Return to Transcripts main page


Israeli Police Clash with Palestinians at Jerusalem Mosque; Pfizer Applies for Full FDA Approval; India's Hospitals in Desperate Need; U.S. Jobs Report Below Expectations; Chinese Rocket Expected to Fall Back to Earth; State of Goa Tests 51 Percent Positive; Delhi's COVID Warrior; The Big Lie on Tour; Scotland Could Have New Independence Vote. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 8, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers leave more than 200 hurt. We're live in Jerusalem with details.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We have never abandoned Trump and he has never abandoned America.



REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Tell me, who is your president?

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): It's all about old grievances and alternate realities, as two controversial Republicans kick off their America First tour.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): And a 22-ton piece of space debris careening toward Earth. The latest on where experts believe this out of control Chinese rocket could crash. Live from CNN World Headquarters, welcome to all of those watching in the United States and Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: We begin with the escalating violence in Jerusalem, where clashes broke out at one of Islam's holiest sites, the Al-Aqsa mosque, following Friday evening prayers.

Israeli police in riot gear fired rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades to break up crowds of Palestinians, who, police say, were throwing rocks and other objects. More than 200 people were injured.

This latest violence comes at a time of heightened tensions in the city. Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem.

This is just the latest flashpoint. Take us through what happened and what some fear might happen in the sensitive period over the next coming days.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim, it is one of the most significant nights of unrest that the city has seen in several years. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, more than 200 people were injured in clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound the Temple Mount, you see behind me.

And 88 of those injured taken to the hospital for treatment. Most of them, the Palestinian Red Cross says, were wounds caused by rubber coated bullets. Police say 17 of their officers were injured.

Some Palestinians say the clashes began after worshippers in large numbers were prevented from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque which is the black-covered building you can see behind me.

Police say that some started pushing against barricades, throwing rocks and other objects at police. Police say they moved in at that point, they threw some stun grenades, some of which landed inside of the mosque. They also were shooting rubber bullets into the crowd.

The imam at one point was actually calling for calm. But all of this is not happening in a vacuum. As you noted, there have been weeks of boiling, rising tensions in the city. Two weeks ago, there was quite a few clashes at the Damascus gate, one of the entrances to the Old City, and police were trying to prevent Palestinians from gathering in a plaza outside of the gate. That led to clashes.

On one of those nights there was a march of hundreds of Jewish extremists through Jerusalem who, at one point were chanting "Death to Arabs." There were also some incidents of violence Israeli on Palestinian and vice versa.

And contributing to a lot of the tension last night are the possible evictions of some Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. So, this is coming together, reaching a boiling point last night, with some of the most significant tension and unrest the city has seen for some time.

Reactions have been pouring in from other countries, from international organizations, from the European Union. The United States Department of State said in a statement that there is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan. They're calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.

The Israeli foreign ministry, for its part, is saying the Palestinian Authority and what they're calling Palestinian terrorist groups are presenting a real estate dispute, what they're referring to as the possible evictions between private parties and a nationalistic cause in order to incite violence in Jerusalem. But many people are concerned about the next couple of days because,

as noted, tonight is a holy day, one of the holiest nights of Ramadan. And Monday is known as Jerusalem Day, that Israel marks when it took control of the Western Wall.

And it is also the day that we may be seeing a supreme court decision on those possible evictions, so just a confluence of events, all of this tension coming together and putting the city completely on edge -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: We will keep our eye on those stories for sure. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you so much.


BRUNHUBER: The United States is making strides in its fight against the pandemic. Cases nationwide are on the decline. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in three Americans are now fully vaccinated.

But Pfizer and Moderna warn booster shots may be needed to take on the more transmissible variants. With the possibility of additional shots, some medical experts are hopeful a new move by Pfizer will reduce vaccine hesitancy. CNN's Erica Hill has details.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pfizer applying for full FDA approval of its vaccine for ages 16 and up.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: For a lot of people who are on the fence, who are worried about, well, this is emergency use, should I get vaccinated, it will give them confidence.

And then there are a lot of businesses who want to require that their employees be vaccinated but have been waiting for this full approval. I think that's going to bump up vaccinations for a lot of folks.

HILL: A third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated. More than 150 million have at least one dose, but the average daily pace of vaccinations continues to drop.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: When you get vaccinated though, you break that chain of transmission by giving the virus one less place to hide in your community.

HILL: That proof in the numbers. The average rate of hospitalizations and daily reported deaths across the country continues to fall. At normal life, it feels closer than ever.

DR. CHRIS T. PERNELL, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FELLOW: We need to give people a sense of hope and encouragement that things are going to get better because they are getting better.

HILL: New York City restaurants can now see diners inside at 75 percent capacity.

Kentucky governor's aiming for an end to all capacity restrictions by July.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We just held the largest sporting event since the COVID pandemic started. We are doing this right.

HILL: The former head of the FDA says it's time to move forward.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think we should start lifting these restrictions as quickly as we put them in. I think the only way to earn public credibility is to demonstrate that you're willing to relax these provisions when the situation improves. That's what gives you the credibility to implement them when things worsen.

HILL: Air travel just hit a new pandemic report. The TSA screened more than 1.64 million people Thursday, a recent travel survey industry finds 72 percent of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer. That's up from just 37 percent in 2020.

Yet another sign of pre-pandemic norms slowly returning.

JHA: Just pay attention to how much infection there is in the community. Exercise some basic level of safeguards. I think it's very safe to do stuff this summer.

HILL: The CDC is upping its guidance on how COVID spreads, stressing that this is airborne and it's spread when an infected person breathes out. Those most at risk are anyone within six feet of that person. So the best way to avoid getting infected, wear a mask and continue to wash your hands frequently -- in New York, Erica Hill, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: For the third day in a row, India's health ministry is reporting more than 400,000 new COVID cases. That's 1.2 million people infected since Wednesday, an unprecedented rate.

And for the first time, more than 4,000 people have died in just 24 hours. Have a look here.

The red areas of the map show the vastness of the COVID catastrophe. On the southwest coast, the tiny state of Goa reports more than half of those tested are coming back positive.

Funeral pyres along the Ganges River are burning nonstop and, even as the second wave exacts a heavy toll, the nation is bracing for many predict will become a third wave of sickness and death.

It might be thousands of miles away but the COVID crisis in India isn't far from the minds of people of Indian descent now living in other parts of the world. Earlier this week, in London, nearly 800 cyclists pedaled a virtual relay to Delhi and back, raising money to provide equipment and hospital beds and oxygen to those suffering back home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, when you're talking to your relatives, absolutely, you do feel really helpless but I think that's where, in any way possible, that we can help.


BRUNHUBER: While many ex-pats are feeling helpless, many are trying to do their part to help those in India. And one of those people is Sunil Tolani, the founder and CEO of Prince Organization and joins me now from Yorba Linda, California.

Thanks for joining us. The reports we see night after night has been heartbreaking for anyone basically with a heart. But for people like yourself with a personal connection to India, what's hit you the most?

SUNIL TOLANI, PRINCE ORGANIZATION: You know, it's -- I've been watching CNN for the last couple of weeks, when I've been traveling on the East Coast. And you know, this coverage on CNN and all of the scenes coming from India, it's like an inferno, you know, rows and rows of patients and struggling to breathe. And women are crying, you know.


TOLANI: There is a -- it's a tragedy, you know, it looks like the total catastrophic response from the people and the government. And it seems that it's just been a far-fetched thing, with the air pollution, which is very high in India.

People have diabetes (ph), asthma and no social distancing, no wearing of masks and all. So these are the things which are extremely high risk for them and contributed to this COVID infection over there.

BRUNHUBER: You and other people in the diaspora haven't just washed it off but instead you're doing something about it.

What motivated you to say to yourself and to say to others to say that you have a role to play here?

TOLANI: You know, my family, first off, my family has pledged to contribute a share of our unique blessings to have a positive impact on the lives of others in the world.

When I was growing up, I saw my mom, I saw my grandmother, they are tireless examples of compassion, empathy, giving people hope, courage, kindness and changing lives.

And so then I came to America, America has made my dreams come true. I started here and, you know, I reached a destination here. So India is my country. It's my motherland, it's like my mother, India. So we really have to take care of our mother and our motherland.

BRUNHUBER: In your previous answer there, I heard you say that the government had a part to play here. You've been critical of the government's handling of this. Specifically, where do you think they've been the most negligent?

TOLANI: Well, last year, when the COVID phase one hit India, thank God it was not that bad over there. But I'm sure all of the Indians -- and Mr. Modi and his administration has seen the havoc which we have been going through in the U.S.

And then in London, also, lockdown and then again lockdown and this again lockdown. And I think if they would have prepared and kept their shutdown or you know, social distancing in place, people are using the masks and making sure that all of the oxygen is there, supplies are there and not doing all of these, not allowing people to do these mass weddings, playing cricket and festivals and new festival.

All of these things, those were the super spreaders.

BRUNHUBER: Given that and the fact that there has been a huge -- reporting of huge delays, about deploying the aid that has been given from foreign countries to India, are there any worries about the aid that you're organizing, it won't be dispersed quickly enough or to the right places?

TOLANI: No, I think right now, I have confidence in India. They have really, really trying to put their act together. They know now, you know, the tragedy is at their doors and it is far from, what is the word, hopeless. It is a monumental crisis and they are doing everything in their power.

BRUNHUBER: Before we go, I just want to ask, if people do want to help, how can they do this?

TOLANI: There are many, many ways to help, you know. They can make direct contributions, like I have been doing, that is, I know that there are a lot of groups. Asian American Hotel Owners Association is also putting their groups together, where we have 19,000 members.

I have personally reached out to the Biden government. I've reached out to all my partners, Hilton and Inter-Continental Hotels and Choice Hotels and Marriotts and all. And all of these doctors' associations in America, all of the local temples, everyone is pitching in.

Everyone is doing something big, something small or doing something, to take care of our motherland.

BRUNHUBER: Well, it's a great thing that you're doing and, by the same token, it's a shame that it should have to come to this. But thank you very much for sharing your stories, really appreciate it.

TOLANI: Thank you, thank you.

BRUNHUBER: Here in the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for a dismal jobs report for the month of April. Just 266,000 jobs were added, far below what economists predicted.


BRUNHUBER: Well, that has President Biden pushing his economic package even harder. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Digging out of an economic collapse.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden reacting to the grim new jobs report today.

BIDEN: The virus stole their jobs. But we can't let up. This jobs report makes that clear.

COLLINS: U.S. employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, far short of the one million that economists had predicted and far below the numbers in March.

Biden arguing that the hiring slowdown only reinforces the need for his economic agenda.

BIDEN: Some critics said that we didn't need the American -- the American Rescue Plan, that this economy would just heal itself. Thank goodness we passed the American Rescue Plan.

COLLINS: But business groups and Republicans say the enhanced unemployment benefits that Biden extended in that plan are encouraging out-of-work Americans to stay home and leading to a labor shortage.

LARRY KUDLOW, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: That number suggests very strongly that the unemployment benefits are too generous and too long.

COLLINS: The president is pushing back, insisting today's data proves that's not the case.

BIDEN: Today's report is rebuttal. The data shows that more workers, more workers are looking for jobs and many can't find them.

COLLINS: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen echoed President Biden but conceded that some businesses have complained directly to the White House.

JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: There's no question that we're hearing from businesses that they are having difficulty hiring workers. I really don't think the major factor is the extra unemployment.

COLLINS: Some business owners are proposing their own solutions.

CARLOS GAZITUA, CEO, SERGIO'S FAMILY RESTAURANTS: People should keep the unemployment benefits if they go to work now and they commit to working until the end of the year.

COLLINS: The shock of the lackluster jobs report is stirring debate in Washington over the best way to revive an economy weakened by the pandemic. DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE DIRECTOR: The American Rescue Plan, that $1.9 trillion bill passed in March, was too much. I mean, I don't think there's any question about that.

COLLINS: Biden says it will take time for the $1.9 trillion bill to reinvigorate the economy, pointing to the 1.5 million jobs created since he took office.

BIDEN: We knew this wouldn't be a sprint. It'd be a marathon. Quite frankly, we're moving more rapidly than I thought we would.

COLLINS: Now even as President Biden tried to frame that jobs report today as a sign that the economy is picking up, that it's going to be a long road out, officials did admit they were surprised by the number, including his Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who told reporters in the briefing room that if she had to guess a number, she would have guessed it would have been higher than those 266,000 jobs.

But right now they're focusing on what's to come and insisting they believe this is a volatility issue and that it could be different by the time the next jobs report rolls around -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: What went up is about to come down. No one knows where parts of the 22-ton rocket might crash but China is getting a lot of heat over it. We'll go over some of the possible locations just ahead.

Plus, Trumpism and the Big Lie are still driving forces in the U.S. Republican Party. That's ahead, stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Debris from a Chinese rocket about the size of a 10-story building is expected to come crashing down to Earth sometime this weekend. And although the risk it poses is small, scientists can't be sure exactly where it might end up.

And that's sparking calls for better regulation of space. CNN's David Culver has the latest from Shanghai.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What goes up must come down.

The question is where?

Scientists say they will not know the exact entry point of the 22-ton Chinese rocket until it's so close it's only hours away from re entry. Experts say don't panic.

This is not like the Hollywood blockbusters where the impact of something from outer space threatens to end the world. But uncontrolled space junk crashing back to Earth is a growing concern.

What's expected to hit Earth this weekend is the empty core of a rocket that's been losing orbit since its launch, much of which should burn up in the atmosphere.

But some pieces could get through like last year, when the largest piece of space debris in 30 years landed in the Atlantic Ocean and over parts of Africa, remnants of a similar Chinese rocket.

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: The Chinese have this new type of rocket called the Long March 5B. And unlike other big rockets, it literally space by leaving its big 20-ton core stage in orbit. American rockets, Russian rockets, European rockets don't do that.

CULVER (voice-over): Chinese state media says the risk of it hitting a populated area are low and suggested may fall in international waters or burn up on re entry, a fair guess since more than 70 percent of the planet is covered in water.

The United States is tracking its course and says right now it has no plans to shoot it down. But with a cloud of 9,000 tons of rocket boosters, dead satellites and other hardware floating above. There are growing calls for more regulation of what gets sent up to space and how it returns.

GEN. WILLIAM SHELTON, FMR COMMANDER, U.S. SPACE COMMAND: As we think about launching thousands of objects into low Earth orbit here. We need norms of behavior so that everybody's playing off the same sheet of music, and everybody is focused on safety of flight. We just don't have that sort of thing by now.

CULVER (voice-over): Until then, all eyes are on this guy's this weekend with the questions of when, where and how much debris will fall still up in the air -- David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.




BRUNHUBER: Thursday's elections in the U.K. gave Boris Johnson reason to celebrate. Now he has his mind on Scotland, where the outcome remains on a knife's edge. We'll go live to London for the latest.

Plus, the epic struggle to get oxygen to India's COVID patients, volunteers are now making the difference between life and death. We'll have that story just ahead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: 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.

India's COVID crisis is eclipsing anything we've ever seen before. In the past 72 hours, more than 1 million people across the country have been infected. And for the first time, the government reports more than 4,000 deaths in a single day.

Some of the most alarming figures are coming out of the coastal state of Goa, a popular tourist destination. A curfew effect goes into effect on Sunday after half of the people tested there came up positive.

Regular people in India have little recourse as they struggle to care for sick family members. But a loose network of volunteers is doing whatever it can. CNN's Vedika Sud followed one COVID warrior as he and his team worked nonstop to answer desperate pleas.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grieving daughter says her final goodbye before her father's body burns to ash in this electric crematorium. The daughter who asked for her identity to remain private during this emotional time says she'll never forget how he collapsed in arms the night before.

Suffering from COVID-19 her father's oxygen levels started falling. After frantic calls, a colleague reached out to Srinivas B.V., who leads the youth wing of an opposition political party, for what most of Delhi has been desperately looking for an oxygen cylinder, which was soon delivered by his team to her house.

But later that night, when the cylinder ran out of oxygen, her father ran out of breath.

PRASHANT MUKHERJEE, COLLEAGUE: We could have saved the father easily. He would have got oxygen he could have got a bed, he would have got an ICU bed, we could have saved a father easily.

SUD (voice-over): Alone, fragile and COVID-19 positive she asked Srinivas to help cremate his body and he willingly did along with his team, while an unwell mother and an inconsolable brother who lives overseas looked on.

Srinivas has barely slept. The phone doesn't stop ringing. Desperate relatives beg for help with beds, medicines and oxygen. People call through the night at 2 am at 3 am begging for a small oxygen cylinder, he says.

But he must soldier on, despite criticism from an Indian government official that this is all a public relations ploy but at a time where the government is still getting its act together thousands in social media reaching out to this group for help.

Srinivas says he often cries at night.

"I can't sleep at night. We've seen so many heartbreaking cases. Parents have left behind young children. Who will take care of them?" he asks.

His support staffs back in the war room help prioritize pleas through social media, which is then forwarded to teams in Delhi and states across India.

"We segregate bed plasma medicine and ICU requests here and forward it to our teams," says Srinivas.


SUD (voice-over): A desperate plea for help interrupts our conversation.

A father begs for an oxygen cylinder for his three year old son. Team Srinivas set off with a cylinder.

A visibly weak college professor Alok Kumar (ph) waits outside his house for his son's lifeline. He asks us to keep some distance. He's COVID positive.

He can't thank Srinivas enough. The boy's father says Srinivas' service is service to humanity.

"He did not ask me which political party I support or caste I belong to. This is how people should help."

Inside his home, his toddler bundled under covers with a pulse oximeter clipped to his toe, breathes shallowly through an oxygen mask. Every day is a new challenge for these people. Their resources are limited, but expectations are not.

"I have seen three people from the same family die before my eyes. Many patients are not treated in time that breaks my heart," he says. With a heavy heart but a determined mind, Srinivas goes back to work -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


BRUNHUBER: India's neighbor, Nepal, is enduring a COVID crisis. The Himalayan nation reported more than 9,100 COVID cases on Friday, a new record. Just a month ago, Nepal was posting about 100 infections a day.

Nepal has tightened its border with India and imposed lockdowns in the worst-hit regions, including the capital, Kathmandu. The Nepali prime minister is appealing to the international community for help.

Still in Asia, an uptick in new cases is forcing changes in what's considered one of the pandemic's safe spots, Singapore. The city-state is tightening COVID restrictions starting today through May 30th. They include longer quarantines for travelers from other, from high-risk countries.

And the size of the public gatherings will be lowered from eight people to five and indoor gyms will have to close. Singapore's ministry of health reported 25 new cases Friday.

In the U.K., England is loosening some of its travel restrictions for holiday makers wanting to go abroad. Travelers can visit 12 green list countries, starting May 17th, without having to quarantine when they return. All of the countries have been placed on amber and red lists. For more, Cyril Vanier joins me London.

Finally the English can get away to get some sun. So explain how exactly this is meant to work.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, we're just nine days away, in this country, from England's residents being allowed once again to take a foreign holiday. It has been illegal for the past few months. So they were really eagerly anticipating the government's announcement yesterday.

There is a list of 12 countries, starting May 17th, that they will be able to holiday in, without having to quarantine upon their return. That quarantine is no joke because I went to France and came back. And I had to stay here in this house for 10 days and police knocked at my door twice.

Not a nice feeling and they really are checking that you do respect that quarantine. So most holiday-goers will not be able to have that time commitment of staying 10 days at home when they come back.

So they will have to prioritize one of these 12 countries on the green list. Now 12 countries, when you take away the faraway islands that most people won't realistically be able to go to, like St. Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, the St. Helena Islands, that list gets shorter.

When you take away destinations that are not prime sunshine destinations, like Iceland, the list gets shorter still. There's also Australia, New Zealand, Singapore on that list, fine holiday destinations but A, they're pretty far away and, B -- and this was not made clear yesterday but the devil's in the details -- if you stop over, if you transit anywhere on your way to Australia, that's not on the green list, you still have to quarantine on your way back because, technically, you stopped over in an amber or red country.

So really if you want some sun that is not too far away, that's doable and you're an England traveler, the list goes down to Israel and Portugal and Gibraltar. So, yes, there is relief. But it's a pretty short list of countries that you can easily go to for your holiday, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: That's right. It seems pretty random. Well, hope for more countries added to that list in the future. Thanks so much, Cyril Vanier in London. Appreciate it.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up, congressman Matt Gaetz launching his America First tour, even though he's under investigation. And you can see there with him, another controversial member of the House. We'll have more. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Embattled Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz has made his most high profile appearance yet since becoming embroiled in scandal. Federal investigators and the House Ethics Committee are looking into sex trafficking allegations and more.

Friday he hit the stage with another controversial member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, pushing all sorts of debunked far right conspiracy theories. Both spread the Big Lie, saying the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

And here is what they said as they kicked off their America First tour.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm a marked man in Congress. I'm a canceled man in some corners of the Internet. I might be a wanted man by the deep state, but I am a Florida man, and it is good to be home.


BRUNHUBER: It's also hinted that former president Trump --


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Tell me, who is your president?

That's my president, too. OK. Just wanted to make sure I was with friends and family. Not with Antifa or BLM or Democrat socialists.

Did anybody in here vote for Joe Biden?

Do you guys really think he won?


BRUNHUBER: Now Gaetz also said that former president Trump might join them on tour.

Well, Donald Trump's tight grip on the Republican Party is playing out in the Congress, in a major way.


BRUNHUBER: GOP lawmakers hope to force out Liz Cheney, who is the third ranking conservative in the House of Representatives. The top candidate to replace her, Elise Stefanik, a die-hard Trump loyalist. But she wasn't always this way. Manu Raju has the details.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Hi, everybody.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Congresswoman Liz Cheney is set to be booted out of House GOP leadership over a fight with former President Donald Trump, her likely replacement is burnishing her pro-Trump credentials.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): We need fighters. President Trump is a fighter on behalf of the American people. And voters want fighters to stand up for them. And that's what I'm committed to doing, to unify the message, to earn the support of my Republican colleagues and fight for hardworking American families.

RAJU: Papering over her past criticism of Trump and the fact that just five House Republicans voted less often with him than she did.

STEFANIK: My vision is to run with support from the president.

RAJU: The battle over Trump and the future of the GOP expected to come to a head next Wednesday, when House Republicans plan to remove Cheney after she's called out Trump for his lies that he won the 2020 election.

Stefanik, on the other hand, backed efforts in the courts and in Congress to overturn Biden's victory.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Unity can't exist under those pretenses. So, what they're saying is, if you don't go along with the big lie, if you don't go along with the fact that the election was stolen, then you basically need to go. And that's what that unity is.

RAJU: Conservatives now are scrutinizing Stefanik's record, where she broke with Trump on his tax cuts, border wall, Afghanistan and the environment.

DAVID MCINTOSH, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: She is very much a liberal. Her ambition told her, well, I better get on board with President Trump. But our worry is, when she gets into leadership, she has no principles at that point.

RAJU: Stefanik was once a Trump critic.

STEFANIK: I think he has been insulting to women.


RAJU: But she won Trump's affection by vigorously defending him in 2019 during his first impeachment, elevating her stature and winning over House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is quietly orchestrating the shakeup, as he's keeping close contact with Trump.

Yet the Senate GOP leader wants nothing to do with the former president and the House GOP turmoil.

QUESTION: Do you support Liz remaining in a position of power, yes or no?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What I'm focusing on is this new administration.

RAJU: Many Republicans downplaying the former president's role in the January 6 Capitol attack.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I would just say to my Republican colleagues, can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no.

RAJU: Now Stefanik is still trying to shore up her right flank and meet with the most conservative members of the House Republican conference on Monday and members of the House freedom caucus because of concerns of her more moderate voting record in the past.

And there are some questions too if the vote would definitely take place on Wednesday. That is the expectation at the moment.

But if more Republicans raise concerns, more conservatives say they want to bet her record, it's possible that vote could be delayed and that could potentially be problematic for Stefanik, even though it is still widely believed she will ultimately get the votes to become the next conference chair.

But this is a secret ballot election. And secret ballots can go any which way, especially if debate shifts when the closed door meeting happen on Wednesday. So a lot of questions going forward about the future of the party, as Stefanik is trying to lock down votes to assure her ascension into leadership -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: Donald Trump's Big Lie about a stolen election is fueling Republican efforts in various states to adopt laws which critics say restrict voting rights.

On Friday, the Texas state house passed a Republican backed election bill, supposedly to tackle voter fraud and make voting more secure. To be clear, there's no evidence of fraud in last year's presidential election.

And Democrats and voting rights groups slammed the bill as an attempt to suppress the vote. The bill now goes to the senate in Texas. And Georgia and Florida have already passed restrictive voting laws.

The British prime minister is enjoying the sweet taste of victory after Thursday's elections. But the counting is not over in Scotland. We'll explain why it could leave the prime minister with a bitter aftertaste. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: It's a tight race in Scotland, where we're waiting on final results of parliamentary elections. There many people, even half a world away, are paying close attention to see if Nicola Sturgeon's party wins.

And that's because the Scottish National Party is pushing for a second independence referendum. CNN's Bianca Nobilo joins us live now.

Possibly huge implications here.

What's the latest?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Kim. Sturgeon has said that she will press ahead with legislation for a second referendum on Scottish independence if the SNP or other parties manage to create a majority for independence.

And that is a really important thing to watch out for today, Kim. The SNP, Sturgeon's party, is trying to cross that threshold to get to 65 seats out of the 129 available. But even if they don't, there's still a possibility that there could be a majority for independence in Scotland.

And that would be if the Scottish National Party won around 63 seats or perhaps 64 and then they made up the rest with the Green Party, another party in Scotland that is pushing for independence.

Then, Sturgeon argues, they would have a mandate to press again to have the question returned to the Scottish people as to whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has said this would be an irresponsible move at this point in time, the context of the pandemic and after Brexit. And a member of the cabinet came out today also and said that this constitutional tinkering was ill-advised at this point in time.

Well, I can tell you, Kim, that this would be so much more than constitutional tinkering. This would be a constitutional earthquake of epic proportions for the United Kingdom.


NOBILO: Now we had polls over the last year that showed that support for independence in Scotland is increasing. So that's why the pressure on the prime minister would ramp up if there was a majority for Scottish independence. And within the last 20 minutes, they started counting those votes

again in Scotland, so we can expect by this evening in Britain to have a really good idea of where things stand there.

BRUNHUBER: We'll be following that story for sure. And then, quickly before we go, in England, more bad news for the Labour Party.

NOBILO: Yes, it's another really bad morning; when I spoke to you yesterday, I was saying this was a terrible morning for the Labour Party leader. The same is true today. Even though they had a strong showing in Wales, mainly due to the performance of the -- mainly due to the performance of the Welsh first minister during the pandemic -- they're having a shocking showing in the rest of England.

Political commentators have been watching three things in particular and referring to them as a possible hat trick for Boris Johnson. That was the bi-election result that was announced yesterday, in Hartlepool, an astonishing historic victory for the Conservative Party.

Another mayoral election yesterday, again in Labour heartland, went to Boris Johnson's party.

And today we're waiting for the final one of those. It's the general political consensus that if Johnson's party manages to take those three critical elections away from Keir Starmer, he will be in dire trouble.

It has already been announced that there will be a policy review in the Labour Party and that they're contemplating a reshuffle. That's what we hear. Those two things, as much as they might sound a bit fiddly and esoteric, signal huge, flashing red warning signs for a political party.

So Starmer's leadership is under a severe test this morning. And the London mayoral race, well, our international viewers will know Sadiq Khan as the mayor of London, is looking tighter than we first expected. So another key race to watch out for today, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: So much at stake in the U.K. We will keep our eyes on that. Thank you so much, Bianca Nobilo. Appreciate it.

That wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'm be back in just a moment with more news.