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Many Arrests In Miami During Spring Break; Three-Feet Social Distancing May Reopen Schools; Republican Senator Not Threatened By Capitol Rioters; Stormy Sunday For Millions Across U.S., From Severe Thunderstorms To Blizzard Conditions.; Organizers In California Has Collected Two Million Signatures For Recall Effort Of Governor Gavin Newsom; Wall Street Awaiting And Tracking Impact Of Biden's Stimulus Bill; CNN Original Series, "Lincoln: Divided We Stand." Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 14, 2021 - 17:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Health officials say don't let your guard down just yet. But tell that to the crowds partying in Miami for spring break.

CNN learned Miami Beach police have spent the weekend breaking up unruly crowds. At least 100 people arrested this weekend alone. Some masks, but certainly not many, and no apparent concern for social distancing. Those images aside, there are glimmers of optimism today for school kids, their parents, and really for all Americans eager to put the coronavirus pandemic finally in the past.

Dr. Anthony Fauci saying today it is possible that three feet of social distancing instead of six would suffice to reopen schools. And he teased that new guidance would soon be coming. Also today, COVID vaccinations are way up. The CDC now reporting more than 107 million people in this country have received at least one dose.

And the average over the past week is about 2.3 million people getting vaccinated every day. Let's begin with CNN national correspondent Natasha Chen in Florida for us. Natasha, visitors are there in huge numbers for spring break despite the pandemic. Are people taking precautions?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, most of the people we are seeing walking along Ocean Drive here are not wearing a mask. And you have mentioned there is not a lot of social distancing going on, especially with the evening crowds.

Here's video that someone took from Friday night. This is an incident that happened a few blocks from where I am standing where there was a very large crowd and Miami Beach police had tweeted about this saying that two of their officers actually got injured in the situation as they tried to disperse the crowd with pepper balls.

A couple of the officers had to be sent to the hospital. That's just one example of the rowdiness that happened over the weekend. We did talk to some visitors from out of town saying they are not only trying to escape colder weather. They are trying to escape more stringent COVID restrictions where they live.

One woman we talked to is visiting from New Orleans and she said, in comparison, this place feels a lot freer. She said she is jealous and wants to move here.


CHAVELL WINSTON, MIAMI BEACH VISITOR: I have enjoyed it and I haven't felt in harm's way at all. I have been being safe as restricted. I have my mask and its fine. It's cool.

CHEN: Do you feel like the crowds around you are behaving or keeping safe?

WINSTON: Yes, I feel very safe.


CHEN: And we know of at least a couple of colleges and universities in Florida that actually canceled their spring breaks or extended their winter breaks longer, basically avoiding people taking a week off and traveling. But that hasn't stopped a lot of people, as you can see, from coming to town anyway.

The mayor told me, you know, with the cheaper airfare and discounted hotel rooms that there are a lot of folks here at higher numbers certainly than last year, not quite to 2019 numbers. And the city of Miami Beach says they welcome visitors to enjoy their beaches but the motto is vacation responsibly, Ana.

CABRERA: And looking at those images you can see people are out in full force, but it sure looks beautiful. Natasha Chen, thank you.

President Biden talked about Fourth of July barbecues. Dr. Anthony Fauci says me might be able to look forward to more than that.


ANTHONY FACUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If by the time we get to the Fourth of July with the rollout with vaccines, we get the level of infection so low I'm not going to tell what you the specific guidelines of the CDC are, but I can tell you for sure they will be much more liberal than they are right now about what you can do.


CABRERA: With us now, Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner and a CNN medical analyst. Dr. Wen, what would much more liberal restrictions look like?

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm excited about the summer that's coming. I think that what Dr. Fauci was referring to is that we can already be gathered outdoors in small groups spaced at least six feet apart. And so I think we need to look forward to something a bit more than that.

What the CDC is saying, I think their guidance this week is a good start, is that we can get together if we are fully vaccinated ourselves with other fully vaccinated people. But I would hope that by July, enough Americans in the country have been vaccinated that we can get enough of a herd immunity effect in some places.

And maybe that would allow for small groups to gather indoors, including people with children who are not yet vaccinated, but ideally there is enough immunity in that group by adults getting vaccinated that that would also help to protect the kids as well.

CABRERA: Are you worried at all about setbacks because of spring break?

WEN: I am. I'm very worried when I see these images of people gathering, not so much gathering on the beach outdoors, but about what else they're doing.


They're probably also going to indoor bars and restaurants, not wearing masks, maybe getting together for socials and parties with many people. I think we are in a -- were at ast crossroads, because on one hand we are getting vaccines out at record pace. But on the other hand, we have these variants. We also know that surges have occurred after spring break and after holidays before. So, what happens now is really up to us.

CABRERA: I want to play what former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb said this morning.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: All of the evidence across all the vaccines now is pointing in the direction that these vaccines reduce asymptomatic infection and reduce transmission. We have always believed that they are having that effect. We didn't know the full magnitude of that benefit.

But all of the incremental evidence coming out suggest that the impact on the reduction in transmission could be quite strong. If that's the case, the vaccine creates what we call dead-end hosts. A lot dead-end host meaning people will no longer be able to transmit the infection.


CABRERA: That sounds like huge news. And if that's the case, should vaccinated people have more freedoms than what the CDC guidelines say?

WEN: Well, I believe so. There is growing evidence and again, this is great news that people who are vaccinated not only are protected themselves from getting severely ill, but they're also protected from transmitting coronavirus to other people. Maybe not 100 percent but the study from Israel shows that they are 94

percent protected which is incredible news. And so, I do think that the CDC needs to come out a lot stronger with saying here are all the things that you can do when you are fully vaccinated. We should get away from this idea of zero percent safe or 100 percent safe.

Nothing at this point is going to be 100 percent safe. And so we give people good guidance that they can use in their lives. For example, we can say if you're not yet vaccinated, here is the spectrum of safety for all these activities that you want to do, from going to restaurants and bars and visiting family members.

But if you're fully vaccinated, maybe many of those things that were previously high risk are now low risk. And we need to really help people with practical guidance that they can use in their lives, recognizing that even if the CDC is saying don't travel, we are having record travel days.

So we need to help people with doing things safely, reducing their risk, managing their risk, rather than telling people you can't do any of these things.

CABRERA: And to your point of, you know, good versus perfect and evaluating things in that light, we've all become very accustomed to the six feet social distancing rule. Well, here is Dr. Fauci on whether that could be reduced, especially as it applies to students going back to the classroom.


FAUCI: The CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like three feet are okay under certain circumstances. They are analyzing that and I can assure you within a reasonable period of time, quite reasonable, they will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have. It won't be very long, I promise you.


CABRERA: I spoke with Randi Weingarten, she is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, about this yesterday.


CABRERA: In this huge analysis, school districts in Indiana, Virginia, and Massachusetts, they have all adopted a three-foot standard instead of the six feet distance in the classroom. And those states have not seen a surging cases. We also know the World Health Organization's guidelines also suggest just three feet of distance in schools. Is that more doable?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: I don't think so, Ana. I think what you saw with the CDC guidelines is that if you have a lot of community spread, then you need to use the six feet or you need to have barriers because this is still a respiratory disease.


CABRERA: So, three feet or six feet? What makes sense right now based on the science?

WEN: There is something that the CDC guidelines do not yet contain. And I think they need to start incorporating this into their next set of guidelines. And that is, what is the effect of vaccination? Vaccines are another layer of protection just like masking and social distancing are.

As more people get vaccinated, and I know children are not yet vaccinated, but as more adults are vaccinated, can we then say with this additional layer of protection, if all the staff in the school or even all the parents and caregivers, if most of them are vaccinated can you then peel back these other layers including this requirement of six foot distancing?

Otherwise, if we don't peel back this layer, we are not going to be able to get our children back to school full-time. And I think that is our goal. That should be our goal, especially for the fall, but ideally even sooner. So, what other layers, if we have vaccines as a requirement, what is it that we can do to move the six feet to three feet.

CABRERA: Yes. Space is always a huge issue obviously with schools and public schools in particular with bigger classroom sizes. Italy, we are now seeing going back into lockdown.


The country there seeing a surge in new cases causing the government there to really shut down the entire country over Easter weekend. So, what lessons can we learn from Italy? What did they do wrong?

WEN: It's really hard to say in retrospect about what they did wrong. I mean, we can look back and say probably what happened was that they opened too soon. They removed their restrictions too quickly. And then these more contagious variants took over and that's why they are having to do the shutdown again.

We could look at Italy and say maybe that could happen here, too. Something that's in our favor in the U.S. though is that our vaccination rates are a lot higher than Italy's are. And we also have, unfortunately, a lot of people who have been infected by coronavirus and so have immunity that way as well.

So, will we go the direction of Italy? It certainly possible, but I want people to know that where we go, just as it has been during the entire pandemic, where we go from here is really up to us.

We can go in that direction, have a terrible surge, have to have restrictions again and delay the timeline to normality or we can go down a much better path, and that requires people getting vaccinated when it is our turn. And in the meantime, keeping masking, physical distancing, and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings.

CABRERA: Dr. Leana Wen, we appreciate you so much. Many thanks.

New today, the most powerful woman in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, stopping short for calling for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign amid growing sexual harassment allegations.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I do think that the women deserve to hear the results of these investigations, as does the governor, but again --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Can he be an effective leader now?

PELOSI: No tolerance -- no tolerance. And this is a subject very near and dear to my heart. This is -- no tolerance for sexual harassment. Let the world know that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not calling on him the resign right now?

PELOSI: I think we should see the results of the -- but he may decide, and that was -- hopefully, this result will be soon. And what I'm saying is the governor should look inside his heart -- he loves New York -- to see if he can govern effectively.


CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN's Athena Jones in New York State capital of Albany. And Athena, what more are we hearing from, you know, other Democratic leaders, potential colleagues of the governor?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, the majority of the biggest names in New York politics are calling on the governor to resign. You heard Speaker Pelosi in Washington stopping short of that.

But on Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand put out a joint statement joining with the majority of the New York's congressional delegation in saying that it's time for Governor Cuomo to step aside.

They both reiterated that idea in remarks today. Take a listen to first Senator Gillibrand and then Senator Schumer.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): I commend the brave actions of the individuals that have come forward to speak of serious allegations of misconduct and abuse. It's clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners as well as the people of New York. That's why I believe that the governor has to resign.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There are multiple serious credible allegations of abuse so that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and of so many New Yorkers. So, for the good of the state, he should resign. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So, remarkably similar messages coming from the two senators from New York. Meanwhile, the governor has maintained that he has done nothing wrong, that he is not going to step aside, that he can continue to do this job.

He has been asked, you know, these investigations you are facing, two of them. One of them by the state assembly looking into these allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. Another under the auspices of the attorney general's office of New York.

They are asking, you know, these are going to be distractions, shouldn't you maybe step aside? He says, no, I have been able to deal with big things, with distractions. We had to negotiate the state budget last year during the height of the pandemic in New York State. We are going to do that again this year.

He talks about needing to head up the distribution of millions of vaccinations. He says that he is the best person to do so and that he can continue to govern effectively. But I can tell you that some folks we've spoken with are questioning that.

One lobbyist that my colleague, Laura Dolan, spoke with here in Albany says that this is somebody who had a good relationship with the Cuomo administration who at this point is having trouble even getting a call back to schedule a meeting to talk about important legislation.

This is something that according to this person, they feel that it's because this is a top-down administration where only a handful of the top aides to the governor make decision and that they're distracted and unable to respond.

So, that is anecdotal evidence of what at least some -- folks on the ground here think about the governor's ability to continue to lead. Ana?

CABRERA: Athena Jones in Albany, New York. Thank you. Coming up, a sitting senator's racist remark.



SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): 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.


CABRERA: The statement now even more alarming considering what we've just learned about who was in that mob that attacked the capitol. The latest stunning arrest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: In a new court filing, prosecutors alleged that one of the rioters involved in the capitol insurrection was an army reservist who was a well-known Nazi sympathizer at the Navy base where he worked as a contractor. He even was rebuked for sporting a distinctive Hitler mustache. CNN's Marshall Cohen joins us now. Marshall, I know you've been going through documents related to this arrest. What more can you tell us?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Ana, his name is Timothy Hale-Cusanelli. He's an Army reservist with a security clearance and he worked as a contractor at a Navy base in New Jersey.


So as you mentioned, prosecutors are now revealing that the Navy did its own internal investigation after he was arrested in January. Their findings were shocking. Thirty-four of this man's co-workers at that Navy base said that he exhibited "extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities, and women."

His colleagues shared disturbing stories of his racist and bigoted conduct at the Navy base. They said he made near daily comments against Jews and even came to the office wearing a Hitler mustache as you saw in those photos, which drew a rebuke from one of his supervisors.

Now, Ana, the prosecutors said that they searched his cell phone. They found racist memes about African-Americans. One image containing the "N" word. Another comparing black to people to animals. And that one of the memes on his cellphone contained a twisted joke about George Floyd who was killed in police custody last year.

I want to be crystal clear, Ana, that we reached out to this man's attorney earlier today and he did not want to comment. But in previous court filings, he has said that the reservist, Hale-Cusanelli, is not part of any extremist organizations and that when he spoke to the FBI, he denied that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

CABRERA: That's all very disturbing. Marshall Cohen, thank you. Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, and CNN political commentator and host of "Firing Line" on PBS, Margaret Hoover. John, let's just, you know, take that news and couple it with something that Senator Ron Johnson just said about why he didn't fear the capitol insurrectionists that day. Listen.


JOHNSON: I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law, and so I wasn't concerned. Now, had the tables been turned, and Joe, this could get me in trouble, had the tables been turn asked 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.

(END AUDIO CLIP) CABRERA: We have all seen the video of the riot that day. Now, we know

among the crowd was this Nazi sympathizer and Johnson is basically saying these weren't people to feel threatened by.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And he is selling the part -- saying that quite part out loud, that he's not threatened by people who attack the capitol as long as they are white and Republican. And -- but if you flip the script and all of a sudden they are African-American, BLM protesters or Antifa, he's terrified.

And it speaks to what a terrible drug, the sickness in our politics is about hyper partisanship, negative partisanship, these things that make people engage in group blame and group think as Johnson is. It's not even a racist dog whistle. It's a frank admission.

And these photos from Marshall's reporting of one of these rioters, I mean, you know, I don't know how much more evidence you need to see. The guy wore a Hitler mustache to work at a Navy base.

So, are these really the patriots you want to stand beside and say you weren't threatened by in addition to the militia members and all the other folks who've already been -- had been busted to taking part in this attack on our capitol?

It's but the least patriotic thing any of us could ever imagine, and yet a senator is, you know, bending -- falling over himself trying to excuse it. It's pathetic.

CABRERA: Margaret, your thoughts?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Ana, I think what we have here is something far more pernicious than Ron Johnson saying he wouldn't have been scared if they had been white and Republican. I mean, if any of the protesters had come upon any senator regardless of how Republican or how white he or she was, none of them would have been spared.

I mean, we know that Mike Pence and Mitt Romney, they came within minutes of their life, perhaps, you know, seconds of their lives. So, what's much more pernicious here is the fact that there is a burgeoning and exploding white supremacy sort of ideology that has permeated both law enforcement and the military. Not permeated. I want talk --

AVLON: Making in --

HOOVER: -- but it is actually growing within those ranks. And the military has written about it. "Military Times," many of the beat -- the reporters who cover the military have documented this through the Trump years. As well as law enforcement, the Brennan Center has done a great job of documenting this.

So, what needs to be done is -- care needs to be given to identifying this ideology within the ranks and as individuals leave the military and law enforcement because so many of those were either active -- many active duty but also ex-military, like Ashli Babbitt, the former Air Force official who had been -- succumbed to QAnon conspiracy theories and died that day on January 6th.

CABRERA: I just can't stop thinking though about the comments that we heard from Ron Johnson because he said it so matter-of-factly like it was normal to say those sort of things and acceptable to say those sort of things.

AVLON: He said what he absolutely believes. And he's going to have to own that.


And actually, it is very revealing and clarifying to hear him say it, the quiet part out loud.


AVLON: That he is willing to excuse an attack on our capitol because he didn't think it is a big deal if they are from folks who are white and Republican from his side of the aisle. But a totally different reaction if they were black or from the left. And that's a kind of sickness that every single Republican in the Senate should be asked whether they agree with it -- many of them might quietly -- or whether they condemn it.

CABRERA: I want to turn to the coronavirus pandemic now because President Biden hits the road this week to sell the benefits of the stimulus deal to the American people. And in a speech, Biden, you know, trumpeted the news that he is pushing for all adults to be eligible for a COVID vaccine by May 1st. Maybe we'll return to normalcy, he says, by those July 4th barbecues. Welcome headlines obviously unless of course, you were watching Fox News.


MARK LEVIN, FOX NEWS HOST: It's the most disgusting propagandistic speech that a demagogue, even a politician has ever given.

BEN DOMENECH, PUBLISHER, THE FEDERALIST: This is another garbage speech full of lies from a senile person who thinks that they are in- charge of America but actually isn't running anything.

LEVIN: He is not a doddering old fool, an egomaniac, and a narcissist taking credit for the work of Donald Trump and all these other people.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: But I do need to give Joe Biden a congratulations tonight. He stayed up an hour past his beddy (ph) time. After days and days of practice, he was able to read from the teleprompter for almost 20 whole minutes without making a total fool out of himself.


CABRERA: Margaret, what's your reaction to that?

HOOVER: Look, I mean this isn't news. This is propaganda. This is ideology. This is -- what the base is listening to and hearing. And it's actually, you know, if you want to really be analytical, it's rather instructive. If you are trying to reach out to people, like it's important to hear what people are hearing so that you can try to reach out to those people and change their minds.

I mean, on the Republican side, like I know where the base is when I watch Fox News and I hear what they are saying. That's what I know a percentage of the party is listening to. And so it's instructive to me because it gives me sort of marching orders to know what to say instead and how to try to reach out to people, but it's not news.

AVLON: No, well, of course it's not news. It is talking points and desperate jackassery. I mean, to hear Mark Levin bleat about a demagogic speech that was civil and kind and compassionate after defending Donald Trump for the past four years, tells you everything you need know.

But the fact you can't see the talking points and see what they're trying to tell people and it explains why we are having difficulty having a fact-based debate in this country because these are not anything resembling facts. This isn't even opinion. This is just hysterical screaming in the room against a phantom menace, and it is nonsense.

CABRERA: A pair of interesting polls from CNN this week, one showed that while President Biden holds a 92 percent approval rating among Democrats, that falls to just 8 percent among Republicans. His overall job approval is north of 50 percent, at 51 percent, which is ahead of trump, but it's still, as you can see, near the bottom of the list when it comes to where other presidents were just two months into their office. What does that tell you guys?

AVLON: Well, I mean, look, it says obviously we are a deeply polarized country. But it does -- I mean, I don't think you should just put aside the fact that Donald Trump is the only president in the history of Gallup polling to never be above 50 percent. And that's because he did not try to reach out. He tried to divide to conquer.

And Joe Biden is offering very totally different approach to the presidency stylistically and substantially (ph). You can disagree about reconciliation or any other kind of thing, but it speaks to the challenge he is confronting.

But the fact that he is above water in this environment, that the COVID relief bill was decidedly above water despite getting no Republican bills, speaks to the underlying problem in our politics.

But the right thing to do is still, for every president, to try to unite rather than divide. And that will ultimately reap rewards with independents, if not, with folks on the far right.

CABRERA: Quick final thought, Margaret.

HOOVER: Look, I think Joe Biden should try to unite and not divide. And so I hope that we have some legislation coming forward that we can get real Republican support on board for because that would go a long way to trying to heal the divide. So he got to reach out for Republicans --

AVLON: Depends on them then?

HOOVER: -- got to reach out to Republicans and try to work with them from the beginning. And they -- that just clearly wasn't -- that wasn't the end game here on the COVID bill. They didn't need Republicans for it and so they chose not to have it and Republicans made it easy for Republicans to object to it.

CABRERA: And yet there were a number of things in the bill that Republicans are now going back to their constituents and saying look what we got you, even though they voted no on it. John Avlon and Margaret Hoover, it's good to see both of you. Thank you.

HOOVER: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: It is enough snow for you to swim in. And people are getting strong in Colorado right now. That is the scene in my home state where more than 33,000 residents are without power. They are skiing. They are shoveling. They are snow blowing. And they are trying to stay warm. We'll be back with more after this.



CABRERA: It is a stormy Sunday for millions across the United States, from severe thunderstorms to blizzard conditions. So many are enduring dangerous weather. This is Shallow Water, Texas where a tornado tore through the area, captured in this incredible video, as the Midwest and southeast now face threats of flooding from heavy rainfall.

The same storm is dumping heavy snow and bringing blizzard warnings to Colorado. The state was forced to close more than 50 health centers that provide COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. I want to go to CNN's Derek Van Dam in Boulder, Colorado now.


And Derek, we know Boulder, the entire Front Range currently in a blizzard warning with more than 33,000 customers in Colorado without power. What more can they expect?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Ana, I know that you are from around here so you can appreciate how brutal March snowstorms can be. We still have another 24 hours left of this snow across the Front Range including Denver -- maybe up to four additional inches.

And that's saying something because this was already the second largest March snowstorm in Denver's history. That puts it into context. Big time totals, 19.1 inches so far at the Denver International Airport. They just tweeted out they've cancelled the majority of the flights tonight and for the day tomorrow.

So if you are in Denver, you are struck. But it's paralyzing the highway system around here. Interstate 25, that urban quarter that runs north and south along the Front Range, parts of it closed. Seventy. If you're heading out Summit County where all the ski resorts are, parts of that is closed as well.

Even 76, moving northeast out of Denver, parts of that being shut down. And there are no approximate times when they will reopen that because the snow is just so heavy. Now, it's not just impacting the roadways and the airports. We have talked to some of the locals here in Boulder and they are actually welcoming the snow because, well, as you said in your intro before the commercial break, we are literally swimming this the snow at the ski resorts.

Great for the economy there. But it's also helping insulate some of the recent burn scars that have occurred here. Remember, it was just last season, last October when Colorado had two -- the two largest wildfires in the state's history, and this snow will help alleviate the fire concerns going into the next season. Ana?

CABRERA: Derek Van Dam, stay safe, stay warm. It looks beautiful but I know it's a mess for a lot of people.

VAN DAM: It is.

CABRERA: Thank you. Up next, California's governor, Gavin Newsom, could be out of a job even with two years left in his term. And it could all be due to his COVID response. We'll explain right after this.



CABRERA: We have this just in, 13 California counties including Los Angeles are reducing COVID restrictions after they met vaccination goals. But it might be too little too late for Governor Gavin Newsom. Organizers say they now have enough signatures to force a recall election. The signatures still have to be certified but this makes a recall vote all the more likely.

I want to bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen now in Los Angeles. And Paul, Governor Newsom's handling of the pandemic has been controversial. Explain why Californians are so upset with the governor.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one batch of Californians upset with the governor, restaurant workers and food service workers. They account for 1.8 million Californians. This is Casa Vega. Let me give you a sense for this. This is a tradition-rich L.A. icon.

So much so, maybe you saw the Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio movie "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Well, that was set partly here at Casa Vega.


UNKNOWN: While closer to 8:30, Rick and Cliff went to the valley Mexican restaurant landmark, Casa Vega on Ventura.


VERCAMMEN: So, for 62 years, this has existed. Christy Vega now runs Casa Vega. She says she lost 90 percent of her business during the peak of the pandemic and during the shutdown.


CHRISTY VEGA, OWNER, CASA VEGA RESTAURANT: Absolutely, because he let down the entire state with these shutdowns and the arbitrary nature of them, meaning that the restaurant industry was targeted. I think that that was really hard and that the restaurant industry is the second largest employer this the state of California and they are really working-class people.

And these out of touch politicians don't understand the devastation that they caused to these people. I am a Democrat and he has bankrupted my family. And the only reason that we are standing here right now is because of the federal government.


VERCAMMEN: We should note there are other restaurant owners who support Governor Newsom. Some say that this is just a Republican witch hunt that is the recall. And yet when you walk around here, you can also get a sense for this, Ana.

I know you would like for me to characterize what the vibe is. Californians generally excited this restaurant going to reopen for indoors at 25 percent. Movie theaters, gymnasiums, aquariums and the like. So what's the mood? You finish the song lyric for me. They are so excited, they just can't hide it and they're --

CABRERA: About to lose control, and I think I like it. All right, Paul, that's always fun. Thank you. Good to see you.

Let's turn to Christine Romans now with your "Before the Bell Report."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Central banks are in the spotlight. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan all meet this week.

Investors will hear from Fed chief Jerome Powell on Wednesday. Wall Street wants reassurance that interest rates will stay low even as the economy heats up. That's key. Now, that President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package has been signed into law, it's expected to provide a jolt to the economy, but there is the risk it could spark inflation in the future.

Investors focused on the positive. Last week, the Dow soared to a record high closing above 32,000 for the first time on Wednesday. Tech stocks also recovered, but so far this year, the Dow's mix of companies has outperformed the tech-heavy NASDAQ.

Investors are betting sectors like travel and energy, punished by the pandemic, will surge as the economy reopens. In New York, I'm Christine Romans. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CABRERA: Honest Abe, the great emancipator and one of America's greatest presidents, but the truth and Abraham Lincoln's legacy is more complicated than that this. Week's episode of the "CNN Original Series Lincoln: Divided We Stand" examines Lincoln's evolution on issues like slavery and equality.


UNKNOWN: It was people to the left of Lincoln who had the vision that most closely ascribes to what we think of as what rights should be today, and I don't say that to take Lincoln down. I say it to try to accurately reflect how change really happens.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: We think about presidents as if they are weather makers, but they don't create history, they serve history.


These are not positions he rushes to. He is drugged (ph) to them by events as he tries to surf the waves, and it shows that people can make a difference whether you are in office or not.

UNKNOWN: Now that Lincoln is re-nominated, the Republican Party officially adopts universal abolition as its platform. After decades of moderate and conciliatory rhetoric on slavery, Lincoln becomes a full-fledged abolitionist.


CABRERA: And back with us now, CNN's senior political analyst, John Avlon who is also the author of the forthcoming book, "Lincoln and the Fight for Peace."

So, john, this week we get a look at the Battle of Gettysburg, the deadliest battle and a major turning point of the Civil War. And more than 50,000 soldiers on both sides are killed. Four months later, Lincoln gives the Gettysburg address, and it's hailed as an instant masterpiece. Tell us more about the importance of that speech.

AVLON: Well, the Gettysburg address is 272 words. It's poetry. It's actually my favorite poem. It's the poetry of democracy and what Lincoln does is give the war meaning that transcends the current fight. And he feels obligated to do that because it is about making sure that these dead have not died in vain so that we may carry forward government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

And coupled with the second inaugural, which is the greatest inaugural of all-time, and it contains that last paragraph and last sentence which I think is the most perfect sentence in American politics, you really get a sense of Lincoln's soul, and indeed the soul of democracy. And I do think that, you know, this documentary series does a great job showing the complexities of Lincoln, but I don't think he was drugged (ph), dragged to the position of backing emancipation. I mean, when he ran for Senate, he was basically a single issue candidate.

What he did was lead the country's popular opinion to the point where we could pass the 13th amendment to abolish slavery, and that required statesmanship and brought -- bringing together broad coalitions who at the start of the war, refused to fight for abolition of slavery. They were focused on saving the Union alone.

Lincoln, along with the people working at different layers of politics in government, helped bring that change about. And it was sea (ph) change.

CABRERA: And so let's talk more about that and the motivation behind Lincoln, you know, in this evolution because we have, as we have seen throughout the series, you know, Lincoln's position on slavery did evolve over time. And while he oppose slavery on moral grounds, there were also political factors at play, right? How did that 1864 election push him to embrace the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery?

AVLON: Well, the 1864 election, I think, can honestly be said to be the most high stakes consequential civilization defining election in our history, because he was running against George McClellan, former Union general running as a so-called peace Democrat.

The Confederacy wanted them to win because they felt then that they'd be able to sue (ph) for peace at the expense of not the Union than the preservation of slavery. And Lincoln taps Andrew Johnson, a war Democrat, to join him on a national union party ticket, a centrist third party fusion ticket building on the Republican base. And really, the fate of the republic as well as the end of slavery hangs in the balance.

And in August before the election, Lincoln thought he would lose. He actually passes around an envelope to his cabinet with predictions of his own political demise inside. But then Sherman takes Atlanta. The winds of war effectively changed and Lincoln wins a decisive victory with more votes than he won the last time around.

And that provides the validation for his strategy to move emancipation forward. And we are now waiting for the new Congress to take hold. That's when he pushes forward the 13th amendment. So when the war ends, that enthusiasm -- the momentum to end slavery doesn't stop as well.

And that's a matter of political leadership, presidential leadership, working with the legislative branch to pass this constitutional amendment that makes good on the emancipation's promise, to make sure that we were forever free from the stain of slavery.

CABRERA: That's how progress happens. John Avlon, thank you. Be sure to tune in. "Lincoln: Divided We Stand" airs tonight at 10:00 right here on CNN. As most of you know, I had a brother who survived pediatric brain

cancer, so this is something that really hits home, and I want to ask for your help. This beautiful, brave little girl, Francesca, nickname Beans, is the daughter of our colleague, Andrew Kaczynski and his wife, Rachel Ensign.

Francesca died of an aggressive form of brain cancer on Christmas Eve. She was just nine months old. This past Thursday would have been her first birthday. To commemorate that, CNN is launching the hashtag #TeamBeans to raise funds and research and treatment at the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute where Francesca was treated.

So, we invite you to help by purchasing one of these beanies You can see I have mine. They really are, really, high quality warm hats. And of course, it's the cause that's most important because If could save lives.


Remember, all the proceeds will go to help other wonderful children, like Francesca, so hopefully you can pick one of these up.

Thank does it for me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for spending part of your weekend with me. My colleague, Pam Brown, takes over right after this.