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W.H.O. Turns to Overlooked Data for New COVID Clues; China Refutes Report on Hospitalizations of Researchers; Organizers Plan to Make Summer Olympic Games Happen; Blinken Warps Up Meeting with Netanyahu; Anti-Semitic Violence on the Rise in the U.S.; Deeply Contested "Audit" Resumes in Arizona; Pentagon Faces Deadline to Issue Unclassified UFO Report. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 04:30   ET



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But this source close to panel says these are all things that the W.H.O. investigators really want to get back into Wuhan and Hubei to continue investigating. They don't have a date for that yet, and they think they might have to send small teams in first and then a large one possibly to capitalize on those results.

But also within this annex interestingly our references to the substantial influenza outbreak that happened in December 2019 as well. Unclear if this was the beginnings of the coronavirus or completely unrelated or just made it hard to find the outbreak of the coronavirus, too. And another key data point they are interested in as well is in fact the rise in excess mortality. Remember that's a good sign often in countries where people aren't able to look precisely for positive tests of the coronavirus of who might have been affected.

They say that in January there was a substantial rise in excess mortality in Wuhan city first, possibly suggesting the disease began in the city not in the surrounding regions that may even suggest that the disease first popped up of November 2019. A lot more to be investigated, a lot of accusations of a lack of Chinese transparency and fascinating data points frankly inside this W.H.O. annex which reveal so much more information than perhaps is being discussed widely publicly -- Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, as you say, so much more to learn. Thanks for that, Nick.

And meantime, China is pushing back against U.S. intelligence, claiming researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology needed hospital care back in November 2019. The information has sparked new debate over the origin of the coronavirus and the possibility its first victims were infected earlier than reported in a lab accident. So Steven joining us now. China is refusing, steven to allow a full investigation to answer these many questions. So this isn't going away anytime soon until they do that. What's the latest?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, the latest is that the Chinese government is increasingly resistant to any suggestions of further investigations in Wuhan and in China. Now the fact is a growing number of independent experts and scientists are saying based on evidence they have seen so far they simply cannot rule out this lab leak theory. You know, because this institute did conduct research on coronaviruses collected from bats and there have been questions about some of their genetic sequencing findings as well as some inconsistent language found in research papers published by scientists there both before and after the pandemic.

So this is also of course compounded by the fact that the conclusion drawn by the W.H.O. team that went there early this year, their conclusion that it was extremely unlikely this virus was leaked from a lab was based simply on the conversation with the staff not any direct access to raw Chinese data. So that is something an increasing number of experts and government officials as well are calling for, but that's also something the Chinese government has determined, seems to be determined not to let happen. They're saying they've done everything possible to assist the W.H.O. and now it's time to investigate other countries, especially the United States, without providing any concrete evidence -- Rosemary.

Nick Paton Walsh in London, Steven Jiang in Beijing, many thanks to you both.

Well a top Japanese official believes U.S. support for Tokyo's Olympic Games remains unchanged. That is despite the U.S. State Department warning Americans to avoid traveling to Japan because of the surge in COVID infections there. CNN's Selina Wang joins us now from Tokyo. So Selina, what is the latest on all of this?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the optics and timing of this travel advisory are a major blow to Olympic organizers even though foreign travelers have already been banned from Japan since the start of the pandemic. The U.S. State Department issued a level 4 do not travel advisory. This is the highest level of caution and the CDC is saying that even fully vaccinated travelers run the risk of contracting and spreading new COVID-19 variants in Japan.

Now, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committee, however, has downplayed these concerns saying they're confident that U.S. athletes can still safely participate. While Japanese officials have said this does not impact U.S. support for the games.

But Rosemary, the contrast between what Olympic officials are saying and the situation here on the ground is only growing. Japan is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases despite a state of emergency covering Tokyo and large parts of Japan. Only 2 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. On top of that, the medical system is under strain with doctors in Osaka warning of a system collapse.

On the other hand, you have Olympic organizers saying they are fully confident that these games will move forward safely. In fact, I just spoke to Dick Pound, who is the longest serving member of that International Olympic Committee and he tells me he already has his tickets booked for Japan's Olympic Games. Take a listen to what he said here. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WANG: Is a cancellation still a possibility?


DICK POUND, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE MEMBER: None of the folks involved in the planning and execution of the games is considering cancellation. That's essentially off the table.

WANG: So how can the IOC guarantee that this is going to be a completely safe bubble?

POUND: Well, nobody can guarantee anything. I mean, let's be reasonable on that. But all of the indications, the fact-based indications are that the bubble can be created and maintained.


WANG (on camera): Rosemary, juxtapose that with the thousands of doctors calling for these games to be canceled in Japan saying it is impossible to hold the Olympics safely.

CHURCH: Incredible stuff there. Selina Wang bringing us the very latest from Tokyo. Appreciate it.

Well new details on the U.S. Secretary of State's Middle East trip. Antony Blinken is on a three-day tour of the region with the goal of making sure the Israel-Hamas ceasefire lasts. Blinken has been meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the two are delivering joint statements on what they've discussed. CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with the latest on all of this. So Hadas, what are the expectations out this have critical day in the region?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in any minute we're expecting the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver remarks to the media. They've been meeting for about the past hour and a half since the Secretary of State arrived earlier this morning. The Secretary of State will then spend some more time in Jerusalem meeting with the foreign minister as well as the Israeli defense minister before heading to Ramallah where he will meet with the Palestinian President and the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister.

But what we know about this meeting and we will hopefully learn some more as we expect the statements to start any moment now, is that the U.S. officials who have briefed reporters before this trip say that this trip is focused almost entirely on maintaining and extending the ceasefire and maintaining the peace and the quiet to prevent the violence from escalating once again. As well as ensuring that the -- that aid starts flowing into Gaza so that Gaza can rebuild.

One of the things that the officials said is that they want to work with the U.N. which they say will lead the efforts to help rebuild Gaza and they want to make sure through some sort of new framework to make sure that the money that goes into Gaza will go to the people who need it to help people rebuild their lives, their homes, their livelihoods and not fall into the hands of militants who may use that money to build more tunnels or replenish their rocket supplies.

The U.S. officials spoke about wanting to get the Palestinian Authority more involved in helping to distribute those funds which may be difficult because the Palestinian Authority does not have much influence in Gaza which is run by Hamas.

In terms of the ceasefire, we are not clear exactly on what may be discussed about how they will maintain the ceasefire. The ceasefire was described as an unconditional ceasefire. So perhaps we will in these statements learn more about what was discussed about what they can do to maintain the ceasefire.

I do think one thing that is interesting is that the U.S. officials pretty much said that although this is the first visit and it's a very important visit, they are not intended to go immediately start speaking about a long-term peace solution or start discussions about a two-state solution. That this visit is solely focused on the ceasefire, maintaining the ceasefire and starting the process of rebuilding Gaza and bringing that aid in -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Hadas Gold bringing us the latest there from Jerusalem. Appreciate it.

Well anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise here in the United States and many are blaming online conspiracies peddled by the far right. That's next here on CNN NEWSROOM.




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to vote on the January 6th commission in the Senate and the American people will see where every member stands on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump's big lie.


CHURCH: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to bring up a bill this week to create a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Some Republicans have argued they want changes to the bill, but could eventually back it, but many have signaled they will vote no. The House has already passed the measure which is modeled after the bipartisan commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Well people in Texas will soon be able to carry a handgun in public without a permit. The state Senate passed the measure Monday, one day after it was approved by the House. It would apply to anyone 21 and older who can legally own a firearm. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has said he will sign the bill into law. A new exhibit will try to give more context to the United States

largest confederate monument. The carving at Georgia's Stone Mountain Park depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War. But the mountain was also the scene of the 1915 rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and 50 years of Klan rallies that followed. The park says historians will develop the exhibit to tell the full story of Stone Mountain.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House are refusing to comment on some controversial remarks from Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene. The first-term Congresswoman is standing by her statement from last week comparing mask mandates and vaccine policies to the holocaust.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.


CHURCH: Experts say comments like those plus the fighting between Israel and Hamas have led to a rise in anti-Semitic attacks here in the United States. President Biden calls it despicable, saying they must stop. CNN's Nick Watt has more and we warn you his report contains some disturbing scenes.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boca Raton, Florida, "Hitler was right" scrawled on the side of a van, as it passes a pro-Israel rally.

In one week, while this is happening in the Middle East, the Anti- Defamation League found more than 17,000 tweets, with variations on that horrific phrase, Hitler was right.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: In the past, again, you have a conflict you would see some vandalism say at a synagogue. We've seen sort of a blitzkrieg of anti-Jewish acts across the country.

WATT (voice-over): Fueled, he says, in part, by online bile, and conspiracy mongering.


GREENBLATT: Guess what? Those unhinged, conspiratorial claims lead to real world consequences against American Jews.

JOSEPH BORGEN, VICTIM OF ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACK: I see out of corner my eyes, someone, you know, chasing me with their arm back, looking like they want to punch me.

WATT (voice-over): He was wearing a kippah, a cap. MITCHELL SILBER, JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL: People are being attacked for looking visibly Jewish.

WATT (voice-over): Daylight, Times Square, crossroads of the world, Joseph Borgen was surrounded by a crowd he says shouted filthy Jew, and --

BORGEN: Proceeded to kick me, punch me, and hit me with flagpoles, crushes. Then, towards the end of the assault, I mean, I thought they were urinating on my face, but it was actually, you now, pepper spray. Which they were, you know, pepper spraying me for upwards of a minute.

WATT (voice-over): The man seen hitting Borgen with a crutch, has now been charged with a hate crime. Prosecutors say, in the cells, the man said, he has no problem doing this again.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: The NYPD is now out in force.

WATT (voice-over): After this, apparently, and assault outside of a Los Angeles sushi restaurant, one man was arrested. LAPD requesting his bail be enhanced due to the crime being motivated by hate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody, and one of the cars driving by, started throwing glass bottles, or glass cups at the tables.

WATT (voice-over): The words "dirty Jew" were heard. Car stopped, men got out and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Started running towards the tables, asking, indiscriminately, who is Jewish.

ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: Passions ran high, that's okay, that's human. What is not okay is to take out on innocent people, on groups of folks who are dining, because of who they are.

WATT (voice-over): In London, four men were arrested after anti- Semitic slogans were shouted from a pro-Palestinian convoy a week ago.

SILBER: One of the things that was always amazing to Jews in Western Europe is that the United States Jews could be visibly Jewish.

GREENBLATT: I'm now having American Jews tell me this, that they're afraid to walk outside wearing a kippah, or to wear a Jew star necklace, or to just to be visibly identifiable as Jewish. But that's chilling.

WATT: Now here in the United States the ADL says that they saw a 63 percent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents within just a two-week period. So many incidents it was tough they say to keep track. They are also calling for the social media giants to step up, as they put it, #hitlerwasright doesn't exactly help the conversation.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: As the deadline draws nearer for U.S. officials to release more information on UFOs one former official tells CNN the things he has seen are out of this world.


LUIS ELIZONDO, FORMER SENIOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICER, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: They don't have wings, they don't have cockpits, they don't have any obvious signs of propulsion and yet somehow they are able to outperform anything we have in our current inventory.




CHURCH: Welcome back everyone.

Well Republican across the U.S. keep pushing the big lie about former President Donald Trump winning the last election and they are still trying to overturn narrow Democratic wins in two former red states. In Georgia, a fourth audit of ballots is moving forward in the state's most populous county after a judge ruled absentee ballots can be unsealed for examination.

And in Arizona that so called audit in its largest county has resumed. The Arizona Secretary of State says the voting machines being investigated will need to be replaced at taxpayer expense, all because of efforts to placate the former president and his supporters. CNN's Kyung Lah picks up the story.


BILL GATES, VICE CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I feel like I'm in the rabbit hole here, and it just gets worse every day.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's Arizona's Maricopa County Supervisor and lifelong Republican, Bill Gates talking about this. The ballots from Arizona's most populous county came out of storage on Sunday. Trucks rolled them across the Arizona State Fairgrounds into the Coliseum. Forklifts moved pallets of ballots back on the floor.

This is being run by a little known contractor, Cyber Ninjas, hired by the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate. This is the third review despite two previous audit showing no widespread election fraud. The Arizona Senate and Cyber Ninjas maintain this is a ballot election integrity.

GATES: As every day that goes on, it just continues to turn in another direction. It's clear that's not what this is about. This is about fundraising off of Arizonans. Now we've got "Fund the Audit" so again, they're just doubling down on this really being a fundraising effort. LAH (voice over): Gates is talking about this e-mail sent to two dozen Arizona Republican Party officials late last week, first obtained by the Arizona Republic and confirmed by CNN.

Fund the Audit explains it will now actually vet who is chosen to count the ballots in Arizona's audit and links to this page, Volunteer to Hand Count Ballot Registration.

Fund the Audit claims it has raised $1.7 million to pay for Arizona's audit. It says it is powered by the America Project, a pro Donald Trump nonprofit started by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne as he explained to media outlet and TV.

PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER CEO, OVERSTOCK: I got involved in this election fraud scandal, and it was fraud, it was a fraudulent election and it didn't end for us on January 20th.

LAH (voice-over): Byrne is talking about the big lie that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. Byrne then tells this outlet that he donated a million dollars to fund the audit. $4 million total for the whole fight he says, chasing the lie.

BYRNE: This isn't an over by a longshot. At the very least, you have to be ready for 2022 to take it all back. You know we're not going to let this happen again, but don't believe for a minute that 2020 is over yet.

LAH (voice over): Then the big lie is amplified by right-wing national figures.

GREENE: Who do you think won Arizona on November 3rd.


LAH (voice over): This was Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene here in Arizona this weekend cheering on the Arizona audit and giving voice to lies about the election, which brings us back here. This ballot review is so deeply contested, Maricopa County's Republican led Board of Supervisors warned the Cyber Ninjas and the Arizona Senate to preserve documents of what's happening here. Why? A potential future court battle.

Hidden from view and inside one of these trucks on Sunday, the vote counting machines. The Arizona Secretary of State says they may never be used again, citing concerns they could have been tampered with during the so-called audit.

GATES: They have an agenda. They're expecting a different result because that is what has been sold to them.

LAH: So how long will this continue? Well as long as Arizona Senate Republicans continue to back this, continue to allow this to happen it will go on day after day.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


CHURCH: Next month U.S. government agencies will deliver unclassified reports on UFOs to Congress. The government has confirmed recent videos of UFOs to be legitimate after years of ignoring them. A former official says whatever they are they pose a potential threat.


LUIS ELIZONDO, FORMER SENIOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICER, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: On one hand you have the potential to be foreign adversarial technology flying within controlled U.S. air space and, of course, on the other opposite end of the spectrum you have something which is completely and entirely different than anything we are aware of in anybody's inventory. And either way these things are being witnessed by some of our best fighter pilots. They're being picked up on electro optical devices, such as gun camera footage and then it's furthermore being substantiated by radar data. So we know they're real, whatever -- whatever it is.


CHURCH: Many questions. I'm Rosemary Church, you're watching CNN. "EARLY START" is next. Have a wonderful day.