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China Hackers Target Facebook; Democrats Push Voting Rights Legislation; Colorado Massacre Investigation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 24, 2021 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

We begin with a greater understanding of what happened in the Boulder, Colorado, supermarket shooting, but less of a sense of why. We now know that the suspect in custody bought this AR-style weapon just six days before the shooting. It is believed that suspect began his rampage in the parking lot of that King Soopers grocery store, shooting his very first victim, an elderly man, and then killing nine others once inside.

We have more on what we have learned from an affidavit for an arrest warrant and what investigators have actually now found on the scene.

Monday's shooting, the seventh in just seven days, is intensifying the gun debate on Capitol Hill. The president of the United States, the vice president are now imploring lawmakers to take action, including an assault weapons ban.

I will talk to Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who made this really her life mission after losing her own son Jordan to gun violence.

Also today, Republican senators are challenging a hearing to expand voting access, just as states like Georgia are voting on sweeping election bills that aim to restrict absentee voting. What that could all mean for the 2020 midterms.

But, first, let's begin in Boulder, the latest on the investigation there.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is live there as the memorials continue to grow.

Shimon, what did you learn from this affidavit?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, the one thing that investigators are looking at is whether or not this was pre-planned and how much it was pre-planned, because what the affidavit revealed was that the alleged shooter bought the gun just days before he unleashed his attack. And so now investigators are trying to figure out how much planning

went into it. And the other thing they're trying to learn is whether or not the location where the shooting occurred was specifically targeted by the alleged shooter. They feel that there's something to indicate at least that perhaps maybe he was either targeting someone there or the location.

That is something that they're exploring as well. And, of course, what do family and friends know in the days leading up to this and what ultimately set him off? That is something that investigators are still trying to pore through and trying to figure out.

We're outside the Boulder police station here. FBI agents have been going in, other investigators. This is where many of the investigators have been gathering. And, also, this is where a growing memorial has been happening.

And you can see behind me, Brooke. I'm going to step out just to show you this. People from the community have been gathering here. You can see the hundreds of flowers. They have been leaving notes, all in honor of the officer who was killed, Officer Eric Talley. And they have been coming here, kids, as you can see here, parents bringing their kids, older people, younger people.

Just people from the community have been gathering here leaving notes. And there's even a Mountain Dew. Apparently, the officer loved to drink Mountain Dew. Someone left a bottle of Mountain Dew on the grille of the car. They also left a can of Mountain Dew.

And so this is what we have been seeing out here throughout the morning and throughout today. Now, as to the alleged shooter, he's expected, Brooke, to be in court tomorrow morning. He could potentially waive that appearance. But officials here say that'll be up to him. It'll be his first court appearance. It's going to be on the arrest warrant, they say.

And they also say that it's expected to be a lengthy hearing. So, perhaps, tomorrow, we will learn more details on exactly what investigators have uncovered in the days after the shooting.

BALDWIN: Great. We will look for that. But, again, I appreciate you standing in front of the memorial, the focus there on that slain father of seven, Officer Eric Talley, and then, of course, so much more we're learning about these victims of the shooting.

We will get to all of that momentarily. And, as I mentioned, I will talk to Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who lost her own son Jordan to senseless gun violence.

I want to get, though, now to the nationwide vaccine drive. It continues picking up steam as far as COVID is concerned. More and more states are offering doses to the general population. And if all goes to plan, anyone over the age of 16 will soon be able to get a shot in dozens of states.

Erica Hill has the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More Americans are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard that they had some extra doses, so we swung on by.

HILL: Alaska the first of five states where anyone 16 and older can get a shot today. At least 20 more plan to follow suit by the end of April.

In Georgia, it starts tomorrow.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I just want to encourage everybody to get the vaccine.


HILL: But is increased eligibility a sign of decreased demand?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: My best guess is, there hasn't been enough on outreach. I'd rather focus on access than just eligibility into itself.

HILL: More areas are working to meet the need. This effort in Reno focused on the city's homeless population.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are really trying to reach outside the box, look at different avenues, options to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

HILL: The U.S. is now averaging two-and-a-half million shots a day. The White House also touting a boost in supply.

ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: In the 62 days since taking office, we have more than tripled vaccine output from 8.6 million doses to 27 million doses per week.

HILL: AstraZeneca promising updated vaccine data by tomorrow, after issuing efficacy information some called misleading in its latest press release.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: At the end of the day, when you look at the data, this is going to be -- turn out to be a good vaccine.

HILL: Meantime, the CDC investigating COVID cases in those who were fully vaccinated. Nationwide, new cases dipping slightly, but still hovering around 50,000 a day, yet average daily reported deaths down 26 percent in the last week.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have made such extraordinary progress in the last several weeks. And if we choose to invest in prevention right now, we will ultimately come out of this pandemic faster and with fewer lives lost. HILL: Though there will be lasting damage. A year after some of the

darkest days of this pandemic, a new report details the immense toll on health care workers.

JHA: I think you are going to see a lot of people drop out of the profession. I think you're going to see a lot of people with PTSD. We have already seen increases of depression and anxiety. In crisis, you can't tell how people are faring. It's only afterwards that you see the full picture.


HILL: Brooke, in terms of looking at that full picture, the report, which surveyed some 300 hospitals, also found that a lot of this added stress and strain is coming from the uptick, of course, in deaths over the past year, including among co-workers and for many staffers being the only person present when a patient passed.

I should also note the report found it's not just health care workers that are burned out, Brooke. It is the industry as a whole.

BALDWIN: Of course it is.

And I want to start with that, the toll the way Dr. Jha explained it.

Erica Hill, thank you.

I have Dr. Rob Davidson joining me.

Dr. Davidson, I know you're an E.R. physician.

And when you hear about this, this new HHS report saying hospitals have been left in shambles and medical staff are suffering from trauma, in some cases, PTSD, they're frustrated over the -- quote -- "unpredictable and insufficient supply of vaccines," are you seeing that? Are you experiencing that either yourself or your team?


It is true that a lot of people suffered immensely, and including health care workers, and have seen so much suffering, that it's hard to get through. But I will also tell you that the people I work with, the people I talk to across this country in our organization, the physicians in every state, are extremely proud that we get to serve on the front lines, that we get to be a part of this response.

And a lot of the frustration of the last year, the reason people coming on your show so frequently, is because the previous president and the previous administration denigrated the work that we do, suggested that we were just trying to make money off of this.

And so I really think there is hope, in that the new administration is doing so much to get vaccines out, to get tests out, to support health care workers with what we need. And the other piece of medicine that has been discouraging really over my 20 year career is that our patients have such difficulty getting the health care they need.

And part of the American Rescue Plan is making health care more affordable. In Colorado, they're trying to pass a public option. So, there is hope. And I do think that the health care industry and the providers within it will rally, because I think we want to do the work we're doing.

BALDWIN: I appreciate your optimistic tone. I also think that's probably part of your humility as an M.D. But, of course, we're grateful for all of you. And I know you have been through and seen a lot this last year.

We're still waiting for guidance, Dr. Davidson, from the federal government giving the green light for fully vaccinated people to travel. Do you think they should be allowed to?

DAVIDSON: You know, I think people traveling in cars, certainly. And I think, if all -- if everybody on an airplane were vaccinated, and we could ensure that, then I think it's nearly 100 percent safe, nearly.

I think the problem is, we still have 75 percent of the population over 65, I believe, is still not vaccinated overall. And so I think the challenge is, there are so many unvaccinated people, that there is risk inherent to those who are vaccinated, where it's not 100 percent vaccine in any way. We can still get exposed to it. We could potentially still transmit it to other people who might be at risk.


And so I think we're still a little time away from saying it's completely safe. But, truly, if you're vaccinated, if you're wearing a mask, I think you're pretty well protected as an individual.

BALDWIN: I'm just -- I'm curious.

I remember my doctor, when I had my COVID test, and he said to me, Brooke, the one place where it's full of germs, right, is a place where a lot of people have been going, which is your local pharmacy, and because I'm thinking of planes, and how did the deep clean of planes, how that's happening right now.

Is there one space where you think we all really need to still be mindful of?

DAVIDSON: Yes, the problem is that it is the surfaces to an extent.

And I was of the people who would wash down every piece of fruit when I came home from the grocery store about a year ago. We're learning more and more that contact spread is a very minimal piece. And it's really what -- it's the air we breathe.

And when we're sharing air with many people, and we don't know where they have been, and we don't know their status--


BALDWIN: Wherever that may be.

DAVIDSON: Yes, so, in an airplane, really anywhere. So, close spaces, lots of people, still a challenge, and we should still try to avoid it.

BALDWIN: All right.

Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you very much.

DAVIDSON: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And a reminder to all of you, please don't miss this unprecedented event with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent here at CNN.

We have all kinds of medical leaders of this war on COVID coming to CNN, breaking their silence. It's a CNN special report, "COVID War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out." It airs Sunday night at 9:00 here on CNN.

Coming up next, the battle over voting rights is heating up, Democrats moving on a plan to fight Republican efforts to limit access to the ballot box. But can that get through a divided Congress?

And this story. Have you seen this? What do you put on your cereal? Milk? Maybe some fruit? Maybe some extra sugar? How about some shrimp tails? We're going to talk to a guy who sparked this absolute viral frenzy after claiming to have found shrimp tails and a few other things in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch. You won't believe this.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Today, Senate lawmakers have held a hearing on the For the People Act. It's aimed at expanding Americans' access to voting, reducing the role of big money in politics, and putting into place anti-corruption measures.

The act, however, directly flies in the face of a nationwide trend we are currently seeing, with more than 250 bills in more than 40 states aimed at restricting one's right to vote.

Norm Eisen is a CNN legal analyst and former White House ethics czar under President Obama.

Mr. Ambassador, always a pleasure. Welcome.

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Brooke, always love being with you.

BALDWIN: We're seeing all these bills across the country, Republican- led states looking to roll back access to the ballot box. What can be done about it?

EISEN: Well, Brooke, it's a continuation of the terrible assault on the foundations of our democracy voting that ex-President Trump started with his big lie about stop the steal.

It led to the insurrection. But his allies and enablers didn't stop there, Brooke. They kept now with 43 states, over 250 of these vicious voter suppression bills. Fortunately, there's an antidote. It's Senate Bill 1 that had its first hearing in the Senate today, the For the People Act, passed the House earlier this month.

And that would block these restrictions that we're seeing all over the country, so historic day in the Senate.


I want to talk Georgia now. This is what's happening. The House is voting on a bill that would in part limit voter access by decreasing the number of ballot drop boxes and requiring voter I.D. for absentee ballots.

Now, supporters of the bill are saying, no, no, this would increase voting opportunities by requiring two Saturday early voting days and making two Sundays optional. How do you see this? Is this helping or hindering the voters?

EISEN: It's a voter suppression bill, flat out, Brooke.

Take the enhanced voter I.D. requirements supposedly needed because of voter fraud. Where's the voter fraud? There's no need for this additional restriction. Or cutting back on the drop boxes that make it easier for people to vote? There's no need for these kinds of restrictions.

That's why we need to have the For the People Act, Senate Bill 1. And this is just an attempt to block, thinly veiled, racially motivated attempt to block voters that the politicians don't like

But, Brooke, in the United States, it's the voters who pick their politicians, not the other way around. And since it doesn't seem like we're going to get relief in the Georgia legislature, that's why you need the federal legislation. And I suspect this bill, if it passes, will draw some litigation attention as well.

BALDWIN: Again, just worth reminding everyone Trump's own attorney general said there was no voter fraud.

Before I let you go, Mr. Ambassador, we have to talk about Sidney Powell. Sidney Powell, she is Trump's former lawyer. She was this key player in spreading the big lie of election fraud, #false.


Dominion Voting Systems sued her for defamation. And then -- listen to this -- her defense is that -- quote -- "no reasonable person" would believe her wild claims. But, Norm, she literally filed those claims in court. You tell me, do

you think this defense will work? And how does she keep her law license after this?

EISEN: Brooke, at the Voter Protection Program, which I chair, we have done a close study of the four Sidney Powell cases that were thrown out and the over 60 cases all over the country that participated in peddling Donald Trump's big lie.

This libel case by Dominion is well-founded. You can't defend -- when people say you made false statements, you can't defend by saying, oh, everybody knew they were false. She's helping the plaintiffs, Brooke.

So she's not going to get away with this. Accountability is coming for Sidney Powell, for all of the other enablers, and I think for Donald Trump himself.

BALDWIN: We shall see, won't we?

Norm Eisen, great to have you on. Thank you.

EISEN: Always, Brooke. Thank you.

BALDWIN: The recent mass shootings in Atlanta and now in Boulder sparking new calls for stronger gun laws.

Coming up next, I'll talk to Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who lost her own son to gun violence. This is personal for her.



BALDWIN: Just into CNN, Facebook has just released this new report about possible Chinese hackers on its site.

The social media giant says this hack was targeting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities who are living abroad, some in the U.S.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is following this one for us.

And so, Donie, what's the goal here?


I mean, we have seen, of course, the atrocities that are committed against Uyghurs in China. And now we are learning that hackers are coming for Uyghur activists, journalists and dissidents even here living in the United States.

Facebook calling this a cyber-espionage campaign. And this is how they describe it. They said: "This group of hackers used fake accounts on Facebook to create fictitious personas posing as journalists, students, human rights advocates, or members of the Uyghur community to build trust with people they targeted and trick them into clicking malicious links."

Then, of course, when those targets clicked those malicious links, it basically installed spyware on their devices. And these hackers were able to spy on the people they were targeting.

Important to mention here that Facebook is not saying specifically if these hackers are tied to the Chinese government. Of course, that is a strong suspicion. But what they are saying is these hackers were very sophisticated, very well-resourced and certainly knew what they were doing -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Donie, thank you very much.

Right now, officials are scrambling to refloat a massive container vessel that is stuck in the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest waterways. The 224,000-ton ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall -- how about that? -- is blocking all these vessels from passing in both directions.

And according to a senior canal pilot, it could take days to get this thing moving.

The recent mass shootings both in Atlanta and Boulder are sparking new calls for stronger gun laws. We will talk about what this means for President Biden's already ambitious agenda.