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CNN NEWSROOM

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; U.S. Faces Patchwork of Mask Rules; U.K. to Flex Vaccination Drive against Variants; Japanese CEO Urges Government to Cancel Games; U.S. Republicans Replace Trump Critic and House Representative Liz Cheney; Memphis I-40 Bridge Remains Closed to Traffic; About 2.4 Million Children Vaccinated in U.S.; Police Still Searching for Missing Tiger; Foreign Accent Syndrome. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 15, 2021 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The fifth straight night of deadly conflict. Israelis and Palestinians brace for what could be another day filled with tragedy. We're live in the region.

And the great unmasking: the latest on which stores will and won't require you to mask up.

Also --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I woke up with an Irish accent and I've never been to Ireland before.

HOLMES (voice-over): Imagine waking up after surgery with a completely different accent. The rare circumstance that has turned this woman into a social media sensation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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HOLMES: As the death toll climbs in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes and artillery, deadly violence spreading to the West Bank.

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HOLMES (voice-over): At least 10 Palestinians reportedly killed Friday. Many others were injured as they clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Now Israel's bombardment of Gaza has been going on around the clock. The Palestinian health ministry says at least 126 Palestinians have been killed, dozens of children, since this conflict began.

Eight Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza, most of them being destroyed by Israel's Iron Dome system. But some have slipped through with deadly effect. We begin our coverage with the escalating violence now erupting outside of Gaza. CNN's Ben Wedeman was in Bethlehem when the clashes there exploded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And now the West Bank, where, in Bethlehem, a new generation of Palestinians has taken to the barricades, facing a new generation of Israeli soldiers.

Friday saw the most intense confrontations in years between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces throughout the West Bank. Palestinian officials reported the highly daily death toll here and years with hundreds injured.

WEDEMAN: Somebody has just been wounded here. They are coming our way. Let's step aside. It is a woman who has been hit.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Countless are the stones thrown here over the years, beyond calculation the number of tires burned. Countless the tear gas canisters that have rained down on this street.

WEDEMAN: The Israelis tear gas shooting volley after volley of tear gas, trying to break up this protest. It's just one of the protests going on across the West Bank.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The message on this day, one of solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and inside Israel.

"If one of us is wounded, we are with them," says this young man, who declined to give his name. "We support them as if the entire Palestinian people were wounded."

Bethlehem resident Shoki Aisa (ph) took part in protests in his youth and shares that message.

SHOKI AISA (PH), BETHLEHEM RESIDENT: It is a unity of Palestinians with the cry that we have rights. We are not going anywhere and we will continue until we get rid of that (INAUDIBLE) and have our individual states.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The woes of this troubled land passed from father to son -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Bethlehem, on the West Bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Journalist Neri Zilber joins me live from Tel Aviv.

We saw there the violence in the West Bank. There will be funerals for those people. It is also Nakba Day, which is traditionally a day of protest anyway, probably made worse by the sort of situation there.

What are we expecting today in terms of the violence and escalation?

NERI ZILBER, JOURNALIST: Well, that's right. Over the past week, we've seen tensions and clashes in Jerusalem.

[03:05:00]

ZILBER: Open warfare in Gaza, intercommunal riots and clashes on the streets of Israel between Arab and Jewish citizens of the country. Through it all, the West Bank had remained relatively calm and relatively stable until yesterday.

And the clashes and loss of life that you mentioned. The real fear today, May 15th, it's a major political milestone in the Palestinian calendar, where the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is marked by the Palestinians, a Day of Catastrophe.

Usually, demonstrations and marches and clashes take place. Given the events of yesterday and the past week, the fear on the ground is things will only escalate, especially today.

HOLMES: You touched on this and let's revisit it, a particularly worrying aspect of what's been happening is this intercommunal violence in Israel's mixed cities, where Jews and Arabs live together, highly unusual.

How concerning that development in the broader picture?

ZILBER: Well, for Israel, it's had rounds of conflict with Gaza before. It's had tensions and unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. But really the unrest and the rioting and the intercommunal violence in recent days is unprecedented.

Israeli officials say it outright and you can feel it on the streets. I'm standing in a mixed neighborhood in Tel Aviv on a Saturday morning. Usually, you'd have visitors and tourists coming here. The beach is several feet away.

But it's fairly empty. Shops are closed and police cars patrol sporadically. You can feel the tension in the air. There were violent incidents inside Jaffa earlier -- rather, last night, clashes and intercommunal riots spread to northern Israel last night as well.

So it's continuing, like I said, unprecedented, both in scale and in the ferocity of what we're seeing here on the ground inside Israel.

HOLMES: And just quickly, talk about IDF capabilities, the challenges dealing with Gaza, of course but the West Bank, as we've just been talking about, the towns, the Israeli-Arab towns and there's been incidents at the borders with Jordan and Lebanon, missiles from Syria.

How stretched thin are these security forces?

ZILBER: The concern is that they're rather stretched thin. We should remember that, earlier this week, to quell the intercommunal rioting in the central Israeli city of Lod, the Israeli government redeployed about nine companies of border police precisely from the West Bank into Israel in order to bolster the police there.

So, it's an open question whether the Israeli security forces have enough forces in the West Bank, on top of the open warfare in Gaza. And the obvious tensions in the north that you mentioned, on the border with Syria -- and Lebanon, today we all know will be a major test of the IDF capabilities and the hope at least on the part of Israel is that they're up to the challenge.

HOLMES: All right. Really appreciate it. Neri Zilber, thank you so much.

Right across the Middle East, people concerned about the violence are expressing it in the streets as we've just been discussing. In Jordan, riot police had to disperse hundreds of protesters when they charged towards the Israeli border.

And we're seeing similar pro-Palestinian demonstrations in many Middle Eastern countries. Soldiers in Lebanon had to stop protesters from crossing into Israel following a rally in support of Palestinians organized by Hezbollah.

Let's bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, who is live in Beirut.

We were just talking about this. Explain what it means there, too, the day when Palestinians protest the creation of Israel. The events adding to the emotions of that throughout the region.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Absolutely, Michael. This is a key day that commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were displaced in 1948 around the conflict when the state of Israel was founded.

Those hundreds of thousands of refugees created during that crisis, their descendants now number in the millions. They are spread out, as you would expect, of course, across the region, in Syria, in Jordan and here in Lebanon as well.

So you're seeing strong calls for demonstrations and protests on this day. There is a protest called in southern Lebanon here, not just by Hezbollah, of course, the prominent militant and political faction that operates in that area but also by other political factions, those that sometimes even rival Hezbollah.

Everyone unified in calling for this protest. As you mentioned, there's concern it could turn violent because, yesterday, there was a 21-year-old Lebanese man.

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ABDELAZIZ: While storming that fence, the Lebanese Israeli border fence, he died of wounds sustained after the Israeli military fired a rocket. So, there's fears there could be more blood-letting and more blood-letting leads to more tensions and more confrontations. Alongside these very traditional demonstrations that you would expect,

the rhetoric that we've heard from this region for decades, you're also seeing a really big shift in the region, Michael. You have several countries trying to normalize relationships with Israel.

Take, for example, the UAE, the United Arab Emirates. Just a year ago they signed a deal to normalize relationships with Israel; not just them, Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia very quietly, behind closed doors, speaking as well to Israeli officials.

So you're hearing very muted criticism at a time like this. It's a real test for these Gulf states, Michael, because the argument in signing these deals with Israel, in signing something like the Abraham accords, was that it would give them more influence on the negotiating table when something happens.

That something happening is right now. As mediations start, the question is, will these countries actually have the ability to really influence, to really move things on the ground, to really change the reality of the bombardment that people in Gaza are living under or is this simply empty words, Michael?

HOLMES: Yes. It's not just Gaza and the West Bank. This is a regional issue now. Salma, appreciate it.

The U.N. Security Council set to meet on Sunday to discuss the ongoing conflict. You might recall that a similar meeting scheduled for Friday was actually blocked by the U.S. The White House on Friday explaining how the U.S. views the rising death toll in Gaza and Israel and what should be done about it.

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JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that Israel has a right to self-defense.

Obviously, just if we take a step back and remove ourselves for a moment, which I know is hard to do, from the politics, clearly what's happening on the ground, the loss of life, the loss of children's lives, the loss of families, family members' lives, whether it's Palestinian lives or Israeli lives, is incredibly tragic.

It's horrific to watch. That is certainly why our focus is on de- escalating what is happening on the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: We are seeing images of solidarity around the world for both sides of this grueling and devastating conflict. A mosque in Brazil, we'll show you, there, illuminated its dome with both the Brazilian and Palestinian flags and with it a message reading, "Free and sovereign Palestine."

In Ukraine, an Israeli flag flew in the skies of Kiev, attached to a drone. The company behind this gesture says it wanted to express its condolences and show support for the people of Israel. Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, mask on or mask off?

The CDC issues new advice for vaccinated Americans but not everybody is on board with the latest guidance.

Meanwhile, in Japan, lots of pushback against hosting the Olympic Games this year, including from one of the country's top CEOs.

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SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think it's still possible that they could be canceled?

HIROSHI MIKITANI, RAKUTEN CEO: I think everything is possible.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: People who feel that, which they should now, based on the data, that it is safe for them not only outdoors but indoors, they should feel comfortable in not wearing a mask.

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HOLMES: Despite Dr. Fauci insisting that new CDC mask guidelines are safe, the abrupt change has sparked widespread confusion. The CDC now says fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear face coverings in most settings. Many states have responded by lifting their mask mandates.

But the rules still vary nationwide. Starbucks says face coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers starting Monday unless a local requirement is in place.

And Universal Orlando says you can ditch the mask outside but you have to wear one indoors. CNN's Nick Watt with more on a patchwork of rules.

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NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has never been lower than it has been these past few days, ever. That's big. So is this.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're fully vaccinated you no locker need to wear a mask? WATT: Too soon?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This change was really abrupt. The CDC went from zero to 100 overnight.

WATT: Let's break it down. Just the fully vaccinated, so just over one-third of the population and its guidance, actual laws and mandates --

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These decisions are going to have to be made at the local level.

WATT: Take Hawaii, for now --

GOV. DAVID IGE (D-HI): My mask mandate continues to be enforced. Everyone must wear their masks indoors.

WATT: Minnesota's mask mandate already no more.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): If you're going into a business where folks are unmasked, you know that they're vaccinated, it's a safe thing to do.

WATT: But how do you know they are vaccinated?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: This really is the honor system so I'm going to wear a mask if I'm in an indoor public place.

WATT: Kroger, Home Depot, Starbucks all still insisting staff and customers continue to mask up. Some school districts already dropped mandates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero, no one wears mask, (INAUDIBLE) unmask (ph). It's pretty sweet, pretty dope that we got rid of it.

WATT: Chad is now eligible for a vaccine but remember, younger kids still are not.

FAUCI: High school kids, adolescents certainly will be able to be vaccinated by the time we get to the fall year but I think it's going to take until the end of the calendar year to get elementary school kids vaccinated.

WATT: The CDC, we're told, struggling to convince vaccine hesitant Republicans. It's kind of a mess to figure out with this particular audience who resonates with them, said one source, because they see vaccines as taking away their freedom.

Does stuff like this actually help?

BRIAN CRICHTON, PRESIDENT, TALLADEGA SUPER SPEEDWAY: Fans that come out tomorrow and if they are either tested or get the vaccination, they will be able to take two laps around the Talladega Super Speedway, the world's biggest and baddest and fastest track.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Nick Watt reporting there.

The race between the virus and the vaccines may be about to become a great deal tighter. That's what the British prime minister Boris Johnson says, issuing a stark warning after cases of the Indian COVID variant doubled in England in a week.

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HOLMES: He said the government will accelerate its vaccination rollout in response. England due to enter the next phase of reopening on Monday. Mr. Johnson saying that will go ahead as planned. For more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's Phil Black in London.

How serious the concerns and worries that the variant could impact reopening plans?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The truth is no one knows precisely how worried we should be about this new variant just yet. The numbers are still small, around 1,300 confirmed cases. But they're increasing quickly.

The government and scientific advisers have said, yes, it is more transmissible but they don't know how much more transmissible nor do they know how much more likely, if at all, it will result in more serious disease and therefore death.

And they don't know what it means for the effectiveness of existing vaccines. These are big questions which the government believes will be answered in the coming weeks as the information flows through, as they watch what this variant is doing out in the population.

So for now, the U.K. is continuing on what it calls its road map to reopening. The next big step happens Monday. That is when indoor mixing returns. It's a big, risky step in itself. People will be able to get together in their homes, in restaurants, bars, although with some size limitations.

The next step, about five weeks later, that's the really big one. That's essentially the lifting of all pandemic restrictions and that is the step that the prime minister has warned could be delayed or could be in some doubt, depending upon what this variant does in the coming weeks.

Now the prime minister points out there are really good reasons not to panic about this at the moment because the U.K. is in such a different situation now compared to when previous surges have taken place. That's because of the vaccination program.

There is so much more immunity out in the population that it should, in theory, be much harder for the variant hopefully to spread. But there are still concerns that this could cause trouble if it is significantly more transmissible. That could still result in a surge because vaccines aren't perfect.

They don't provide absolute protection and there are still large parts of the population that are not protected by a vaccine, notably young people. It means you could still see a spike in cases. If that happens -- and the key indicator will be, do you see a spike in hospital admissions -- that's what the government, its scientists, will be looking for.

If you don't see that, that means the vaccines are still doing their job, protecting the vulnerable and stopping incidences of serious disease. That's essentially the scenario at the moment that the government is betting on in choosing to continue with its process of reopening English society.

HOLMES: All right. Phil, good to see you.

Taiwan is strengthening coronavirus restrictions in two of its biggest cities after setting a single-day record for local cases. The island reporting 29 new domestic cases on Friday, the most locally transmitted infections in a single day since the pandemic began.

Masks now required in public in Taipei and in New Taipei. And indoor gatherings of more than five people are banned. The restrictions will be in place through May 28th.

Now the Tokyo Olympic Games are scheduled to start in just a couple of months from now but coronavirus still spreading rapidly in Japan. Protesters, doctors, even business leaders in Japan say holding the games this year is flat-out dangerous. Selina Wang joins me now from Tokyo.

Growing corporate opposition and concern about the Olympics in addition to the public worries.

WANG: Michael, that's exactly right. We're about 10 weeks out now and the mood on the ground is really changing. You're seeing the public opposition to the games really snowball.

We've seen the public polls for many months now show the majority of the people here in Japan think the games should be canceled. But now even high-profile voices across a variety of industries are coming out.

I sat down with the CEO of Rakuten, which is a tech giant in Japan. It's often referred to as the Amazon of this country. He's one of the most prominent executives in Japan and he tells me he's urging the government to cancel the games.

The comments he told me are some of the strongest public critical comments against these games from any corporate leader in Japan. Take a listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WANG: Do you think Japan should host the Olympics this summer, considering the rising COVID-19 cases in Japan and the strained medical system?

MIKITANI: It's dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world.

[03:25:00]

MIKITANI: So it is -- the risk is too big. I am against having the Olympics this year.

WANG: Do you think it is still possible that they could be canceled?

MIKITANI: I think everything is possible. You know, I see -- I've talked with many governments (INAUDIBLE) of other countries. And many people is not really supportive of hosting the Olympics this year.

WANG: Why do you think the government has been so forceful in this determination, that they will still go ahead, despite the public opposition, including from business leaders like yourself?

MIKITANI: I do not know.

(LAUGHTER)

MIKITANI: To be honest. I call it -- this a suicide mission, to be very honest. And we should stop it. I am trying to convince them but not successful so far.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WANG: Michael, I also asked the Rakuten CEO how he would grade the Japanese government's handling of COVID-19. He said he'd rate it a 2 out of 10. Japan so far has only fully vaccinated about 1 percent of its population. And concerns have also been echoed by The Toyota Company, which is a top Olympic sponsor.

They said their concern about growing frustration against the games. An online petition here in Japan received more than 350,000 signatures to cancel the Olympics in just nine days. A doctors' union said that it is impossible to hold the games safely, saying they could still become a superspreader event, even without any spectators.

Meanwhile, you have COVID-19 cases continuing to surge in Japan. The state of emergency has now been expanded to three more prefectures. Despite all of these concerns, the IOC and Japanese government have been portraying absolute confidence that these games will be held as planned.

HOLMES: Less than 1 percent vaccination rate, wow. Selina Wang in Tokyo, appreciate it. Interesting stuff there.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. If you're an international viewer, "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is next. If you're here in the U.S., I'll be back with more after the break.

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HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

On Capitol Hill, a Trump loyalist now holding a key position in the Republican Party's house leadership while some lawmakers are trying to rewrite history about January's Capitol insurrection. CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the House Republican Conference overwhelmingly picking New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik as their new conference chair and presenting a united front.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Listen, the Republican Party is a big tent party. And my district is the story of the growth of the Republican Party.

NOBLES: But it may not be that easy.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): There have been things worse than people without any firearms coming into a building.

NOBLES: Rank-and-file hard right members are now attempting to rewrite the history of what happened during the January 6 insurrection.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert did so Friday from the House floor.

GOHMERT: There's no doubt people came here on January 6 to cause trouble. Most did not come here to cause trouble. Most came here to protest.

NOBLES: This despite harrowing stories of violence and chaos from that day that continue to emerge from police officers, some of whom were beaten and had their own weapons turned on them.

MICHAEL FANONE, D.C., METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I believe that violent group would have killed individuals inside of the Capitol complex.

HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: For people to contradict that, it's insulting. It's a slap in the face.

NOBLES: This growing move to rewrite history comes on the same day a bipartisan deal was hatched to form an independent commission to look into what went wrong on that day.

The commission will be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. They will have equal subpoena power and the scope will be limited to January 6 and the events that led to the attack.

While the negotiations were bipartisan, the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, has yet to sign off. But Democrats say that won't be a problem. REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): So we tried to take the politics out of

it, because the public deserves nothing less.

NOBLES: With a handful of far right Republicans painting a different picture of what happened that day, drawing a clear conclusion as to what went wrong is now imperative.

Liz Cheney, who lost her leadership post for telling the truth about the election, said GOP leaders cannot ignore this trend.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): It's very important for people to understand that -- the ongoing danger of a former president attempting to undermine the system in the way he is. And, as Republicans, we have a particular responsibility to stand up against that.

NOBLES: But the conservative provocateurs are only getting louder.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We're going to visit Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, crazy eyes, crazy eyes.

NOBLES: New video uncovered by the CNN KFILE team shows Marjorie Taylor Greene before she was elected to Congress taunting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outside her office door, this after Greene confronted Ocasio-Cortez outside the House chamber.

AOC saying that MTG needs professional help.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I'm concerned about her perceptions of reality.

NOBLES: Despite all this ongoing tension between Republican and Democrats, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is prepared to move forward with plans to form this bipartisan commission to look into the events of January 6th.

She says she will bring a bill to the House floor as soon as next week. That's despite the fact that the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to endorse the proposal -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And we just saw there a little bit of Jake Tapper's interview with U.S. House Republican Liz Cheney here on CNN after she was ousted from her leadership role. She's been highly critical of former president Trump and his false insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. Here's a little more of that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What is it like standing up for what seems, from my perspective, to be just kind of basic decency, law and order, constitutionality and be shunned by House Republicans?

It looks weird from where I sit.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Well, you're not a House Republican.

TAPPER: Right. True.

CHENEY: Listen, I think that to me, it's very clear what is required here.

[03:35:00]

CHENEY: And it's not, you know, some people say, well, it's courageous. I don't think of it that way. I think, you know, you've written about men in particular there who have real courage. That's -- this is not landing on Omaha Beach or being at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. This is duty and it's about truth.

And we've had a collapse of truth in this country. We've, you know, seen an evolution of, you know, general situation where conspiracy theories are rampant, where people, good people and a lot of instances, you know, have been misled and believe things that are not true. And so, I think that we all have an obligation to make sure we're doing everything we can to convey the truth, to stand for the truth and to stand for the Constitution and our obligations.

TAPPER: One of the things that I hear that I think a lot of people in the media and maybe the public are even missing is and you said this the other day, this isn't just about the past. This isn't just about the lie before the insurrection and the lie since the insurrection.

It sounds to me like you're saying Trump tried to steal the election once. And he and his supporters, his acolytes, they're going to try to do it again.

CHENEY: Well, I think he is currently attempting to convince people that the election was stolen. He uses words like it was rigged every day. Now we see another release out from him. And it's really dangerous.

You know, what it does is it undermines people's confidence in our system. And ultimately, we've got to have respect for the rule of law. We had 60 state and federal courts that heard his claims, rejected those claims, the Electoral College met. That's the end of it.

Now of course, in this instance, it wasn't. But we've seen what he's capable of. And he hasn't expressed any remorse or regret for January 6. And I think it's very important for people to understand that the ongoing danger of a former president attempting to undermine the system and the way he is. And as Republicans, we have a particular responsibility to stand up against that.

TAPPER: But are you worried that he's going to try in 2024 and having now purged people like you, trying to purge people like Secretary of State Raffensperger in Georgia, et cetera, et cetera. This time, you might succeed.

CHENEY: He won't succeed. He may try but he won't succeed.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: And Liz Cheney also spoke to ABC News, saying that she regrets

voting for Donald Trump in 2020.

And that is not the only issue confronting the Republican Party. A former associate of GOP congressman Matt Gaetz has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors over sex trafficking charges. CNN's Paula Reid explains why that might mean trouble for Matt Gaetz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg has struck a deal with prosecutors, where he will cooperate in ongoing federal investigations and plead guilty to six criminal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor.

Greenberg's close associate, congressman Matt Gaetz, is not mentioned anywhere in this 80-page plea agreement. Congressman Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and he has denied any wrongdoing.

But CNN News learned he is under investigation for possible prostitution, sex trafficking and having sex with a minor. And as part of this plea agreement, Joel Greenberg has to cooperate fully in any ongoing federal investigations.

Now one of the most significant parts of this plea agreement is where Greenberg says that he plans to admit in court that he introduced a child to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with that minor.

Now depending on who he is referring to there, that could potentially cause trouble for congressman Gaetz. CNN has previously reported that, over the past year, Greenberg has provided investigators with information about how he and Gaetz exchanged money and gifts for sex with women.

So just because Gaetz isn't mentioned in this plea agreement doesn't mean that Greenberg hasn't shared any information.

Now CNN has also previously viewed receipts, where Gaetz and Greenberg paid at least one woman following a so-called sex party. And in this plea agreement, Greenberg details exactly how he used to pay women over electronic apps like Venmo.

He admits to spending $70,000 in 150 transactions to pay for sex. Now we could learn potentially more about this plea agreement when Mr. Greenberg appears in federal court in Orlando on Monday -- Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, younger teens in the U.S. now have access to a coronavirus vaccine for the first time. But for that to happen, the drug had to be tested. Coming up, we'll introduce you to some of the kids who helped make the vaccine possible for their classmates. We'll be right back.

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HOLMES: A critical U.S. shipping route is at least partially open. You can see the first vessel there passing under the Interstate 40 bridge which spans the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee, and connects three states.

River traffic was allowed to resume Friday after days of safety checks. The vital bridge was shut down last week after a crack was discovered in a steel beam. Hundreds of barges have been waiting to pass underneath it. The bridge is still not open to cars and trucks, though. They've got to fix it.

Nearly 2.5 million children in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Up until a few days ago, it was only available to kids 16 and 17 years old.

But that changed on Monday, when the Food and Drug Administration extended authorization of the vaccine to children as young as 12. CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta talks to some of the children and teens, who were first in line to get the vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is 15-year-old Ben Droppik (ph). He's about to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready?

BEN DROPPIK (PH), VACCINE RECIPIENT: Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): Thanks to Ben and about 2,000 other teens like him, 12- to 15-year olds all across the United States are now able to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is trying to beat the virus, trying to get everything back to normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kids have been leading the charge on a lot of this.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Robert Frank has been researching vaccines on kids for 40 years. He now oversees COVID-19 vaccine trials in kids at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

DR. ROBERT FRANK, CINCINNATI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: One of the things that people have said is that teenagers, they only care about themselves and they're just looking out for themselves. And I have found that to be totally wrong.

GUPTA (voice-over): They've also found another piece of good news. Just one month after getting the second dose, Pfizer's trials found that teens aged 12 to 15 had even higher levels of antibodies than 16- to 25-year olds, who had also received the shots.

[03:45:00]

GUPTA (voice-over): Making them far less likely to get sick.

FRANK: Eighteen cases of COVID in the 1,500 adolescents that had placebo and zero in the group that got vaccine.

GUPTA (voice-over): Since the pandemic began, the CDC estimates more than 26 million children have been infected with COVID-19 and around 3 percent have been hospitalized.

The agency says kids under 18 make up around 23 percent of all cases but represent just 0.1 percent of all the deaths. The agency has found more than 3,700 children have developed a hyperimmune response to the virus, known as MISC.

GUPTA: I imagine that a lot of parents will say, look, I don't think that my kid or kids in general are that at risk of getting sick in the first place.

What is the real reason that we need to get kids vaccinated?

FRANK: So they have a runny nose, they have a cough, they don't seem like they're that sick. Mom or Dad is not going to take them to the doctor but they actually have COVID. And they end up then going to Grandma and Grandpa and accidentally infecting them or others.

And then those people get very sick. And the other thing, I guess, to remember is that we have 75 million people under 18 years of age in the United States. If we don't immunize that group, that's going to leave a big population that's susceptible to the virus.

GUPTA (voice-over): Now remember, in order to stop transmission, we want to reach herd or community immunity. And you get there through a combination of vaccination as well as antibodies from previous infections.

The threshold of community immunity is based on how contagious the virus is. For example, measles, which is really contagious, requires around 90 percent herd immunity; for the novel coronavirus, somewhere around 70 percent to 85 percent.

The FDA's expanded authorization for 12- to 15-year olds now makes 85 percent of the U.S. population eligible for a shot. But even then, surveys show about 1 in 8 adults aren't planning on getting the vaccine.

About 1 in 5 parents say they won't vaccinate their kids, either, which is why the focus is now on going even younger. Trials have now begun in kids like 7-year-old Naomi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Naomi, after seeing a friend of our family, (INAUDIBLE) said that she wanted to do it. It would give me a lot of peace of mind because I know that she'll be protected.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really proud of you.

NAOMI, VACCINE RECIPIENT: I'm going to tell them that they should get the vaccine so they can protect themselves and their family and everyone around them so that -- and that would be a great way to keep the world safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Sanjay Gupta reporting there.

And for answers to all your questions, head over to cnn.com/coronavirus.

Major League Baseball relaxing some of its COVID restrictions for certain teams. A new report shows nearly half of the league's 30 clubs have reached the recommended 85 percent fully vaccinated threshold. And four more teams are set to reach the mark in two weeks.

Clubs which reach that threshold are subject to less strict health and safety protocols for players and coaches.

An Australian woman is now a social media sensation after her voice strangely changed from an Aussie accent to an Irish one. We'll explain after the break.

Also police have a theory about a tiger missing in Houston for six days. They now believe the big cat has been moved to several locations.

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[03:50:00]

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HOLMES: Welcome back. Police have had no luck locating a missing Bengal tiger in the fourth most populous city in the U.S. Officials say the 9-month-old India was last seen roaming in a neighborhood in Houston, Texas, last Sunday, before Victor Cuevas drove it away.

On Friday, Cuevas appeared in court, where his bond on an unrelated murder charge was revoked and he was put back into custody. His attorney now says Cuevas returned India to its owner and that the owner's name has been given to investigators.

However, police say the tiger has been moved to multiple locations in Houston in recent days and, on Friday, they said they still had not located it.

An Australian woman is now speaking with an Irish accent after surgery and has become a social media sensation in the process. Jeanne Moos takes a look and explains what doctors say is a genuine, if rare, medical condition.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Angie Yen is counting the days on TikTok.

ANGIE YEN, POST-SURGICAL FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME VICTIM: It's day two. It's day 10 since I woke up with an Irish accent.

MOOS (voice-over): The problem with that is she's Australian.

YEN: I woke up with an Irish accent and I've never been to Ireland before.

MOOS (voice-over): The 27-year-old dentist shocked herself when she began singing in the shower with an Irish accent. This was nine days after surgery to have her tonsils removed.

YEN: I'm completely freaked out.

MOOS (voice-over): This is how her Aussie accent used to sound.

YEN: I'm just calling to cancel my membership and I was just wondering for the monthly payments that I've paid.

MOOS (voice-over): Now she sounds like this.

YEN: My sister is like, oh, no, I've got an Irish sister now.

MOOS (voice-over): The most likely culprit, the rare but very real foreign accent syndrome, which occurs after a head injury, stroke or just plain old surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a real foreign accent but rather a damaged form of a person's native language and accent.

MOOS (voice-over): She gets messages, saying she's faking, that it's B.S.

YEN: Hi, Owen. Unfortunately, it's not fake. It's now day 13 since I woke up with a foreign accent.

MOOS (voice-over): Her accent remains changed, though the similarity to Irish comes and goes.

[03:55:00]

MOOS (voice-over): There have been about 150 reported cases of foreign accent syndrome.

This Florida woman had a stroke and went from sounding like this -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got fabulous things --

MOOS (voice-over): To this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like I was going bloody crazy.

MOOS (voice-over): And after Karen Butler from Oregon was sedated to have teeth pulled, her accent changed from this --

KAREN BUTLER, DENTAL PATIENT: Hi, this is Karen. Sorry I can't get at the phone at the moment.

MOOS (voice-over): To this --

BUTLER: Talk to young girls, they think it's a very, very pretty sound. And they say, oh, I want an accent like that.

Oh, well, just go see my dentist.

MOOS (voice-over): But Angie doesn't find her accent pretty. Sometimes she cries.

YEN: I'm losing my identity as an Aussie Asian, I don't feel like I belong.

MOOS (voice-over): But often she laughs, for instance, over her mother's reaction.

YEN: She said, "Can you go to church now?"

And I was like, "Well, Mom, why?

I'm not possessed."

MOOS (voice-over): Mom wants her to pray but at least now, she says, she can hit higher notes.

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MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And China says it has become just the second country after the U.S. to successfully land a rover on Mars. Chinese state media aired this animation of what the landing on the Red Planet Saturday morning might have looked like.

The six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle will spend three months searching for signs of ancient life on the Martian surface.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Don't go anywhere. Kim Brunhuber picks things up after a short break.