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Father Of Seven Records Heartbreaking Video For His Children Before Dying Of COVID-19; CNN Analysis: U.S. Could Reach Herd Immunity By Late Summer Through Vaccinations Alone; CDC Director: Guidance For Fully Vaccinated People Is Complex, Will Be Released Soon; Texas Democratic Representative Warns Biden About Immigration Consequences; House Passes Bill To Counter GOP Voting Restriction Efforts; Biden Pushes Schools To Reopen As White House Prioritizes Teachers For Vaccines; Royal Rift Deepens. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 6, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Charles Torres was a volunteer firefighter in his home town in Texas. He was also a - specialist. His father said Charlie's death was like losing your shadow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter where you go, you had him backing you up all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God's going to give - he's given him a little rest right now, but he has something mighty for him to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, two weeks before he passed, Taurus left a goodbye message to his three children, four stepchildren and his wife, Ana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. I love you so much with your mother. I love you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: It's important to remember how much COVID is still impacting families. Charlie Torres was only 35 years old and our condolences to his family. The next hour of CNN Newsroom starts now.
A new round of stimulus payments a step closer to reaching millions of Americans how long it will take before your family sees a check? Plus widespread vaccinations are ramping up nearly 3 million just today. The president says there should be enough vaccine for everyone who wants a shot by the end of May.
And open and candid Prince Harry and Meghan Markel gets set to open up to the world is a royal rift about to get bigger. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in the CNN Newsroom on this Saturday evening.
And for millions of American families this evening, it is no longer if but when they will receive their next pandemic stimulus checks? CNS's Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill. So Jessica, tell us what is the timeline? If everything goes smoothly from here, when will American families and businesses start to see these payments?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the short answer Pam is if everything goes as planned, which is looking like it will, that it could be as early as this month. That's what President Biden pledged earlier today. So what happens next?
Well, this bill is going to go back to the House. They're going to vote on the changes that were made to it. That's happening Tuesday. And then it's going to go to President Biden's desk where he will sign it into law. And quickly after that they will start to get payments directly to Americans.
There's a lot more in this bill, as well that I want to walk you through; it's a $1.9 trillion bill. It touches a lot of the American economy. We talked about the $1400 direct payments. If you're a family, a family that makes $150,000 a year or less, you'll be getting that full amount for each person in your family.
If you're a single person that makes $75,000 or less, you will get that payment that full payment for each person in your family. It phases out at $160,000 for a couple filing jointly and $80,000 for an individual a lot of numbers here. But these are important numbers to a lot of Americans.
It also includes money for unemployment benefits $300 a week that will extend into September. There's also a child tax credit in here. It is $3600 for a child under the age of six years old $3,000 for a child over the age of six to 18. And what's different about this is that families can elect to get that in a monthly payment spread out over the year.
There's also a lot of money in here for small businesses. Here's what President Biden said about the Senate passing this bill a little bit earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the American people so desperately need to help many of who are lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering will I lose my job if I haven't already. Well, I lose my insurance? Will I lose my home?
DEAN: Now Pam, there's also money in here a lot of money for vaccinations vaccine distribution as well as increasing healthcare coverage for uninsured people bumping up Medicaid for people and states that haven't expanded it in a lot of ways as well as money that goes directly to state and local governments. Pam.
BROWN: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you so much. And Jessica just mentioned there was more money in this bill coming for vaccinations because the race to vaccinate America is picking up steam more than 2 million shots have been given each day for the past week.
And new CNN analysis of federal data finds that the U.S. could reach herd immunity by late summer through vaccinations alone. CNN's Paul Vercammen is at an unexpected inoculation location. Paul, tell me more about this intersection of vaccines and theme parks.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Pam. I'm at Six Flags Magic Mountain right now this is a vaccine supersite 2300 people were go through here today and get the vaccination.
And because things are moving so well in California it's anticipated that here in Los Angeles County, they will get into the second most restrictive tier, the red tier, but that will allow them to read open this theme park at Magic Mountain look right over here.
VERCAMMEN: Here is just one of the many roller coasters 19 at this park and as we talk to people who are getting back today, we are now seeing those being vaccinated skew much younger, mainly teachers. And we talked about the possibility of theme parks opening baseball stadiums opening at restricted levels, even outdoor concerts. They have the sense of optimism.
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VERCAMMEN (on camera): But it feels like there's a little bit of optimism here?
ARIANA STEVENSON, TEACHER: Yes, that yes. There is the light at the end of the tunnel.
THEO NICHOLAS, TEACHER: I still think that people need to be really safe. And I think it's like, a little bit soon. I feel like I'm worried about that. But I don't know if it's OK with the CDC.
VERCAMMEN (voice over): A lot still needs to be worked out. Officials seem to think that they can coexist here. If Magic Mountain does open on April 1st, it will only be at about a 15 percent capacity. But we might have a combination roller coaster ride and theme park vaccination site Pam back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That's one way to sum it up. All right, Paul thanks so much for the latest there are from Los Angeles. And yes, there is so much promising news about COVID vaccines, there are more of them available and more Americans willing to get them that is good news.
But COVID variants are still a real wild card right now especially the variant first identified in Brazil which has now been detected in at least six U.S. states. Not only is it more contagious, it has apparently been able to re infect people who have recovered from other strains of the virus. The Governor of Sao Paolo says that his region is on the brink of
collapse as the variant threatens to overwhelm the health system. Joining me now is Dr. Leana Wen she is the Former Baltimore Health Commissioner and a CNN Medical Analyst great to have you on Dr. Wen.
First off, how concerned are you that current vaccines won't prove as effective against some of these new Coronavirus strains like the Brazil and UK variants and make it harder to achieve herd immunity?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Pamela, it's certainly a possibility. But I would say that overall, I'm very optimistic. And that's because the variants of greatest concern right now to us Americans is the B-117 variants. The variant first identified in the UK, and that variant is spreading very rapidly here.
I mean, it is doubling in every 10 days, it's spreading exponentially. That's not good. However, this variant is one for which the vaccines that we have seem to be extremely effective against. There are these other variants, the variants coming from South Africa and Brazil, the B-1351 and P-1 respectively.
And they are a bit more concerning the vaccines that we have may work less well against them, but they still will work very well. And I think it's important for us to keep that in mind that still vaccination, getting as many people vaccinated as possible and continuing to wear masks in the meantime, is going to be our way out of this.
BROWN: And not to sort of try to get one vaccine over another right, you would recommend get whatever vaccine is available to you no matter what.
DR. WEN: That's exactly right. These vaccines were not studied head to head. So there's no way for anyone to say this one vaccine is better than another vaccine. I could see people saying I would rather have the one dose vaccine for Johnson & Johnson, which I'm a participant in that clinical trial. I could see people saying that because it's out of convenience.
But there's no way to compare these vaccines head-to-head and I think people should say should look at them and say it's basically a life jacket that's offered to me. I'm not going to turn it down because I don't like the color.
BROWN: That's a good way to put it. So there are nearly 30 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That is about 1 in 12 people right now. And yet there's still this question, what do you do when you're fully vaccinated? What can you do?
There has been no guidance from the CDC about what these people can and cannot do. It was supposed to be released this week. But the CDC Director said it is complex and it will be released soon.
You wrote this, and a "Washington Post" op-ed, "Public health officials have chosen caution over celebration. If this doesn't change, Americans could be dissuaded from being vaccinated, and our country might never achieve the goal of herd immunity".
So you worry that the longer people go without this guidance, they're just going to take matters into their own hands about what they should or should not be able to do, right?
DR. WEN: That's right, people are already taking matters into their own hands and people, some people are making decisions that aren't always the most sound thinking they can just throw away the mask as soon as they're vaccinated.
And on the other hand, I think there are also a lot of people out there who are wondering, what's the point of getting vaccinated? Yes, it may protect me. But if I can't go back to doing anything that I want to do, what's the point?
And there is enough evidence at this point for the CDC to be saying, here are the things that you can do safely. And I actually think that there is a real potentially missed opportunity if the CDC doesn't come out and specifically tie vaccination with policy recommendations. There are states that are already open up.
DR. WEN: They are already allowing full capacity to come back. Imagine that the CDC said you can have 100 percent capacity for vaccinated people but only 25 percent capacity if you're not checking vaccination status or saying vaccinated people can travel, and they don't need to be tested or to quarantine but if you're not vaccinated, that you do have to quarantine and get tested.
That's the opportunity to encourage people to get vaccinated and to really illustrate to us the freedom that you get from vaccination.
BROWN: Really quickly, before we let you go, I want to ask you a question that someone had actually tweeted to me, and I thought it was a really good question. When it comes to these different vaccines and the efficacy, there's been a lot of talk about the Johnson & Johnson one overall, globally, having a 66 percent efficacy against moderate disease, and mild.
So what does that mean, though, in practical terms? I mean, does that mean that potentially you could have more symptoms. You could not feel more flu? Like if you do get COVID? What does that actually mean?
DR. WEN: Yes, I think the important endpoint that we should talk about is the endpoint of severe disease that results in hospitalizations or deaths. And in that regard to Johnson & Johnson, just like Pfizer and Moderna, prevent 100 percent, of hospitalizations and deaths.
So maybe you get mild illness, maybe you get the sniffles, a cough, sore throat, fever, but the key is that you're not going to get so sick that you're hospitalized or die. I mean, that is ultimately what we care about and why I would highly recommend for everyone to get whatever vaccine is first available to them.
Recognizing that you can still get a booster shot, you can still get other vaccines in time to come before now get the immune protection to protect yourself and others.
BROWN: That's an important point. Get what you can now and you can get something else later, but just get what you can now. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much for coming on the show and sharing your expertise with us.
DR. WEN: Thank you, Pamela.
BROWN: And coming up next hour incredible unseen footage we speak with the Director of Apollo 11 quarantine about the extraordinary measures, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins endured when they returned from the moon.
And coming up this hour Frank Mink was an infamous skinhead Neo-Nazi Recruiter, and then he went to prison and was forced to reckon with his racism. We're going to talk to him about domestic terrorism and how to break this cycle of hate?
Also ahead tonight, Meghan and Harry reveal all about the rupture in the British royal family. But first House Democrats from Texas Henry Cuellar says the Biden Administration is making a mistake by easing up on immigration. I'm going to talk to him about this reality of the crisis at the border and the pressure it's putting on his humanity. We'll be back.
BROWN: Under the Biden Administration, Central American migrants appear much more hopeful of gaining entry to the United States. As a result they are flowing to the southern border and ever greater numbers especially unaccompanied minor children.
CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now from Brownsville, Texas and Polo, the Biden Administration has told border facilities, they can open back up to pre COVID levels. What kind of numbers are we talking about?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Their numbers that are only expected to grow? Pamela, what you touched on there is also key here is a 22 year old mother from Honduras, who was traveling with a three year old little girl told me the fact that they are - at least they are there is an expectation among many people who have crossed into the United States recently that they perhaps have a better shot at actually staying in the United States under Biden Administration,
They said certainly is not the only factor. But of course, at least one factor. And then back to the issue of unaccompanied minors, as you say, as you point out that those numbers are in fact, on the rise here.
In fact, the Biden Administration saying that these, "Extraordinary circumstances are going to lead to many of these facilities that have been caring for these unaccompanied children that we've seen in the past these waves that we've seen in the past, that they can now potentially operate a pre pandemic levels". To offer some perspective let me show you some of these numbers provided from HHS now suggesting they're roughly, roughly $7700 unaccompanied minors in the government's care there. They do have pre pandemic ability to house at least just over 13,000.
And so that's certainly a reality here as White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said earlier this week. They are preparing for even greater numbers. And then finally Pam, the other thing that people are talking about here along the board, at least here in Brownsville, is this idea that some of these migrants may have still the ability to actually travel to the United States after testing positive for the Coronavirus.
Though, according to local officials here, it's a very small percentage, that Honduran mother that I talked to earlier, she actually showed me the paperwork that she had in hand, showing that she had tested negative for the Coronavirus.
So consequently, right now she's on a plane and headed to San Francisco where she will continue with her proceedings. And then finally, the other groups of migrants that we've also seen across recently are those migrants that essentially had to wait out their asylum claims right across the bridge here in tech - in small encampments here actually large encampments.
Those migrants forced to wait there under then President Trump Administration's migrant protection protocols. And now recently under the Biden Administration, they're being processed however, they are the ones that have to test negative in Mexico before they even set foot on the U.S. side. Pamela?
BROWN: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for bringing us the latest there. And President Biden has been warned against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants. That message is not from a Republican or critic, but a House Democrat.
Congressman Henry Cuellar represents a border district in Texas. He told AXIOS, you can't just say let everybody in because then we're affected down here at the border that Congressman joins me now. Thank you so much for coming on Congressman Cuellar. So what are the real life consequences of this immigration surge that you're facing in your border community as it relates to the pandemic?
REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): Well, right now we're looking at numbers that are going to - what happened in 2014 and 2019. So for us down here in the border, we've seen this before, but what makes it more challenging?
CUELLAR: Of course, Pamela, it's the pandemic, because border patrol, as Polo just said a while ago, they're working under 25 percent capacities. So they don't have the space. And that's why they're talking about these rapid processing centers to move people.
But what's ironic about that, as you move people faster that provide an incentive to keep the pipeline if I can use that term, people from Central America to continue coming because you're moving them faster. And therefore, you're providing an incentive as you try to move them quicker.
BROWN: And we're already seeing some of the numbers exceed what we saw in 2019, with these unaccompanied children that are coming across. The Biden Administration has been reluctant to call this situation unfolding on the border, a crisis instead referring to it as a challenge. Do you believe it is a crisis?
CUELLAR: Look, they can call it a challenge. Other people can call it a crisis. Let me look at the reality. Last in January, we had 78,000 people that were stopped at the border. In February, I think you're going to see numbers close to 100,000 individuals.
And keep in mind that March, April, May and June are the peak time so we haven't even hit the peak numbers right now. And what's happening is that border patrol does not COVID test any of them. The ones who are tested is like Polo said if it's the MPP on the Mexican side, but the ones who are coming in, they're not tested by border patrol they might be tested by some of the NGOs.
So if they get on a bus, they can travel anywhere with the permission of the notice to appear like the person that mentioned San Francisco. And this is why Greyhound and other folks are saying, hey, hold on, you're letting people in into our buses without having them COVID tested?
BROWN: What's interesting, because the Governor of Texas is not taking the money for more testing for these undocumented immigrants? DHS has been given additional funds to do this testing. What do you think about that?
CUELLAR: Well, you know, the Governor is going to oppose anything that a Democrat does, I mean, without due respect to the Governor. But I call the White House, look, I've been offered my help to the White House, you know, so many to come down, as you know, they were down here at the border.
This time, I told the White House, there's another mechanism that I set up a couple of years ago that bypass the Governor. And actually I set up that mechanism to bypass Abbot and Governor Perry on some money to provide humanitarian care to the communities because right now, the ones who are carrying the burden is not the federal government.
It is the local communities. And what I've asked the Biden Administration, which I'm a big supporter, listen, you can listen to immigration activists, but you're living - you're leaving something else out, you're not paying attention to the communities.
Because Pamela, let me give you this picture, why there's a little bit of resentment growing up here at the border. People here that live here are seeing people that are undocumented, not being tested and released in our communities, but then the legal visa holders, the Mexicans that come over before the pandemic that we're spending over $19 billion at our stores and restaurants. Those folks are not coming in. So you're not letting the legal people
come in. But the undocumented people coming in and hurting our economy.
BROWN: So what is your - I mean, there's always then you go back to the question, this has been a question that's plagued presidents for so many years. What would you do if you're in President Biden shoes?
We know one thing he did was reverse the policy he changed the policy for allowing undocumented children to stay in the U.S. and not expel them under the public health exception. Should he change - should do you think the Biden Administration should do what the Trump Administration did and expel those undocumented - those unaccompanied children?
What else should they do? And do you feel like these undocumented immigrants are basically given the green light now under the Biden Administration to come across the border?
CUELLAR: Well, keep in mind, even though Republicans are saying that the Biden Administration has rejected the policies of the Trump Administration, they haven't done that yet. Title 42 is used for adults and for family units - for family unit, but it's - let's say age 13 and above. If they're tender age, of course, they will come in or if they're unaccompanied kids, they will come in.
So they still haven't gotten rid of that policy. They put a pause on the MPP and I think they need to look at the policy of MPP but doing a more humane way then what Trump did. What Trump did he perverse policies have been in the books for many years and we can't do that?
We got to find a humane way of doing it. But the bottom line is this if we do everything on the U.S. border, what I call the one-yard line. We're going to continue getting this numbers because what controls people from coming in are the criminal organizations.
CUELLAR: They're the ones that look for its impacts and individuals that come into the United States. Yes, they are problems in Central America. I understand that. But it is criminal organizations that either bring drugs or bring people in, they make money one way or the other. Pamela.
BROWN: OK, very quickly. Do you think undocumented immigrants should get vaccinated? That is something that Dr. Fauci said he supports?
CUELLAR: Well, again, without due respect, I want people in the United States to get vaccinated in my district. This is why there's a low risk--
BROWN: So then do you want undocumented - I just want to be clear, so do you think undocumented immigrants should get vaccinated as Dr. Fauci has said he supports?
CUELLAR: I want my residents to get their vaccines first. BROWN: So you want all - you want American citizens to get it first, before any undocumented immigrant gets one correct?
CUELLAR: That is correct.
BROWN: OK. Congressman Henry Cuellar, thank you - Henry, rather, Cuellar, thank you so much for coming on. We hope we can have you back on the show. It's important to carry on this very important conversation what's going on at the border? It's not going to get any better at this point. Thank you so much.
CUELLAR: Thank you so much. Bye, bye.
BROWN: Well, up next state Republicans are now using a big lie to restrict access to the ballot. I'll speak to Democratic Election Lawyer Mark Elias who has fought dozens of cases involving voting rights we'll be back.
BROWN: Well, there is a massive battle underway over the very core of American democracy, the right to vote.
This week, the House passed a sweeping bill that among other things, aims to counter an unprecedented effort by State Republicans across the country to make it harder to vote.
The G.O.P. effort is contingent on the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and the vote count was not legitimate. Again, that was a lie.
The former President spent the past week propagating that big lie yet again and his former Vice President penned an op-ed echoing it by focusing on election rules, even though that big lie put Mike Pence in the crosshairs of domestic extremists on January 6th.
The lie is part of the Republican Party platform now and it is being weaponized to push through laws that will make it harder to vote plain and simple.
As of February 19th, more than 250 bills in 43 states were proposed aiming to restrict ballot access.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice -- that's a lovely name, Brennan Center for Justice -- that is more than seven times the number of similar bills at that point last year. For the record in Georgia, one measure would trim weekend early voting days. It just so happens a large number of black Georgia voters traditionally cast ballots after Sunday Church Service, a well-known effort called Souls to the Polls.
CNN found that in 2020, black Georgia voters made up more than a third of the votes cast on the weekend days this law would eliminate. That's 48,000 votes much larger than Biden's victory there.
And in Iowa, a wide-ranging new law awaiting the Governor's signature would restrict absentee voting and cut Election Day voting by one hour. Iowa State House Minority Whip was incredulous saying, "What I don't see, what I can't understand is how it is possible to look at the facts of this election and say, okay, everything went great. What's the answer here? Let's make it harder to vote."
The 2020 election saw the highest voter turnout in a century. For the record, it was also the most secure election in U.S. history and it had minimal cases of voter fraud. That is, according to Trump's former Homeland Security officials, his former Attorney General and his F.B.I. Director who is still in that role and confirmed the facts this week in front of the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, F.B.I. DIRECTOR: We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud much less that would have affected the outcome in the presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Multiple audits and hand recounts in states like Georgia and Arizona came to that same conclusion as did investigations by outlets ranging from "The Washington Post" to the conservative Heritage Foundation. The facts are clear, last year, more Americans voted than ever before with less malfeasance than ever before.
That is something that we should be celebrating. The system worked, not saying the system is perfect, but the system worked.
So why are Republicans pushing and rushing to enact laws making it harder to vote under the guise of election integrity?
This week, the Supreme Court heard a challenge from Arizona Republicans about the Voting Rights Act. Maybe this argument from the G.O.P. lawyer will shed some light on what's behind this whole effort.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AMY CONEY BARRETT, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: What's the interest of the Arizona R.N.C. here in keeping say the out of precinct voter ballot disqualification rules on the books?
MICHAEL CARVIN, ATTORNEY: Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero sum game.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Politics is a zero sum game. We want to note that we reached out to some state Republican lawmakers including two in Georgia to defend these measures and we wanted them to come on the show. I wanted to discuss it with them. They did not respond to our request. We will keep asking though.
Meantime, Marc Elias joins me now. He is a Democratic election lawyer who has worked for the D.N.C. on dozens of cases fighting efforts to block the counting of voting and switching of Electoral College votes. Marc, nice to see you.
MARC ELIAS, DEMOCRATIC ELECTION LAWYER: Great to see you. Thank you for having me.
BROWN: So right off the bat, how do you see the landscape right now with Republican legislators changing election laws?
ELIAS: So I think what we are experiencing now is nothing short of a tidal wave of voter suppression laws moving through our nation's state legislatures, and there are two reasons for that.
First, because as you heard the Republican lawyer say they see voting as a zero sum game, and so they're trying to gain a partisan advantage.
The second though, is that they are trying to show fealty to the big lie. They're trying to show that they are supportive of the misinformation and disinformation that Donald Trump and the Republican Party spread about the outcome of the 2020 election.
BROWN: So you are obviously on the forefront of all this litigation. There was something like more than 250 lawsuits before the election, more than 60 after the election.
On the zero sum game aspect, though, as someone who has been on the front lines, is that how you see it, too? Is this just politics?
I mean, using laws, using the legal system to get what you want for your side?
ELIAS: I don't see that with respect to voting now. First of all, some of the measures that they are instituting don't even seem to have a natural partisan advantage or disadvantage. You know, vote by mail is not historically something that benefits Democrats or Republicans. It just benefits voters.
And so some of what we've seen has been an ideological effort to restrict voting by Republicans. But beyond that, you know, even when you are in the arena of election disputes or elections, you know, there's a fundamental bedrock of democracy that participation is important, and everyone should be able to vote and have their vote counted. And it's shameful what we see the Republicans doing now to undermine that basic tenet of democracy.
BROWN: So then why do you think that they are wanting to enact new laws that could hurt them in the end with mail-in ballots by closing polling, like in Iowa, closing a polling place an hour earlier? I mean, we know that most Republicans would rather vote on Election Day. Why do you think they're doing that?
ELIAS: Because the Republican Party has become the party of disenfranchisement. It is now a central article of faith within the Republican Party that Donald Trump was cheated out of the 2020 election. That is the big lie. That is the big lie that led to a cavalcade of frivolous lawsuits. That is the big lie that tragically led to a loss of life when the Capitol was ransacked.
And that same big lie is now requiring state legislators, many of whom know better, to nevertheless restrict voting rights simply for the sake of restricting voting rights. You know, you point to Iowa.
BROWN: You don't buy the election security -- their election security argument. They say, this is about boosting confidence in the election. You don't buy that?
ELIAS: Yes, I think that's nonsense for two reasons. First of all, to think that there's any lack of confidence in the elections, it's because they caused it. So they are the arsonist who lit the fire, who is now saying, we need to stop doing things that could lead to fires.
But second, how does shortening polling hours on Election Day boost election security? How does making people in the middle of a pandemic wait in line for hours to vote because you've cut back early voting periods? How does that boost election security?
These are not election security measures, these are voter suppression measures.
BROWN: Yes, I mean, in Georgia, there was one effort in the law to not hand out food and drinks to people waiting in line. It certainly raises questions and also clamping down on Sunday voting.
But here's the reality. There are 30 Republican held legislatures across the country. They can change the laws. Of course, it depends if the Governor is democratic or not, he would ultimately have to sign that bill. But in terms of Democratic efforts to combat these new laws, you are the tip of the spear.
If the H.R. 1 bill doesn't pass the Senate, what is the next step fighting voter suppression? How do you see it playing out? How do you see the next couple of years playing out for you?
ELIAS: Look, fundamentally, in this country, we hope that the political branches, the legislatures, the governors and Congress can make lives of Americans better. But in the end, if Congress or the State Legislature of Georgia or Kentucky or Iowa fails to do its job, and instead restricts the fundamental right to vote, it is the job of the courts to step in and protect those fundamental rights.
And I have not been shy about bringing litigation before and I wouldn't anticipate being shy about it in the future.
BROWN: So is it fair to say that if this passes for example, in Georgia, there will be litigation.
ELIAS: Yes. And look, there are lots of really important organizations that do this work in addition to myself. You know, you have organizations like the Advancement Project, like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, like the NAACP, that all do this kind of work.
But I can assure you that whether it's Georgia or it's Iowa, or it's Montana, or Missouri or Kentucky, where there are voter restriction laws, there will be litigation.
BROWN: And it's interesting, you mentioned Kentucky I know we have to go, but actually, the Governor and the A.G. there actually worked out a bipartisan compromise, which is interesting. We didn't have time to get to that, but Marc Elias, I hope you'll come back on to continue this important discussion.
ELIAS: Anytime. Thank you for having me.
BROWN: Thank you so much. Well, California's Governor Gavin Newsom is ready to jumpstart the state's economy, theme parks can now reopen as early as April 1st, and he is offering billions of dollars and incentives for schools to reopen by the end of the month, but not every teachers union is on board.
Coming up, I'll speak to Kisha Borden, the President of the San Diego Education Association.
BROWN: California Governor Gavin Newsom is forking over billions of incentives to encourage schools to reopen. But not everyone is sold.
Kisha Borden is the President of the San Diego Education Association. The San Diego School Board President said April 12th as a target date to reopen schools, Kisha, what do you think about that? Do you expect them to be opened by then?
KISHA BORDEN, PRESIDENT, SAN DIEGO EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Well, we came to an agreement several weeks ago, that we would be ready to reopen when we had low community case rates, plus the opportunity for all of our educators to receive the vaccine, and that there were on- site mitigations -- safety mitigations in place at all of our school sites.
So we came to an agreement with the district that once all of those criteria were in place that teachers would be ready to return to in- person teaching.
BROWN: So, do you think April 12th then is reasonable?
BORDEN: Well, looking at the number of educators who have received the vaccine so far, unfortunately, some of our teachers received the Moderna vaccine, so I believe many of our educators will have the opportunity to receive both doses, but perhaps not all.
BROWN: So let's talk about that, because the top health officials in this country say the science shows vaccinations are not a requirement for schools to reopen safely. Why do you continue to say it needs to happen even when the science shows otherwise?
BORDEN: Well, so President Biden yesterday directed all states and territories to prioritize educators for the vaccine. So if our president is saying vaccinating teachers should be a priority, then why wouldn't we do that?
And I've spoken -- I am a teacher myself --
BROWN: Well, there is a difference between priority and mandatory. There's a difference between saying teachers should be front of the line to get the vaccine, but it's very different from saying every teacher has to have full immunity before schools can even open.
And as you know, the C.D.C. has said, vaccinations and testing are a secondary layer.
BORDEN: When we look at all of those safety mitigations, sort of in the Swiss cheese model, where that every layer of protection is important in providing the protection that our educators and our school staff and our students need to be safe.
I've spoken with hundreds of teachers, our members, and they want those protections to be in place and available to protect themselves, and to protect their students.
The last thing I would want to do as a teacher is to pass this virus on to one of my students or that they carry it home to a parent or a grandparent.
BROWN: Of course, and that is true, and it's a complex issue, but we are seeing in other schools that have opened where teachers weren't fully vaccinated. We've actually seen success rates there. And I want to give you this opportunity because the teachers unions have been catching flack.
And I want to give you the opportunity to respond to some of these parents or critics who claim that teachers unions like yours are hijacking their kids' education and your requirements for reopening are overly stringent. What do you say to them?
BORDEN: You know, no one wants to be in the classroom more than teachers. Our educators want what's best for students, but they also want them to be safe.
And so we've been fortunate in San Diego Unified that our school district leadership has been on the same page as educators that we have to follow the science and work with epidemiologists and public health experts at the University of California, San Diego, who have really laid out guidelines that have said vaccines, on-site safety protocols and mitigations and lower community case rates in the community will lead to increasing in-person learning opportunities.
You know, there are other districts in San Diego who have opened up only to have to shut down within a few days or a few weeks and we want to make sure our students continue to have a stable and consistent educational program and not go through the yo-yo of opening and closing as we've seen these other districts have to do.
BROWN: Of course, you wouldn't want that. But the C.D.C. has said that that the science shows mitigation efforts aside from vaccines, if you follow those, you can reopen the schools safely, but it's really important, I'm glad that you came on the show, Kisha Borden to share the perspective from your union and from all the teachers.
Everyone wants schools to reopen for the teachers, for the kids, and everyone involved. Thank you so much.
BORDEN: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, the Royal rift deepens ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's bombshell interview. Why the Duchess of Sussex is speaking out after leaving the Royal Life in the rearview mirror.
BROWN: Well, it is Meghan and Harry's first interview together since they stepped back from their royal family duties, but there are calls now to postpone while Prince Philip remains in the hospital. Anna Stewart has more from London.
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, Pam, Prince Philip is still in hospital, but we've had some good news this week.
On Wednesday, His Royal Highness underwent a procedure for a preexisting heart condition. The Palace have said it was a success. He is expected though to stay in hospital for a few more days.
Lots of concern for Prince Philip. He is 99 years old. This has been a really long stint in the hospital, this evening is his 19th night.
Now let's hope he is not though reading newspapers as he recuperates because Royal news has absolutely dominated the headlines.
Allegations surfaced in "The Times" newspaper this week suggesting that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, bullied some of her employees while she was in the U.K. Now, the Palace has said they're going to investigate these allegations.
STEWART: A spokesperson for the couple though, have dismissed the story. They've said it's a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation, and they have called the claims defamatory.
We've had lots of trailers ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan's sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. That broadcasts Sunday. It is going to be two hours long, and we expect to hear some explosive insights into what it was like for them within the Royal Family and ultimately why they decided to step back and leave the U.K.
In one of the clips, Meghan says that the firm -- which is a term referring to the Royal Family -- played an active role in perpetuating falsehoods. Now when asked about that clip, Buckingham Palace said they had no
comment. Perhaps they're waiting to see the full interview and put that into context.
As are we all, Pam, we don't have long to wait.
BROWN: We certainly are.
Coming up in the next hour, never before seen footage from the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. We'll be back.