Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Skipping Olympic Games; Debate Over Vaccine Passports; Putin's Latest Political Power Play; Police Chief Testifies Chauvin Violated Use of Force Policy; Sellout Crowd at Baseball Game Amid Fears of New Surge; New Video Shows World's Deepest Known Shipwreck. Aired 1-1:45a ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Avlon. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, new setback for the Tokyo Olympics after North Korean announces it's skipping the games over coronavirus fears.

Vaccine passports for international travel move closer to reality despite concerns they're just another way to divide pandemic winners and losers.

And Vladimir Putin's latest political power play. The Russian president signing a law that could keep him at the Kremlin for another 15 years.


AVLON: But we begin with a developing story from North Korea, where state media reports its athletes won't take part in the Tokyo Olympics, because of concerns over the coronavirus. The games are set to start July 23rd, after being postponed last summer.

CNN's Will Ripley is following developments live from Hong Kong.

Will, what's Pyongyang saying about this decision?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying that it's because of the COVID-19 surge that Japan has been experiencing as of late, John. I will put up the statement from the North Korean sports ministry. It says the DPRK's Olympic committee decided not to join the 32nd Olympic Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by coronavirus, according to suggestions by committee members at the general meeting.

This is a huge blow for the administration of President Moon Jae-in and South Korea. They have elections in 2022, and this was perhaps their last shot, John, at a diplomatic opening much like the one we saw back in 2018 in Pyeongchang, when Kim Jong Un sent his sister Kim Yo-jong to attend the opening ceremonies. She had a letter that she brought with her inviting the South Koreans for diplomatic outreach. And we saw the inter-Korean summit, and then there's three face to face meetings between Kim Jong Un and President Trump, which is all put us back to where we are right now with North Korea launching two ballistic missiles a little less than two weeks ago, John.

AVLON: So, Will, I guess that raises -- that goes to the heart of the question I've got, which is that, yes, you know, North Korea participate in the last Olympic Games, but they're not going to be spectators at this Olympics. Yes, there will be spikes around the world, but presumably, most of the athletes will either be vaccinated, or at the very least, tested repeatedly.

So, how much of this is about North Korean politicians, rather than actual concerns about coronavirus?

RIPLEY: It's a great question. I do believe that if North Korea has a keen interest in engaging with the United States and South Korea, they might reconsider sending some athletes into the game, possibly. But ever since the collapse of the Hanoi summit in 2019, diplomacy has essentially stopped between North Korea and the United States and South Korea. They have shunned pretty much all official diplomatic contact.

There is also the issue, though, John, of North Korea's dilapidated health care system in North Korea. They claim to not have a single confirmed COVID-19 case in their country. It's a claim that a lot of experts are skeptical about. But certainly, if there were a major outbreak, it would be catastrophic for somebody to bring COVID into North Korea because they don't have the medical capacity to handle it. And a lot of people there could die. It could be really tragic for the people of North Korea.

So, there is a public health could concern given the fact that in Japan they are in the midst of this possible 4th wave. They saw a surge of infections, and it's a new more contagions that they are detecting now, in most patients that might be resistant to vaccines. There are concerns that the Olympics can be a super spreader event, potentially, John.

AVLON: CNN's Will Ripley deciphering it all from Hong Kong, thank you very much, Will.

All right. A major travel related announcement in New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that quarantine-free travel with Australia will begin in less than two weeks. Now, most Australia already allowed New Zealanders to visit and now, New Zealand is returning the favor.

Angus Watson joins us now live from Sidney.

Angus, what's the deal?

ANGUS WATSON, JOURNALIST: John, well, as you said there, Australians have been able to go to New Zealand, now New Zealanders are going to be able to return to Australia from 11:59 pm on the 18th of April. That means flights will take off from here and Australia on the 19th, delivering New Zealanders back home as well without having to do a 14- day mandatory quarantine when they get there.


And Jacinda Ardern speaking today, saying there is a new chapter in the country's fight against coronavirus. New Zealand has done particularly well in that fight, just 26 people have died in the country of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, horrible of course. But it's meant that New Zealand has been able to start to get on with the job of opening back up.

And this latest news, a big part of that, that they will be able to welcome people from Australia to visit without having to do that pointing, which means that tourism, a massive part of the New Zealand economy, can start to come back to life after the shut down of almost a year, John.

AVLON: Angus, you know, a lot of the travel bubbles haven't really worked out. Why is there hope that this will be the exceptions?

WATSON: Well, New Zealand and Australia particularly close neighbors, John. There are all sorts of agreements at the countries already have, where people can work and live across those two countries. If it is going to work out between two countries, Australia New Zealand, are good candidates them being already so close.

But it is precarious. New Zealand said that if there are outbreaks and Australia reserves the right to cancel that bubble at the shortest notices, and says that travelers between Australia and New Zealand need to be aware that they might be inconvenienced to the point of having to do a quarantine for 14 days if they travel at the wrong time.

But, John, this is something that New Zealand government is lording as being one of the first in the world to achieve a travel bubble between two large countries. It has had some success elsewhere in the region, small countries of Palau in the Northern Pacific now has a travel bubble Taiwan, that's open now, which Taiwanese tourists are taking advantage of.

But it hasn't worked too. There was meant to be one between Hong Kong and Singapore. That didn't work out at the last moment, a celebration had to be canceled that Hong Kong airport, as cases there rose, and the travel bubble was popped, John.

AVLON: Well, we'll be watching. Angus Watson, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, in Britain, people will have to wait a little longer before planning a summer holiday abroad. Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he is hopeful international travel can begin by May 17th. But he says the country will is not there yet.

However, several COVID restrictions will be ease starting Monday.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: England is now ready for phase two of the roadmap. That's what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the Downing Street press conference.

The latest COVID figures are good. That means restrictions can be further ease and starting on April 12th, nonessential shops can reopen. Restaurants and pubs can also serve, but only outside. The prime minister said he will be out on Monday taking advantage of the new freedoms.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And, of course, beer gardens and outward hospitality of all kinds. And on Monday, the 12th, I will be going to the pub myself, and cautiously, but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.

ABDELAZIZ: Now, there are two other parts of this announcement that had been highly expected, anticipated, but it turned out much more needed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson now saying there are hopes that international travel can resume on May 17th, but that the government cannot promise there will be more holidays to summer. That is because there's concerns that the virus could be re-imported from abroad, particularly with a surge in cases in some European countries.

The other part of this was the COVID status certification documents, what's colloquially known as a COVID passport. The prime minister now saying that they are in the early stages, the early planning stages around getting the so-called vaccine passports, these documents out, there be piloting it in many events across the country. But that it's still early and reassuring the public there that these will not be required to go to essential shops like your grocery store or your pharmacy, that it could just be for international travel for now. But still simply early to tell, a lot and ethical implications there.

But the most important thing was probably was not said. A lot had been expected, a lot had been anticipated around this COVID status certifications and around international travel. And this could mean the prime minister is facing some opposition in his party to roll up these measures.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


AVLON: Other countries are also considering vaccine passports as a safe way to bring back international travel. But some critics say it's unethical.

Joining me now from Seattle is Nancy Jecker, professor bioethics and humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Professor Jecker, thanks for joining us.

Look, on the, surface vaccine passport seems like a great effort. You get vaccinated, you get the passport and then you can come and go when you please. But it's not that simple if you think about it for more than a beat. So, what are the downsides that you anticipate?


NANCY JECKER, BIOETHICS & HUMANITIES PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOF OF MEDICINE: Well, when we think about the ethics of vaccine passports, the very first question we need to ask is, do we have fair access to vaccines? And unless we do, passports can only entrench these equities. Globally, we did not have fair access. For example, 94 percent of countries that started vaccinating the population are in the high and middle categories. And current forecast show at this rate, there will not be enough vaccines to cover the world's population until 2023, or 2024.

So, my concern from an ethical standpoint is that, the vaccine passports will go deep into this and the qualities, disproportionate people in lower and middle income countries. It's for these reasons that the World Health Organization recommended back in January against vaccine mandates for international travel.

AVLON: The question is, what's the practical alternative to assure people that folks have been vaccinated and therefore have at least a near term reduction in the risk of spreading the virus?

JECKER: I think for now, our best bet is masking and testing which are more readily available than vaccines and (INAUDIBLE). I would also point out, scientifically and practically, there's a lot of protection from the vaccines, and protection from new emerging virus variants. So, as a result, vaccine passports in fact pose a risk to public health if they create a false sense of protection. Even when they work, they're not 100 percent in blocking transmission.

AVLON: Sure. Perfect is never on the menu.

Some folks are talking about what's an ethical vaccine passport could look like? If I'm hearing you correctly, you might think that's a contradiction in terms.

JECKER: Well, I'm not, I think the timing manners. I think before we talk about vaccine passports, we have to talk about equitable and fair, and universal access to vaccines. And until we achieve that and we're closer to achieving that, I think there are serious issues related to equity.

And so, again, I would emphasize texting and I would emphasize masking.

AVLON: So, testing and masking, but unless there's universal access which is probably a very high bar, you think that would be unwise.

I think it also raises the questions about given how little we know about the lifespan of the vaccines, is it possible that if we move away, or forward with these passports as the E.U. is discussing that it could give a false sense of security about the virus?

JECKER: Definitely can get a false sense of security. We have just very early evidence indicating that the vaccine's, some vaccines, the mRNA vaccines block transmission. We don't know how long that will last. We don't know if it'll work against new vaccine variants.

AVLON: Well, Professor Jecker, thank you very much for your time. We're going to be discussing this issue a lot in the coming weeks ahead, I have a feeling.

JECKER: Thank you.

AVLON: All right. India is reporting a record rise in coronavirus infections. The country recorded more than 103,000 new cases Monday, its most ever. In the worst hit state, hospitals are overwhelmed and new restrictions have been put in place.

CNN's Vedika Sud is live from Delhi.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good to be with you, John.

What we do know at this point in time is that the number itself from the health ministry and moving forward, that there are 97,000 cases in last 24 hours by this morning, which means that India hasn't crossed the hundred thousand mile for the second consecutive day, and lots of reasons really for those cases going up, especially gatherings that are happening.

Remember, there are elections in five states across India and because that public rallies also being held by politicians. This is wedding season, and as we know, COVID fatigue is another big reason. Also, medical experts saying it's usually businesses use usual was carrying on, that these are staggering numbers for India, no doubt, the second wave is here. How long will it stay is a big question really.

But there's a report of the staggering numbers.


SUD (voice-over): A record surge in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai has turned this parking lot into a 400-bed makeshift hospital.

India's richest state, Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, report more than 57,000 new infection Sunday, with cases rising, the state government has imposed nine curfew and complete lockdown on weekends through the end of the month.

DR. RANDEEP GULERIA, MEMBER, INDIA'S NATIONAL COVID-19 TASK FORCE: We know that there are a large crowding which occurs at certain cities in Maharashtra, for example, Mumbai. Mumbai being the industrial capital, and a lot of people in that state, not only in India but outside also. And with is crowding and total lack of good behavior, this actually is a classical case for the infection to spread.


SUD: The health ministry says the situation across India is worrying.

DR. VINOD K. PAUL, MEMBER, NATIONAL INSTITUTION FOR TRANSFORMING INDIA: The situations is becoming from bad to worse, and a serious cause for concern. In some states in particular, there is a huge cause for worry.

SUD: India reported over 100,000 new cases Monday, surpassing its all-time daily high of almost 98,000 new infections in mid September last year.

RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN, SENIOR RESEARCH SCHOLAR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: The first wave happened under significantly stringent lockdown. Right now, much of the economy is open, people are moving around, transportation is open. So, it's only natural that we will see a much sharper and steep arising cases.

SUD: While the government has repeatedly urged citizens to wear a mask and social distance, politicians have been busy addressing thousands of supporters in all the states. That's not the only cause for concern. One of the world's biggest festivals, Kumbh Mela, is taking place in India's northern state of Uttarakhand. Tens of millions of deputies are expected to attend the event in the month of April.

GULERIA: Any event when you have a large number of cases, a large number of people come together, and when in such an event, there is no COVID appropriate behavior, people not wearing masks, can be super- spreading events.


SUD (on camera): Since April 1, those 45 and older will be vaccinated as well. As of now, India has vaccinated over 83 million people, but this includes first and second dose. But the worry remains if these numbers could carry on, there could be more partial lockdowns in different statements in the days to come. Like some of the medical experts said, for them, these figures are not alarming. The first time over in mid-September when the numbers went to 98,000, that was when the lockdowns had just ended, three successive lockdowns at that point of time, after which the economy was easing up.

This time, moreover, there has been more lockdown, it's been business as usual. Hence those numbers were staggering.

Back to you, John.

AVLON: Vedika Sud from New Delhi, thank you so much.

Days ago, he accused Georgia's government of corruption. Now, a member of the royal family is pledging loyalty to the king. We'll explain why the sudden shift in tone.

Plus, Putin's power. The Russian president signed up on a law that can keep him in office for a very long time. We'll get some perspective.


AVLON: Jordan says Prince Hamzah bin Hussein has pledged his allegiance to the kingdom days after a major dispute with the royal family. The government has accused him of a plot to destabilize the country while he blamed them for corruption and mismanagement.

But on Monday, both sides held talks to settle the matter. And in the end, the royal said he agreed to sign a letter affirming his royalty.


It read in part: The national interest must remain above all else, and we must all stand behind his Majesty the King in his efforts to safeguard Jordan and its national interests, and ensure the best for the Jordanian people.

Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny is vowing to stick with his prison hunger strike, even though he says he's sick with a high fever and bad cough. Navalny serving time on fraud charges when he came back to Russia after being treated in Germany for nerve ending poisoning.

Matthew Chance was on his way to the penal colony, he is on the phone with us now.

Matthew, thanks for joining us.

Can you give us the latest on Navalny in prison, and also the latest on the pro-Navalny protests that are in the organizing stages across Russia?


Yeah, that's right. I mean, there is a protest that's being organized today, outside the penal colony in a town called Pokrov, which a couple of hours drive from the Russian capital, Moscow, and it's being organized by doctors sympathetic to the Navalny cause. They're expressing their concern that is not being properly looked over was in custody, and that penal colony.

And that, of course, stems from the word that Navalny himself who's made several complaints over the past couple of weeks. First of all, that he's got a back problem, he's lost sensitivity in his legs, he's gone on hunger strikes, as you mentioned, to protest the fact that he hasn't been given, he says, appropriate medical care.

It's also emerged now from social media posts of Alexey Navalny, that he's got a high temperature. And he's got a cough as well.

Now, obviously, in the time of COVID, there are concerns that maybe indication, an indication that he's got that disease, that many other people have. But there's also said to be an outbreak of tuberculosis inside the penal colony. That's also a concern.

And, of course, the broader concern is that Alexey Navalny is not a well-man. He was positioned horrifically back in August last year with a suspected nerve agent, and there are concerned that some of these symptoms may be related to neurological damage caused by that nerve agent.

What Navalny wants to see a specialist come into the penal colony, give him a proper inspection and appropriate medication if he needs it.

At the moment, the Russian authorities are saying he is getting all the medical attention he needs, and he's being treated like any other prisoner would normally be.

AVLON: Matthew Chance, thank you very much. I look forward to next reporting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in power until all 2036. He lets him run for two more 6-year presidential terms, once his current stint ends in 2024. But it limits any future president to two terms in office. Voters approved the changes last summer and both house of parliament passed it last month. Opponents describe this as a constitutional coup.

Joining me from Washington is Jill Dougherty. She's an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, as well as a former CNN Moscow bureau chief.

Jill, it's great to have you with the show.

First, start out explaining force folks the significance of this legislation that Vladimir Putin signed today.

JILL DOUGHERTY, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: You know, it's really pro forma. But it makes legal what was voted on over the summer. Right in the middle of COVID, there was a referendum, Russians went to the polls, and they were supposed to vote on like a pass of all sorts of issues. One of which the most important really was allowing Vladimir Putin to kind of, you would nullify these four times in office that he's had, and he would be able to run twice for two more 6-year terms, which would mean he'd be in office for 20 years, and that would push it out to his ripe old age of 83. It's big news.

There were other things actually, John, that people voted for. A lot of this was not very clear to Russian voters, the media didn't really talk about it. What they paid attention to was pensions will be increased, and laws will be on traditional values, and patriotic things. That's really the importance is political change.

AVLON: Well, look, some folks have been calling this a constitutional coup. By my count, if he serves out those two full additional terms, he will be in office sometimes longer than Joseph Stalin. Not quite as long as Ivan the Terrible.

Do you think this kind of a power move is something that can increase the backlash against Putin? Or is this something to the Russian character we may be witnessing?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I wouldn't want to say Russian character. I always get a little nervous talking about Russian character.

AVLON: Sure.

DOUGHERTY: I do think there is a sense of frustration, and you could see this in the polls. Putin's ratings for himself are dropping, there are economic problems now. It's a sense of frustration that the economy is not working. You've had sanctions, et cetera.

So, there are some problems, and in the long run, it could kind of backfired to a certain extent. But really, there is still quite a bit of support for Putin, mainly because there appears to be no, let's say option. Now, of course, Alexey Navalny is an option, but he is in prison.

AVLON: Speaking of Alexey Navalny, he is now being held in a prison, he is on a hunger strike. Really, the most high-profile challenge opposition leader in some respects, obviously been targeted by the Putin regime, what's your take on the prisoners being held in the hunger strike he's conducting?

DOUGHERTY: Well, it's apparently pretty strict in contrast to what RT television said when, you know, they sent that Maria Butina who was in jail here in the United States. In fact, sent her in with a camera, and she said, it's wonderful, it's beautiful, it's very clean and lovely.

But the truth is, it is really a tough place to be. He has lost a lot of weight. The reports are about that he lost 16 pounds, probably more at this point. It's a very difficult situation.

But I have to note that there have been polls recently, and after Russian population still things that is justified to have him in this work camp. So, again, we are back to people just looking room for options. They don't see a whole lot. They go with Putin.

AVLON: Yeah. I want to talk about 2 other things going on. Putin seems to be flexing his muscles, one reports of a buildup in Ukraine, and two, increased military presence in the Arctic, both pushing the boundaries in a way that seems very characteristic of Putin's Russia.

DOUGHERTY: Yeah. They are two different situations that I would say, the most immediate of course is Ukraine. There are reports that Russia has moved troops closer to the Ukrainian border, and that of course meets people in the West, especially NATO, very worried it makes them. If there were to be overt military action with Russian troops, not just a little green men with no real uniforms marked, this might be Russian troops. That would be a major escalation. So, there is concern about that.

With the Arctic, I think the nervousness about that is much longer term. There was hope that the Arctic would be a place that wasn't militarized. But it appears it is becoming more militarized.

You have to pay attention to the fact that not only the United States is there, Russia is there, China is there, there are a lot of other nations that are getting in on the Arctic, because it is going to do with global warming, climate change. It's going to be a place where as the ice melts, there will be a lot more ability to move ships quickly through that area.

So, it's an area of great potential, and actually it's changing as we speak.

AVLON: No question about it.

Jill Dougherty, thank you so much for joining us.


AVLON: Just up on CNN NEWSROOM, prosecutors are building its case on the Derek Chauvin murder trial. They're doing it in part with the powerful testimony from law enforcement.


MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF: In no way shape or form is anything that is part of policy, in part of our training, it's certainly not part of our ethics or our values.




JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Avlon.

Testimony will resume today in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. On Monday, the Minneapolis police chief testified that the former police officer violated policy last year when he kneeled on George Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

CNN's Sara Sidner reports from Minneapolis. And a warning: some of this video is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The testimony you're about to give will be the truth, and nothing but the truth.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The prosecution's 21st witness in former officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial was his ultimate boss, the chief of police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the officer supposed to do to a person in crisis?

MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF: To attempt to de-escalate that situation.

SIDNER: Chief Medaria Arradondo testified he first learned of the severity of his officer's actions against George Floyd via a community members.

ARRADONDO: Close to midnight, a community member had contacted me and said Chief -- almost verbatim but said -- "Chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man?" SIDNER: The chief testified Chauvin violated the department's neck

restraint policy and he detailed its use of force policy which also takes into account the severity of a potential crime.

Clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy. It's not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

SIDNER: We also heard from the emergency room doctor who treated Floyd when the ambulance dropped him off at the hospital unresponsive.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: Did you pronounce him formally dead?


BLACKWELL: Did you receive a report that he had received CPR from any of the officers who may have been on the scene on May 25th, 2020?

LANGENFELD: No. It's well known that any amount of time that a patient spends and cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chances of a good outcome.

SIDNER: Doctor Bradford Langenfeld testified he believes George Floyd died from hypoxia or a lack of Oxygen.


SIDNER: The prosecution is trying to prove it was from the 9 minutes 29 seconds Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck restricting his breathing. The defense is trying to refute that saying that it was illicit drugs in Floyd's system coupled with his medical history.

ERIC NELSON, DEREK CHAUVIN'S ATTORNEY: Certain drugs can cause hypoxia, agreed? Specifically fentanyl?

DR. LANGENFELD: That's correct.

NELSON: How about methamphetamine?


NELSON: The combination of the two?


SIDNER: But the doctor testified paramedics normally report to him drug overdoses or extreme agitation.


BLACKWELL: Did they say to you for purposes of caring or giving treatment to Mr. Floyd, that they felt he had suffered a drug overdose?

DR. LANGENFELD: Not in the information they gave no.

SIDNER: The commander who was in charge of police training back in May testified what she saw Chauvin do to Floyd was not consistent with their training.

BLACKWELL: And how does this differ?

KATIE BLACKWELL, INSPECTOR, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: I don't know what kind of improvised position that is. So that's not what we train.

SIDNER (voice over): It's another extraordinary day because we heard from the chief of police. You don't often hear from so many officers and certainly the chief of police in this case standing very strongly against the kind of force that his former officer Derek Chauvin used.

And he went down a list of what the reasons are for using force and they were pretty clear whether or not the officer or others were in potentially grave danger. Whether or not he was actively -- and that's an important word -- actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest. And then lastly the police are supposed to consider the crime that the person is being accused of.

If you look at that int totality, the chief said this was absolutely unnecessary to be on his neck with your knee for more than 9 minutes. And it went against not only their policy but their ethical rules as well.

Sara Sidner, CNN -- Minneapolis.


AVLON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused prosecutors in his corruption trial of conducting a witch hunt to remove him from office.

The statements came after the evidentiary phase of the trial got underway on Monday. The prosecution accused him of bribery, fraud, breach of trust. But the Prime Minister has denied the charges and dismissed the trial as an attempted coup.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The prosecution opening the investigations against to get the prime minister was against the law, not just any law, the basic law that requires permission from the government attorney general to open an investigation, a permit that has never been given.

Why did they do that? It's a witch hunt. They didn't investigate a crime. They didn't look for a crime. They hunted for a man. They hunted me.


AVLON: The prime minister's political fate could also be in the hands of the nation's president. This week showed the side of Mr. Netanyahu as the right person to try to form the next coalition government.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Just ahead, we're going to go far beneath the Philippine Sea for the tale of the world's deepest-known shipwreck.



AVLON: You're looking there at almost 40,000 fans of the Texas Rangers Baseball team, packed together for the first time since the pandemic began. Now, The Rangers are calling the game a sellout. U.S. president Joe Biden is calling it a mistake.

The Globe Life Field is the first major U.S. sports stadium to reopen at full capacity against experts' advice. Most other baseball teams are permitting about 25 percent capacity. Fans are required to wear masks, except when they were actively eating or drinking at their seats. This is believed to be the largest attendance for sports event in the U.S. Since the country shut down. And it comes amid warnings of a fourth U.S. surge.

Saudi Arabia says that the only people who have received a COVID vaccine or recovered for virus will be allowed to perform Umrah pilgrimage during Ramadan. Umrah was canceled altogether last year in the early months of the pandemic. It's a smaller pilgrimage, the Mahaj (ph), and it can take place at any time of the year. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts next week.

Now, historians are honoring the crew of a U.S. Navy ship who made the ultimate sacrifice. The wreckage and the sailors remains were lost for decades in World War II but a new project is helping tell their story.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the world's deepest known shipwreck located more than four miles or some 6,500 meters below the surface of the Pacific. The numbers 557 identify it as the USS Johnston, filmed for the first time underwater by remote-controlled submersible.

This destroyer was one of several U.S. Navy ships sunk battling a vastly superior Japanese fleet during a furious battle off the coast of the Philippines during World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These regal ships fighting a desperate battle for time, used everything in the book to stay afloat.

WATSON (on camera): How did you feel seeing the I.D. numbers of the USS Johnston?

CAPT. CARL SCHUSTER, U.S. NAVY (RET.): In a way, it's painful. But in another way, it's inspirational. WATSON (voice over): Former U.S. Navy Captain Carl Schuster says he

and his fellow officers studied the story of the Johnston and its commander, Earnest Evans, the first Native American naval officer to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

SCHUSTER: He moved without orders. He saw an imminent danger to the fleet and he moved on it on his own authority.

WATSON: Evans bought time for vulnerable American transport ships by attacking a fleet of 23 Japanese warships.

SCHUSTER: His actions started a charge, if you will, that ultimately saved several thousand American lives at cost his own and much of his crew.

WATSON: 186 crew members including Commander Evans died aboard the Johnston. The Johnston was mapped by Caladan Oceanic. Over the past decades, several other World War II wrecks have been discovered in the Pacific by expeditions led by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Navies around the world treat these sites as sacred war graves.

SCHUSTER: I see them as tombs or cemeteries of brave men who died fighting for their country, whether they're German, Japanese or American.

WATSON: The mapping of the USS Johnston brings some closure for surviving relatives of the ship's crew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A grateful people will remember their names. The (INAUDIBLE), the USS Paul (ph), the Johnston, the Samuel B. Roberts.

WATSON: But the final resting places of the three other ships sunk during the same deadly battle have yet to be found.

Ivan Watson, CNN -- Hong Kong.


AVLON: Fascinating.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Avlon.

"LIVING GOLF" starts after the break.