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House Panel Takes the Lead in January 6 Investigations; Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi Sworn into Office in Iran; U.S. Urges Tigrayan Forces to Protect Ethiopia's Lalibela; Lionel Messi Parts Ways with Spanish Football Team; Women of Team USA Are Racking Up Olympic Medals; Spirit Airlines Cancels Hundreds of Flights. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 04:30   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

U.S. President Joe Biden is honoring police officers who responded to the January 6th insurrection. He signed a bill awarding them Congressional gold medals, the highest expression of national appreciation. Biden thanked the officers for protecting the Capitol but more importantly he said for protecting the Constitution. 21 of the House Republicans voted against the bill, some saying that they objected to the word insurrection.

Meanwhile the investigation into the Capitol riots is moving forward under the leadership of a single Congressional panel. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more on that.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Select Committee that's designed to look into the January 6 insurrection doesn't have another public hearing scheduled as of yet, but they are still busy doing work behind the scenes. And what we're seeing is this committee take the full responsibility of looking into everything as it relates to January 6. And then means that there are a number of other House committees that already had started that work and the Select Committee is now going to take that work over.

As an example, the House Oversight Committee, they had a number of interviews scheduled with members of the Trump Justice Department for instance to talk about what role they may have played in inciting that riot on January 6th. Those interviews we're told have been postponed or canceled in some cases, and that responsibility is now going to be in the hands of the January 6th commission. In fact, our sources telling us that basically, any part of the investigation that's being handled by any other committee is now going to be referred to or going to be deferred to that January 6 Select Committee.

Now, this is not out of the ordinary. This is something we've seen happen before. For instance, during the Benghazi investigation, also when the House investigated former President Donald Trump's tax returns, we saw all these other committees who had done some level of work into that consolidate all their work and put it in the hands of the January 6 Select Committee.

Of course, the House not in session right now, a lot of this work being done by staff and behind the scenes. As I mentioned, they have yet to say when that next public hearing will take place.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office says he will cooperate with the impeachment investigation against him. Cuomo is accused of sexually harassing 11 women and creating a, quote, hostile work environment for women. New York's Attorney General released a report with the allegations earlier this week. Now State lawmakers are investigating and offering Cuomo a chance to respond.

An attorney for Cuomo says the Attorney General's investigators acts as, quote, prosecutor, judge and jury. She says that Cuomo, quote, appreciates the opportunity to provide a submission to the New York State Assembly and that the report omits documents, emails and testimony that contradicts its narrative. The Attorney General's office says it stands by their report saying it speaks for itself.


Ebrahim Raisi has been sworn in as Iran's new president cementing the Islamic Republic's hardline leadership. The inauguration of the ultraconservative former Chief Justice comes at a crucial time for the nation. Iran is in the middle of the negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal as its economy suffers under U.S. sanctions. Raisi on Thursday called for lifting those sanctions and said he'll support diplomatic efforts to make that happen. But as CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains from Tehran, Raisi also wants to try new approaches.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, certainly gave a very confident and a very bold speech during his inauguration here in Tehran. And there were several factors to that.

One of them certainly was Iran's economy where it does seem as though Iran could be embarking in a new direction than the one we saw from the Hassan Rouhani administration, which will rely less on trying to mend ties with Western nations, European nations, and the United States, and less on trying to make sanction relief happen, and more on trade here in the region.

Raisi kept talking about trying to establish better ties with countries in the region, specifically Iran's neighbors, but also countries in Africa, for instance, as well.

Now, Raisi did say that there is going to continue to be a very bold foreign policy on the part of Iran, and he says he believes that is a good thing for the region.

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: The Islamic Republic's power in the region creates security. Our regional capabilities support stability and peace in various nations. And it will only be used to fight hegemonic powers. The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic is completely peaceful.

PLEITGEN: Of course, despite all of the sanctions relief, it is something that is still very important to the Iranian and certainly something that would be quite necessary to jump-start the economy.

One of the things that Raisi also said is that he would support negotiations to try and get rid of those sanctions. And, of course, one of the things that that seems to indicate is that the Iranians and this new administration is going to support negotiations to try and jump-start the Iran nuclear agreement.

So far, it seems as though those negotiations are at an impasse. The Iranians say they want to revive the deal, they want to bring the U.S. back, and they certainly want to come into compliance again. But Raisi has also said he doesn't want to do that at any cost.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. is urging Tigrayan forces to protect Ethiopia's extraordinary town of Lalibela after eyewitnesses say fighters captured the Enesco World heritage site. Lalibela is a holy site for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and is home to almost a dozen medieval churches. CNN's Larry Madowo is following the story for us from Nairobi. Larry, obviously we don't lose focus on the human costs of this conflict, but in Lalibela there are other concerns as well. So, explain why that town is so important from a historical and religious point of view.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lalibela in the north of Ethiopia in the Amhara Region, is home to 11 medieval monolith churches that were carved from rock, and an important cultural and religious location Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and many people make pilgrimages to this part of Ethiopia. Even though, obviously, traffic has stopped because of the pandemic.

But this speaks to the worried development in the north of the country where the conflict in Tigray has been running since November. And now the Tigrayan forces have crossed beyond the regular territory into this neighboring region of Amhara and people are reported to be fleeing. Eyewitnesses reported seeing and hearing Tigrayan -- Tigrinya the language of the Tigrayan region being spoken in Lalibela. And now this warning from a lot of people internationally concerned about the danger to this important cultural monument. This is a spokesman from the U.S. State Department.


NED PRICE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We've seen the reports that Tigrayan forces have taken Lalibela. We call on the TPLF to protect this cultural heritage. We also call on parties to the conflict to end the violence.


MADOWO (on camera): The only reason we're talking about Lalibela is because of this war that's been going on in Tigray where more than 2 million people are already displaced, thousands of people have died within this battle of the Tigrayan forces who were in charge of the people for 27 years and the Ethiopian federal government, there have been Eritrean forces reported in that region as well, as well as some armed groups from the neighboring regions and now this latest development.


We have reached out to the Ethiopian government and are waiting to hear a response. It's difficult to confirm, Kim, what's happening, because communications appear to be down, it is difficult to access this area, which is something we saw in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, seems to be replaying itself now in Lalibela.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Larry Madowo in Nairobi.

Still ahead, Messi on the move. The Argentine football legend is leaving Barcelona, allegedly, what the Catalan club says is behind the decision.

And you could almost call the Tokyo games the women's Olympics at least as far as Team USA is concerned. A break down of the medals these elite athletes have won four their nation, ahead. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi is parting ways with Barcelona. The Spanish although both sides reached an agreement to renew his contract, financial and structural obstacles got in the way. CNN's World Sport anchor Patrick Snell is here with more. So, Patrick, supporters of every soccer club on the planet are now busy Photoshopping pictures of Lionel Messi in their club's kit now that he's apparently up for grabs. There must be more to this than meets the eye.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, and a lot of it is playing out in the world of high finance, Kim. This is a situation that we can't really think was coming. It appeared earlier in the summer. Messi had struck a new five-year deal with the Catalan giants. It's one we are watching very, very carefully indeed this day. I can tell you in fact in around 15, 16 minutes from right now, we are expecting to be hearing from the club president of Barcelona, Joan Laporta, who has a press conference scheduled. So, we should learn a whole lot more on this evolving situation once that gets underway.

Now, back story to all of this really, the Catalans revealing on Thursday that the 34-year-old who is currently a free agent remember, well, he will be leaving. As of right now, this despite both parties having reached agreement on a new contract -- that one I referenced -- this due to financial and structural obstacles per the club. Those words are key to all of this.


The South American widely regarded -- just for context here, Kim, no question about this -- one of the sport's all-time greats. He has, as I said, seemly agreed to that deal on reduced wages earlier in the summer, but under La Liga financial fair play rules the club also basically knowing it had to do its part, had to restructure financially. So, there will be huge scrutiny on all of that.

Messi the club's all-team leading scorer, and indeed appearance maker, has amassed a huge tally of goals for the club, best part of 700 in total, 672 to be precise. And a glittering trophy cabinet he has. 10 La Liga crowns, four Champions League titles as well. He's one the prestigious Ballon d'Or six times, need I go on. It's pretty obvious -- and that is more than any other player in history.

Let's break down a little more closely the statement we got from Barcelona on Thursday. This is part of it.

As a result of the situation, Messi shall not be staying on at the FC Barcelona, both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled. FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club. And wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.

So, if he is indeed leaving -- and do I use the word if, because as I say fast evolving -- what might be next for Messi. Could his next destination maybe be the French capital? You can never discount free spending Paris Saint-Germain. Messi has long since been linked with move with the to the park in France. Their coach by his compatriot Mauricio Pochettino as well. Or how about English Premier League Champs Man City or maybe a possible reunion with his former head coach at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. But remember, City has just spent a whopping amount of money on their own, and the British record $141 million was spent on Jack Grealish.

And another option perhaps -- this is the romantic one, Kim -- possibly a return to his childhood club in Argentina back where it all began for him at Newell's Old Boys. Or as I said at the top, maybe he'll just stay put after all him at Barcelona.

It's a fascinating situation and it is one that, you know, we have not heard the last on this I can tell you. And we should learn more as I say in about 13, 14 minutes from right now once that presser gets going. We'll keep you posted of course right here on CNN.

BRUNHUBER: Messi to Arsenal, that's all I heard from what you said.

SNELL: You know, it's funny, in earlier hours our colleague and friend Michael Holmes was saying Messi to Tottenham. So, I don't know.

BRUNHUBER: Not going to happen. Patrick Snell, thanks so much, appreciate it.

U.S. woman athletes are taking the Olympics by storm and they won medal after medal, many of them gold. Earlier the U.S. beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman minted another top prize for their team by defeating the Australian team who won silver. CNN's Selina Wang has more.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Women are leading the way for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. Nevin Harrison, bringing home the first gold medal in Olympic history, in the women's 200-meter canoe sprint. Swimming star, Katie Ledecky, earning two of them this year, including a historic victory in the Inaugural 1500- meter freestyle race.

KATIE LEDECKY, U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMER: It is an amazing feeling to be bringing home two golds and two silvers here. And to have competed in my third Olympics. It's something that I never would have imagined.

WANG (voice-over): The women of U.S. swimming standing on the podium for a total of 18 medals, including Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old Alaskan becoming an unexpected champion in the 100-meter breaststroke. And in track and field, Sydney McLaughlin, breaking her own world record, speeding into first place in the 400-meter hurdles, just ahead of teammate Dalilah Muhammad.

SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN, U.S. OLYMPIC 400M HURDLES GOLD MEDALIST: I just want to set a good example and be the best that I can be and encourage people as well to be the best that they can be.

WANG (voice-over): Valarie Allman, winning the gold in women's discus with a throw of 68.98 meters. And at 19-years-old, Athing Mu is now the second youngest Olympic 800-meter champion. Women have earned 11 event medals for Team USA in track and field in the game so far. Tamyra Mensah-Stock, becoming the first black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold. Team USA's women 3-on-3 basketball team earning the top spot in the inaugural tournament at the games. And in surfing, Carissa Moore, riding the waves to become the first Olympic surfing champion.

CARISSA MOORE, U.S. OLYMPIC SURFING GOLD MEDALIST: It means so much, especially coming from Hawaii, surfing is our sport. And it means a lot to bring it home. Not only for Hawaii, but the United States of America, to serve for something bigger than myself.

WANG (voice-over): Women's gymnastics, winning six medals in the games, including a team silver. Suni Lee is taking back a full set before she starts college this fall with a gold in the individual all- around competition.


SUNISA LEE, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST HOLDS 4 MEDALS: This medal definitely means a lot to me because there is a point in time where I wanted to quit, and I just didn't think I'd ever get here, including injuries and stuff. So, there are definitely a lot of emotions.

WANG (voice-over): Simone Biles, withdrawing from the women's team final and four individual events, due to mental health concerns and a bad case of the "twisties." The star gymnast returning to compete in the balance beam and ultimately walking away with the bronze medal.

SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I'm pretty happy. I wasn't expecting this medal. I just came out here and just try to do a good beam set. Just to have one more opportunity to compete at the Olympics meant the world to me.

WANG (voice-over): Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


All right we'll be right back, stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Spirit Airlines is dealing with thousands of frustrated customers after it canceled hundreds of flights over the past few days. According to the flight tracking website Flight Aware, it has already canceled more than 250 flights for Friday. CNN's Pete Muntean filed this report.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Canceled flights and hours long lines at airports across the country after Spirit Airlines axed more than 45 percent of it schedule today including more than two dozen flights here at Baltimore/Washington International Airport alone.


WAGAR AHMED, TRAVELER: Very angry and pissed. It's worst airline that I ever saw in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to get to my destination and never have to deal with Spirit Airlines again.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Spirit says overlapping operational challenges began over the weekend attributing the problem to bad weather and staffing shortages. The airline acknowledged the breakdown on Tuesday of an IT system that controls crew scheduling. But now it insists it rebooted its network and says cancellation numbers will progressively drop in the days to come.

SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: We had people who were stranded in hotels, they were being evicted from hotel rooms.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Now with more than 400 new cancellations today spirit has canceled more than 1600 flights since Saturday. Kevin Robinson's flight to Austin got canceled twice.

MUNTEAN: Have you ever had an airline experience this bad before?

KEVIN ROBINSON, TRAVELER: No, this is actually the first time in all of my years, that I've encountered something like this.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Also stranded is 8-year-old junior Olympian Damario Mitchell. He has plans to run the 4x100 relay in under a minute. Now they are trying to race him to Texas any way they can.

DEVONA MITCHELL, TRAVELER: Sad, frustrated and I'm really sad for him at this point.

MUNTEAN: A top industry analyst tells me, while this could hurt Spirit's reputation in the short-term, in the long-term it really will not have much of a business impact. He says eventually people will forget all of this if the ticket price is right.

Pete Muntean, CNN, BWI Airport.


BRUNHUBER: Well, that wraps this hour of CNN newsroom. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START" is next.