Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Memorializes Victims on 100th Anniversary; Biden: Efforts to Restricting Voting "Simply Un-American"; U.S.: Attack on Global Meat Producer Likely from Russia; Politicians in Israel Face Midnight Deadline to Form New Government; Experts Advise Against U.K. Reopening; The Possibilities of mRNA Vaccines Beyond Covid. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired June 2, 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. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM --


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.


CHURCH: 100 years later, Joe Biden becomes the first president to visit Tulsa and commemorate one of the worst acts of racial violence in U.S. history.

Another American journalist is being detained in Myanmar. Now his parents are pleading to the military for his freedom.

And a burned cargo ship near the Sri Lankan coast is on the verge of sinking and threatening to unleash an environmental disaster.

At the site of one of the bloodiest chapters in U.S. history, President Joe Biden has done what none of his predecessors have done before. He is the first sitting U.S. president to pay tribute in person to the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre. One of the worst acts of racial violence in American history.

Tulsa's Greenwood district encompassed more than 35 blocks of entirely black owned businesses. And became known as Black Wall Street. On May 31st, 1921, tensions neighboring white residents boiled over and the neighborhood was burned to the ground. President Biden said literal hell was unleashed.


BIDEN: Through the night, into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood, with torches and guns, shooting at will. A mob tied a black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off. A murdered black family draped over the fence of their home outside. An elderly couple knelt by their bed praying to god with their heart and their soul when they were shot in the back of their heads.


CHURCH: President Biden is also launching new efforts to battle racial inequality and placing Vice President Kamala Harris in it charge of leading the administration's efforts on voting rights. The they want to roll back discriminatory moves against minority voters and prevent Republican led states from restricting voting access. President Biden has been very forceful in his condemnation of states like Texas. Kaitlan Collins explains.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Truly unprecedented assault on our democracy.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One day after warning democracy is in peril, President Biden is blasting efforts to restrict voting.

BIDEN: With intensity and aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden addressing the dramatic fight in Texas over one of the most restrictive voting bills in the nation.

BIDEN: It's simply un-American. It's not, however, sadly, unprecedented.

COLLINS (voice-over): Texas Democrats stopped the GOP effort for now, but other states have already passed new voting restrictions or are debating it. Democratic state lawmakers are calling on Biden and his allies in Congress to act.

STATE REP. JESSICA GONZALEZ (D-TX): We did our part to stop this horrible voter suppression bill in Texas. And now Texas Democrats are calling on President Biden and Democrats in the Senate to use the filibuster in order to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act immediately.

COLLINS (voice-over): The bill would -- named for John Lewis -- would reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but major voting legislation has stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition.

BIDEN: I hear all the folks on TV saying, why doesn't Biden get this done? Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate.

COLLINS (voice-over): Democrats need 10 Senate Republican votes or to abolish the filibuster, which Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has pledged to protect. SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not ready to destroy our government. I'm not ready to destroy our government, no.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge and pledging to get those laws passed.

BIDEN: I'm going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.

COLLINS (voice-over): In Tulsa, Biden met with survivors from the racist 1921 massacre, when a white mob attacked a thriving black community.

BIDEN: For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness.


But just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden is the first sitting president to commemorate the racial violence that was minimized for so long.

BIDEN: My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.

COLLINS (voice-over): Officials say Biden wants to help close the racial wealth gap by using more federal funding to support minority- owned businesses.

BIDEN: That's what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides.

COLLINS: One thing President Biden did not mention in his speech was cancelling student loan debt which some leaders have called on him to do saying that disproportionately affects African-American students over white students. And you've seen people like the leader of the NAACP saying this is a step that the administration should be considering. But when the White House was asked about this and whether or not they're going to respond to those calls for reparations of the descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre, they said that President Biden supports a study for it but didn't commit to doing so.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Reaction to the U.S. president's visit to Tulsa has been pouring in. Earlier the chairwoman of Tulsa's city council called for reparations.


VANESSA HALL-HARPER, CHAIRWOMAN, TULSA CITY COUNCIL; I definitely don't think we need to wait. We've waited too long. Tulsa has waited 100 years. And we have very few survivors left. I think you can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. We need to do both. We need reparations. We need to be clear on what reparations is. Reparations is land and cash. Everything else is good policy. There is a lot of work to be done to address this systemic and institutionalized racism that has taken place throughout this country.


CHURCH: The Biden administration is officially ending the Trump era policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for U.S. court dates. The homeland security secretary said the so-called remain in Mexico policy had mixed effectiveness. Since President Biden suspended the program shortly after he took office, more than 11,000 migrants have been allowed to enter the U.S. to pursue asylum claims.

And the Biden administration plans to suspend another controversial policy Trump put in place. The White House says the president is suspending oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This move protects the land from fossil fuel extraction that environmentalists say disrupts fragile wildlife and ecosystems. But it's a setback for Alaska's state government which hopes the Trump policy would revive its oil industry.

Well the world's largest meat packer says it's making significant progress as it recovers from a ransomware attack that the U.S. says likely can be traced to Russia. JBS foods says its operations in North America and Australia were affected. And as CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, this is just the latest in a disturbing wave of high profile cyberattacks.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration is accusing Russian ransomware attackers of being behind the latest attack on critical infrastructure. This time meat processing. JBS foods, one of the biggest food companies in the world, says it is the victims of an organized cyberattack against its IT systems. According to the American Farm Bureau, JBS processes under a quarter of the U.S.'s meat production.

The White House isn't accusing the Russian government but cyber criminals still they make it clear that they see it as Russia's responsibility to crack down on these malicious actors.

The White House Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in a statement, quote: The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.

Remember the ransomware hackers that attacked the Colonial Pipeline recently were also from Russia. That caused gas shortages and long lines up and down the East Coast of the United States.

Another White House official told me that the president was briefed on Monday about this attack and he told his administration to take any necessary measures to address any impact on supply or prices. So that is clearly a major concern of the Biden administration's. Now the White House also says the multiple federal agencies are

coordinating their efforts, monitoring the situation. The USDA is speaking regularly with the JBS foods leadership and JBS is getting technical help from the cyber agency CISA. Neither JBS nor the White House have said what the ransom demand is. Nor has the company said what's working and what's not. But a number of their production facilities appear to have been shut down.


We've seen Facebook posts in Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin saying that production is not happening and other services are also not working. So this is yet another reminder of how vulnerable critical infrastructure around the world is to malicious hackers.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Israeli politicians working to push the country's longest serving Prime Minister from office, have less than a day to stitch together a new government. Centrist Yair Lapid and religious nationalist Naftali Bennett, face a deadline of midnight Wednesday, about 13 hours from now, to pull it off. If they can do it, and the Knesset approves, their coalition would end 12 years in power for Benjamin Netanyahu and usher in a new era in Israeli politics.

Journalist Elliott Gotkine is live this hour in Jerusalem. Good to see you Elliott. So where do negotiations stand this hour as time runs out to finalize a new governing coalition in Israel?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, they are still talking. They've been negotiating in overdrive almost since Sunday, almost nonstop. I'm told from a source involved in the negotiations that very significant progress was made overnight. But that there is one sticking point. That sticking point is what would seem to be a relatively obscure committee within the Knesset. Now the coalition that they're trying to form if they get it over the line, they would have two positions on the judicial appointments committee. It's a committee that as the name suggests helps appoint judges.

Now one of those has gone to the kind of right-wing side of the block. Gideon Saar who is the leader of the new Hope Party and would potentially be the next justice minister. The other one has gone to the leader of one of the left-wing parts of the potential coalition, Merav Michaeli the leader of the Labor Party. But Ayelet Shaked, she's the number two to Naftali Bennett who would potentially be the first Prime Minister, the alternating Prime Minister-ship in this new coalition. Ayelet Shaked is demanding she have the role on that judicial appointments committee. That has been promised to the leader of the left-wing Labor Party.

That I'm told by the source involved in the negotiations is the only stumbling block now that they need to get over. They need to somehow find some kind of agreement and as you say, they've got now less than 13 hours in which to do so to tell the president and the speaker of the Knesset that they've done it and then to have that then go to vote in the anyone he is Knesset in a week. So we're not there yet. We do seem to be inching towards that potential outcome. But as we know, you know, until it's done, it's not done. And at this stage, this point in the day, it could go either way.

CHURCH: We'll watch to see what happens. Elliott Gotkine joining us live from Jerusalem. Many thanks.

Well relations with the U.S. in keeping Iran in check are two of the central issues for whoever leads Israel going forward. And I spoke early with professor Dov Waxman, the chair of Israeli Studies at UCLA and he explained how the two are related.


DOV WAXMAN, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR IN ISRAEL STUDIES, UCLA: On the issue of Iran, there's going to be more continuity than change in so far as the I think agreed policy for the next government that comes into being will be to oppose the Iranian nuclear program and a renewed nuclear agreement with Iran. But the tactics that they may adopt will be, I think, somewhat less confrontational than Netanyahu's tactics have been less combative.

And so I think that also bodes well for U.S.-Israel relations. Just having a different leader at the helm is likely improve the U.S.- Israeli relationship. Because Netanyahu is really become toxic to many Americans, particularly many Democrats. He's deeply unpopular. So simply having a fresh face will be an improvement in that respect. And I think Bennett, although in many ways is more right-wing than Netanyahu, isn't going to confront the Biden administration or the president himself in the way that Netanyahu likely would have done. So in that respect, I think U.S.-Israel relations will improve. And also having Lapid as foreign minister, a centrist as foreign minister will probably help things as well. So I wouldn't expect dramatic changes in Israeli foreign policy. But I do think the climate of U.S.-Israel relations will improve.


CHURCH: Professor Dov Waxman, chair of Israeli Studies at UCLA, talking to me earlier.

Well as the U.K.'s reopening date rapidly approaches, not everyone is ready for all restrictions to be lifted. Still to come, the reason why scientists are urging the government to hit the pause button.

Plus, how the technology used in Pfizer and Moderna's COVID vaccines could pave the way for new treatments for cancer and HIV. We'll explain.



CHURCH: More countries will soon have access China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine. The World Health Organization has approved it for emergency use, meaning, it will be added to the W.H.O.'s vaccine sharing program known as COVAX which is facing severe shortages after India suspended its vaccine exports. An independent panel of experts has recommended Sinovac for anyone over 18.

Peru's government has revealed what many already expected. That COVID- 19 has been far deadlier there than the official numbers have shown. Here's a look at the death toll before Monday's announcement just over 69,000. Now though that number has more than doubled to nearly 181,000. That's the highest per capita death rate in the world. The country was already one of the worst hit in Latin America and recently extended a state of emergency and nationwide lockdown until the end of this month.

A top U.K. scientist says if the country wants to avoid a third wave of coronavirus, it needs to delay its reopening plans. It's the latest voice to warn against a speedy reopening.


Professor Adam Finn says this: We've still got a lot of people out there who've neither had this infection, nor yet been immunized, and that's why we're in a vulnerable position right now.

In a dramatic development, the U.K. reported no virus related deaths on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began. But experts and officials say a rise in variant infections cannot be ignored and reopening plans should be reconsidered. So let's turn to CNN's Bianca Nobilo. She joins us live from London. Good to see you Bianca. So how likely is it that British government will reconsider its reopening plans at this point?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Prime Minister said throughout, Rosemary, that he would follow the data. And there are also several tests that he put in place to judge whether or not it's appropriate to continue with unlocking down the country. And one of those tests which is key for this discussion is that there can't be an emergence of a new variant which might throw the current plan into disarray which might cause a surge in cases, hospitalizations, put extra pressure on the health system in Britain. So that is the test that we're looking at when we ask the request whether or not Britain remains on track to have the relaxation of all rules and social distancing or social contact rules lifted by the 21st of June.

And this is, because there's a chorus of voices now from the science community in the U.K., and the chief national medical officer in Scotland as well as figures in the rest of the country who are saying that we're now in the precipice of a third wave. And it's an incredibly important time and that caution would be prudent at this point to try to mitigate the impact of the rise of the so-called Delta variant. This was a variant that was first identified in India which is now the dominant strain in Britain.

The health secretary said it is likely about three quarters of the new cases in the U.K. are this new variant. They tend to be among the younger parts of the population which indicate that the vaccine effort is effective. But it's still unknown at this point exactly how effective it is.

So the countries that are at an interesting crossroads. You mention the fact that there's been this incredible milestone of zero deaths reported yesterday in the United Kingdom. That is the first time that that's happened since the beginning of the pandemic, in over 400 days. So there are the parallel tracks, that wonderful news but everyone has been waiting for, for a long time, and then simultaneously there is a consistent rise in cases.

Over the last week, Rosemary, there's been at least 3,000 cases every day in the U.K. That is a considerable rise on weeks prior. And we all know that hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths lag considerably behind the uptick in cases. So at the moment the decision is being made within government circles about whether or not it does make sense to continue to relax more rules in a couple of weeks' time when there does seem to be the surge, with scientists warning we could be on the precipice of a third wave.

So it remains to be seen whether or not the Prime Minister and the government think that there will be an appetite for that and that compliance will be good. We're expecting Boris Johnson to speak later today -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. We'll wait and hear what he has to say about all this. Bianca Nobilo joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well more signs of progress in the battle against COVID-19. The number of new coronavirus infections worldwide has been falling for the past five weeks according to the World Health Organization. And for the first time since March of last year the U.S. just recorded a seven day average of fewer than 20,000 new daily COVID-19 cases. Here is even more promising news. At least 12 U.S. states have now met the Biden administration's goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults. That is according to the CDC.

Well Pfizer and Moderna are both applying for full approval in the U.S. for their coronavirus vaccines. But both were created using messenger RNA technology which could drive the next wave of health care innovation. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As I sat there waiting to get my COVID vaccine last December, I remember thinking, just how ordinary and extraordinary this moment was at the same time. It wasn't just that the vaccine had the potential to protect you and me and end this pandemic, but also, the possibility that this vaccines technology could fundamentally change medicine.

It all starts with this tiny strand of genetic material known as messenger RNA, mRNA. It's made in our bodies all the time, directing ourselves to make different proteins. And it's also the backbone of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines.

[04:25:00] In this case, instructing our own bodies to first make the coronaviruses signature spike protein which then in turn prompts our immune system to create antibodies to that spike protein. Think of it like this, it's essentially turning our bodies into our very own vaccine making machines.

DR. DREW WEISSMAN, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Once you've got the sequence, it's a one-step reaction to make RNA.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Drew Weissman began investigating the potential of manipulating mRNA in the mid-2000s.

WEISSMAN: Back then we were thinking of using it for vaccines, for therapeutic proteins.

GUPTA (voice-over): Fast forward two decades, and these ideas are a reality, and they are growing. Moderna is now testing that technology for cytomegalovirus. That's the leading infectious cause of birth defects in the United States. Another company CureVac is utilizing the technology for a potential rabies vaccine, and everyone is seemingly focused on flu.

Currently, it takes about six months to develop a flu vaccine, meaning, researchers have to make an educated guess on what's going to be the major flu strains circulating next season, even before the current flu season is over. An mRNA flu vaccine could shorten that timeline to about a month.

What you may not know is much of this began with the love story. The husband and wife team of doctors Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci. I spoke with them months ago for my podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction".

GUPTA: What is the future now, do you think of mRNA technology?

OZLEM TURECI, PHYSICIAN AND SCIENTIST, BIONTECH: It is a very versatile technology and you can also use it to combine multiple antigens, for example, of cancer.

GUPTA (voice-over): So remember that idea of turning our bodies into vaccine making machines? Well, they are now in the early stages of doing that for cancer. But instead of the spike protein for coronavirus, they find cell markers for an individual's cancer and essentially train the immune system to fight it. It is highly specific and very fast. It's this agility that Pfizer is also now relying on to fight potential new variants of the coronavirus.

MIKE MCDERMOTT, PRESIDENT, PFIZER GLOBAL SUPPLY: Our goal is to do it in three months. To be able to develop a new variant, get it through production and bring it to patients.

GUPTA (voice-over): In a year where so much went wrong, it is worth truly celebrating the things that went right.

MCDERMOTT: 3 million doses pumping through here.

GUPTA (voice-over): Mike McDermott of Pfizer got a little emotional when I asked him to reflect on the moment.

MCDERMOTT: As a kid, my dad worked for NASA, he worked on the Apollo program. And the day when we shipped the first doses out of this site, it rushed over me like that was my moment. That was our moonshot.

GUPTA (voice-over): A moon shot that we were not only incredibly lucky to witness.

GUPTA (on-camera): By the way, as a surgeon, I'm also a little bit afraid of needles,


GUPTA (voice-over): But to actually experience ourselves.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are really good.


CHURCH: In Myanmar's brutal crackdown, a U.S. journalist is among dozens who have been detained. The efforts to have him released -- that's ahead.

Plus, a prominent critic of Belarusian strong man, Alexander Lukashenko, takes and dangerous action in court to protest alleged threats against his family. We will show you what happened.