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Some Churches Reopening Despite Risks; Beaches Brace For Huge Memorial Day Crowds As States Reopen; Protests Over China's Hong Kong Security Plan; Uproar In U.K. After PM's Adviser Takes Trip While Under Isolation; "The New York Times" Pays Tribute To COVID-19 Victims On Front Page; Carl Bildt, Former Swedish Prime Minister, Criticizes Lack Of American Leadership; Corruption Trial of Israeli Prime Minister Begins. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 24, 2020 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It is a holiday weekend in the U.S. But as Americans head to the beaches and the parks, two states reporting a spike in coronavirus cases.

Also, Hong Kong police firing tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters as thousands oppose Beijing.

And later in the program, the coronavirus has forced the cancellation of most sports events. But today sees one event so big that the organizers are simply billing it "The Match." Patrick Snell will join me with the details.

Hello, everyone and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: As the number of coronavirus deaths here in the U.S. approaches 100,000, "The New York Times" marking that milestone with a unique and stark front page. No photographs, no ads, no other news stories, just the names of some 1,000 Americans who've died from COVID-19.

The paper includes some details about each of those victims as well. At least two states are reporting a surge in cases. Arkansas has linked one cluster of cases to a high school swim party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the seven-day rolling average of new cases that you see, one peak here of about 160 new cases and then the rolling average across the way that you see a second peak.

And that's the point I want to emphasize, is that it's clear and evident to me that we have one peak and then we've had a deep dip and then we're having a second peak right now.


HOLMES: And in North Carolina, health officials reporting the single highest one-day total of new cases yet. More than 1,100 people confirmed with coronavirus just Saturday.

U.S. public health officials are concerned about what the virus could do today if large crowds attend religious services. Nearly every state is allowing houses of worship to open. Many states have allowed it for several weeks. But Friday President Trump declared them "essential."

Also, people in France are now allowed to father allowed to gather for religious ceremonies, face coverings and hand sanitizing are mandatory.

Americans celebrating the Memorial Day holiday are flocking to beaches and parks as is traditional in normal times. Officials are warning to people to keep to small groups and at safe distances from others. We're going to look at how that's going in California in a moment. But first to a busy beach in Georgia. Our Natasha Chen is there.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Memorial Day weekend is in full swing, we have seen thousands of people come to Tybee Island and Tybee Beach here. You can tell the groups are doing what they are told as far as social distancing from the group next to them.

But they are also supposed to keep their groups under 10 people. And we are sometimes not seeing that. We are seeing groups larger than that.

I spoke to the mayor of Tybee Island about the fact that she saw some Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers trying to break up the larger groups on the north end of the beach.

You can also tell that no one around us on the beach is wearing a mask. There are some people wearing them out in the town. But when I talked to the mayor and we both wore masks because we were close to each other, here's what she said to me about that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was on the north end earlier, I did see the rangers down there breaking up groups. I think they are oversaturated with people and I do not know that -- you know, it's just a difficult task.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one is really wearing masks out besides yourself, of course, and your crew. People are going to take precautions to however they want and, you know, it is their decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also got a Jesus that's a lot larger than any virus that hits this Earth. So if it is my turn to go, I'm going. If not, I'm enjoying life.


CHEN: I also spoke to some local residents who say they are highly dependent on these tourists for the town to make money. These cash strapped businesses here are eager to see this income this weekend but are also very frustrated when they see people not abiding by CDC guidelines.

A couple of residents here told me they saw a group of 100 or 150 kids last weekend that required Tybee police to go out there and break them up. So the local residents are concerned, especially because the local population tends to be around 60 years old.


CHEN: And some of them are in that vulnerable group.

So as they are appreciative of the income, they are also understanding that comes at a risk -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Tybee Island, Georgia.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Santa Monica we are seeing social distancing and paying attention to the rules. You can see this bicyclist with his mask on. That is something they decided to do this weekend which is open up the bikeway. It seems to have alleviated a lot of pressure on the sand here in Santa Monica.

They did not want people to gather here in large groups, put down tents or start cookouts. They wanted social distancing. And so far, for this little corner of Santa Monica, it seems to have worked.

For this small city of 90,000, a lot of pressure. This is tourism, this is tourism at its best, where people come here from all over the world together and they have lost a lot of their tax revenue, both hotel tax and sales tax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been about 10 weeks since I've really had a good night's sleep or had a day off. And I'm not saying that for pity. It's just the reality of trying to run a local government in these unprecedented circumstances.

We have had recessions before but never anything that happened this suddenly or this deeply, that took that much money out of the city coffers so quickly.

So trying to figure out how to run a city on roughly 40 percent less money is a real challenge. We have tourism and restaurants providing a great deal of our city budget. And with the hotels and restaurants closed, the very few that are open, they're at 5-10 percent occupancy. That revenue is not going to come in for some time. We know it's not going to come back overnight.

VERCAMMEN: The mayor also telling us that the city of Santa Monica has lost over $40 million in the last few months in tax revenue.

When you look over here at the famed pier, the Ferris wheel is not spinning and that means the economic engines of Santa Monica are not spinning. They're hoping in due time that we will get to a point where social distancing will allow much of this small city to reopen. For now, the beach is a little bit more open and things are calm -- reporting from Santa Monica, I'm Paul Vercammen, back to you.


HOLMES: Paul, thank you.

The decision whether to wear a mask at the beach or the store or anywhere should be about your health or other people's health. But in some places, it's becoming almost a political statement. North Dakota's governor pushing back against that idea and got choked up talking about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either it's ideological or political or something around a mask versus no mask. This is a, I would say, senseless dividing line.

If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a five-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments.


HOLMES: Let's get some perspective on this from an expert in infectious diseases. Peter Drobac is joining us from England.

Good to see you. The president urging the country to reopen, urging churches to hold services on Sunday. A lot of images of people gathering in great numbers on Twitter and elsewhere.

Do you get a sense that many people think this is over or not a major threat anymore?

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH PHYSICIAN: Well, this Memorial Day weekend we're just about to hit the precipice of 100,000 deaths in the United States, which is quite a grim milestone and everyone is tired, obviously, after several months of lockdown. And it's understandable people want to get out and begin to enjoy their summer.

And there are ways to do some outdoor activities safely. But we are not at the end of this thing, we're in the very early stages of this pandemic.

HOLMES: The CDC in the U.S., it was interesting. They were saying that about a third of infected people have no symptoms; 40 percent of transmission happens before an infected person feels sick, asymptomatic, which we've heard.

What's the lesson there, especially as countries reopen?

It really speaks to the needs of contract tracing and so on.

DROBAC: That's exactly right. If I feel perfectly healthy today, I still could be infectious to others. That's why the issue of mask wearing, you mentioned a moment ago, is so important.

It's not about my freedom to do what I want but my responsibility to protect others. The other thing is that, you know, after all of these months of sacrifice that people have made for the lockdown, what we've really needed is to use this time for preparation, that's for increasing our capacity for testing and contact tracing.


DROBAC: Those are the only ways to break chains of transmission and prevent another wave of infections if we want to start to get back to normal.

HOLMES: And again, the things that cause other waves.

On the church issue in the U.S., what did you make of the president saying religious gatherings, even in the middle of a pandemic, are essential services, basically saying he would override governors who didn't want them to open?

I mean there's been a number of hotspots after religious gatherings.

Would you recommend going to religious gatherings on Sunday?

DROBAC: I'm very concerned about that, actually. And, of course, I recognize the importance of religious services for so many of us.

One of the things that we've learned is that the importance of super spreading type events is so much greater with this pandemic than we thought earlier. We've seen a number of examples, where outbreaks really started in a single church service.

It has all the makings of a super spreading type event. Large numbers of different people from different households are coming into close proximity for a long time and in a closed space. So these are very high-risk events.

They can be done with safety measures in place. I think there should be considerations for outdoor services when possible, certainly limiting numbers and mask wearing. But I still have grave concerns about, you know, rushing back into, into houses of worship.

HOLMES: Yes, that would seem good advice.

Do you think that we are hearing enough from the scientists as opposed to the politicians, who, of course, on both sides, have agendas often?

We've heard from CDC officials, they've felt muzzled, advice is being withheld from the public.

What's the impact of that?

DROBAC: I think what we need is science-based communication. I can come from scientists or politicians. We've certainly seen examples elsewhere in the world, where in Germany, New Zealand for example, where politicians are the ones who are communicating on a daily basis with their populations and doing so effectively.

But that means being immersed in the science, presenting the facts in a very clear and calm and transparent way. What we've seen is that, obviously, when that's not happening and when misinformation is being presented by politicians, then that's where things get really difficult.

HOLMES: Yes, there was a lot of talk about, you know, the heat of summer -- and it's coming into the northern summer now -- would curb the virus and the ability to spread. It's been interesting to see Brazil's numbers soaring.

DROBAC: There may be some seasonality to this virus as it continues to circulate over time, that it's not going to magically go away in the warmer weather. There are a number of reasons why things have reached this stage in Brazil.

It's not just Brazil, we're seeing across South America exponential growth in a number of countries. We can't wish this away in the summer months.

In the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, one of the things we are really having to be on the lookout for is a surge in cases as we approach autumn and winter months later this year at a time when flu season is ramping up.

HOLMES: Very good advice, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

DROBAC: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Protests in Hong Kong have been heating up. Police firing tear gas at protesters who are coming out against Beijing's hugely controversial proposal for the city.

And the fact that the proposal is essentially bypassing the local legislature is adding insult to injury for these protesters. A livestream of the demonstration showed protesters throwing objects at police. And you can see tear gas is being fired. Anna Coren is standing by in the thick of it in Hong Kong.

Bring us up to date on what you've been seeing.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael, multiple rounds of tear gas have been fired this afternoon. We have witnessed a number of arrests made. Police are just not showing any restraint.

The sign goes up. They raise the blue or the yellow sign and within minutes they are firing the tear gas. We are in Causeway Bay where we are seeing these scuffles. I want to bring you around to the protesters on this side. There are hundreds, if not thousands, thousands of protesters spread

out. And they're playing a bit of a game of cat and mouse with police.


COREN: But these are people who feel that this could be the very last day that they are actually allowed to come out onto the streets and protest before it is criminalized.

And that is the fear, with this national security law that Beijing has said they are going to push through at the National People's Congress this week, that, once that is enacted, sedition, secession, subversion, treason will be banned.

And they just think coming out on the streets and protesting and we've seen signs today, Michael, it's not just calling for greater freedoms, they're calling for independence. These are some of the things the protesters are saying to us.

Hong Kong independence, it's the only way out. So for these protesters who are defying police, these are unlawful assemblies, unlawful protests. They don't have permits from police to be here, to carry out the march.

It actually never took place because police didn't allow it. They feel once this very controversial law is enacted in Beijing, which is expected to happen this week, it will be a criminal offense to come onto the streets and do exactly what they're doing right now, Michael.

HOLMES: So the response you've seen there in the last few hours by authorities, once this legislation goes into effect, what might the response be then, going forward?

How much more severe?

COREN: Well, Michael, you know, I've covered these protests since June last year. And often we would see restraint from the police. Permits were given to protesters. They were allowed to conduct peaceful marches often.

They would then descend into violence. And we would see those ugly scenes. But there was a level restraint shown by police.

Not anymore. They are being extremely heavy-handed. They are cracking down. They're not even allowing the demonstrations to take place and, you know, unless these protesters get tired and decide to go home, you would have to assume that tear gas will be fired again over and over until the crowds fully disperse.

We have witnessed police going into the crowd and grabbing someone. We witnessed a pro-democracy politician just here a couple hours ago with a loudspeaker, calling for greater freedoms. Dozens of police moved in and took him away. It almost feels like the national security law is already in place in Hong Kong.

But it has just angered people. There's a great deal of fear. There's a great deal of resignation among many people but there is a great deal of fear. It is palpable, Michael. So as to what's going to come ahead in the weeks, days and weeks ahead is anyone's guess.

HOLMES: All right, Anna, good to have you there on the spot yet again. Anna Coren there in Hong Kong.

All right, more and more calls for the British prime minister's senior adviser to resign. Reports have come out about him breaking lockdown rules. What the government and opposition are doing about that when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

The opposition in the U.K. is now slamming prime minister Boris Johnson's senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, because there are new reports saying Cummings violated national lockdown rules not just once but twice. CNN's Hadas Gold is in London.

Cummings certainly not going willingly.

How much pressure on Boris Johnson to cut him loose given the fact that he broke the rules he designed for others to follow?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pressure is increasingly mounting by the moment because Dominic Cummings is seen as such an important adviser, the equivalent of a Stephen Miller or a Jared Kushner to the White House.

So what happened was we got the initial report from "The Guardian" and "The Mirror" that Cummings took his family more than 250 miles away so they could self-isolate while they were ill with coronavirus, close to family in case they needed help with their child.

This during the advice that Cummings helped create, saying if you have coronavirus, do not leave your house at all. The country was encouraging everybody to not, travel even if you weren't feeling well and now we're seeing reports that Dominic Cummings did in fact go visit his family.

There are more reports saying that he may have traveled a few more times outside of London, thus again breaking lockdown rules.

As you know, the pressure is mounting from the opposition party for an investigation. Others are calling on Dominic Cummings to resign or to be fired for breaking these rules. We've seen other government ministers, including a senior scientific adviser, themselves resign for similar breaches of the lockdown. The scientific adviser went to visit a girlfriend staying in the same

city and that person resigned for breaking the lockdown. But thus far we're seeing a very defiant Number 10 Downing Street.

They're talking about this message from the government that many people are interpreting as, why does it seem to be one sort of rule for everybody else and a different rule if you're a senior adviser to Number 10 Downing Street?

Downing Street has been very adamant that Cummings did nothing wrong. They're standing by him. Cabinet ministers have been tweeting support.

The real question will be, how long will support last?

Will we see members break away calling on him to resign?

And what will the public perception be?

HOLMES: Thanks so much. Hadas Gold there in London for us.


HOLMES: Well, from Friday to Saturday, Brazil recorded more than 900 new coronavirus deaths. Now amid this worsening crisis, the country's supreme court recently released a video that reveals president Bolsonaro in, let's say, an unflattering light. Nick Paton Walsh with more.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The latest numbers for Brazil again making it the second most infected country on the planet and bearing the brunt of Latin America, which the WHO says is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak; 347,000 about cases reported in Brazil, according to the last count.

Just eclipsing Russia's latest numbers. Adding to that sense of concern here in Brazil and outside of Brazil, for Brazil is a recording that has been released by Brazil's supreme court as part of an ongoing investigation into the president's alleged interference in police investigations.

This very explicit two-hour long video is a leaked recording from a cabinet meeting last month. It contains a number of things which the president himself has played down as not significant and not incriminating toward him. He has always denied interference in police investigations.

The key bit, though, in reference to the coronavirus outbreak relates to comments he makes about the governors of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both of whom have put in lockdowns and asked for face masks to be worn.

He calls them feces, manure, to use a more polite term of what he in fact says. And he is also very explicitly rude about the mayor of a town called Manaus, which is heavily infected by coronavirus, and digging large numbers of graves to cope with the outbreak there.

He's similarly offensive towards that man as well. His environment minister goes on to talk about possibly how this outbreak might enable further environmental regulations to be peeled back. He has defended his comments, saying he's always been in favor of deregulation.

But while this video leaked from the supreme court, it does seem to be more about Brazil's internal political strife and it also carries a clear message to those doubting the president about what he and his inner circle appear to be telling each other about those trying to do what they can to prevent coronavirus from spreading.

The peak here in Sao Paulo, the worst affected bigger city, might be a week to two weeks away. Deep concerns here and the preparations that are being done simply have not been enough so far -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


HOLMES: The front page of Sunday's "New York Times" is gripping. How the staff worked to create this sobering tribute to those who have died of the coronavirus.

Just ahead, I'll be joined by the former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt. We'll find out what he thinks of American leadership during the coronavirus crisis and why it is no longer a global inspiration.





HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.

The United States has confirmed more COVID-19 deaths than any other country on the planet by far. At more than 1.6 million cases and 97,000 fatalities, the numbers can begin to lose their impact. But as "The New York Times" shows us, an image can be worth so much. Brian Stelter reports.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: "The New York Times" has not printed a front page like this for at least 40 years. This is a front page that shows the human toll of COVID-19 in the United States.

The editors and reporters of "The Times" went through hundreds of other newspapers across America, looking for obituaries of COVID-19 victims. And, in these snapshots, these names and short summaries of people's lives, "The Times" has presented a nationwide look at just how devastating this pandemic has been. Other newspapers outside the United States have looked for other ways

to pay tribute to victims. This, I think, is going to really turn heads when it's on the newsstand on Sunday morning, when people see it on their doorstep.

It is an attempt by editors of "The Times" to address some of the fatigue that has started to set in in America with regards to this ongoing crisis. We talk about all the numbers from this pandemic, on the corner of the screen a lot of the time, the death toll around the world, the number of cases.

As the United States approaches 100,000 confirmed cases, the editors of "The Times" wanted to make a statement about just how gutting this death toll has been and just how unusual it has been as well. We are far past the point of the U.S. combat fatality death toll from Vietnam, for example.

Most of the metrics we have, most of the comparisons we can make to past events in American history, are out the window at this point because COVID-19 has been so deadly across the United States.

So this attempt by "The New York Times" to refocus attention on this Memorial Day weekend is certainly getting a lot of attention on social media already. And I think it will get the attention of readers as well.

As Dan Barry of "The New York Times" says in an essay that accompanies this front page, he says, "Imagine if an American city of 100,000 people was just wiped off the map one day because that's essentially what has happened in the past two months." -- Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Now in a recent "Washington Post" op-ed, the former Swedish prime minister criticizes Carl Bildt the Trump administration for a lack of American leadership during the coronavirus crisis. He says the U.S. has, quote, "left behind any function as a global inspiration."

I am joined by the author of that article, Carl Bildt.

And it's a pleasure to see you, sir. I want to get to that article in a moment but first I wanted to ask you a question on coronavirus. I mean, were you initially supportive of Sweden's low-key response to the crisis at it first. But you've since tweeted about the rising death toll with some concern.

Do you think Sweden's approach basically, carrying on as usual letting people take their own precautions.


HOLMES: Do you think that was the right way to go now that deaths have risen so sharply?

CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: We had some restrictions in place, a lot less of a lockdown than other European countries, that is true. But as I've said, the jury's out. Where this will end up, we don't know.

If you compare with our neighbors, Denmark, Finland, Norway and similar societies, we have three times as many deaths as them combined. And that is, of course, mildly speaking, a source of concern.

HOLMES: I'd like to pivot back to that op-ed in "The Washington Post," because it is a fascinating one. You write at the World Health Assembly this month, and I just want to quote, "The post-American world was on full display and the U.S. has left behind any ambition of global leadership and any function as a global inspiration."

Tell us what you mean by that.

BILDT: Well, that's what we see. And I think it's highly regrettable. Go back in history for 50, 60 or 70 years or whatever you want. There hasn't been any global crisis where there hasn't been at least an ambition or an aspiration for the White House to exercise some sort of global leadership, good, bad, successful, unsuccessful. But it's always been there.

This is the first global crisis in living memory where the White House doesn't even have the ambition to exercise any sort of leadership and that was abundantly in display at this World Health Assembly last week, where it was China stepping forward, the Europeans doing fairly well.

And the U.S. just, it's done a lot of criticizing China. It looks like the fight against China is more important than the fight against the virus.

HOLMES: You said in particular the speech by Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar was markedly different and fueled that impression that the U.S. was more interested in fighting China than in fighting the virus.

BILDT: That was even more the case when we look at parallel. All of the other leaders of the world were at the World Health Assembly at different ministerial levels. But you have secretary of state Pompeo and a letter by President Trump spending all that time attacking the World Health Organization.

I'm quite certain, I mean, there are lessons to be learned for the World Health Organization as for everyone else after this crisis. But at the moment, ambition should be to fight the virus and unite the world. We can't have a world where the only thing that is truly globalized is the virus.

That's what I mean by complete abandonment of U.S. ambitions of leadership, which is highly regrettable and I think is regretted by many people around the world.

HOLMES: There was another memorable line and we'll put it up for people to read because I'd like to highlight it. You said, quote, "This was the post-American world on display, China assertive and confident. Europe trying to save what can be saved of global cooperation and the Trump administration mostly outside firing its heavy artillery in all directions but with limited actual results."

What concerns you about that?

And can it be retrieved, that American position of leadership?

BILDT: Well, what concerns me is obviously that we have a condemnation of this.

Can it be retrieved?

I hope it can. I think it's important for Europe to step up. But there are limits to what Europe can do. I think it's important that we have our disagreements with China, to put it very mildly, Hong Kong or whatever. But at the same time we need to engage with China on quite a number of issues.

We need America on these issues as well. As I point out in the op-ed, the United States hasn't disappeared. It's still a very significant nation. So in order to address the challenge that we have, globally, could be health, climate, trade, whatever, we need the United States to be part of this, exercising leadership but be a part of it, not America first and everyone else alone, which seems to be coming out of the White House.

HOLMES: It must have felt quite strange to see the U.S. marginalized at what was a major diplomatic gathering.

Do you get a sense that the world has just moved on with the urgent issues, not just of fighting the virus but on other issues as well, moved on without the U.S.?

BILDT: Well, it has to move on. But there are limits to what it can do. The United States is a significant global power, a powerhouse in quite a number of respects.


BILDT: Of course, if you do look at climate, health, we need the United States along. So yes, the world is trying to move along. It has to. But with deep regret. And we do hope it will be possible for the United States to join in again and try to play the role that it traditionally has been playing, mostly for the good of the world.

HOLMES: A fascinating op-ed. Carl Bildt, really appreciate you making the time. Thank you.

BILDT: Thank you.

HOLMES: We'll take a short break now. When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, Benjamin Netanyahu will soon appear in court on criminal charges, a first for a sitting Israeli prime minister. The charges he'll be facing when we come back.




HOLMES: Just hours from now, Israel's prime minister will attend the opening hearing of his corruption trial. Benjamin Netanyahu facing criminal charges in three separate cases. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for us.

Yes, an extraordinary sight really. Benjamin Netanyahu, he's managed to delay proceedings before.

What are we likely to see play out?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now we're hours away from the start of this case, the State of Israel versus prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's not required to say anything. It could be his lawyers who do all the talking.

But Netanyahu will have to be in court and will have to sit in the defendant's seat, that's why this is such a big day in the history of Israel.


LIEBERMANN: Now the actual trial itself is still expected to be six to eight months away and the rest of today will be technical arguments about presentation of evidence and scheduling.

But as you pointed out, it is still a big day and those most loyal to Netanyahu have attacked it as such, saying it's not Netanyahu on trial but the entire right wing. One even saying it's the attorney general who is the criminal here. And there are expected to be hundreds of protesters outside, both for and against the prime minister.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One week after Benjamin Netanyahu's swearing in for a fifth term as prime minister, he's facing a very different panel: three judges presiding over his criminal trial.

The 70-year-old leader has been fighting this day for more than three years, ever since the investigations were made public. He's maintained his innocence, calling the probes an attempted coup.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: This evening we are witnessing a governmental coup attempt against a prime minister by false libel and with a tenacious and contaminated investigation process.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Israel's longest serving prime minister faces prosecution in three cases.

In case 4,000, prosecutors say Netanyahu advanced regulatory benefits for his friend, a multi-millionaire business man. Those benefits were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In exchange, prosecutors say Netanyahu received favorable news coverage from a news website owned by that business man. In this case, Netanyahu faces the most serious charge of bribery as well as the charge of fraud and breach of trust.

In case 2,000, prosecutors say Netanyahu was working on an arrangement with the owner of one of Israel's largest papers. Netanyahu sought better news coverage in exchange for limiting the circulation of the paper's rival.

Netanyahu faces a charge of fraud and breach of trust in this case.

Finally in case 1,000, prosecutors say Netanyahu received valuable gifts, such as cigars and champagne from overseas business men, gifts, they say, a public servant shouldn't have received. Here Netanyahu also faces a charge of fraud and breach of trust. I intend to lead the country as prime minister for many years to come.

None of that has fazed Netanyahu.

NETANYAHU (through translator): I intend to continue to lead you and the country as a prime minister for many years to come. Don't believe all the spins (ph).

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Netanyahu's best defense is his former political rival, Benny Gantz, who broke his campaign promise not to serve under an indicted prime minister. The coalition agreement between the two protects Netanyahu's position for the next 18 months, during which Netanyahu can pursue annexation of parts of the West Bank.

All the while Netanyahu's corruption cases will proceed in the background, slowly. It took more than three years to get to this point, a trial with 333 witnesses isn't expected to move much faster.


LIEBERMANN: Today Netanyahu has tried to show that it's business as usual. He has his weekly cabinet meeting this morning. And he'll come here for the first hearing to Jerusalem's district court.

HOLMES: Certainly extraordinary scenes. Oren Liebermann there in Jerusalem. We'll check back with you in the hours to come, thank you.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, four legendary athletes are teaming up to raise millions for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. You got Peyton Manning and Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. We'll have a preview after the break.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: As sports slowly begin to return, four legends of the game

will tee off in Florida on Sunday. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson will team up with NFL's Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. "The Match," it's called and it's going to raise millions for charities fighting coronavirus. Patrick Snell joins me now with details.

This is going to be a fun day. People are craving live sports. I'm craving the trash talking, what you and I in cricket would call sledging.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sledging just a perfect word, Michael. You're right. It's going to be a fun day. No question about that, a very powerful cause to it as well down there later on in South Florida.

Just a little bit of history. This is the rematch, if you like, as far as Woods and Mickelson. The original match taking place in late 2018. And on that occasion, it was Mickelson who was the winner, as if Tiger needed reminding. Take a listen.


PHIL MICKELSON, PGA PRO: Tiger's pretty familiar with this. Obviously, when you were putting the jacket on my, it fit perfect, thank you. And then this is the trophy for "The Match." I don't know if you know what this looks like. You might have caught a glimpse but that's actually what the trophy looks like, had you won.

TIGER WOODS, PGA PRO: Hold on a second, I just got an ice bath and I'm a little bit chilly. Put the green jacket on here.


SNELL: Just a terrific come back from Tiger Woods, what did he go and do the following year as only Tiger Woods can do?

He went out and won the Masters. What a statement. But that's the sledging, the good-natured banter overall but at times, particularly with those two NFL superstars, it's going to really hit home as well, maybe a little sensitivities there on the edge, we'll see.

HOLMES: There could be. We do know that Tiger and Lefty, we know them well and their golf game. But when it comes to NFL legends Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, not quite scratch.

SNELL: As amateur players they are impressive. They have their own intense rivalry in the NFL. Brady still a current player with the Buccaneers now.


SNELL: But Peyton Manning, who announced his retirement in 2016, is a very dedicated and keen golfer. Officially, I've been looking at the official handicap for both players. Brady at 8.1, Manning at 6.4, just a little bit lower. But the key thing there, Michael, is they're both single digit

handicap players but it's going to be a real test for them. It's a challenging track, I can tell you. And they will be tested to the full. Not a good omen for Tom Brady, reportedly, he once shot 106 on that course, reportedly, I want to say. That's not a good moment for Tom Brady.

HOLMES: How's it going to work?

SNELL: It's basically match play format, the four ball on the front nine and then on the back the alternative stroke play. It's set up to be really, really exciting.

Will it go down to the 18?

It could.

Who knows?

Last time in the original match, Michael, it actually went to four extra holes before Mickelson won. This is the power of sport we're seeing here. It is a temporary relief from the devastating worldwide effects of the global pandemic.

But the best part of it all they're hoping to raise at least $10 million. That would be cool or in benefits of COVID-19 relief. That will be a fantastic cause to see that done.

HOLMES: It will, I'll be watching and I know you will, too.

Don't miss "The Match," champions for charity airing right here on Sunday for our viewers all around the world, 3:00 in the afternoon in New York, 8:00 in the evening in London.

Be on TNT in the U.S. I'm Michael Holmes. Don't go away, I'll have another hour of CNN NEWSROOM for you in just a moment.