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Texas Town Struggles as More People Cross Southern Border; Blinken Calls for Unity with EU Against Coercive China; EU Proposes Tighter Export Controls for COVID-19 Vaccines; New Footage Shows Bear Spray Attack on Slain Police Officer; High Chance of Tornadoes in Parts of the South; New Image Helps Explain Black Hole Jets. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 04:30   ET



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

U.S. President Joe Biden will hold the first news conference of his presidency later today and the surge of migrants on the border will be a big topic. Yesterday he assigned his vice president to oversee his administration's efforts to stem the flow of migrants coming through the country's southern border. He says Kamala Harris is the most qualified person to do it. And of course, the task is similar to Biden's own efforts to address immigration in 2014 and 2015 when he was vice president.

And migrants are again arriving at the border at increased levels and the Biden administration is scrambling to handle the influx. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has approved a Department of Health and Human Services request to house unaccompanied migrant children at two military bases in Texas. Temporary housing will be built on an empty lot of land at Fort Bliss. And children will stay in a vacant dorm at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland. But HHS will continue to maintain custody and be responsible for the well-being of the children.

A delegation of U.S. lawmakers and White House officials visited a facility for unaccompanied minors in Texas and the media was also allowed in the facility, which is a first under the Biden administration. Now, this facility here and similar shelters provide medical services, sleeping quarters and other support for the children. But with COVID-19 restraints there hasn't been enough space to house the growing number of arrivals. So it's resulted in children staying in poor conditions at border patrol facilities for prolonged periods.

Well, the journey for families to get to the U.S. is so often desperate and the uncertainty doesn't end when they reach their destination. Ed Lavandera has more from a U.S. border town.


SHERIFF JOE FRANK MARTINEZ, VAL VERDE COUNTY: The activity has been picking up, I got a feeling that the worst is yet to come.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Val Verde County sheriff Joe Frank Martinez is taking us to the edge of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, to a spot that's become a landing point for several thousand migrants in recent weeks. As we show up one of his deputies and a Border Patrol agent have apprehended a family from Venezuela.

MARTINEZ: This little group right here, I think it's 42 that my deputies have personally handled today.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): When he looks across the river to the Mexican side, they spot another family crossing. We noticed there are two men guiding the family through the safest part of the river, the current here can be deadly. A young girl is being carried on a man's shoulders. The law enforcement agents are waiting. As the migrants reach the shore, one tells me they're also from Venezuela.

One of the guides throws a bag of dry clothes to the Border Patrol agent, after that the two men turn around and splashed through the river back to Mexico.

It's unclear what will happen to these migrants of the most families are being allowed to wait out the immigration cases in the United States.

MARTINEZ: It just hits you. It just hits you -- you know. You feel for them.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Sheriff Martinez frustration is growing over scenes like this unfolding in remote border towns like Del Rio.

LAVANDERA: What's your message to President Biden right now?

MARTINEZ: Well, we don't know what the plan is. In my opinion, you know, the policy makers came in with a policy change, but they had no plan in place to implement that plan. So this is what we're seeing. People are going to continue to come in mass numbers. People are going to die.


But something has to be done quick.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Last week in this area, eight undocumented immigrants were killed in a high-speed car crash. Authorities say the driver was a suspected smuggler trying to get away from state troopers.

And a fisherman captured video of migrants struggling in the Rio Grande, Border Patrol says two people drowned as they tried to get away from agents.

Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano, a Democrat, says, his small town of about 36,000 people doesn't have the resources to deal with this surge of migrants. MAYOR BRUNO LOZANO (D), DEL RIO, TEXAS: Where is the plan of action? I believe that the things that they're doing now are band-aids. It's a band-aid.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): An old Del Rio city building is where the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition helps immigrants who have been released from custody, the group's director says they're seeing about 100 migrants a day now.

Wadner Demeille and his family across the river into the U.S. earlier this week. He says he escaped Haiti four years ago after his brother was murdered because he couldn't pay $100,000 ransom. Wadner says he in a family of travel to South and Central America for four years to get here.

LAVANDERA: He says reaching the U.S., made him cry tears of joy.

He said, I've been looking for this country for a long time.

LAVANDERA: The Biden administration has been airing radio ads in Central and South America urging migrants not to make the journey north, but local officials and charity organizations here along the border in Texas are telling us they're bracing for more migrants to keep coming.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Del Rio, Texas.


BRUNHUBER: In Washington Senate leaders have clashed over a new measure that aims to expand voting access nationwide. There was heated disagreement between Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Schumer defended the act slamming moves by Republican states to restrict voting rights, for example, bills in Arizona that would ban automatic and same day registrations.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: It's one of the most despicable things I have seen in all my years. Shame, shame, shame. Instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy, attempting to win over those voters in the next election, Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. Shame on them.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): U.S. SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The turnout in the 2020 election was the highest since 1900. States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever. This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system, but even more immediately it would create an implementation nightmare.


BRUNHUBER: And McConnell also accused Democrats of using the measure as part of a power grab. U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to meet virtually with EU leaders

later today when the European Council holds its summit. This comes as U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is wrapping up two days of high level talks with EU and NATO leaders. One of his top priorities was shoring up transatlantic relations that were badly strained during the Trump presidency. Blinken stressed the need for Western democracies to develop a united response to what he called China's coercive behavior.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is tracking developments for us in London. Nic, so a chance for Biden to reset relationships with allies. What's likely any to be at the top of his priority list here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well certainly the groundwork has been done by Secretary of State Blinken. You know, the agreement on China, European allies as members of NATO and speaking with EU officials as well, line up behind pretty much -- on plans to -- to consider their economic ties, to consider their shared values when dealing with Russian, when dealing with China.

So the groundwork has been laid for President Biden to sort of come in and follow up on that. This sort of new era of unity, if you will, between the United States, Trans-Atlantic partners and NATO European Union members as well. Unity across the Atlantic.

But when President Biden speaks to the EU he'll find them a very divided place because today they will be voting on an incredibly tough issue that all nations face at the moment and that's the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. And this is causing division between the European Union and the United Kingdom over the supply of vaccines. U.K. vaccine rollout is way ahead of that of the EU, 45 people out of 100 compared to the EU 13 out of 100 people. The world figure is roughly about six people vaccinated her 100.


The EU will be considering tougher measures that could limit vaccine supplies or vaccine component supplies that could affect the U.K. They'll be making a decision, a key decision, which would be a big -- will have potentially big diplomatic out fallings from it on the issue of reciprocity and proportionality, i.e., is the country that you're supplying withholding vaccines or vaccine components from you and is the country you're supplying in greater need of those vaccines? Is their rollout going better?

Certainly when you look at the EU and U.K. at the moment the impression would be clearly that the U.K. is doing better than the EU. So there's a concern in the U.K. that this is targeting them. The EU and the U.K. are saying that they're working together on this to try to find a win-win solution. So President Biden will find themselves talking about U.S./European unity at a time when not all EU nations are lined up behind this -- these new proposals over vaccine controls. And there will be a very tough potential division here between the EU and the U.K. who are all allies to President Biden.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, lots of tension there for sure. Nic Robertson in London appreciate it.

Still ahead, shocking new video obtained by "The New York Times" showing the bear spray attack on a police officer who later died in the capitol riot in January.


BRUNHUBER: Alarming new video has emerged from the U.S. capitol riots in January. It shows the moment officer Brian Sicknick who died in the attack was sprayed with an aerosol usually used to deter charging bears. Alex Marquardt has more from Washington.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As the violent insurrection raged at the capitol building new video obtained by "The New York Times" shows officer Brian Sicknick facing off with rioters on the western side and how he was wounded.


In the crowd were Julian Khater and George Tanios. Khater, who was armed with both pepper spray and bear spray -- according to prosecutors -- moved up to within feet of Sicknick and in the new video, can be seen unleashing a stream of chemical spray at the officer. Sicknick is hit and retreats, keeling over. A day later he was dead.

Khater and Tanios have been arrested and charged for assaulting three officers with chemical spray, including officer Sicknick. Federal prosecutors are now also discovering evidence of more coordination amid the chaos. New court filings alleging for the first time there was collaboration between the far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Messages released by the Justice Department show that Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs discussed on Facebook his communication with Proud Boys leadership, saying he, quote, orchestrated a plan with the Proud Boys for January 6th. Two weeks before the riots Meggs wrote: we have made contact with Proud Boys and they always have a big group, force multiplier.

Three days later, Christmas day, Meggs wrote to someone about the Proud Boys saying, I've been communicating with the leader, we are going to march with them for a while then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the Proud Boys get in front of them, we will come in behind Antifa and beat the hell out of them.

Prosecutors say the communication shows evidence of coordination but have yet to allege conspiracy between the groups. Something that at least ten Oath Keepers have been charged with, along with several Proud Boys.

Court filings show Meggs discussing rallying 50 to 100 Oath Keepers to Washington for January 6. In one message, Meggs had also sent a list of gear to bring including body armor and weapons. D.C. is no guns, Meggs wrote, so mace and gas masks, some batons, if

you have armor that's good.

All of the communication released by the Justice Department to argue against releasing Meggs from jail before his trial. He has pleaded not guilty.

MARQUARDT: The Department of Justice also says that it has credit card receipts showing that Meggs used four hotel rooms here in Washington, D.C. and that it also has records showing that he held meetings preparing for January 6.

Now, Meggs's wife Connie Meggs is also a member of the Oath Keepers. She has also been charged and she has been seen in the past acting as a bodyguard for the long time Trump confidant and political adviser Roger Stone.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: A major traffic jam in the Suez Canal could soon impact the global, economy. Coming up, the extraordinary effort underway to move a massive cargo ship. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: More than 50 million Americans are at risk of seeing severe weather today and that includes large parts of the South. Forecasters now say the region is facing a high chance for tornadoes. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with the details. Derek, take us through exactly where you're expecting this trouble.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, as if this isn't an ominous enough of a threat for you this morning. we've lost all daytime heating from the sun and we still have tornado watch boxes in effect across central Texas, from Austin to San Antonio. The energy from the system is marching eastward and just as you mentioned the storm prediction center has highlighted a level five out of five. Their highest severe prediction category. Anywhere you see that shading of purple.

So Tupelo to Jackson to Birmingham that's an area where we're highlighting with our greatest threat of strong tornadoes. But to a lesser extent but still severe weather and strong tornadoes possible as far north as Memphis, Nashville and just outside of the Birmingham region. This is an area we are focusing our attention on, but the severe threat extends from the Gulf Coast states all the way to the Ohio River Valley today.

I'm pointing towards this afternoon and evening to get the firing up from the daytime heating from the sunshine and you can see some of our computer models picking up on some of those stronger thunderstorms right across Tennessee, northern Mississippi and into Alabama. That's the area we are going to focus our attention on.

By the way, Atlanta, Georgia, where CNN is located, you have a slight risk of severe weather including tornadoes today. So overrunning this tornado threat is also a flash flood threat, we're tapping into a lot of Gulf of Mexico moisture. But let's focus in on what's most severe here and that is our probability of tornadoes.

We have a 30 percent chance of tornadic development, some of which could be EF-2 or higher. That means 100 mile per hour winds or more with tornadoes that do develop within this region specifically across that area we have hatched from Memphis to Montgomery and Birmingham. So we have to keep an eye to the sky, a dangerous day ahead for the deep south.

BRUNHUBER: That's a huge swath of the country that could be affected there. We will be following that story for sure. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam appreciate it.

Well it could be days before a giant cargo ship blocking marine traffic in the Suez Canal is freed. Several tugboats are working to move the grounded container ship the Ever Given which is wedged between sides of the canal, was shipping through one of the world's busiest waterways at a standstill there could be major implications for global trade.

Finally to Japan where the Olympic flame completed its grand start in the past couple of hours ahead of the Tokyo games. The event was very different this year obviously because of COVID-19. The relay which was led by members of Japan's women's soccer team was closed to the public. It took place in Fukushima with the aim to highlight the area's recovery ten years after earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Two years ago the Event Horizon telescope collaboration captured the first image of a black hole. Now that same group has captured a new view of the super massive black hole at the center of the M-87 galaxy 55 million light years away.


Now the colored streaks you see are jets of hot gas originating from near the black hole and being blown out at least 5,000 light years beyond the galaxy itself.

This is the new image. It shows the direction of polarized lights and goes some way to explain the jet phenomenon. The lines are indicative of magnetic field around the black hole. It's thought that the magnetic field around the black hole. It's thought that the magnetic field is so powerful it can help hot gases escape the massive gravitational pull of the black hole and expel them in the form of jets.


FREDERIC GUETH, INSTITUTE FOR MILLIMETRIC RADIO ASTRONOMY (through translator): In our little language we call it a super massive black hole. It sounds like a superhero, but it shows it is extremely big for a black hole. We are talking about several million -- several billion times the mass of the sun. The sun is very big so really, it's monstrous.


BRUNHUBER: And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START" is next.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Today the first news conference of Joe Biden's presidency, what will he say about the border, the economy and guns in the wake of the boulder mass shooting.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: AstraZeneca forced to revise its data on its COVID vaccine. What the missteps mean as the company eyes U.S. approval.

ROMANS: And a cargo ship as long as the empire state building is tall still stuck.