrate the killing in our country. Trust is created by actions, not words. Trust must come about as a result of decisions. So far, we have not seen any decisions.

ELBAGIR: What is your responsibility for the humanitarian crisis? There are half a million displaced people within that city while the fighting is happening on and the offensive continues?

AL-HOUTHI (through translator): The humanitarian crisis involves 18 to 19 million, all who are on the areas under our control, because they are suffering because of the shortage of water, shortage of medication and shortage of food. And they are suffering from the suffocating and restricting blockade. Sick people are dying here every day.

With regard to the children, according to statements from certain reputable organization, a child dies in Yemen every five or 10 minutes as a result of the suffocating blockade.

ELBAGIR: In terms of the peace process, you said that so far, the American administration has not actually done anything, practically, it hasn't come forward with a plan, it hasn't come forward with any points to bring about a resolution to this conflict.

If they did come to you with key points, would you be willing to go back to the negotiating table?

AL-HOUTHI (through translator): We're always pro-peace, I have suggested and presented many initiatives to the Republic of Yemen. We have requested that the shelling on us stops, that the shelling on them stops and the blockade be lifted. We asked for the fight to cease on all fronts but they refuse to stop it.


BRUNHUBER: All right. So let's delve deeper into the crisis in Yemen now with Joost Hiltermann via Skype from Brussels, the Middle East and North Africa director for the International Crisis Group.

Thank you so much for joining us. The Biden administration has taken some steps to stop what's going on in Yemen.

Do you think this is a convenient pretext, given that the Houthis have control of so much of the country?

JOOST HILTERMANN, THE CRISIS GROUP: It's very clear there are two ways to address the humanitarian crisis. One is to provide Band-aids; the second way is to end the war.

That is the best way but it's obviously the most difficult one. So the Houthis and the Saudis have been talking in back channel talks for some time. Now that we have a new administration in Washington, I think we can see additional pressure on Saudi Arabia to come to talks.

And, because of the channel the Biden administration wants to open with Iran on the nuclear deal, there's an opportunity also that there could be pressure from the Iranian side on the Houthis to come back to the table and to reach a cease-fire that would certainly alleviate already -- it would be a first step towards alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

BRUNHUBER: Let's talk about Iran, then, since you mentioned that it allied with the Houthis.

How does Yemen fit into the wider picture there of that U.S.-Iran relationship, specifically with the nuclear trade deal?

HILTERMANN: The nuclear deal signed in 2015, that one has come apart during the Trump administration. The Biden administration wants to go back to it.

And the question is, there are a number of complaints about the JCP way, from the side of Israel, the Arab Gulf states, as to, you know, whether it was a good deal or not and especially whether it included, which it didn't.


HILTERMANN: And should include Iran's regional power projection in the Middle East which is seen as a great threat by these countries.

As President Biden goes back to this deal, as he says he wants to, and the Iranians are going back to it, the question is are we going back straight to a nuclear deal or is there room for discussion about these other, these regional power projection issues?

And Yemen would be a good test case for that because the Saudis want to get out of that war. It's not leading to any military victory that they might have sought from the beginning.

For the Iranians, it's been a minor investment compared to where their weight lies in the region, which is Syria and Lebanon, maybe Iraq. But not in Yemen. So there's a real opportunity to come to an agreement in Yemen, if all sides want to move forward.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's the big question. On Iran's part, I mean, your organization has called the Trump administration's strategy of maximum pressure against Iran a failure and, you know, so far, it seems that the signals that the Biden administration has been sending, trying to reduce those tensions, have been, you know, largely rebuffed.

So what now?

HILTERMANN: Well, we have to be very careful because the Biden administration is still young. We are all impatient. As I say, as a supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, for the two sides to come back to it. But it's not a simple return where both sides declare that the United States re-enters the deal and Iran will reverse the foundations that it has committed until the last two years.

It's going require a little bit of a process that may stretch out over some time. And that needs to be carefully synchronized between the two sides. That is just beginning.

But both have said that they want to move forward with it and that is what it is encouraging me to believe that, in fact, this may succeed over time.

At the same time, there could be confidence building steps taken on the regional level, be it in Yemen, be it in Iraq, be it in Lebanon. And I think we need to work on all fronts and the Biden administration needs to do so and the Iranians will reciprocate when they see that the American side is of goodwill about this.

BRUNHUBER: We'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

We will be right back. Please do stay with CNN.





BRUNHUBER: Prince Harry and Meghan are trying to bring about change after their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. Their foundation, called Archewell, is throwing its weight behind these organizations dealing with racial justice, mental health and the media.

Now as allegations of racism swirl around the British royal family, they are reflecting on this moment from just about three years ago.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Now to some, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle felt like a beacon of hope and change within the monarchy. Broadcaster Bonnie Greer covered the story that day and here's how she remembers it.

"I had had that debate on set and on air with an African American anchor covering the wedding with me. He said that the U.K. was about to be born again. Now the story is broken and a bit of America's feeling about the U.K. is broken, too. It's like finding out the cruel habits of that nice, civil lady down the road."

Bonnie Greer joins me now live from London.

Bonnie, thanks so much for being here.


BRUNHUBER: Explain what you mean by that colorful turn of phrase there, "the cruel habits of that nice, civil lady down the road," what did you mean by that?

GREER: Kim, being Canadian, you kind of understand something, I think, on a deeper level than most Americans. This family runs, as you know, very deep in the consciousness of people in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth. So there is this idea that the royal family's ideal, the ideal

representation of the family and suddenly to find out that they're not only like a typical family but they might be even a little worse. So it's caused a great deal of consternation here.

People are running all over the place. But they don't really grasp how deeply this family is embedded in their own consciousness, in their own lives. So it's a matter of people who decide they want to blame the family and people deciding that they want to exonerate the family.

But it's all this very deeply personal stuff. And I think that's the crisis here, more than the family itself.

BRUNHUBER: I mean, this is one of those stories where people have literally stopped me on the street here in Atlanta to talk about it. The reaction in the U.K. to the allegations of racism seem to be mainly, you know, shock and surprise.

But many people here I've spoken to, particularly African Americans, are surprised so many people are surprised.

I mean, has the reaction been similar among people of color there?

GREER: Absolutely. And, I mean, that's divided, too, because people of color here are British, too. So there's a divide running down that as well.

I've met members of the royal family and, I mean, you know, for a couple of minutes or whatever, they didn't seem racist to me.

But -- and that's what a lot of Black British people are saying, who have met them or worked with them. But they still exist on the same divide. The issue becomes, after this queen passes, if there will be a commonwealth, particularly among the countries of color. So that is going to be interesting, too.

BRUNHUBER: Is the reaction among people of color so visceral because they feel that, if Meghan Markle and her child weren't accepted because of their race by the royals and by many in wider society.


BRUNHUBER: Then what chance do they have and the fact that so many people now are denying there is a problem, I imagine that it mirrors the experience of many people of color that they've had in their own lives.

GREER: Well, one prominent Black British broadcaster resigned from a press awards. And then so began a rolling set of resignations, where journalists of color, lots of them, I think almost 100, said, no, our sort of experience with the British press is exactly what Meghan is saying.

So the -- and the divide here is also with the fact that this country is very, very bound up in the press, particularly the tabloid press, to an extent that I think the average American wouldn't understand, because in America, the press isn't that prominent, the printed press.

But in Britain, it is. So, there is the clash about the influence of the press and there's also the reality of those of us, who are people of color and what we know on an everyday basis. And Meghan's story resonates. And that's a big crisis right now.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, it does absolutely resonate, as you say. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Bonnie Greer in London, we really appreciate you coming on.

GREER: Thank you. Thank you for asking.

And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Stay with us. I'll be back in just a moment with more news.