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Biden, Harris to Travel to Georgia After Spa Shootings; Police: A Lot More Work Needs to be Done to Know Motive; Confrontational Start for U.S.-China Talks in Alaska; U.S.-Russia Tensions Escalate Amid Diplomatic Spat; EMA Clears AstraZeneca Vaccine as Safe and Effective; U.S. Health Experts Warn of Alarming Rise in Infections; FBI Releases New Video of Attacks on Officers During Riot. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 19, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden heads to Georgia today, just a few days after six Asian women were shot and murdered.

Rhetoric flies across the table as two of the world's superpowers meet for the first time since Joe Biden became president.

And the other big worry for the administration, the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. I speak to a humanitarian worker from the Mexican side of the border.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

U.S. President Joe Biden will soon be on his way here to Atlanta, Georgia, just days after eight people were killed in a shooting rampage at a local spas, six of them were Asian women. Biden was supposed to promote his huge coronavirus relief package but will now instead offer his support to the community. He will be meeting with the mayor as well as state officials and Asian-American leaders. Vice President Kamala Harris who is a black Asian-American is also on the trip.

Now police say it's too soon to tell if the shootings were racially motivated but that doesn't mean this had nothing to do with race as CNN's Amara Walker reports.


DEPUTY CHIEF CHARLES HAMPTON, ATLANTA POLICE: Our investigation is looking at everything, so nothing is off the table.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As investigators take a hard look into what motivated the suspect to go on a mass shooting spree in the Atlanta area that left eight dead, including six Asian women, comments and actions from a captain with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department are creating backlash. The spokesman, Captain Jay Baker, allegedly posted an image of this racist shirt last April on a Facebook page that's since been deleted, encouraging people to buy the shirt that reads "COVID-19 imported virus from Chy-na." He also made these controversial remarks at a press conference Wednesday.

CAPTAIN JAY BAKER, CHEROKEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S SPOKESPERSON: He understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up, had had been kind of at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.

WALKER (voice-over): The Cherokee County Sheriff's Department releasing this statement expressing regret and saying in part the captain did not intend to express empathy or sympathy for the suspect. Baker has since been removed as a spokesperson in the case.

Some in the Asian-American community angry that a law enforcement official would diminish the depravity of the suspect's killing spree.

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): He sounds more like a spokesperson for the killer. This is something where we should try to downplay what happened. We should be speaking about it with the rawness of which it is, which is a mass murder.

WALKER (voice-over): At the same press conference, Baker saying the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, indicated he had a sex addiction, claiming the attacks were not racially motivated.

BEE NGUYEN (D), GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: The fact that he's even characterizing this is as eliminating some sort of sex addiction problem is dehumanizing and directed at the women who work in this industry.

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): But we also need to look at these incidents and crimes with a wider lens and a wider perspective. We hope that law enforcement are doing due diligence.

WALKER (voice-over): On Capitol Hill today Republicans, mostly silent on the wave of recent attacks against Asian-Americans. At a previously scheduled hearing on anti-Asian hate today Republican Chip Roy claimed members of Congress were trying to police free speech.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I'm not going to be ashamed of saying I oppose the Chi-coms, I opposed the Chinese Communist Party. We shouldn't be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric because some evil doers go engage in some evil activity as occurred in Atlanta, Georgia.

WALKER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the investigation continues. Authorities have not ruled out hate crime charges. Long remains behind bars without bond in a Cherokee County jail.

In a statement, his lawyer said the alleged shooter waived his right to a first court appearance. Still, the fear among those in the Asian community is palpable. Some U.S. cities have ramped up patrolling areas in New York and Seattle. The South Korean consulate in Atlanta issuing warnings for Koreans to take extra caution due to the attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very cautious, but I am more concerned about my niece and my nephew and, of course, my parents, they're elderly, you know. I tell them, hey, don't go out unless you need to. Call me. I'll run the errands for you.



BRUNHUBER: And that report was from CNN's Amara Walker.

And we're getting some details on those killed in the Cherokee County shooting. 33-year-old Delaina Yaun was one of them. Her sister spoke to CNN.


DANA TOOLE, SISTER KILLED IN GEORGIA MASS SHOOTING: She was a family- going person. She liked to -- her family came first. Everything was her family. She had such a wonderful, happy, upbeat personality. We were planning the summer and doing some fun activities and now I don't get to do that with her. And it's extremely hard to even think about them. Waiting for her to come walking through the door and to not get that phone call, it's devastating.


BRUNHUBER: Yaun was the mother of two kids including an eight-year-old daughter. Her sister said she and her husband went to the spa together. Yaun's husband survived.

The U.S. found itself in a two-front diplomatic war of words Thursday with China, its modern economic rifle and with Russia it's old cold far foe. Russian President Vladimir Putin is responding furiously after Mr. Biden agreed that he was a killer. He enigmatically wished Mr. Biden good health and challenged him to a live debate. We will have more on that in a moment.

Thursday you also saw a chilly start to the face-to-face meetings in Alaska between U.S. and Chinese officials. Normally bland introductory statements ended up as an exchange of diplomatic barbs. The U.S. Secretary of State vowed to pursue a variety of issues.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will also discuss our deep concerns with actions by China including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains local stability. That's why they're not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.


BRUNHUBER: Later U.S. officials described the first closed-door talks as substantive, but on camera there was a chain of rebuttals as each side responded to the other's remarks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRANSLATOR: When I entered this room, I should have reminded U.S. side of paying attention to its tone in our respective opening remarks.


TRANSLATOR: The Chinese side felt compelled to make this speech because of the tone of the U.S. side.


TRANSLATOR: Isn't this the intention of the United States judging from what -- or the way that you have laid your opening remarks, that it wants to speak to China in a condescending way from a position of strength.


BRUNHUBER: All right, for more on all this let's bring in CNN's Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. Not the smoothest start there, each blaming the other for starting all of this. What's your take on this bizarre back and forth?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is two days of talks and the first session wrapped up just a few hours ago. We heard from a senior Biden administration official saying that that round of talks was substantive, it was serious, and it was direct. But boy, it did get off with this very rocky start.

Opening remarks in this high-level dialogue between U.S. and China in Alaska descending into this rather heated confrontation and it was all caught on camera. But it's not really a surprise. Look, we know that the U.S. and China are locked in this very complicated frenemy relationship, this is a moment of unprecedented tension between these two world powers on a variety of fronts from the tech war, the trade war, the fate and future of Taiwan, democracy in Hong Kong, human rights in Xinjiang, cyber, as well as economic coercion of allies like Australia.

Now, Biden and it's administration they have signaled that they have continue with Trump era pressure on China, especially in regard to Xinjiang and trade.

But a key difference is this, both sides are talking right now. You know, last month in February Chinese President Xi Jinping, Joe Biden, the U.S. President, they had a phone conversation. One month later we have this meeting underway on U.S. soil, in Anchorage, Alaska. The first face-to-face meeting between Biden administration officials and senior Chinese officials.

There are many points of contention between U.S. and China, but there are also areas of cooperation like pandemic response and climate change. We have to just see what happens day two of the meeting which commences tomorrow -- Kim. BRUNHUBER: All right, thank you so much. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong



Tensions are also rising between the U.S. and Russia as the Kremlin fires back at scathing comments from President Joe Biden. Vladimir Putin is now challenging him to hold online talks in the next few days, something the White House seems to be pouring cold water on. CNN's Matthew Chance has more on their deteriorating diplomatic relationship.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know you and you know me.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment U.S.-Russian ties, fraught by fresh allegations of election meddling and the poisoning of a key Russian opposition figure, plunged to a new low.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think he's a killer?

BIDEN: Yes, I do.

CHANCE (voice-over): With just a few words, President Biden signaled his intolerance of Russian misdeeds. And unlike his predecessor, who fawned over the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a willingness to call out the Kremlin's strongman.

He looks relaxed, marking the seventh anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. But Putin is clearly furious, facing the promise of yet more painful U.S. sanctions in the weeks ahead. He's recalling Russia's ambassador from Washington for consultations, first time that's happened in decades, and issuing a snide response to the killer insult.

"I wish him well and good health, and I mean that without any joking or irony," Putin said of Biden by video conference.

Some cast it as a veiled threat from a leader who kills his critics. But it looks more like a wink to rampant speculation from Russian state TV alleging that Biden's mental health is faulty due to old age.

"Maybe he just forgot to take his pills," one state anchor jokes about the Biden remarks.

"It's age-related dementia," says another, "the triumph of political insanity."

Putin also trolled Biden by citing an old Russian children's joke that reflects the killer tag. "You are what you call others," he says. "It takes one to know one, in other words."

The playground retort sums up the worst diplomatic spat between these nuclear rivals in years. It was a falling out waiting to happen. When Biden first met Putin as U.S. vice president in 2011, he says he told him he didn't think he had a soul and warned the Russian leader not to run for another Kremlin term.

Ten years on, with fewer than 100 days in office, President Biden has toughened his Russian stance even more.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


BRUNHUBER: Italy, France and Cyprus say they will resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine as early as today. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands will also say they begin giving AstraZeneca shots again. Now this after a safety review by European regulators found no evidence the drug caused blood clots, but the European Medicines Agency didn't completely rule it out. So the medical experts concluded AstraZeneca is safe and effective and that the risk of serious side effects was extremely low.

The question now is whether skeptical Europeans can be won over. So we begin our coverage with Melissa Bell in Rome and Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Fred let me start with you. Massively important decision for Germany and the rest of the EU. Take us through what this means.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is indeed a massively important decision, Kim, because the AstraZeneca vaccine is so key within the European Union and all the member states, countries schemes to try and get their vaccine rollout going faster than they certainly have been over the past couple of months since they started.

If you look at Germany here, for instance, they were starting a massive rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine and it was key to Germany's strategy to get that campaign going even faster than before was to try and administer the AstraZeneca vaccine because of course it's very easy to store and also to transport in general practitioners' offices.

They were hoping for a boost in vaccinations in this country. Of course, all of that was put on hold when the AstraZeneca vaccine itself was put on hold. Now what a lot of these German states, a lot of these German cities are doing is they're trying to get that vaccination campaign on track again as fast as possible.

We spoke to two states here in Germany, one being the state the Brandenburg. They say because they've canceled so many appointments where people were supposed to get AstraZeneca, they believe they can start administering that vaccine starting on Monday. Berlin, where I am right now, they say they want to do that today. They say they want to get it going as fast as possible. They believe that there might be some queues at these vaccine center. But they say it's absolutely important to start getting people vaccinated as fast as possible.

Also of course, Kim, because of the very fast rising COVID numbers, not just here in Germany but in other countries around Europe as well. [04:15:00]

The European nations certainly are saying they believe right now it's paramount to vaccinate as many people as possible as fast as possible, and of course, AstraZeneca very key to that for a lot of these European countries -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. All right, let's go to Melissa now. Italy will also restart with AstraZeneca. I understand you're waiting for a press conference from the health minister. What are you expecting to go hear?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kim. What we expect is to hear from the health minister and the head of Italy's national agency and it's going to be all about confidence. Because of course, that's what European authorities are really worried about. The rollout may have picked up again but are happy going to be happy to take it given all the doubts we've seen these last few days.

And of course, European are naturally a skeptical bunch. There were fears even before all of this when the pandemic first began, and the question of vaccines first raised its head that there would be an issue with getting enough people to accept having them. So imagine given the row over the last few days over the safety of this and how that message will have been received across Europe. We know that one poll has shown in France that the row over the last few days has left only 22 percent of the population having enough confidence in the vaccine and here in Italy as well.

We were at a vaccination center on Monday when they announced the stopping of the rollout and the people who were turned away, we said, look, if that changes and if the advice changes and rollout pick up will you come back and get it? And they said not the AstraZeneca one.

So you can imagine that for authorities now to convince people that they need to come and get it it's going to be tough. And of course, it's crucial. We're talking about here in Italy a COVID-19 third wave that continues to bear down hard. It is day five of a lockdown that concerns more than half of Italy's regions. For the time being those COVID-19 figures stubbornly high. The number of new cases above 20,000 every day and that hasn't changed since the start of the week. So it is crucial that Italian authorities can see through that change in vaccination campaign they promised. They want 500,000 injections given every day. For the time being we're a long way off from that -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, as you say an uphill battle to restore confidence there. Thank you so much, Melissa Bell in Rome.

More than a dozen regions across France including Paris and Nice will soon begin new COVID restrictions as the country face has third wave of the virus, it will last at least four weeks. Starting Friday nonessential businesses will close, and people will have to stay within six miles of their home. But schools will stay open as these measures are less restrictive than earlier ones.

France reported 35,000 new infections Thursday, which is up more than 20 percent from last week and hospitalizations are also on the rise. The Prime Minister says across the country one person is being admitted to intensive care with COVID every four minutes.

The U.S. is on track to vaccinate 100 million people in the very near future. So why are new cases suddenly skyrocketing in many parts of the country? We will explain right after the break. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: After weeks of encouraging trends new cases of COVID-19 are surging again in more than a dozen U.S. states. One factor is the emergence of new variants that spread more quickly, the other is the lifting or relaxing of restrictions in many places. As CNN's Nick Watt reports, health experts fear the country is on the brink of a new wave of infections.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think it's pretty clear that there are some states now that are pulling back, I believe, a bit more prematurely than they should.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A couple of weeks ago Alabama eased some restrictions.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R), ALABAMA: Y'all, we are definitely an indication that we're moving in the right direction.

WATT (voice-over): Not anymore. Alabama's average daily case count just climbed 90 percent in a week. In Michigan, up 50 percent, while hotels prep for spring breakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the restaurants, of course, are available for seated dining again.

WATT (voice-over): Average daily case counts now rising in 17 states.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think that we are on the cusp of a fourth surge right now.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile on The Hill, they're arguing over guidance that the vaccinated still wear masks.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): You won't be able to wear a masks for a couple of years.


PAUL: You've been vaccinated, and you parade around in two masks for show.

FAUCI: No. Masks are not theater. Masks are protective.

FRANCIS SUAREZ (D) MIAMI, FLORIDA MAYOR: Every day that goes by when the entire population hasn't been vaccinated, you know, you worry.

WATT (voice-over): It's a race. The virus and its variants versus vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little prick.

WATT (voice-over): About one in eight Americans are now fully vaccinated. The president promised 100 million shots in 100 days. Just might meet that day 58.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): We have got to get the schools reopened.

WATT (voice-over): A quarter of parents with kids in online school reported harm to their kids' mental and emotional health. Also, mitigation measures can, even in high schools, significantly slow spread. All this, according to CDC reports.

COLLINS: When we discussed this issue recently, I really detected a lack of a sense of urgency on your part.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are actively looking at our guidance to update it to address that science.

WATT (voice-over): The CDC now expected to announce that in the classroom, three feet of social distance, not six, will work.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: The FBI has released new video clips showing how brutally violent the attack on the U.S. Capitol was on January 6th. The rioters targeted police. CNN's Brian Todd has the details. And we want to warn you his report contains images that some viewers may find disturbing.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a crutch and other heavy objects are thrown at police, look at the man in the spot shadow. Wielding a large club, he starts mercilessly swinging at officers. A slow motion shot shows the same man, the FBI says, now he's wearing a red hat ferociously swinging the club at an officer's head. The FBI believes he's the man in the picture on the left side of the screen.

This is one of several video clips of the January 6th assault on the Capitol just released today by the FBI, specifically showing rioters attacks on police officers.


STEVEN D'ANTONIO, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI D.C. FIELD OFFICE: You see officers being punched, beaten with sticks, flagpoles in their own shields, as well as being sprayed with a variety of unknown substances. TODD (voice-over): Like what this rioter is doing. From the top of a grandstand, he unleashes an unknown spray at several officers below causing them to disperse. Another clip shows him spraying down at officers from a different location nearby on that grandstand. On the left side and then full screen, you get a good look at the young man's face. The FBI is asking for the public's help in identifying 10 suspects it's showing in these videos. Several of them with their faces clearly visible.

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: The FBI and law enforcement, as a rule, has access to a variety of different facial recognition tools. What that allows law enforcement to do is find other photographs of that person. It might be a driver's license photo, which clearly identifies them with name, address, date of birth and everything else, or it could be social media posts.

TODD (voice-over): Some clips show rioters at reverse angles, like this man in the check jacket beating police with a club. And this man spraying officers then throwing his canister at them. At a reverse angle, he's seen swinging a police shield at officers. This man is shown at two angles pounding his fist into an officer's face shield.

This clip shows the brutality of some attacks, a rioter violently pulling at the gas mask of D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was also crushed in the doorway.

OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: There's a guy ripping my mask off and he was able to rip away my baton, beat me with it. And you know he was practically foaming at the mouth. So just these people were true believers in the worst way.

TODD (voice-over): That day, black police officers also had brutal racial slurs hurled at them. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told CNN he was called the "N" word several times and relayed what happened to a fellow black officer who was carrying a long gun.

OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Group of terrorists came to him and said, you think you're a tough "N" word with that gun? Put that gun down and we'll show you what type of "N" word you really are.

TODD: Acting Capitol Hill police officer Yogananda Pittman recently said after speaking with several officers in the field that day, that many of them are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. She has asked Congress for help in providing them ongoing care.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: And former president George W. Bush has told the Texas "Tribune" how deeply disturbed he was by the mob attack.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was sick to my stomach and then to see our nation's Capitol being stormed by hostile forces. And it really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement and I'm still disturbed when I think about it. It undermines rule of law and, you know, the ability to express yourself in peaceful ways in a public square. This was an expression that was not peaceful.


BRUNHUBER: Right after the rampage Bush and the three other living former U.S. presidents condemned it. He said, quote, this is how election results are disputed in a banana Republic, not our democratic Republic.

Thousands of migrants, many of them children without their parents, are trying to get into the U.S. Just ahead, CNN joins a group of them at the end of their long journey. Stay with us.