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Israel to Temporarily Halt Visits by Jews to Site Revered by Jews and Muslims as Tensions Soar in Jerusalem; Fauci Hopeful U.S. Will Hit Vaccination Goal by July 4; Fauci: Mask Guidance Should Ease as More People Get Vaccinated; U.K. Prime Minister to Announce England Will Further Ease Restrictions; Administration Gears Up for Infrastructure Push this Week; House Minority Leader Supporting Stefanik Over Cheney. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just Ahead.

Violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in around Al- Aqsa Mosque. The latest on the soaring tensions in Jerusalem.

Mask mandates under scrutiny. Some medical experts think we need new guidance now that more Americans are vaccinated.

And a mystery in Russia. A top doctor who treated dissident Alexey Navalny is missing. We are live in Moscow to get more details.

Good to have you with us. And we begin with new reports of clashing between Israeli police and Palestinians in inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The Palestinians have reportedly been injured in the violence. The Israeli police are temporarily halting visited by Jews to the Temple Mount, also known as Haram esh-Sharif or noble sanctuary. And security is tight ahead of the annual Jerusalem Day march later today. The U.N. Security Council is set to meet privately in the coming hours to discuss the latest unrest.

The journalist Elliot Gotkine is in Jerusalem. He joins us now live. Good to see you Elliot. So what is the latest on these violent clashes and rising tensions in Jerusalem?

ELLIOT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, we knew that tensions were running high and that today what Israeli celebrate is Jerusalem Day. What they see as the reunification of Jerusalem was going to be another potential flash point. The violence seems to be escalating by the minute. We know that there were clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount going to Haram esh-Sharif.

You can see from the footage and hear, you know, stun grenades going off and tear gas wafting in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli police explained that it was described as Palestinian rioters, Palestinian playing heavy handed police tactics and provocations from the Jewish nationalists.

We've also seen quite graphic footage of a car being driven by an Israeli and then plowing into a couple of Palestinian protesters. Now the Israel police put out a statement and said that the driver came under attack from stone throwers, lost control and then veered into the protesters there. But you only have to look at social media to see how Palestinians are seeing this as basically a deliberate attack by an Israeli settler.

At the same time we've seen violence spreading in other parts to the north of the country. We've seen protesters in Haifa and also in Nazareth where there are large Arab populations. And we see rockets being fired from Hamas controlled Gaza into Israel, as well. So there is no sign of anything deescalating.

Yes, the police decision to ban Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, perhaps has removed one potential flash point. But as things stand the flag march by Israelis which traditional march goes from the west of the city through to the Western Wall, passing through the Old City's Muslim Quarter is still set to go ahead. And as things stand now, they say, the violence seems to be getting worse by the minute -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Elliot Gotkine keeping a very close eye on what's going on there in Jerusalem. Many thanks.

Well more than a third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Over 114 million Americans in all, according to the latest data from the CDC. And almost half of those eligible have received at least one shot. While many Americans still need to get vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the country is moving in the right direction.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we get, which we will, to the goals that the president has established, namely if we get 70 percent of the people vaccinated by the fourth of July, namely one single dose, and even more thereafter, you may see blips. But if we handle them well, it is unlikely that you'll see the kind of surge that we saw in the late fall and the early winter.



CHURCH: Dr. Fauci also told ABC News he's open to relaxing indoor masking rules as more Americans get vaccinated. Former FDA chief, Scott Gottlieb, is on the same page.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA CHIEF: COVID won't disappear. We're going to have to learn to live with it. But the risk is substantially reduced as a result of vaccination, as a result of immunity that people acquired through prior infection. And so I think we're at the point in time where we can start lifting these ordinances in a wholesale fashion. And people have to take precautions based their individual risk.


CHURCH: And the White House COVID-19 response coordinator said the country is turning the corner on the pandemic but warns now is not the time for Americans to let down their guard.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I think everyone is tired and wearing a mask is going to be a pain. But we're getting there and light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let's keep up our guard. Let's follow the CDC guidance and the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask.


CHURCH: Dr. Eric Topol is a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. He joins me now from La Joya in California. Thank you doctor for talking with us and for all that you do.


CHURCH: Absolutely. So let's start with all the mixed messages on when to wear a mask and when not to. Dr. Anthony Fauci says it may be time to rethink indoor mask mandates as more people are getting vaccinated. Is the CDC being too strict on this? What's your take?

TOPOL: Well, they've certainly been quite cautious. The outdoor masks, you know, I think we can get past that unless under extenuating circumstances like, you know, very prolonged contact in close quarters, but otherwise we don't need outdoor masks. And for indoor, if we're people who are vaccinated fully, there really doesn't pose a worry for that. So we're going to see the mask reduction -- the need. And that's going to help people who have been reluctant, I think, to get vaccinated. Because part of that encouragement or incentive is this movement toward a pre-COVID life.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, the big aim right now is to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. But there's some suggestion that as the administering of these vaccines in the U.S. slows down that politicians will not be able to convince the most hesitant. Despite some GOP doctors trying to win them over and convince that this is a smart move. We are talking about 20 percent or so. How do you overcome that stubborn 20 percent that refuse to vaccinate and put everyone else at risk, essentially?

TOPOL: Well, that's right. We need about 15 to 20 percent more of the American population to get to the true containment. That is less than 1 per 100,000 people with COVID at any time. We're going to get there. As you say, it's this last mile, the most difficult one. We haven't really rolled out the incentives as much as we could. We talked about masks as just one example.

But also, what's really encouraging is now we're seeing the full licensure application going to the FDA. And when that gets approved -- which hopefully will be in the weeks ahead -- many employers, such as we've seen with universities and health systems will require vaccination. That will be the fastest way we can get the 15 percent, beyond things like incentives and education. And our counter offensive to the disinformation which hold a lot of people back.

CHURCH: And Dr. Eric Topol, thank you for helping us do that. We appreciate it.

TOPOL: Sure. Good to be with you again.

CHURCH: Well, it's by no means everywhere but if you know where to look, there are signs around Europe of a gradual return to normalcy. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a further easing of restrictions in England. He is expected to confirm a relaxing of most social distancing rules beginning a week from now.

Meanwhile, Spaniards are making the most of their newfound freedom. The streets were packed with party goers after a state of emergency expired across much of the country late Saturday night. More than one quarter of all Spaniards have had at least one shot and one in eight are fully vaccinated.

For more on all of this, we want to bring in CNN's Scott McLean. He joins us live from London. Great to see you Scott. So England set to ease COVID restrictions, Spain ended curfews across the country. What's the latest on these encouraging moves?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is all very encouraging, Rosemary. And it's really part of a trend that we're seeing across Europe as the pace of vaccinations on the continent really picks up speed, especially after the earlier stumbles with supply issues and things like that.


And it's hard for blaming people in Spain for wanting to party. They've been under a six month state of emergency that was just lifted Saturday night. And so people took to the beaches of Barcelona and to the main central square in Madrid, the Puerta del Sol. And I have to tell you from personal experience, it's a bit of an odd sight. Because one year ago I was in the square where it was heavily secured by police and soldiers who would question anyone walking through as to where they were going and why they were out of their houses. So it just goes to show you how far Spain has come from one of the strictest lock downs anywhere on earth to now the pictures that we're seeing there over the weekend.

Here in England, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- as you mentioned -- set to announce today that a week from today people will be allowed to gather indoors in small groups. Bars and restaurants will be able to serve people indoors. And we'll even see a return to spectators in the thousands at sporting events. This is all part of a plan that was actually laid out a couple of months ago. And the Prime Minister is keeping to the schedule of the earliest relaxations that he's set out a couple of months ago according to the plan that was drawn up or helped drawn up by his scientific advisors.

But it relied on a couple of things, notably that mutations weren't going to spoil the plan that the pace of vaccinations was quick, and also that the vaccine was effective enough to make sure that the health care system could withstand another wave of infections.

So the boxes have been ticked. The infection rate in the U.K. is the lowest that it's been since September. And deaths and new cases there are substantially lower than what we're seeing in Europe because the U.K. is so much further ahead of the continent in terms of vaccinations.

But because of this data, because it's all looking so, so promising and so, so good, and deaths right now in the U.K. are recording in the single digits every day, Rosemary. There's a lot of people in this country wondering why things can't reopen quicker. Even some voices from within Johnson's own party calling for the pace of loosening of restrictions to be sped up.

CHURCH: Let's hope this good news keeps coming. Scott McLean joining us live from London, many thanks.

U.S. Republicans are poised to oust one of their most powerful leaders because she spoke out against the big lie that Donald Trump won the election. We'll lay out what's expected to happen this week.



CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet with key Congressional leaders this week hoping to drum up bipartisan support for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. White House correspondent Arlette Saenz has details on what we can expect.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is gearing up for its infrastructure push this week as President Biden is set to host Republican lawmakers here at the White House to talk about his proposal. The president has two meetings over the course of this week featuring Republican lawmakers, one of those being on Wednesday when he hosts the big four Congressional leaders. Which will include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The first time the two men are coming to the White House here to meet with President Biden. And this comes as the Senator McConnell has insisted his focus is 100 percent on stopping the administration as they make progressive moves. Now the president has dismissed those comments from McConnell, saying that they've worked together in the past. And the president firmly believes there are areas where he can cooperate with Republicans and he believes that includes infrastructure.

That is what the focus of his meeting with Republicans on Thursday will be as he hosts a group of six GOP Senators here at the White House to see if they can hammer out some type of deal on infrastructure. And the White House chief of staff in a new interview talked about some areas where the president thinks he can find agreement.

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What President Biden has said is that he wants to try to find common ground with Republicans on his economic measures that have been bipartisan in the past. And I think that's the thing, Mike, we need to focus on. Building bridges, building roads, connecting people with broadband, building electric charging stations for the roads of the future, all these things. These things shouldn't divide our two political parties.

SAENZ: While the president spent the Mother's Day weekend at Camp David, the White House staff held internal meetings and continued their conversations with lawmakers on infrastructure. Members of the president's so-called jobs cabinet, including Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Secretary Jennifer Granholm, will also continue talking to lawmakers over the course of the next week as the White House is heading into a critical period as they're trying to get bipartisan sign on to this proposal.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And you heard White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain a moment ago discussing infrastructure. In that same interview Klain was also asked about the possibility that President Biden might face Donald Trump again in 2024.


KLAIN: Incumbent presidents are judged on their record. President Trump had a bad record in 2020. Joe Biden is hopefully has a powerful record to run on, if he runs for re-election in 2024.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it'll actually be easier to run against him this time?

KLAIN: I wouldn't want to estimate or underestimate Donald Trump as an opponent if he chooses to run.


CHURCH: Another Trump run for the White House would require a united Republican Party, and that could be why House Republicans are getting ready to demote one of their top leaders. Liz Cheney has loudly denounced all the lies from team Trump about election fraud and now the House Minority Leader is throwing his support behind Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney for the number three leadership post. Danielle Diaz picks up the story.


DANIELLE DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: It seems almost certain that Congresswoman Liz Cheney is going to lose her leadership position in the House GOP Conference, and it could come as soon as Wednesday. You know, all of this is happening because she's been incredibly critical of former President Donald Trump.


She refuses to spread this so-called big lie that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and has blasted her colleagues for objecting to the election results on January 6th.

You know, sources tell us that she's completely comfortable with what's happening. She's not even trying to protect her leadership position because she believes this is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party and this is bigger than her.

She's now likely going to be replaced by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York. A moderate Republican who has broken with Trump on many issues but a strong ally of former President Donald Trump. In fact, she's more moderate than Congressman Liz Cheney. Stefanik has broken with Trump on issues such as the tax cuts, the border wall, the environment. But in many interviews in the last couple of years has been a very strong supporter of the former president. And is likely going to replace Cheney as soon as next week as the GOP Conference chair.

But look, some Republicans are incredibly upset by what's happening in House GOP now, and all the criticism against Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Take a listen to what some of them had to say.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): And so I think what the reality is as a party we have to have an internal look and a full accounting as to what lead to January 6th. And right now it's basically the Titanic. We're, like, you know, in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine. And meanwhile, as I've said, you know, Donald Trump is running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat. And I think there's a few of us that are just saying, guys this is not good. Not just for the future of the party but this is not good for the future this country.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): If you look at polls, there's a group of folks that agree with Liz Cheney. And so for us to win in 2022 and 2024, we need everybody. We need those who feel as Liz. We need those who feel as Lindsey.

DIAZ: And you know, sources have been telling us that Stefanik is signaling to some of her allies in the House GOP Conference that she is likely not going to try to keep this position past 2022. She is hoping to be the House GOP Conference chair for the next two years and then in 2022, in the next Congress is going to try to get the top job on the House Education and Labor Committee. So we might be having this conversation again about who will replace and be the next House GOP Conference chair in two years.


CHURCH: Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and a senior editor for "The Atlantic." He joins me now from Los Angeles. Great to have you us as always.


CHURCH: So the Republican Party is in disarray. Struggling to find its identity but now it's clearly deciding who to keep and who to kick to the curb. And Liz Cheney looks set to be excelled from her leadership post. Will that help or hurt the party in the end? Essentially making an martyr out of Cheney.

BROWNSTEIN: It's an extraordinary moment when, you know, a political leader with the name Cheney is insufficiently loyal in the minds of much of the House Republican and indeed the Republican electoral caucus.

I actually think this is an important symbolic moment. Because what is basically -- we know that roughly 3/4 of Republican voters, maybe 80 percent of Republican voters, are perfectly fine with everything Donald Trump has done since the election. Don't blame him for January 6th. Don't even necessarily view January 6th as that big of a deal. Don't think he acted improperly since the election.

But there is roughly 20 to 25 percent of Republicans who are on the opposite side of all those questions and who are uneasy about everything Trump has done since the election. Even if they don't like Democratic spending and taxing policies. And what the House Republican caucus is going to do this week is send a very clear, unequivocal signal that the 20 or 25 percent of the party that you are now the minority. You are now in a subservient position to the Trump majority of the party. And it just kind of underscores my belief that one of the critical political questions in the next few years, is what does the 20 or 25 percent of Republicans do? Will they simply accept subordinate status in a party that is, you know, allegiance to Trump? Or do they begin to drift toward the Democratic alternative that Joe Biden represents?

CHURCH: It is extraordinary to think just 25 percent representative what the GOP is to stand for. So what does it say about the Republicans? That they replace Cheney but keep the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, it's extraordinary. I mean, we talked about this months ago. I wrote a piece asking whether the extremist caucus in the Republican Party was too big to fail. And I think first of all the answer to that is clearly yes. You know, Kevin McCarthy and the other GOP leaders have basically decided that they cannot confront or excommunicate, in effect, voices like Marjorie Taylor Greene. That she speaks for too much of the Republican electorate.

[04:25:00] You know, in polling now consistently have to 55 percent of Republicans are saying they believe the American way of life is so threatened that we may have to use force in order to save it. And that is kind of that sentiment that she represents. That obviously, Trump stokes at times. This may not be a problem for Republicans in 2022, the electorate is smaller. The way the election plays out is kind of fractionated over, obviously, states and districts and there is that tendency for a backlash against the president's party in the first midterm.

But in 2024, when we're looking at the bigger electorate and it's the question of who you trust to run the country, the inability or refusal of Republicans to isolate themselves from this kind of extremism, I think is going to be much more of a problem than it will be probably in 18 months from now.

CHURCH: Ron Brownstein always great to get your analysis in all things political. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: And we are following a mysterious development out of Russia. This man was the chief doctor at the hospital that treated Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny. Now that doctor is missing. The latest on his whereabouts in a live report from Moscow. Deaths next.

Plus, a manhunt is underway for a suspect in Saturday's Time Square shooting. We'll have the latest when we come back.


CHURCH: Welcome back. Well the former chief doctor of the Russian hospital that treated Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny is missing. Russian state media say the doctor left a hunting base in a forest on an all-terrain vehicle on Friday and hasn't been seen since. The doctor was the chief physician at Omsk emergency hospital when Navalny was admitted for suspected poisoning.

So let's bring in our senior.