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Protesters Gather In Atlanta To Demonstrate Against New Georgia Voting Law; Georgia State Representative Arrested After Knocking On Governor's Door To Witness Signing Of Georgia Voting Law; Research Finds Pfizer And Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Protect Pregnant Women And Allow Them To Pass Protective Antibodies To Newborns; Rallies Take Place In LA Protesting Recent Mistreatment Of Asian American Community; Suspect In Mass Shooting In Boulder, Colorado, Reportedly Passed Background Check; President Biden Looking Into Issuing Executive Orders On Gun Control. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 27, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
The fight for democracy is playing out in Georgia today. Next hour, protesters will be holding rallies at the state capital in Atlanta. And this comes after a controversial and sweeping GOP voting bill signed into law limiting absentee voting and voter drop boxes, among other restrictions. Republicans passed the bill without any Democratic support, arguing it was needed to protect voter integrity.
Initiated in large part by the big lie, that the 2020 election was somehow stolen, Democrats are not buying that and they're fighting back. Several voter rights groups in Georgia are now filing lawsuits to strike down that law. President Biden calls that law Jim Crow in the 21st century.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher and Natasha Chen are both following all these developments. Dianne, to you first. Why is this law proving to be so polarizing?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, I think you hit on it a little bit to begin with there, just the purpose of doing this. And a lot of people have said because it's rooted in, well, a lie. The whole point of this law seems to be attached to those conspiracy theories that were spread by former President Trump and his allies.
But it's also the content of this law and how it may disproportionately affect voters who are low income and voters of color, and we're talking about certain aspects like now adding I.D. for absentee voting, limiting the use of drop boxes, making it a crime to give somebody food or drink if they're a voter waiting in line, and also broadening the state power over local election management, including so much as to have the ability to replace local election officials.
Now, look, President Biden has been quite pointed about how he feels on this new law. And I want to read part of the statement from him to you. He said, "Yet instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of the ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote. This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end."
And of course, he is saying instead of celebrating Georgians, because, well, he won the state of Georgia for the presidential election, and two Democrats flipped the state of Georgia for the Senate in January. Now Governor Brian Kemp, who is a Republican and he did sign the law, which only passed along party lines, has been, well, striking back against those claims. Here is what he had to say just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA: I can truthfully look in the camera and ask my African-American friends and other African-Americans in Georgia to simply find out what's in the bill versus just the blanket statement of this is Jim Crow or this is voter suppression or this is racist, because it is not. It's expanding early voting in Georgia. It also further secures the ballot with a photo I.D. requirement. And I would urge them to do just that, and ask themselves, who is being truthful to you here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Yes, and Fred, look, I do want to touch on where he says it expands access. Look, they do actually add an additional required Saturday of early voting, and they make two Sundays optional. But they also put in required hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. maximum.
So for the vast majority of counties in Georgia, especially those that are smaller and, to be honest, whiter, it does expand early voting. But for some of the larger and the more diverse counties, like Fulton County where you are, they may actually be cutting back on the hours, because they were already voting on those Saturdays and Sundays and they may have had longer voting hours.
WHITFIELD: All right, Dianne. Natasha, to you now. You're outside Georgia's capital where a protest is about to happen. What's the goal, what's going to happen?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this is actually one of two rallies happening today. I'm at Atlanta City Hall which is just down to block from the state capital, and this group of people here, if you can see behind me, are really here because they were upset by the arrest of Representative Park Cannon who, as you may have seen images in the past week, when Governor Kemp was about to sign this particular bill, she knocked on his door trying to get inside to witness his signing, and she was arrested after that.
And in just talking to some of the people who are here in solidarity with her, speaking out against this bill, they tell me that it was very upsetting for them to see her arrest that way, because they compare it to the images that we saw on January 6th at the Capitol of the United States, and the response there versus the response given to a black elected leader in Georgia, as they say, simply knocking on the door trying to witness a signing, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Right. She was arrested, handcuffed and arrested right away, whereas many of those in the insurrection, in fact, the majority, got a chance to go home, possibly later tracked down. Dianne Gallagher and Natasha Chen, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
So the fight over this law is just getting started. Several lawsuits have already been filed seeking to strike it down as unconstitutional. Here to talk about it is Vice Dean and Professor at the University of Southern California's Law School and election law expert Franita Tolson.
So good to see you, Professor Tolson. So this lawsuit filed by the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Rise Inc., says this new Georgia law violated the Voting Rights Act, the First and the 14th Amendments of the Constitution by placing unnecessary burdens on voters. Do they have a strong case?
FRANITA TOLSON, VICE DEAN AND PROFESSOR, USC GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW: They do have a strong case. So I did take Governor Kemp's invitation to look at the bill, right. And Section Two of the Voting Rights Act in particular prohibits voting regulations that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of race. And if you look at the law, it really targets vulnerable populations.
So for example, the prohibition to bringing food and drink to voters waiting in line, this past election season, you had voters in line for six, seven, either hours sometimes in majority-minority areas. In addition, it imposes more stringent requirements for absentee voting, whereas it expands early voting. And you have to ask, why is that?
Well, minority voters using absentee voting in unprecedented ways in this election cycle, whereas Republican voters who tend to skew more white voted in person. So you the law really targeting different groups in order to make voting harder for the minority populations in particular.
WHITFIELD: So the law is being propped up by the GOP as a step needed to ensure election security, "ensuring election security" are the very words that governor used. But by their own admission, the last election was free and fair in Georgia. Just listen to what was being said a few months ago, including from the state secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: I know there are people convinced the election was fraught with problems, but the evidence, the actual evidence, the facts tell us a different story.
GABRIEL STERLING, (R) GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: And now we'll move on to what I will call disinformation Monday. Ware County -- there are no seized machines in Ware County. Not true. Did not happen.
Another one, Jen Jordon and Elena Parent did not get on a plane to go count votes in Pennsylvania, OK. So there is no algorithm. The 5 million ballot hand count proves there is no algorithm switching votes.
RAFFENSPERGER: The outside of your envelope, we verified that signature, so your signature was matched twice. We had safe, secure, honest elections, and the results are disappointing if you are a Republican, but those are the results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So if there is no justification ahead of the kinds of the changes that were just put into law, will this undermine potentially Republicans' best defense in court?
TOLSON: I really hope so, but it's actually hard to tell, right, because courts have allowed these types of restrictions in the absence of actual fraud. So the argument is that the states can also be concerned about the appearance of fraud. But here this situation may be different because you actually have public statements by officials in Georgia about the legitimacy of the election. He is saying, the Georgia secretary of state is saying that the election was free and fair and not marred by fraud. And so courts can credit those statements.
WHITFIELD: President Biden has said that the Justice Department is now looking into Georgia's law. So what could the Justice Department do?
TOLSON: So there is a provision of the Voting Rights Act, Section three, which allows the Justice Department to bring litigation to bail in a state back into free clearance. So free clearance would require the state of Georgia to preclear any changes to their voting laws with the federal government before those changes could go into effect.
This is the portion of the law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 in the Shelby County versus Holder case, but there is still Section Three which allows the Department of Justice to go after states who engage in intentional discrimination in voting.
WHITFIELD: Do you see this potentially becoming a Supreme Court case?
TOLSON: It's very high profile, so it's likely. And I'm a little worried, Fred, to be honest, six to three conservative Supreme Court majority. So who knows how it will come out despite the facts.
WHITFIELD: And does your worry extend to the federal courts before ever potentially making it to the Supreme Court?
TOLSON: I do think that federal courts -- and to be clear, I am very hardened by how the courts acted in the past election cycle. The rule of law held. They rejected frivolous litigation challenging the election results. And so it's possible that in the lower courts, the courts will view this litigation favorably towards voting rights advocates.
WHITFIELD: Professor Franita Tolson, always good to see you. Thank you so much.
TOLSON: Great to see you, too. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, she was a doctor in the emergency department during the first wave of COVID-19 while pregnant. She joins us next to give us an update on whether she chose to get the vaccine while breastfeeding.
And later, President Biden is weighing potential executive actions on guns. What could those look like? We'll explain.
WHITFIELD: The U.S. is now more than 15 percent fully vaccinated. As the rollout continues to pick up pace, a new study is helping with vaccine confidence in a major demographic, new and expectant mothers. Researchers found both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines not only protect mothers, they also allow them to pass protective antibodies on to their newborns.
Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne is an emergency room physician in Maryland. Good to see you, Dr. Clayborne. So throughout this pandemic, we have talked about your journey as a pregnant mom working in E.R. all throughout, and you gave birth to your healthy daughter now nine months old. So what do you want pregnant and nursing women to know about this study?
DR. ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, UM'S PRINCE GEORGE'S HOSPITAL CENTER: Thanks for bringing this up, Fred, because I know it is something that a lot of women are very nervous about. There's probably couples that have not had children yet because they are concerned about the safety of becoming pregnant during a pandemic. There are mothers that are pregnant right now, and there's mothers that are breastfeeding.
And I'm happy to say that this preliminary data that came out of the study that was published this week shows very encouraging data that not only is the vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna safe in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, but it actually provides protection to the infant. So they found evidence of antibodies both in the placenta as well as the breast milk.
So for me as a mom, this was a huge sigh of relief. I have been breastfeeding my nine-month-old since she was born in late May of last year, and I am just so happy to know that every time I feed her, I am passing off protective antibodies that are keeping her safe and preventing her from getting sick.
And even though we haven't seen that these younger kids are having severe disease with COVID, I also know that she might be the very last population to get vaccinated. So it is relieving to understand and know that the data is showing us that these vaccines are not just helping me, but my baby.
WHITFIELD: So I know I'm getting really personal with you, but since you already revealed, you did get vaccinated, you got vaccinated then before everyone else knew about this study result. Did you ever have any hesitancy whatsoever given that you were nursing, and you are still working, that you wanted to opt to get the vaccine?
CLAYBORNE: Yes, absolutely. I did have a conversation with both my pediatrician for my daughter as well as my OBGYN, and at that time, they still recommended that breastfeeding and pregnant women get vaccinated. It is not outside of the norm for pregnant women to have vaccines.
In fact, if you have recently given birth, you know that you get a Tdap vaccine, for example, when you're pregnant for the specific purpose of protecting your infant from pertussis, or whooping cough. So there is a basic understanding that in general these vaccines are safe, and more than that, likely offering protection to the infant.
So I did get vaccinated in December and finished the course of the Pfizer vaccine in January. I breastfed through that entire time, and it was a little nerve-racking, but it's great to see that there is data that made me confident in my decision, and that I can share that with other women who are concerned about this and encourage them to get vaccinated as well.
WHITFIELD: Good, I'm glad you feel confident and you feel very protected, as well as for your baby.
So then let's talk about this new clinical trial that provokes yet another question that is on a lot of people's minds, whether vaccinated people can get infected, and just as important, whether they can transmit it to others. So what can you share with people?
CLAYBORNE: Well, this is something that is ongoing data is trying to elucidate for us currently. There is preliminary numbers that are showing us that we think the vaccines do indeed reduce the ability for someone to probably get infected, but we are trying to tell whether or not it completely eliminates that or if they are just getting very low level titers of the virus, which makes it unlikely that they would spread it to others.
And so, as we evolve with our understanding of what is going on with the vaccine, it will allow us to better project how protective these vaccines are, if it's just for the individual who is getting vaccinated, or if it also protects the people around them because they cannot no longer spread the virus.
So we are getting some of that data in. We are not 100 percent sure, but so far everything is pointing in the direction that it does, indeed, protect you from transmitting the virus and not getting sick at all.
WHITFIELD: So why would a trial like that be conducted now and not earlier on? CLAYBORNE: Well, the Moderna vaccine trial, for example, did do some
testing of their participants, right? They swabbed people who were in that vaccine trial to see if they had any signs of the virus, but they only did that at two separate intervals. And that's because that initial trial was really focused on does the vaccine work?
Does it prevent severe diseases? Does it prevent people from getting sick? And is that safe? And so for those preliminary trials, that was the primary objective. And while they collected a little extra data that may elucidate, as I said before, whether or not it's transmissible, that wasn't the primary focus.
So now that we have established that it's safe for use and protects the individual, we're looking at other parameters that are important, like can the virus be transmittable in a person that is vaccinated? Does it completely prevent them from getting sick altogether, or is the risk just negligible? So it's not that they didn't do it from the beginning. It just wasn't the primary focus, and now we are moving on the focus on those important questions.
WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne, thank you so much. All the best, continue to be safe.
CLAYBORNE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, it has been a tumultuous year, costing far too many lives. The nation's leading doctors are talking to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here is a preview of his special. Sanjay?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we ended up talking to six doctors that were really the center of the COVID response from the beginning, nearly up until just this past couple of months.
So their perspective has been so fascinating, and the way that we approached this was almost like an autopsy, really, trying to figure out exactly what happened here, because, there are so many lessons to be learned, not just for the future, but for right now, because we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic. Again, I talked to six doctors, but I wanted to show you a little bit of my conversation with Dr. Fauci.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Was there a moment, Dr. Fauci, when you said, OK, this is the big one?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 40 percent increase in New York hospitals in just 24 hours, that is a big number.
FAUCI: When I saw what happened in New York City -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Refrigerated trucks are now being mobilized as
FAUCI: Almost overrunning of our health care system, it was like, oh, my goodness. And that is when it became very clear that the decision we made on January the 10th to go all out and develop a vaccine may have been the best decision that I have ever made with regard to an intervention as the director of the institute.
GUPTA: The lifesaving and record-breaking vaccines that Dr. Fauci oversaw were a giant success for the doctors, for science, and for the world. But remember, a vaccine does nothing for the patient on the table, in this case, the hundreds of thousands who perished before science could save them.
When you look at your data now, and you think, OK, had we mitigated earlier, had we actually paused earlier, and actually done it, how much of an impact do you think that would have made?
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: And Fred, I think it's that last part that you just heard from Dr. Birx that really strikes at the heart of this. She believes, as do most of the doctors, that the majority of people who died, died preventable deaths, which is the great tragedy here. But also exactly why it happened. There are different things that people will say.
I spent time with Dr. Hahn, for example, from the FDA, Dr. Redfield from the CDC, understood the pressures that were going on behind the scenes and sort of tried to piece together a very complicated picture over the last year. Again, illuminating, but horrifying as well at times. But we do it because we think that the lessons are there and may benefit us at some point in the future. So I hope that you get a chance to watch, and let me know what you think.
WHITFIELD: I will absolutely be watching, Sanjay, thank you so much. So don't you miss this unprecedented event with Dr. Sanjay Gupta when the medical leaders of the war on COVID break their silence, CNN special report, "COVID War, The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out" begins tomorrow at 9:00.
In Los Angeles today, the city is coming together in solidarity with the Asian American community after last week's shootings at Atlanta area spas and the recent rise in hate incidents. CNN's Paul Vercammen is there. Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. If you look over here, you can hear the drums are starting to beat right now. Several hundred people have turned out here in Koreatown in Los Angeles. They are decrying this wave of Asian-American violence. And stay with us, because in just a moment we're going to talk to some
Vietnamese Americans who have received some of the most incredibly insensitive, brutal, hateful letters you would ever want to hear. We're going to have them talk to us about that and more. That's in a few moments. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing more calls to step down or be removed over growing scandals surrounding him. This morning protestors gathered outside the governor's Manhattan office to call for his impeachment. They want him removed from office after several women accused him of inappropriate conduct and his handling of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA GONZALEZ-ROJAS, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMBER: We can no longer be under the grips of this governor who has shown time and time again that he cares little about the people, and more about his power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Cuomo has repeatedly denied inappropriately touching anyone and his administration has defended the governor's handling of nursing home data.
We continue to see an outpouring of support for the Asian American community after a deadly shooting spree in Georgia claiming the lives of eight people, including six Asian women. That tragic shooting coming amid a rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination across the country. For the very latest, let's go to CNN's Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles where a rally in support of Asian-Americans is just now getting underway. Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we speak, you can hear music in the background. Several hundred people have gathered, and their mantra is stop Asian hate. And we are going to talk to some Vietnamese, Asian Americans who are part of what is called Nailing It.
They are nail salon owners, and they distributed an astronomical amount of PPE all on a volunteer donation level as the pandemic raged on. And now they are obviously incensed, because they are hearing so many awful things being said about them during this wave.
And I want to get right to it. Tom (ph) Nguyen (ph), you have received letters throughout California, three letters to different salons, if I'm not mistaken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.
VERCAMMEN: And they have just been brutal. After all you have done during the pandemic, what is going through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not OK. And we have had Asian, Vietnamese own salons throughout California receive this nasty letter. This is not OK. My mom and dad came here to give my sister and I a better life, and right now it doesn't feel that way. It is a tough time to be Asian.
I want to read this. It says, to all Asian, hey, you nasty, ugly, smelly, disgusting, pancake-faced, stir fry, cockroach eaters, dog and cat eaters, toenail cleaners, raw monkey brain eaters, go home. And then there are so many curse words throughout this whole thing. Nasty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a letter sent to nail salons throughout southern California. It's vile, it's vicious, and it should not be tolerated. Enough is enough. That's why we are here in Koreatown, to unite with our Asian brothers and sisters and all people to say enough is enough.
This shall not and will be tolerate, especially what we have done, sacrificed much to donate $30 million worth of PPE to health care workers. Now seeing this anti-Asian hate and vile violence is a stab in our backs, and it's a stab in the backs of all Americans of good will.
VERCAMMEN: And we thank you for that, Ted, also a salon owner. And your mom, Tom (ph) --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am Kim (ph) Nguyen (ph).
VERCAMMEN: Just recently, you have been yelled at in a park and that sort of thing. Can you tell us about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she came up to me and she said that she would get a virus, so stay away from her, you go home. And I feel bad, I feel so sad. I am 76 years old, and I just walk away, because that is usually people like that, something like that, I just want to walk away. I don't want to fight. I don't want to say anything. I just walk away. I feel real bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our family has been called chink, nip, gook, slanted eyes throughout our lives here. Now we're being called coronavirus, and people are avoiding us. It's just not OK.
VERCAMMEN: And so from a legislative process, what would you like to see done to heal some of these wounds and some of these problems that you're facing right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need our legislators to hear us. We need them to be with us. We need them to come up with legislation. We need data. We're an invisible community. Let's get data. It takes 18 months just for the Department of Justice to get data for Asians. We are a way underreported community. We need data as well as we need actions. We need to support our Asian small businesses. We need legislation. We are ready to come together and sit at the table to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is about, I think it is really about providing in-language information to our most vulnerable community members, to know what their rights are, what their responsibilities are, and that the police and law enforcement are allies to protect themselves, so that they can protect themselves, and so that we can have a better community.
We need more resources to fund community action organizations that are doing the great work on the front end, but the simply are so stretched, and they don't have the necessary funding. And so legislators, the moment of silence is over. It's a movement of action, and we need action today to save lives, because when Asians cannot be protected in America, no group is protected in America.
VERCAMMEN: We appreciate all of you for taking time out in this emotional day and participating in this march. And we thank you again, Kim (ph), Tom (ph), Ted (ph), thank you.
You can hear the emotion here, Fred, in their voices, receiving these hateful letters, and you can see behind me this rally is in full effect here in Koreatown in Los Angeles. Reporting live, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Paul. And thank you so much for bringing their powerful voices.
President Biden is now facing growing pressure to act on guns after the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, that left 18 people in all now dead less than a week apart.
Biden now says he is looking at executive actions on guns. We'll tell you what those could include, next.
WHITFIELD: A gun shop owner in Colorado says that the suspect in the mass shooting in Boulder passed a background check and legally purchased the weapon used in the deadly attack. The suspect is accused of killing 10 people in that grocery store shooting, and prosecutors now say he could face more attempted murder charges.
Earlier I spoke to CNN's crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz about how this gunman was able to still pass a background check and purchase a weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That would indicate then, that there is no documented necessarily, there isn't any kind of court adjudication which would label him mentally unfit to possess a weapon. The background check that he did pass, according to the gun store, did not indicate anything that would prevent him from purchasing that weapon.
[14:40:06] I actually went to the gun shop yesterday. They obviously didn't want to talk to us, but they did release that statement saying that they are cooperating with law enforcement. So officials here say that from everything they could tell, he went into that gun shop. It's in Arvada about 30 minutes from here, and was able to legally purchase that weapon. Police said yesterday he also had a second weapon on him, and 9 millimeters that they don't believe he used during the shooting.
Of course, a big question is motive. That is something investigators are still working on. It's five days after the shooting, and they are really not any closer to determining a motive here, Fred. So they are still working through that, they said yesterday. And there is that possibility that they may never know what the motive here was. And you raised the issue of mental illness. Of course his brother has raised this issue, and it is also something we know that investigators have been looking into. And his attorneys in court raised that issue as well.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: Shimon Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much in Boulder.
Following the mass shootings in Bolder and Atlanta, President Biden is now talking about possible executive action on gun regulation. Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us. So Arlette, what exactly is the president saying about this?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, President Biden has expressed a willingness to take executive action when it comes to guns as he is facing more pressure to act after this recent spate of mass shootings. But ultimately, the White House says that for meaningful, long lasting reform to be made to gun laws, that also needs to be done through Congress. Yesterday, when President Biden landed here in Delaware, he talked about two areas where he could take executive action. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at what kind of authority I have relative to imported weapons as well as whether or not I have the authority of these new weapons that are being made by 3-D equipment that aren't registered as guns at all, there may be some latitude there as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: So those are just two of the areas where the president has previewed he could act on. But we know that behind the scenes, the White House is considering a range of executive actions. And some of those items that are on the table are background checks for what are called ghost guns.
Those are the guns that are self-made and don't have serial numbers on them. They have also talked about strengthening the federal background check system and sending more money into the communities that have been affected by gun violence. Another option on the table is changing the statutory definitions when it comes to selling guns.
Now, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would not give a time line for how quickly the president may act, saying that these all need to go through a review process to ensure that they are legal and meet the standards of an executive action. But what you are also seeing is the White House right now is trying to focus on the next major piece of legislation that they are trying to advance.
On Wednesday, the president will be introducing his infrastructure package, and really has been placing a focus on that. And the president has said that successful presidents know how the time out what they are doing. So it might be some time before they majorly get behind or are pushing a specific piece of legislation when it comes to guns.
WHITFIELD: And then the other big issue continues to be immigration and what's happening at the southern border. We're learning the administration could actually need more than, what, 34,000 additional beds for unaccompanied minors in particular.
SAENZ: Yes, and this is just one of the latest challenges that this administration is facing when it comes to that influx of migrant children coming unaccompanied to the border. And our colleague Priscilla Alvarez has learned that they are projecting they could need at least 34,100 beds for those HHS facilities to house these children long term.
Now, what you have seen is that there is a crowding, and thousands of children who are in these border processing facilities that were not intended to house children. They are often jail-like facility. And so what the administration is trying to do is increase the beds in that HHS shelter so they can move more of those children into those shelters as the migrants surge and influx is expected to continue into the coming months.
WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz, thank you so much, in Wilmington.
President Biden could also soon be facing one of his first big tests on the world's stage with North Korea. Here now is CNN's Brian Todd.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A warning from President Biden to North Korea's 37-year-old dictator, who just launched two sets of missiles within a few days, the latest a test firing of ballistic missiles nearly 300 miles into the sea.
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly. But I'm also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.
TODD: But analysts tell us denuclearization is not in Kim Jong-un's playbook. SUE TERRY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERVIEW STUDIES: What they want
to talk about is potential interim freeze, potentially capping the program, and that's the maximum that they will go. They have said multiple times that they are not interested in denuclearization talks.
TODD: The president was also asked about the broader North Korean threat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former President Obama warned the incoming President Trump that North Korea was the top foreign policy issue that he was watching. Is that how you assess the crisis in North Korea?
TODD: Experts say these missile launches are classic moves form the Kim regime, that the North Koreans love to greet new American presidents with shows of force, part intimidation, part bluster. It's a dodge and weave with specific goals in mind.
MICHAEL GREEN, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL FOR ASIA: Kim is sending the message that Joe Biden can't ignore him, that Biden has to come back to the negotiating table. And from Kim Jong-un's perspective, he would like for Joe Biden to offer what Donald Trump appeared to be offering, which was a big deal.
TODD: But a big deal never came to pass between Kim and President Trump, despite the fanfare of two summits, and a high profile meeting at the demilitarized zone in 2019, the first time a sitting U.S. president set foot on North Korean soil.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This has been in particular a great friendship.
TODD: There was correspondence, which included what Trump termed love letters between the two leaders.
TRUMP: We met, and we liked each other from day one.
TODD: Kim did draw down his missiles tests for an extended period as he kept trying to leverage his relationship with Trump for concessions. But analysts say while Kim was courting Donald Trump, he continued to modernize his nuclear warheads and missile arsenals.
GREEN: They have been clearly perfecting weapons capable of hitting U.S. allies and U.S. bases in the Pacific.
TODD: Last October, Kim displayed his biggest missile yet, called the Hwasong-15, rumbling it through the streets of Pyongyang on a mobile launch platform. Experts say the red line to watch out for is if Kim Jong-un decides to test another long-range missile capable of hitting the continental U.S., specifically a missile that can reenter the earth's atmosphere without burning up.
GREEN: And I think what you're seeing here is North Korea ratcheting up the pressure to indicate that that could be coming if the Biden administration doesn't talk to them. TODD: Experts say Kim Jong-un has another move that he can leverage
against President Biden. They say Kim knows just how bad American's relationship with China is right now, and is eager to play the two superpowers off against each to try to win more concessions.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Peaceful protests in Myanmar turned violent today as the military unleashed a violent crackdown, killing dozens of civilians. The deaths represent the bloodiest day of protests since a military coup last month. Ivan Watson joins us now with the very latest on this developing situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Saturday was supposed to be Armed Forces Day, a day for celebrating the military in Myanmar. Instead, it became a bloodbath. The Reuters News Agency reporting more than 90 people killed in cities and towns across the country, as demonstrators tried to come out and protest against the February 1st military coup and met lethal force coming from the security forces.
Now, the armed forces did throw itself a parade in the capital Naypyitaw, and that's where General Min Aung Hlaing, the man who declared himself de facto ruler of the country after ousting a civilian elected government in the coup, that's where he gave a speech.
And he promised at some point to have elections. He denounced some of the former government's officials, accusing them of crimes such as corruption. And he called Russia a true friend. After all, the only foreign delegation visible at the parade came from Russia.
Now, protesters had said that they were still going to go out in the streets despite a warning broadcast on military TV the night before, saying that demonstrators might get shot in the head or in the back if they dared to go out. And then the violence ensued.
In past weeks, we're hearing increasingly about opposition activists, former members of the government who are fleeing to border areas where ethnic minority militias have controlled enclaves and battled against the central government for decades are not accepting some of these dissidents. CNN spoke with the leader of one of the largest ethnic armed groups who is calling Myanmar a failed state after the coup. Listen to what further he had to say.
COMMANDER YOD SERK, SHAN STATE ARMY COMMANDER (through translator): We will stand with the people. It means if they're trouble and running to us seeking help, we will take care of them. If the military continues to shoot and kill people, it means the junta would have simply transformed themselves into terrorists. They simply don't care about the people. We won't sit still. We will find every means to protect the people.
WATSON: The embassies of the European Union and Britain have denounced Saturday's violence. The EU mission saying, quote, Armed Forces Day will forever stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: And thank you so much, Ivan. And since the filing of that report, things have worsened. There have now been at least 114 civilians killed in Myanmar.
Thanks so much for being with me today. I'll see you again tomorrow. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.