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Health Experts Sound Alarm Over Spring Break Surge; Probe Finds Capitol Siege Defendant Is Well-Known Nazi Sympathizer; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Stands Alone Amid Repeated Calls For His Resignation; Italy Braces For New Lockdown Starting Monday; White House Hits The Road To Sell Stimulus Deal To American People; FEMA To Help With Surge Of Migrant Children At The Southern Border; The 2021 Grammy To Feature Live Performances. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 14, 2021 - 18:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I am Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN Newsroom on this Sunday.

And in Florida, spring breakers are making their annual pilgrimage to the beach and cutting loose after a year of lockdowns and quarantines, but health experts warn we are in a critical turning point in the pandemic, as highly contagious variants rapidly can spread. Right now, the CDC says Florida is leading the nation in infections from the U.K. variant.

Joe Johns has more on this collision of spring break and the pandemic. Joe, this is such a critical moment.


Now, the CDC says essentially that there are about 4,900 cases involving variants that have been spotted all around the country, but the big concern right now at least, this weekend at least, is that there could be a spike in the numbers because spring break is upon us.


JOHNS (voice over): Spring break in South Florida where college students might not be the only ones hitting the beaches. Experts fear COVID-19 and variants of the virus are coming too, as the decline in cases across the country starts to level off.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Even though the numbers have gone down over the last couple of weeks, they have plateaued. And when you see a plateau at a level as high as 60,000 cases a day, that is a very vulnerable time to have a surge to go back up.

JOHNS: Adding to the concern, air travel is setting pandemic records, more than 1.3 million people screened at airports on Friday, the highest number since March 15th last year. But it's not just spring breakers causing concern. In Arkansas, the Republican governor says there's trouble in his state with loyal followers of the last president who don't want to get vaccinated.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): We are seeing that problem, and the poll numbers are troubling, because in Arkansas, it's a very pro-Trump state in terms of the last election. And so we see that resistance whenever we are opening up eligibility for the vaccine, we are moving through it quickly because we are not having everybody to sign up to take it.

JOHNS: If you think it's just Arkansas, you would be wrong. Only 50 percent of Republicans say they have gotten a dose of the vaccine or plan to get one, according to a new CNN poll. For the record, then- President Trump himself quietly got the shot before he left office.

Maryland's Republican governor says, Trump's failure to participate in the joint COVID messaging campaign did not help, but --

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): You can't pin all of it on him. I mean, there's a lot of disinformation campaigns from the right and left, a lot of people are vaccine hesitant, and we are doing everything we can to overcome with public information spots.

JOHNS: Though Governor Larry Hogan is defending his own decision as of this weekend to relax capacity restrictions at bars, gyms and other businesses while keeping in place social distancing and face covering requirements, which was the message of the day from the current president on Twitter, encouraging Americans to keep masking, social distancing and washing hands.

On CNN today, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested some CDC recommendations on travel and the workplace could be revised soon as more people get vaccinated.

FAUCI: They just want to make sure that they get it right.

JOHNS: The good news is that, across the country, there are signs that, for now, people are still keeping their guard up. St. Patrick's Day parades in many major cities have been canceled this year, though a bit of tradition survives as the city of Chicago, once again, died the river green.


JOHNS (on camera): And a bit more good news, at least 107 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the United States so far.


69 million people have gotten at least one shot, Pamela.

BROWN: That is encouraging. Joe Johns, thank you so much for the latest there. And now we turn to CNN's Natasha Chen, who is at Miami Beach, where the mayor says far too many people are coming to his town to let loose, and mix messaging on masks is making the situation even worse there.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The city of Miami Beach has put up those signs along Ocean Drive, vacation responsibly. City officials tell me they welcome guests if everyone behaves but they don't really want this to become a spring break destination, per se. They have had problems with crowds here on Friday night at this intersection. Miami Beach police tweeted that the crowd was unruly, surrounded officers, and that's when two police officers were injured as they used pepper balls to try to disperse the crowd.

Now, this Ocean Drive, it became pedestrian only during the pandemic, so restaurants could really build their outdoor dining space here, and that's where a lot of the activity has been happening this week.

Now, the Florida governor does not allow local jurisdictions to fine anyone for not wearing a mask, so the city of Miami Beach can only have ambassadors and officers set up stations like this to hand out free masks in hopes that people will wear them.

BROWN: Natasha Chen reporting from Miami Beach, thanks so much, Natasha.

And tonight, AstraZeneca is doubling down on the safety of its vaccine as yet another country suspends its use. Next hour, I will ask the Dr. Saju Matthews if the concerns are genuine or if this is an overreaction.

And just in time for crowds and spring breakers, Texas is open for business, no masks or social distancing requiring. Representative Michael Burgess is a Republican representing Texas in Congress since 2003, he is one of seven medical doctors serving in the House. Before going into the politics, he was a OBGYN in Dallas. Congressman, thank you for coming on.

On Wednesday, as we all know, Texas became 100 percent open for business, the governor lifted mandates aimed at curbing the pandemic. You are a doctor, you know how serious COVID is. Why not wait until more people are vaccinated and the virus is more under control there?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): Well, I think that two things can happen simultaneously. And, look, we have had good response to the vaccine hub that was set up in the county at the Texas Motor Speedway. They are doing 10,000 vaccinations a day throughout the week, and that's great news.

Some additional data is coming up that a single shot may be more protective than it was originally thought, so your figure of 109 doses having been administered, I mean, that's great news to the population, as more people are going to be a dead end as far as the virus is concerned.

BROWN: So, actually, in Texas, only 2.8 million Texans have been vaccinated out of a population of 29 million. So do you think it would have been more prudent to wait and enforce the mask mandate until those numbers go up, until there's a better control over the virus?

BURGESS: Look, this last year has humbled a lot of us who think we know something about health, think we know something about policy and think we know something about health policy. With all due respect, it might have been better to get this through the FDA a month earlier and I do believe that was possible. At the same time in Texas, at least a month ago, we were shutdown from an ice storm. Now the governor has released the mask mandate.

I think you do see people behaving responsibly. People know they are at risk. People know there's an additional risks, they are always taking precautions, so same things applied that they've always applied. If you are worried about it, wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.

BROWN: Let's talk about people acting responsibly, because since Wednesday, obviously, we know there have been a lot of spring breakers going to travel, we have seen people, spring breakers at Galveston Beach in Texas and other places in Texas, when you see the spike, and I believe we have some pictures and some video to show of Texas, they are with people not masked and in groups together and so forth, when you see that, and there's no mask mandate and so forth, are you concerned there will be a spike after spring break?

BURGESS: Look, we do still have to be careful. The news that is coming out of Italy is concerning but not sure why, what is happening there is happening, so people do need to keep an eye on the fact that the virus has not left us. But the good news is, you know, a year ago, no one thought we would have any vaccine, let alone three vaccines with 95 percent of protection, and that's truly an unbelievable accomplishment of the men and women that put their lives on hold and developed these measures.


BROWN: No doubt, it is a huge accomplishment. I want to ask you about the vaccine and the hesitancy we are seeing. According to polling and, anecdotally, from Governor Kemp in Georgia, that there is more hesitancy among Republicans. What is your message to them? Have you seen that in Texas? How concerned are you about that, that hesitancy among Republicans in particular?

BURGESS: Well, it's not anything new, and I do live in an area where vaccine hesitancy, even back in the days when I was in practice, it was something that I recognized that perhaps our educational efforts have to be even a little more precise because people do have -- seem to ask a lot of questions.

But on this one, let me just tell you, people who are listening, I have had the vaccine, I didn't break in line, got it at the right time, and my family has had the vaccine, they did not break in line, they got it when they were called, but take the vaccine when it's your turn. That's the way we're getting beyond this thing. BROWN: So, let's turn to the border now, where a new wave of unaccompanied migrant children is fueling this -- another crisis, and giving both sides of a political divide ammunition. House Minority Kevin McCarthy is bringing about a dozen GOP House members to the border in your state tomorrow. Do you see a way to get beyond the partisan finger-pointing stage and actually come up with some solution here?

BURGESS: Well, it's been (INAUDIBLE) for a solution for a long time, and 2014 was when I first became acutely involved with what was going on at the border, we had a surge of unaccompanied migrants, unaccompanied children, and, of course, the agency that my committee is responsible for, Energy and Commerce, we have Health and Human Services under our jurisdiction, and they, of course, have the officer refugee settlement in their organization, so these kids essentially are the responsibility of our committee and our subcommittees.

It was important to me back in 2014 to make sure we were doing the proper screening exams, vaccinating the kids from usual childhood illnesses, making sure someone had a T.B. test before they were released with the family out in the country. None of that was happening in 2014. So I credit the folks on the Energy and Commerce Committee for allowing that and getting that to happen.

Now, look, it has taken various twists and turns through various administrations. I was in Carrizo Springs down on the Del Rio sector yesterday. I'll be down on the Rio Grande -- lower Rio Grande Valley tomorrow. It requires constant vigilance and attention.

The answer, unfortunately, is not just building more beds, the answer is going to have to be to address the root causes downstream of what is causing the influx of people into this country. It is simply -- is it simply traffickers and coyotes monetizing the United States' policy in their neighborhoods or is it fearing for someone's safety. And we do have to address that, we do have to address that. We do have to get -- really get on top of that. And that should be a bipartisan effort. It's costing an enormous amount of money.

BROWN: It certainly is. Before we let you go, I want to get your response to what he heard from a Democratic congressman, Brad Schneider, who told NBC he has a basic requirement before he can work with a Republican. He said, at the fundamental level, I need an affirmative statement that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States and the 2020 election was an honest a fair election. Can you agree with that, Congressman Burgess?

BURGESS: No, I have not been asked by Representative Schneider. Look --

BROWN: No, can you agree that it was a fair and free election and that Joe Biden was legitimately elected.

BURGESS: We saw it. We saw the president inaugurated. He is the president of the United States.

BROWN: No, no, no, was he legitimately elected? BURGESS: Well, look, there have been questions or a question in 2000 when I arrived in Congress in 2003. There were still people who said George Bush was not legitimately elected. There were people all through 2017 who said Donald Trump was not legitimately elected. There are always going to be questions. I think --

BROWN: Hold on. But you are making it sound like -- so you cannot just say definitively that Joe Biden, that the majority of Americans voted him into office? And is it acceptable -- go ahead.

BURGESS: I saw him inaugurated. He is the president of United States.

BROWN: That's not the question. Is this really a good standard to say, well, back years ago, they also used Russia to question legitimacy. With Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton conceded. He was welcomed into the White House. In this case, you had someone saying the election was stolen and millions of people believed that line. Can you just say that, yes, a majority of Americans elected Joe Biden into office?

BURGESS: Donald Trump conceded, Joe Biden was inaugurated, we have got a big pandemic to get over and let's get to work.

BROWN: All right. Well, Donald Trump didn't quite concede, but he did leave the White House. Congressman Michael Burgess, thank you for coming on the show. We appreciate it.

BURGESS: Thank you.


BROWN: Later this hour, half of Italy goes into lockdown tomorrow to try and stop the rapid spread of contagious new COVID variants as President Biden kicks off his road show. A food bank in Vegas says it will take more than short-term stimulus checks to fix its broken economy.

And this just in, CNN has learned the recording of a phone call between then-President Trump and an investigator and the Georgia Secretary of State's Office was found in the trash folder on the investigator's device. I will talk to CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates about it in our next hour.

Plus, as FEMA is called in to help meet a migrant surge, a sobering reminder of why so many people are desperate to reach the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I crossed in two times because I was desperate because I didn't have a job here in Mexico. We don't get that many opportunities here in Mexico, that is why you do it.


BROWN: But, first, lawmakers under fire. Two Democratic governors who were praised early on in the pandemic are facing an uncertain political future tonight. Meantime, Senator Ron Johnson is facing pressure to resign after his controversial comments about the deadly Capitol attack.



BROWN: Brand-new court documents pertaining to the January 6th insurrection reveal a disturbing picture, literally. Prosecutors say, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, an Army reservist charged with storming the Capitol, is a well-known Nazi sympathizer and white supremacist, his dedication so deep that he once sported this Hitler mustache. He was rebuked for it on the naval base where he worked as a contractor.

His defense attorney maintained he is not a white supremacist, but according to an internal naval review, many of his colleagues say he spouted nearly daily extremist or racists comments, some of them allegedly include, and this is disturbing to read, you're not Jewish, are you? Jews, women and blacks were on the bottom of the totem pole. Jewish people are ruining everything and did not belong here. And a naval officer recalled him saying, Hitler should have finished the job.

That is someone who stormed the Capitol while allegedly recording himself shouting obscenities at a female police officer. He joined thousands of others who were armed and on a mission. But, remember, Republican Senator Ron Johnson says this was a fine group of citizens.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI) (voice over): I knew those were people that loved this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law, and so I was not 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: Senator Ron Johnson, for the record, more concerned about an imaginary mob of black Americans than an actual mob of violent, mostly white Americans, that included at least alleged Hitler super fan.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to tune out the chorus of voices calling for his resignation. His own party has largely abandoned him over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, plus controversies surrounding this handling of nursing home death data and the pandemic. Both senators from New York, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, doubled down on their stances today.


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.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): 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.


BROWN: CNN Political Commentator Erorl Louis joins me now. He is a political anchor for Spectrum News and he is no stranger to New York politics, having covered it for many years. So, Errol, give us the breakdown, what is going on behind the scenes here of just Cuomo's behavior and response, do these controversies surprised you in any way?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: His response does not surprise me. Andrew Cuomo has wanted to be governor more than almost anything. He turned down publicly any offer to go into the Biden administration, even at a high level, as attorney general, a job for which he was qualified and might even have been considered.

He likes being governor. He really likes being governor. He travels and always makes sure, almost without exception, that he's back in New York before the sun goes down. And that includes trips to Puerto Rico, that includes trips to the Middle East and so forth and so on. So I am not surprised that he has not resigned.

Also, Pam, I also have to say New York has had a very high level of dysfunction in its state government. We have had periods of time when, year after year, the budgets were weeks and months late. We have had periods of time when they didn't pay legislators because the budgets were so late. We have had periods of time when two contending groups both claim to be in charge of the state senate and were both dry trying to conduct business at the same time on the floor.

So the fact that we have a governor that nobody in government seems to want to work with is not going to stop New York from moving forward. And for those reasons, I think Andrew Cuomo was saying, I'm not leaving, and if this is a return to dysfunction, well, we've seen dysfunction before.

BROWN: But that does raise that question, right, the ultimate question right now, how much longer can he continue to hold on without it seriously impacting the ability of his government to function. You're saying that New York has been dealing with dysfunction for many years, but how tenable is this for him to hang on in the midst of all these calls to resign and having to work with other government officials?


LOUIS: Well, we in the media raise the question, of course. The reality is, Pam, that the relationship between the governor's administration and his partners in government was never all that great. We have got a ten-year documented history of angry phone calls, people being shouted at, competent people being driven out of very high levels of government, people being berated, people being threatened over and over and over again. It was standard operating procedure for this administration.

And what you are seeing right now, with the rest of the world is seeing, is a bunch of people are saying enough, enough of this. The mayor of New York, most of the congressional delegation, our two senior and junior senator, people are saying we have just had enough of this.

This just doesn't work. Because if the tradeoff is supposed Andrew Cuomo and his people act like a bunch savages but at least we get things done, well, lately, they have not been getting a lot of things down. There have been some real problems.

And what really got the ball started on all of this, of course, was misrepresentations and concealment of information related to nursing home deaths. That's when people -- I think, a lot of folks in government said this just is not worth it. And then when the sexual harassment allegations came, it led people to reach the ultimate conclusion, which is that it's time for a change.

BROWN: All right, Errol Louis, thank you so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

BROWN: And next hour, I will speak to a New York State senator who also worked in the executive chamber with Governor Cuomo for seven months, her experience there. We'll give you a glimpse into the work culture that some have described as toxic.

And, meantime, President Biden is hitting the road this week to sell Americans on his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, but how exactly will that help those in need? The chief operating officer from Nevada's largest food bank joins me live.

Plus, Italy is headed for another lockdown tonight after a spike in new cases of the coronavirus. A report from Rome is ahead. Stay with us.



BROWN: Overseas tonight, new coronavirus cases are surging so high in Italy that government health officials are taking very drastic measures. Full lockdown for about half the country starting a few hours from now.

CNN's Delia Gallagher is in Rome tonight.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Italians are preparing once again to head into lockdown starting on Monday. Half of Italy's 20 regions including cities like Rome, Milan and Venice will be on full lockdown. Easter Weekend will see a national lockdown.

Now although Italy's hospitals are still able to manage, we are not yet in an emergency situation, they are seeing their daily case numbers rise. The latest count was just over 26,000 cases daily. That is a record since November and they are particularly concerned about the presence of variants which increase the rate of transmission.

So the Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday that these measures are necessary to avoid a further deterioration of the situation. Prime Minister Draghi is also promising to accelerate and expand the vaccination program. Italy got off to a slow start like many European countries. They are now vaccinating about 170,000 people a day. The prime minister saying he wants to increase that to 500,000 a day.

The COVID commissioner saying this weekend that the plan is going to be helped by the fact that Italy now has approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which only requires one dose, so that should enable them to reach their goal, they say, of vaccinating all Italian adults by the summer.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


BROWN: Well, the White House's Help is Here tour kicks off tomorrow with the vice president trying to sell the new stimulus deal to one of the pandemic's hardest hit cities, Las Vegas. Its economy relies on tourism which was decimated as COVID kept people from traveling. The unemployment rate in Las Vegas is the highest among major U.S. cities and has been since the pandemic began.

Larry Scott is the chief operations officer at the Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas, which is the largest food bank in southern Nevada.

Larry, thanks for coming on the show. What do you want to hear from Vice President Harris tomorrow?

LARRY SCOTT, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, THREE SQUARE FOOD BANK: Well, we certainly hope we will hear that the stimulus package will continue to provide both funding and food available for our needy people, and in particular that it isn't just a real narrow window of time that it needs to be spent and used, that it might be able to be protracted out over what we know will be a long haul with the needy in our community.

BROWN: I want you to hear what President Biden said Friday about the relief bill. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming weeks, Jill and I and Kamala and Doug and the Cabinet, with all of you, members of Congress, we're going to be traveling the country to speak directly to the American people about how this law is going to make a real difference in their lives and how help is here for them.


BROWN: Help is here, but for Las Vegas, is there enough in the stimulus bill to help those who need it most? Larry, can you hear me? I think he froze there. So we'll have to

circle back with Larry later in the show if we can get him back.

Larry Scott, thanks so much.

And for ways you can help your local food bank, head to


A developing humanitarian crisis at the border. The DHS secretary says an overwhelming number of migrants are in custody and lawyers say kids are being held in overcrowded and dirty conditions. Former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama joins me live. We'll be back.


BROWN: As a migrant surge pushes America's immigration facilities to the limit and unaccompanied minors are showing up at our southern border in record numbers, the two parties are sparring over who is to blame and how to fix it. This morning a Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas said what may be the only thing both sides agree on.


REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): We have a broken immigration system. We don't have a lot of time. We've got to move fast.


BROWN: Well, the Biden administration deployed FEMA to assist with the uptick of minors in U.S. custody, and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy will take a group of Republicans to the border tomorrow.


But behind the statistics and politicking are people. Behind the heated immigration debate is a massive humanitarian crisis.

So CNN went on the scene in Mexico to ask migrants why they were trying to make the dangerous journey to America.


BIANCA LIDIA SALMERON CRUZ, MIGRANT FROM EL SALVADOR (through translator): We are only asking for an opportunity. That is why we try to be as peaceful as possible, so they can see that we want to do good, so they won't have a negative perception of us on the other side.

LIGIA GISELE AMADOR ZAVALA, MIGRANT FROM HONDURAS (through translator): I crossed to the other side two times because I was desperate, because I didn't have a job here in Mexico. We don't get that many opportunities here in Mexico. That is why you do it. SANDRA CABALLERO, MIGRANT FROM HONDURAS (through translator): I am

seeking asylum, and I ask the president with all my heart to help us, to assign people to help us, to help us with the opening of the border because we are here because we would like a better future for our children.


BROWN: Former Homeland Security assistant secretary under Obama, and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem joins me now.

Good to see you, Juliette. So let's get right to it. The White House says it's handling the issue of unaccompanied minors much differently than the Trump administration, but then you have these lawyers for some of those kids detained at the border that say they have not showered or talked to their parents in days. So even if the intentions are different, the result seems to be the same. Why is that?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there's a surge of unaccompanied minors. Now that's different than separating parents and children. So these tend to be teenage boys who are sent up for a new life. And the surge basically meant that we didn't have on this end the capacity. That capacity is being built. That's what FEMA is going to do. So there is an intent to deal with these humanitarian struggles.

But what people have to remember is the entire infrastructure at the border was eviscerated during the Trump administration in favor of a wall. That wall as we know ended up being a big nothing except it was quite expensive. And so basically the shifting to a new way of dealing with the pressures at the border will mean that there are incidents where people don't get -- children don't get showers or teenagers don't get showers, but that's why FEMA is coming in.

So the intent -- the difference in intent does matter in terms of trying to deal with this influx coming in.

BROWN: So with FEMA going there to the scene, how exactly will that change the situation? Just kind of bring us into what that means materially.

KAYYEM: Yes. So, OK, so there's -- it's really hard. So it's all response on this side, and that's not going to solve the long-term problem. So the response is you have teenagers or unaccompanied minors, you have to process them, determine who their family is here and what kind of status they were seeking. Not everyone who claims asylum status can get it. We are a nation of border laws and so the woman that you interviewed tragically, you know, wants to come here for humanitarian reasons.

Those don't necessarily mean that she would get asylum, simply wanting a better life does not necessarily qualify you, but the real challenge is migrant flow, and that is happening for a variety of reasons. Mexico's government has changed its tune. Tragedy and deprivation in southern hemisphere, and the belief, and probably a rightful belief, that the Biden administration is more caring, more humanitarian. So smugglers tell the migrants to come. They require them to pay

money, and so you're seeing sort of a magnet because of the change of administrations at the very time that the infrastructure was completely, you know, ignored for four years.

BROWN: So I want to read you something that you wrote in "The Atlantic" last month, and you hit on what you've just said about Biden's policies. You say, "Biden's more humane policies have led to rumors that the U.S.-Mexico border is now essentially open both for asylum seekers who show up at ports of entry, and for others who cross unlawfully smugglers are eager to spread that idea. For the moment the United States humanitarian interests lies not just in showing kindness to those who reach the border but also in stemming the flow of people who undertake the journey in the first place."

So in light of that, should the Biden administration be more forceful in its messaging to convey that the border is not open?

KAYYEM: Yes, I mean, and they continue to do so. And they -- one of the challenges, though, Pamela, to be clear here is Republicans are going around saying that Biden is opening the border. So what that does is that is then echoed south, everyone who wants to migrate hears that, thinks, oh, Biden has opened the border and then they come. So part of it is the politics here is causing the migrant flow.


Biden has said the exact opposite. In fact, people would remember during the primary, President Biden was almost alone in going against the -- his primary challengers in saying I don't want to decriminalize the border. I recognize that we need a strong border. So you're getting this echo chamber from the politics here and you mentioned that a bunch of Republicans are going down to the border saying -- you know, wanting to use this tragedy for political purposes and saying the border is open.

So we have to be forceful that the border is closed and forceful that COVID has limited a lot of the capacity at the border, and then work with other governments to try to stem the flow. It's a -- look, it's a tragedy with no single solution, but I do believe that where the heart is matters in this, and I think that the two administrations couldn't be more different in that regard.

BROWN: Well, certainly they have been different in their approaches. That is for sure. And you have Republicans that are claiming the border surge is a direct result of Biden's policies but the fact is we saw similar border numbers at certain points in Trump's term, 2019. So how much of a difference does a president make when it comes to the raw numbers?

KAYYEM: So it's a great question. So, look, migration is a result of many, many things. Ultimately, it's a result of people wanting to seek a better life. What we do here may have incremental changes but mostly it has to do with whether people are willing to leave their country.

So this is more of an international effort, working with Mexico in particular and the president there who was a strong supporter of Donald Trump's but needs to keep his borders enforced as well as in countries in Central and South America. So we have seen these kinds of trends before.

They are often predictable, but they are -- it's now occurring at a time when because of COVID and because of the lack of, say, immigration judges, of facilities that can take these children, that it's just harder to deal with the surge this time. But ultimately this is a solution that America cannot alone solve. You can be as harsh as Donald Trump or as humanitarian as President Biden, but until we deal with the systemic and root causes that draw people here, we will continue to have challenges at our border.

BROWN: All right, Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

BROWN: And we'll be right back.



BROWN: Well, President Biden has been in office for 54 days. But he has yet to hold a formal press conference. That is the longest wait in a century. To put this in perspective, by day 50, Bill Clinton had given five news conferences. George W. Bush held three. Barack Obama, two. And Donald Trump five. Now zero pressers might be preferable to five Trump pressers that were jampacked with lies and propaganda.

But why are those the only options given to Americans by the two most recent administrations? It is not that Biden is avoiding the media during his COVID relief road show this week. He's expected to interview with local outlets, and he'll reportedly sit down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos while Vice President Harris will appear on CBS.

But why hasn't he carved out some time to answer some tough questions for multiple reporters live about the COVID relief package or school openings or the immigration surge at the border? Here's what his deputy press secretary said about it earlier today.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He will be doing a press conference. That will happen. But I do want to add, you know, Alex, this is a president when, you know, he's doing an event and reporters shout questions at him, he answers them. He's answered, gosh, close to 40 if not more than 40 questions that have been shouted at him by reporters. So he is having those conversations. A press conference for sure is coming.


BROWN: For the record, the administration previously said Biden is too focused on multiple crises to hold a briefing, a press briefing. And of course he is busy. But if he has enough time to crisscross the country, selling a bill that he already signed into law, it is fair to ask why he hasn't had enough time to stand at that podium and take reporters' questions.

Meantime, award season soldiers on tonight despite the ongoing pandemic. But tonight's Grammy Awards will offer something a lot more exciting than virtual acceptance speeches.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has a preview.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Bad Bunny to Black Pumas, Thee Stallion to Styles. Hitmakers are lined up to perform live at the 63rd Grammy Awards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hosted by Trevor Noah.

ELAM: But who will be watching? The pandemic-era Golden Globes and Emmys were far from ratings gold. Yet the Grammys has one advantage.

JEM ASWAD, DEPUTY MUSIC EDITOR, VARIETY: You've got a whole lot of performances interspersed with awards, which is awesome because that's what people want to see.

ELAM: The show is also coming off a tough 2020, which saw the Recording Academy accused in a series of scandals, including questions about its nomination process. The Recording Academy denied the accusations. The controversies then eclipsed by the death of Kobe Bryant the morning of the show. This year the noms controversy is back swirling around The Weeknd.


ASWAD: The Weeknd not getting a single nomination is the biggest snub in Grammy history.

ELAM: In response the singer calling the Grammys corrupt.

ASWAD: Just the song "Blinding Lights," it's been in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, the greatest metric of a song's success. For a year. And no record has ever done that before.

ELAM: The Recording Academy responded saying they understand his disappointment. The interim CEO adding, "I was surprised and can empathize with what he is feeling."

Queen Bey leads the nomination with nine. Roddy Ricch, Taylor Swift, and Dua Lipa are each up for six Grammys including Song of the Year.

(On camera): Moving from its usual home here at Staples Center, most of the Grammys will be filmed in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center right across the street. And the only audience members that will be in attendance will be other performers and some of the nominees.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEOTAPE)