Friday
May 14 2021
11:09 PM
banner-icon1 banner-icon2 banner-icon3

Interviews and Transcripts

Prev story
Five People Pay the Price of Violence; Cabinet Members Resigned from Their Post; Lawmakers Calling on Trump to Step Down
by MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR
 Published on Saturday January 9, 2021 - 7:35 AM
POLITICS
* Transition to The Next President *
Next story
 
   Article source: Full story
CNN NEWSROOM

Five People Pay the Price of Violence; Cabinet Members Resigned from Their Post; Lawmakers Calling on Trump to Step Down; World Leaders Reacts in Awe and Dismay; New Confirmed Coronavirus In United States; Europe's Vaccine Rollout Off To A Slow Start; French Health Minister Vows To Speed Up Vaccine Rollout; Brazil Announces That SinoVac's Vaccine Is 78 Percent Effective; Syria's Shortages Of Oxygen, Water As COVID-19 Cases Spike; Mass Arrest In Hong Kong; South Korean Judge Saying Japan Must Pay Comfort Women; Facebook Bans Donald Trump; Radical Cleric Linked To Bali Bombings Released From Prison. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 8, 2021 - 03:00 ET

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

[03:00:00]

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Immediately. Plus, new fall from the massive security failure at the U.S. Capitol. All of this of course in the middle of a global pandemic that hasn't stopped there. A COVID record being set around the world.

Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company. This is CNN Newsroom.

A Capitol Hill police officer has become the 5th person to die as a result of Wednesday's deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol. Police say Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries he received while, quote, "physically engaging with protesters." A woman rioter was also fatally shot by police after U.S. President Donald Trump told his supporters to march to the capitol and show strength. Three other people died of medical conditions.

On Thursday, the president belatedly condemning the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem. Tempers must be cooled. And calm restored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (on camera): Numerous administration officials have now resigned, ostensibly in protest, including the transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, and education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Dozens of people are facing criminal charges for their alleged roles in the unrest. At least four of them appearing in federal court on Thursday on weapons and other charges. Now Donald Trump will only be U.S. President for 12 more days, but many U.S. officials and lawmakers are so rattled by the deadly breach on Capitol Hill that on Wednesday, they are questioning whether President Trump should be removed from office before January 20.

For that, here is CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This was the first time that we've seen the president come out on camera and say that there is going to be a peaceful transition of power when Joe Biden takes office, even if he didn't mention Joe Biden by name. This is the first time we've seen this kind of language from the president. It's basically a non-concession concession speech. Probably as good as we are going to get from Donald Trump.

But of course, it comes after he spent the day listening to these calls coming from Capitol Hill and not just from Democrats, for his removal from office in his waning days of his administration led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is calling on the vice president, Mike Pence, to invoke the 25th amendment, calling on the cabinet, singling out some of the cabinet secretaries by name.

Though we should note that we have spoken to the vice president's office. They have not responded to what the vice president plans to do. But an

administration official did say he has not discussed invoking the 25th amendment with any of the cabinet members.

However, those cabinet members are dwindling. We are now seeing at least two of them resign in wake of the president's response to that, and that is Elaine Chao, at the transportation secretary who of course is also married to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but also the education secretary, Betsy DeVos who submitted her resignation letter late last night and was talking about the accomplishments of the Trump administration.

But did say at one point that this is what we were to be talking about that, quote, "there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation and that it is the inflection point for me." Saying that was the final straw for here and that is what leading her to leave her job with just two weeks left in the Trump administration. And of course, the big question right now is whether or not they are going to be more of them.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

HOLMES: One of the nation's most prominent conservative voices wants President Trump to spare the country any attempts to force him from Washington. Instead the Wall Street Journal's editorial board is calling on him to resign.

In an editorial on Thursday, it said, Mr. Trump's actions are impeachable, but rather than face possible removal it brought, quote, "he has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose. It is best for everyone -- himself included -- if he goes away quietly."

Now there is also been a lot of talk about the 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Let's have a closer look at that. The 25th amendment was adopted after U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It is a system for replacing a president who is unable to perform his or her duties. It addresses physical incapacity but could apply if the president is deemed, quote, "unfit to lead."

Now to invoke it, the vice president and a majority of cabinet members must send Congress a declaration, stating that the president is unfit, after which the vice president becomes acting president.

[03:05:08]

Now if the president objects, says he's fine, well, Congress must vote on that declaration. If two-thirds of the House and the Senate agree with the declaration, the vice president assumes the role of president indefinitely.

Ron Brownstein joins me now from Los Angeles. He is a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic. Ron, where to begin? I mean so many people expressing, you know, shock that Wednesday could happen. But isn't that a bit naive? Hasn't this been coming in plain sight for a long time?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We are talking cloud rains and Casablanca levels of shock. I mean this was the inevitable terminus of the Trump presidency. I mean, he is inciting violence from the beginning. You know, in his rallies, you know, remember back in 2016 when he offered to pay the legal fees of people if people assaulted protesters?

But much more fundamentally, Michael, I mean, his basic argument from the beginning has been that I am the human wall between you and changes in America that will transform the country irrevocably. And that will push you aside. And will destroy the America that you have known.

He literally said on Monday night. you know, just before this when he went down to Georgia for his final rally, if these, if the two Democrats win, it will end America as we know it. So, if those are the stakes, in every election, there is it's almost inevitable that there would be a portion of his alienated base that would say, that requires resisting the change by any means necessary. And this was any means necessary.

HOLMES: And yes, exactly. I mean, there are some pretty senior people including Nancy Pelosi, are calling for Trump's removal from office -- 25th amendment or impeachment. I mean, but generally speaking, how likely are either of those things? And do you see it as necessary in light of what has happened just not just Wednesday, but throughout the presidency? And I guess, there is only 12 days there, but that could be a long time.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well let's go back a year. I mean, he openly extorted the government of Ukraine, using national security aid as a lever, to manufacture dirt on his opponent. If that was not an impeachable and removable offense, it's hard to know what is. And yet, every Republican except for Mitt Romney, in both chambers, decided it was not worthy of sanctions.

And Susan Collins famously said, I think the president has learned a big lesson from this. And indeed, as you can see in the past two months, he did learn a lesson. Which is that every time he breaks a window, Republicans in Congress will obediently sweep up the glass. So, he took the enact -- the earlier inaction as a license to go further in challenging American democracy with the results that, you know, -- again, the chairman that we saw yesterday.

I don't think the 25th amendment will be invoked. I don't think Republicans in the Senate will convict and remove him from office. But I do think it is possible the Democrats will impeach him again. Again, if this is not impeachable behavior, what is?

HOLMES: Where does this -- you and I have talked a lot about the Republican Party and Trump -- I mean where it does all of this leave the Republican Party? What happened Wednesday, but really the last four years? What damage has been done by centering a party around one man, and of course Trumpism doesn't end magically, January 20th?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. It's complicated. Because Trump has strengthened the Republican hold on non-urban, non-college, and Evangelical white America. He is enormously popular outside of the major metro areas. And you know, Republicans, he held in the states that he won, again in 2020, they beat back Democratic challengers for the Senate that were funded at historically unprecedented levels in places like Iowa and North Carolina and South Carolina and so on.

But the price of that was very visible, again, on display in Georgia this week. Which is that he has exiled the Republican Party from the fast growing and diverse metro areas. Now really everywhere in the country that are the engines of the 21st century economy. Republicans lost the majority in the Senate, because they lost to Georgia seats, and they lost two Georgia seats because of two reasons overwhelmingly and the large black turnout and a big movement away from Republicans in the suburbs of Atlanta that was once the foundation of their electoral strategy in the state.

It's that movement that makes the future post Trump, very complicated. Because those are the voters, previously Republican-leaning -- suburban white-collar voters who were most uneasy with the way Trump has changed the party. But if now if they are so uneasy that they are voting Democratic. What's left behind is more of that Trump base.

[03:09:55]

So, it's not clear that while there'll be more Republicans calling for a new approach, that there is the electoral base in the party to support an alternative to Trumpism, unless Democrats alienate some of those suburban voters that are now moving to them in big numbers.

HOLMES: I wanted to finish by something that you just touched on there. Because there is a bit lost in the watch was this major news, both Jon Ossoff and Reverend Warnock won Senate seats for the Democrats in Georgia. The impact of that is, of course, massive. It gives Biden a majority in the Senate and inability, in many ways, the govern that he didn't have when Mitch McConnell was running the Senate. It was massively consequential. How is it going to change the Biden presidency in some ways?

BROWNSTEIN: Fundamentally. Fundamentally change the Biden presidency. I mean Mitch McConnell clearly would have done everything he could to inhibit and block Biden. He famously said about Obama, you know, my principal legislative goal is to make him a one-term president. I don't think this would have been any different.

This allows Biden to move his appointment. It allows Stephen Breyer, the oldest Democratic appointee on the Supreme Court to retire and being replaced. It would be shocking if he does not retire and yet replace in the next two years.

The legislative way funnel is still narrow. Because Democrats will only have 50 seats and as you know, under the perpetual use of the filibuster in the modern Democratic Senate -- modern Senate, you need 60 votes to pass almost anything except the economically related items that can be passed under the so-called Reconciliation Act approach, with a simple majority.

He will get some things done that way. And then Democrats will face a momentous choice of do they end the filibuster to advance more of their agenda in the next years. That I think is going to be a decisive question. Right now, I would have to say no but it doesn't seem to me impossible if Republicans blocked enough popular legislation that they may reconsider.

HOLMES: Yes, and the other things that will be interesting to will he learn from Obama's mistake and get everything done in the first two years before the midterm --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

HOLMES: -- and potential loss in the House. Ron Brownstein, we could talk to you for hours, but they won't let me. Got to go. Thanks.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you. Happy New Year.

HOLMES: You too.

Well now investigators are trying to track down people involved in the capitol insurrection. There were of course a lot of cameras but they don't always have great images. Here's one example. The FBI released this photo on Thursday night of a person suspected of leaving pipe bomb near the headquarters of the Republican and the Democratic National Committees. They're offering a reward of up to $50,000 for tips that lead to an arrest and conviction in that case.

Now there is growing criticism of the police response to the U.S. Capitol riot on Wednesday. The question is why were they not prepared? How did they not see this coming?

CNN's Evan Perez has a look at the fallout.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is a huge embarrassing security failure. And in addition to the resignation of the capitol police chief, we also know that the top security officials in the House and the Senate -- the sergeant at arms for both bodies -- they both stepping down as a result of what happened yesterday.

What we're told is that simply put, you know, there were all these meetings in the weeks, planning before the president's rally, and there were plenty of warnings that there were people who were believed, who were possibly going to be violent. And the capitol police kept telling the other agencies, the FBI, the Secret Service, the U.S. attorney's office, that they had it in hand, that they were ready.

Because frankly there were two more weeks before inauguration day, they said that they already had the security in place to be able to protect the building. And it turns out none of that was true. You can see from the pictures there that the police was -- certainly the president of the police was not enough to thwart these people.

And once people got in on the east side of the building, everything sort of collapsed. And then it became more about saving lives, protecting the lives of the lawmakers and the staff in that building. And the police retreated.

So that's the scene that unfolded as a result of what was a catastrophic failure. Some of these people made clear on social media what their intent was. The FBI was monitoring some of, that they were passing on that intelligence. They knew, they were watching some of the hotels where some of these people were staying, so there is plenty of information to go around.

HOLMES: Evan Perez there. Now the scenes that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday of course shocked the world. After the break, we'll take a look at what American allies and adversaries have to say about the unrest in Washington.

Also, as the coronavirus pandemic becomes deadlier by the day, many people hoping to get their vaccine as soon as possible. We'll have a look at how the rollout is going around the world. We'll be right back.

[03:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES (on camera): Much of the world of course reacted with horror and some sadness to the scenes that played out at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Some laying the blame for the insurrection directly at the feet of Mr. Trump, and some adversaries took the opportunity to gloat a little.

CNN international diplomatic Nic Robertson joins us now from London with more on the global reaction. It was interesting, Nic, you had -- you had countries like Turkey and Cuba and Venezuela expressing concerns about American democracy, which is extraordinary in itself. What more are countries saying about what happened in the U.S.? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. That

extraordinary outpouring of concern, I think from the United States allies clearly a genuine worry and a shock about what they were seeing happening from the countries who had been at the start of wrong end of President Trump's criticism an opportunity to sort of, push back, if you will of what they were seeing.

But you know, you get a sense of there is a lot of leaders there who have been close to President Trump over the past few years and they are pushing back. The Czech prime minister himself has now decided not to wear his red make Czech great again cap or some words to that effect like President Trump's mega or MAGA cap that he likes to wear.

So, you know, there is that distancing that's happening. But the number of world leaders and politicians who sort of rush to show their shock outrage and condemn. That was very striking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: USA!

ROBERTSON: On nightly newscast the world watched America's democracy falter.

UNKNOWN: Here we go, brother.

UNKNOWN: As we filmed protesters tore down Pelosi's nameplate.

UNKNOWN: Adorable.

UNKNOWN: And so here we are right now inside the halls of Congress.

ROBERTSON: In the aftermath newspapers showering shame on the embers of Trump's presidency, world leaders damning in their response.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What President Trump has been saying about that has been completely wrong and I'm reservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the capitol.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The basic rule of democracy is after the election there are winners and losers. Both have to play their role with decency and responsibility so that democracy itself remains the winner. I regret very much that President Trump did not admit defeat in November, and again yesterday.

ROBERTSON: Close allies wondering how it came to this.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: They're a great friend of Australia and one of the world's brightest democracies. And so we -- our thoughts are with them and we hope for that peaceful transition to take place.

ROBERTSON: On Twitter, both Norway's and Sweden's prime ministers directly blaming President Trump. Heavy responsibility not rest on President Trump, Erna Solber wrote. [03:20:02]

President Trump and the several members of Congress bare substantial responsibility, wrote Stefan Lofven. From Canada to Chile, Norway to Greece, India to Australia and New Zealand, global leaders vented worries. Sadness, horrendous, the world is watching, common themes.

ROBERTSON (on camera): These leaders know that what happens in America has a trickledown effect on the rest of the world. They worry about how this can influence democracy going forward. These are real concerns.

Meanwhile, Americas enemies seemingly scoring points. In China, taking some apparent sarcastic satisfaction.

HUA CHUNYING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): We hope that the American people can enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible.

ROBERTSON (voice over): And in Moscow, a TV anchor reading a foreign ministry statement.

The reason behind the divide in American society lies also in the archaic electoral system. Yet perhaps, most striking, some allies still held back from blaming Trump directly.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The ravage of the capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act and it must be vigorously condemned. I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail.

EMMANUEL MACRON PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: What happened today in Washington D.C. is not America. Definitely. We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.

ROBERTSON: Everyone it seems counting on President-elect Joe Biden to make it all better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON (On camera): One of the things Joe Biden plans in his first year of the presidency is to hold a global summit on democracy itself to shore it up and if ever there were a moment the seems to be it. Michael?

HOLMES: yes. And Nic, before I let you go, I mean, what are countries hoping is going to change under President Biden? I'm guessing normality is one thing?

ROBERTSON: Yes, a more stable relationship, one that involves international institutions, a sort of a reset to the United States foreign policy of the past. One way they're not on tenterhooks about, you know, President Trump taking action, economic action against them sanctions and tariffs and such things.

So, I think there is an expectation there. You know, you would have said a few weeks ago that, and having a look at the election a lot of people are saying look, there is still a massive support for President Trump's version of republicanism, the sort of isolationist America first style, and I don't think any world leaders are going to be fold into thinking that has gone away as a political dispensation in the United States, but with Joe Biden there is an opportunity to perhaps reset from that little bit and try to get relationships back on to have better and more even key with the United States.

HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely. Good to see you, Nic. Thanks for that. Nic Robertson there in London.

Now our senior correspondent Arwa Damon argues that the unrest of the capital is uniquely American. In an op-ed on cnn.com, she wrote this. Quote, "the Trump era ripped back the veil to reveal the ugliness within the U.S. itself. One that America can no longer ignore but has always existed." She goes on "the truth embodied in the killings of Black Americans, and police brutality and its systemic racism, it's shown in the reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, Me Too and the rise of white supremacy."

Arwa joins me now from Istanbul to talk more about her piece. As you watched all of this unfold from where you are in Istanbul, what made you write it?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael, I was frustrated. And I was seeing a growing sense of frustration and even anger among many of my friends, contacts, people who are from this region with this ongoing comparison. The people repeatedly saying on our air and in other outlets how what was happening in America, we are seeing that we normally see in third world countries, and even comparing it to scenes out of Syria or scenes out of Iraq.

And there was a sense that this was just grossly unfair and inappropriate and condescending. Because even though yes, in a very superficial sense, if you look just purely at the visuals, OK, you can compare it to say when Iraqi Shias stormed parliament in protest taking it over, lounging around in the seats of parliamentarians back in 2016.

[03:25:02]

You can even stretch it out a bit further and say, compare some images to what happened when gunmen stormed parliament in Kabul in 2015. Libya, 2014. But Michael, the similarity ends there. What is happening in America is a uniquely American monster. Just like what is happening in these other countries are unique to them. Their monsters are unique to them.

And we've really reached a point where we shouldn't be looking down from the position of moral superiority on other countries populations ongoing fight against freedom and democracy. We should shift towards an attitude of understanding and empathy.

HOLMES: And to that point, I mean, in the piece you write about America's moral standing, and how it's increasingly seen as a facade. I mean, how does the United States comment on other countries and their electoral processes or Democratic practices or difficulties after what's happened in the capitol, but also in the campaign as well?

DAMON: And therein lies another issue altogether, Michael, because America has lost its moral standing to a great degree on a number of issues. And this is even before the Trump era, you know, with the fabricated reasons and logic behind going to war in Iraq to the illegal detentions that happened in Guantanamo and so on.

But when it came to the democratic practice at least, the U.S. was setting the global standard. And it had a like to stand on while it made those same requests of other countries who are more authoritarian or dictatorial. America has now lost that. Allowing other nations to turn around and say well, look at what happened in the United States? What we are doing isn't that bad.

And that's the issue, is that we live in some ways in such a juvenile world where that kind of logic will allow certain governments to get away with who knows what at the stage, because the U.S. itself has lowered the bar. I wish we lived in a world where governments and individuals were more mature than that where we set our own examples for what we wanted, but we don't.

HOLMES: Yes, it's a good point. I mean, you travel the world. You see how the government or systems in operations. I mean, how do more and more countries view the U.S. these days in general? Particularly the last four years.

DAMON: You know, what's interesting is that, you know, despite the perspective of what has been on the U.S., especially over the last four years with many, you know, countries going -- growing increasingly anxious because of the U.S.'s standing and military power and economic power, that aside, what's interesting, Michael, is that in my travels, in talking to populations, a lot of people still want to achieve that American dream, that American myth of this vibrant democracy where everybody is equal. People are free. People are respected.

So, in some sense this myth, this dream is still something that a lot of people want to achieve. It's how they want to live. With dignity. Unfortunately, when that gets robbed from the American people in such a blatant and open way, it makes it that much more difficult for these other populations to push for that kind of an ideal.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. Good point. Well argued in your piece on cnn.com. Arwa Damon in Istanbul. Good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, it took a siege on the U.S. Capitol for social media companies to finally take serious action against President Trump.

Later this hour, what platforms are doing to police Trump's misinformation going forward. And away from political strife, the U.S. in the grip of the pandemic raging out of control as America records its deadliest day yet again.

[03:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome back to CNN Newsroom everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company. Now for the third straight day the U.S. has set a new record for daily deaths from the coronavirus. On Thursday, more than 4,000 people were reported to have succumb to the disease. That's in just one day. That pushed the overall totaled more than 365,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The mayor of Los Angeles says the 250 people or so dying there on a daily basis is equal to the total number of homicides in the city for an entire year. But vaccine distribution is picking up, nationwide almost 6 million shots have now been given out of 21 million doses available. But that is still far below the 20 million vaccinations that were promised by New Year's Day.

And we are watching developments in Europe too where the vaccine rollout continues despite a rocky start in some places. Let's bring in our team reporting on this, Salma Abdelaziz is in London. Melissa Bell is in Paris. Salma, first you. The Prime Minister promising by the end of next week hundreds of thousands of shots will be made available daily. How are they going to do that?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): It is a big promise, and I mean even the government themselves have said that their vaccination program requires Herculean efforts. And I'll tell you why, Michael.

They are hoping, not only vaccinating all care home residents by the end of the month, they are hoping to vaccinate all the key for priority groups, most vulnerable people in this country. The people over 70. The people who live in care homes, nursing homes and their staff. All frontline health care workers.

By so much, it's a group of about 15 million people that they want to have vaccinated by February 15th, Michael. I mean, this is an extraordinary attempt, but every day there is a bit of progress. Yesterday of course the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine was being rolled out to care homes, being used for the first time. That was a moment of excitement, because logistically it is easier to get it into those areas.

So, ramping that up. It's now becoming more widely available at your local GP, or local doctor. So, there will be thousands of sites across the country where you can go and get your vaccine. But why pin everything on this vaccination program? On these massive, huge, some might even say unrealistic hopes of vaccinating millions of people in just a matter of weeks?

That's because they have no other option, Michael. There is a variant here that is more transmissible. That is spreading quickly. That is every day, almost breaking records, causing just unprecedented infection rates. The hospital system. The health care system in this country is simply overwhelmed. They can't take it anymore, and all the tools in the tool kits have already been used.

We are already under nationwide lockdown here in England. We are already under toughest rules and restrictions. There's really no options left but to go all in on this vaccination program, Michael.

HOLMES: A real problem for the health system there. Salma Abdelaziz, I appreciate that. Let's bring in Melissa Bell standing by in Paris. To discuss, what has been a pretty slow vaccine rollout in France?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That's right. Pretty slow in France and pretty slow in other European countries, frankly, and this even, Michael, as the virus continues to spread in a way that many governments are struggling to bring back under control. Think Germany, it has just announced its single highest death toll since the start of pandemic.

[03:35:07]

And Spain just crossed the two million case mark with that figure doubling over the course of just the last seven weeks. And that is meant that those countries in particular are under even greater pressure to improve the speed of their rollout.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BELL (voice over): It has been nearly 10 days since the E.U. officially launched its vaccination program. But where vaccine procurement was organized by Brussels, roll out was not. So far it has vaccinated more than 326,000 people with the website to keep the public informed. As of Thursday, Germany had vaccinated more than 417,000. Spain more than 207,000 but France, only 45,000.

MATTHIEU CALAFIORE, GENERAL PRACTITIONER (through translator): Every time we have wasted time when we are faced with an epidemic that doesn't waste time. It happened last spring, it happened in the autumn and now with the vaccine.

BENNETT: The French government's plan is for residents of nursing homes to get the vaccines first.

RAYMOND FISCHER, NURSING HOME RESIDENT (through translator): Of course I do regret that it should be taking this long not for me though as give or take eight days, it changes nothing they can vaccinate me next year if they want.

BELL: In response to criticism over the slow pace of the rollout in France, this week the categories of those eligible will widen and more vaccination centers opened.

JEAN CASTEX, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I ask that we stop the sterile controversy which bring nothing apart from concern, to our compatriots who are already tired and on edge.

BELL: But France's is not alone. Spain's rollout has also been criticized for being slow. Partly for a lack of nurses. And in Germany there are fears that not enough doses have been ordered.

JENS SPAHN, GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): The truth is, that the vaccine is a scarce resource worldwide, and that's why we have to asked large parts of the population for patience. BELL: But patience is wearing thin in countries like France where the

restrictions in place cost the economy every single day.

XAVIER TIMBEAU, PROFESSOR, OFCE- SCIENCEPRO: It's very urgent, because the lockdown is limiting economic activity and the numbers are impressive. So around one billion, maybe a little bit -- around billion euros a day. So a day late is costly.

BELL: The plan in France is for 15 million people to be vaccinated by this summer. That would mean more than two million vaccines given every month, and a much faster roll out that we've seen so far.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BELL (on camera): It's important to know, Michael that different countries have face different difficulties. Take France for the roll out has been particularly slow with just 45,000 people vaccinated so far. The problem, doctors and health care specialist tell us is that there's been too much paperwork frankly for too few vaccine so far and that would slow things down.

In Germany, it appears to have been more a question of supply which is why the German health minister said this week that the European medicine agency approval of the Moderna vaccine should help. The commissions decided that it will buy a 160 million doses of that. And that should help in adding to the 300 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that are even now being given out here in the European continent, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Melissa, thank you. Melissa Bell there in Paris for us.

Now, Columbia reporting more than 17,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. That is a new record. The nation quickly approaching two million total infections. Columbia also reporting more than 300 deaths on Thursday, bringing the numbers of lives lost since the pandemic began to more than 45,000.

And Brazil now has more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths, second only to the United States. The country also reporting a new record number of new cases on Thursday, nearly 88,000. Brazil has the third most known infections of any nation in the world. Brazilian officials touting progress made on the vaccine front though, researchers say phase three trials show the vaccine developed by Chinese companies SinoVac is 78 percent effective. Matt Rivers with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, this pandemic has been trending in the wrong direction in Brazil recently, and unfortunately new data that came out on Wednesday only serves to reinforce that point, nearly 88,000 newly confirmed cases were reported, five Brazilian health authorities on Wednesday, that is the highest single day increase of this pandemic so far.

There's new cases joined by more than 1,500 newly confirmed deaths from the virus, those deaths have now pushed the overall death toll in Brazil to more than 200,000 for the first time. There was some good news in Brazil on Wednesday, with the Governor of the state of Sau Paulo announcing that a Chinese vaccine called Coronavac, that have been undergoing phase three trials in the country. That trial has shown that the vaccine has a 78 percent efficacy. That is a number that officials are very happy about, there is still some confusion about exactly when the distribution of that vaccine will take place.

[03:40:08]

The Governor of that state says that he hopes to starts vaccinating people this very month and that would come as welcome news to this country. Because as we just mentioned with those numbers trending in the wrong direction, vaccines are desperately needed as this pandemic just shows no signs of slowing down in Brazil. Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (on camera): Now, the worst coordination of Syria, Save the Children is raising an alarm as the virus spirals out of control there. It says in the northwest alone, cases have quadrupled in just two months. Now, that is the area in and around Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold, where groups do have sway.

Now cases nationwide have exceeded 40,000 as the country struggles with insufficient testing, lack of medical supplies including things like even hospital beds and water. Oxygen and ventilators as well.

Let's discuss this further with Amjad Yamin, in Amman, in Jordan. He is the Syria response office spokesman for Save the Children. And good to see you, Amjad. We hear the daily about the toll of COVID in the U.S., Europe, the west in general. But try to give us a sense of how bad it is in a place like Syria.

AMJAD YAMIN, SYRIA RESPONSE OFFICE SPOKESMAN, SAVE THE CHILDREN (on camera): Thank you so much for this, Michael. The issue is not just the virus. The issue is also the 10 years of conflict that people are still dealing from. And sadly, until now we do not actually have an overview of the number of cases that we are seeing in Syria, because of the lower level of testing.

And that itself makes the response to COVID a lot harder than what you see in other countries where you can at least understand the extent of the virus across the country. And then the family is between the 10 years of conflict, not being able to see how widespread the virus is. The act is not having the access makes it very, very difficult for us to even respond to what is likely happening.

HOLMES: You know, you've got to wonder, if rich and you know, peaceful countries are struggling to contain the virus, what chance a place like Syria, particularly in the north there. What infrastructure exists in places like that to mitigate spread, let alone think about vaccinations?

YAMIN: Well, the short answer is very little. If you look at the northwest in particular, you are looking at 4 million people living in a very, very small area. More than 70 percent of them are displaced. Many of those are living in camps. So, overcrowded camps. In camps that includes more than 3 million people.

How are they going to be able to deal with any of this? But then the infrastructure, let alone the 10 years of conflict destruction where we think at least the most conservative estimate is one in three public infrastructure is destroyed. So schools, hospitals etcetera.

Right now there are only 10 hospitals that are catering to 4 million people. It is just simply not able to deal with any outbreak. Let alone the small numbers that we are seeing now that are actually recorded, and or be able to understand the dead and (inaudible) of the actual infections of the country.

HOLMES: And when we talk about the biggest needs, I mean, Save the Children talks about you know, oxygen, hospital beds. Testing, as you just referred to. Even water, which is just terrible. What are the difficulties in even solving those needs? And is there any help from the government? Have -- how do you get stuff to these people?

YAMIN: So largely how we deliver, we deliver what we call cross border. So, a lot of the aide comes through outside of Syria and into northwest Syria in particular. And right now, sadly, there are two issues that are the biggest thing, let alone the infrastructure, the testing and the usual operational work.

Health access are struggling because right now, officially we are only allowed to cross into northeast Syria through one border crossing. So, all of the aide that these go to 4 million people for corona and because of the 10 years of conflict that they are already dealing from needs to come through one border crossing only. That's thousands of trucks that are trying to cross, waiting in line, queuing, or needing to drive just to get from one area to another for up to seven, eight hours just to deliver aide.

Now, on the other side, what we are seeing is also now they are starting ship operations with the vaccines, but there are very, very small capacity in terms of funding, so about 90 something. (Inaudible) vaccination only half of them are funded. In time, when there is an outbreak in northern Syria that almost can't be contained.

[03:45:00]

HOLMES: Just quickly before we go, I'm trying to put a face on this. I mean, what sorts of individual stories have you heard? I mean, I read a case about Nadine, you know, she's an English teacher in Idlib and she talks about the pain of watching her mother struggle to breathe and being helpless.

YAMIN: And this is also the sad part of it. The same teacher we are talking about, Nadine, exactly needed to stay at home for a week to take care of her parents. Even that week, because people also, because they have been part of the conflict for so long, they are not as scared of the virus as they should be. Even though that they struggle. Sometimes they don't even understand each other. Nadine almost lost her job. But we had to intervene to explain that she needs to take her parents who there is no space for.

Right now, today, there is a child in Idlib, a seven year called Samar, whom we've been for three days, trying to find her a ventilator because she dearly needs it. And we just simply cannot find it. And this morning, I was talking to her parents and our program manager. We just don't know how to get her help and we are trying to get outside of the city just to receive oxygen to survive.

HOLMES: Just tragic. Thank you for the work that you are doing, Amjad Yamin who is with Save the Children. I really appreciate it bringing that to light.

YAMIN: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. Well, dozens in Hong Kong have been accused of violating the cities national security law, among those arrested, a prominent activist who can now face years in jail. We will explain when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Welcome back. Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong is just one of the latest to be arrested under Hong Kong's national security law. CNN's Anna Coren is following the story for us live from Hong Kong. Of course, we say Joshua just one of the latest, but he joins more than 50 others who have been arrested.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Michael, it is truly shocking what has transpired here in Hong Kong over the past few days. Police staged mass arrests of pro-democracy, right across the city. It is the largest crackdown staged in Hong Kong since the Beijing sanction national security law came into effect mid last year.

Now, a climate of fear and intimidation is extremely real. It is palpable as the Hong Kong government and Beijing moved to not just silence but crush the opposition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COREN (voice over): Already serving 13.5 months for his involvement in a Hong Kong protests, high-profile activist Joshua Wong could now be locked up for years. Police re-arresting him. This time for alleged subversion under the national security law. But he was not alone. As authority staged, the largest crackdown, arresting a total of 55 former pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and lawyers under the Beijing sanctioned at national security law that came into effect in June of last year, giving authorities sweeping powers.

[03:50:09]

ANTONY DAPIRAN, LAWYER AND AUTHOR: Beijing wants to sideline them once and for all and to ensure that there is no space for a genuine opposition to be as part of mainstream politics in Hong Kong.

COREN: The mass arrest carried out by more than 1,000 police were the results of the primary election for the opposition Democratic Party. That took place back in July with 600,000 people cast their votes to choose the Democrat's top candidates to stand in the legislative council elections scheduled for September.

The government postponed those elections citing COVID-19, however, police alleged the goal of the Democratic Party was to gain a majority and veto government legislation. Ultimately forcing the resignation of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

In Beijing's faith, this means overthrowing the government, an act of subversion. U.S. citizens John Clancey, a lawyer whose firm represents many of the protesters was among those arrested.

UNKNOWN: Do you have anything to say to the people?

JOHN CLANCEY, LAWYER, HO TSE WAI AND PARTNERS: We need to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.

COREN: He was released on bail without charge for now. And says police have confiscated his U.S. passport. President-Elect Joe Biden, Secretary of State Nominee, Anthony Blinken tweeted, the Biden/Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing's crackdown on democracy.

Despite the climate of fear, remaining pro-Democrats filled a press conference in the wake of the crackdown. Chanting, we are not afraid of oppression. And others like formal lawmaker Emily Lau who served 25 years in the legislative council says she won't be silenced either.

EMILY LAU, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PARTY LAWMAKER: Everything is (inaudible). We are very worried, but that does not mean the game is over. No way. How can it be over? This is our home. We will do our level best to defend it.

COREN: Are you prepared to go to jail?

LAU: I am. Like I have been expecting this, because you are dealing with an authoritarian regime.

COREN: After being held for more than 24 hours, most of the arrested were released on bail without charge. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a statement defending the government, saying it will continue to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, lawfully and dutifully without fear or anxiety.

But as police warn of more arrests. Many Hongkongers feel those emotions daily now living in this city.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN (on camera): Now, Michael, 52 of the 55 activists arrested have been granted bail without charge at least for now. Released have been doing this over the last few months. Arresting people, releasing them and then charging them later once they have built a case. Now some of the activists spoke to the press when they were released last night calling the arrests absurd and ridiculous. And that they believe that despite the enormous risks, despite the

risk of arrest, the people of Hong Kong will continue to fight for democracy in whatever way they can. We've also got word, Michael that some more activists, are due to hold a press conference here in Hong Kong within the next hour.

HOLMES: Anna, good to see you, Ana Coren there in Hong Kong.

Now a contentious issue. Japan would very much like to forget, is resurfacing in South Korea. A judge there has ordered Japan to pay a so called comfort women $91,000 each in damages. Now these women were in their teens or early twenties before and during World War II when they were forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese troops.

A dozen victims had sued the Japanese government in 2016 for kidnapping, sexual violence and torture. Japan has denounced the ruling and summoned the South Korean ambassador. Japan says the controversy was settled under the treaties. The two countries signed in 1965 and 2015, but the South Korean judge said those agreements did not invalidate the victims' rights to sue for damages.

Facebook takes its harshest action yet against President Trump banning his page from posting for at least two more weeks. Perhaps longer. But some say, too little too late. We will have details after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:55:00]

HOLMES: Welcome back. Facebook and Instagram are banning President Donald Trump's account from posting for the remainder of his term in office. And perhaps even longer than that. It is a major escalation as Facebook and other platforms have come under intense pressure to ban Mr. Trump following his inflammatory rhetoric. CNN's Anna Stewart is in London with more details. Of course, we should say the president is back on Twitter now, because of course the question is for how long?

ANNA STEWART, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): He is back on Twitter, Michael. He had to remove a few tweets. Have a temporary ban lifted. He released a video message that was much more conciliatory in tone and it will have to stay like that. One more strike and the president is out from Twitter. That is what they said if infringes their guidelines once again.

Now you mentioned Facebook and Instagram. They have banned the president from their platform for little remains of his presidency. It could be indefinitely. And take a look at the statement from CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. He said, we believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period -- I lost part of my tweet here, we are extending the block. We have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Fascinating statement. Clearly here the decision is to protect the public from the present, the risk that he poses to the public. Absolutely extraordinary times to think that is what U.S. politics has come to, Michael? HOLMES: Exactly. A U.S. President being knocked off. A lot of people

have said and for some time now, that social media platforms should have acted long ago. Done more, and done it sooner.

STEWART: Of course. I mean the president has made an incendiary or an accurate remark throughout his presidency. Yes, some social media platforms have been acting more recently to either remove posts and tweets or label them as being inaccurate are disputing the fact within them.

However this is really the first time we have seen bans like this come into force. And there are skeptics looking at the timing for this, coming after President-Elect Joe Biden is confirm by Congress and of course they come after the violent scenes that we saw outside the U.S. Capitol and inside of course the Capitol.

In fact, former first lady Michelle Obama is one of those -- is calling for social media platforms to actually do more. She released a very lengthy statement on Twitter yesterday, part of it she said, now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this, what she calls monstrous behavior. And go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from that platform.

Clearly many people feeling here that social media platforms, do you have a responsibility? Even though it is not of course their words, their tweets. On the other side of it, there are those wanting to protect freedom of speech. This is a sitting U.S. president. It doesn't stop at Silicon Valley. We've seen right across Corporate America, companies coming out and condemning the violence from Wednesday, saying they want to see a peaceful transition of power in less than two weeks, Michael?

HOLMES: All right. Good to see you, Anna. Thanks for that. Anna Stewart in London for us.

Now, Indonesian authorities have freed the suspected mastermind of the Bali bombings. The Islamic cleric Abu Bakr Beshear is suspected but wasn't convicted of links to the attacks that killed 202 people back in 2002. He is regarded as the spiritual leader of a jihadist network with ties to al-Qaeda. He served 10 years in prison for his links to a militant training camp in Indonesia. Authorities say the 82-year-old will enter what they call a, the de-radicalization program.

Thanks for being with me.