Return to Transcripts main page


Beaches Brace For Huge Memorial Day Crowds As States Reopen; "The New York Times" Pays Tribute to COVID-19 Victims On Front Page; Some Churches Reopening Despite Risks; Protests Over China's Hong Kong Security Plan; Brazil Epicenter Of Coronavirus In Latin America; Uproar In U.K. After PM's Adviser Takes Trip While Under Isolation; Trump Golfs At His Virginia Club Amid Pandemic; Corruption Trial Of Israeli Prime Minister Begins. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 24, 2020 - 05:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): As many Americans gather outside to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, officials warn that being too lax could lead to a spike in coronavirus infections.

Police firing tear gas at protesters as crowds gather in Hong Kong to protest a controversial new plan from Beijing. We're live on the scene for you.

And anger over a possible breach of lockdown rules from the man who helped write them. How the British prime minister's top aide has found himself in hot water.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOLMES: The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rapidly approaching a hundred thousand people. It's emblazoned on the front page of "The New York Times," the entire page, along with the names of about 1,000 victims and who they were, people such as Lila Fenwick (ph) the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law, and Romy Cohn (ph), who saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo.

Some places of worship are expected to resume their Sunday services after President Trump, of course, demanded the governors allow them to reopen. Globally, Johns Hopkins University has confirmed 5.3 million cases, more than 340,000 deaths.

Brazil now has the second highest number of infected people in the world behind the U.S.

And all across America, Americans marking the Memorial Day holiday to honor the country's war dead. For many it's a time to head to the beach but precautions were not always observed on Saturday. Natasha Chen has our report from the Georgia coast.


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. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 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.


HOLMES: On the U.S. West Coast, Santa Monica, California, very popular beaches there. But people seem to be observing the rules, which is a good thing. We'll get more now from Paul Vercammen.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Santa Monica we are seeing social distancing and paying attention to the rules.


VERCAMMEN: 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: In the southern U.S., the state of Arkansas reporting a cluster of new coronavirus cases. The governor says it's all linked to a high school swim party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A high school swim party, that I'm sure everybody thought was harmless, they're young, they're swimming, they're just having activity. And positive cases resulted from that.

And so it's just an encouragement for us to be disciplined in our activities and during this Memorial Day weekend, we want to be out, we want to enjoy ourselves, we want to remember this holiday and those that have served our country and given their lives and service to our country. But let's be safe and let's be disciplined at the same time.


HOLMES: Health officials on Saturday reported more than 160 new cases in the state and more than 5,600 cases in total. And that has the governor worried.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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. And they're really about 30 days apart.


HOLMES: Unlike most other states, Arkansas has not been under a stay- at-home order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Now earlier, I spoke with Dr. Peter Drobac at the University of Oxford in England and asked him if he thought Americans were behaving as if the coronavirus threat was over. Here's what he had to say.


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.

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: Protests have been flaring in Hong Kong over controversial legislation proposed by Beijing. Thousands of demonstrators were met by police in riot gear. There have been arrests. We don't know how many at the moment.

Tear gas and pepper spray have already been deployed, along with water cannon and armored vehicles. Protesters say the proposed national security measures threaten Hong Kong's autonomy and civil liberties. Anna Coren joins us live.

What have you been seeing in the last hour since we spoke?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, more arrests have been made, Michael. Just up here, police have taped off the area so we can't get in. But they had a man pinned to the ground. There was a scuffle. Police pushed us away.

This is one of dozens of arrests that have been taking place throughout the day. There was supposed to be a march which never got going. Police made sure that it didn't start moving.

And we have seen multiple rounds -- there's the person who's been arrested -- multiple rounds of tear gas.

We can ask him.

But we're seeing pro-democracy politicians carted away earlier today as well.

He was just there with a loudspeaker and was chanting slogans -- pro- democracy slogans. And it does feel like things are picking up, Michael.


HOLMES: And just fill people in on what this is about --

COREN: -- demonstrations last year. They're playing more of a game of cat and mouse. They will arrive and set up roadblocks and disperse. But the protesters this year are not wearing their uniform of black. It could be anybody, dressed in civilian clothing.

They claim they're off shopping and then start chanting. And we've heard a lot of the independent slogans, calling for independence here in Hong Kong. People are furious about this national security legislation, Michael, that Beijing says must be enacted as soon as possible.

Those were the words from the foreign minister, who gave a press conference a short time ago. It must be done very quickly.


COREN: We know that the National People's Congress is meeting in Beijing later this week. And we're expecting that law to be put in place as soon as possible, Michael.

HOLMES: And one presumes when that happens, there will be none of this protesting going forward.

What is it the protesters want from the world?

Because this is a sea change in terms of Hong Kong's autonomy.

COREN: Sorry, Michael, I lost you then. But as far as what this means for Hong Kong's autonomy, no one knows.

Chief executive Carrie Lam came out saying this is not going to affect the freedoms or free speech that Hong Kong has enjoyed. And this also separates Hong Kong from Mainland China. It's operated under the system since 1997, when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China.

But that "One Country, Two Systems" policy has been eroding. And this national security legislation, which will ban secession, subversion, treason, international interference, it also means, Michael, that China can set up branches of police military here in Hong Kong.

So perhaps we might be seeing Hong Kong police on the streets. Maybe we'll be seeing Chinese police and that would be a total gamechanger here in Hong Kong, Michael, that has enjoyed semi-autonomy for the last 23 years.

HOLMES: That would be an extraordinary sight. Anna, thank you so much. Appreciate that. Anna Coren in Hong Kong.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Brazil's coronavirus cases on the rise, its president on a rant against rivals of his policies.

Also, the senior adviser of the British prime minister in the hot seat, accused of violating the lockdown more than once. Controversy in London when we come back.




HOLMES: Brazil now has more confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide than any other country except the U.S. On Saturday, the country reporting more than 16,000 new cases, bringing the nationwide total to more than 347,000 at least. That's the official number.

[05:20:00] HOLMES: By CNN's calculations, these new cases push the country's numbers ahead of Russia. Brazil also recorded more than 960 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the death toll in total over 22,000.

Now amid this worsening crisis, the country's supreme court released a video this week in which a furious president Jair Bolsonaro sweared repeatedly during a cabinet meeting. Nick Paton Walsh is in Brazil 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: Anger erupting in the U.K. after reports that a senior adviser to the prime minister potentially violated the nationwide lockdown, not once, twice. Dominic Cummings denies breaking the lockdown rules by traveling more than 400 kilometers from London.

The opposition Labour Party calling for an investigation and two lawmakers from his own party calling on him to resign. But with Downing Street support behind him, Cummings told reporters he's not considering stepping down.


QUESTION: Are you going to consider your position, Mr. Cummings?


QUESTION: You're not going to -- the public is very angry.

CUMMINGS: Don't think so. You guys support that about as well as you are about Brexit.


HOLMES: CNN's Hadas Gold joins me now.

So he's not going willingly, a lot of pressure on the prime minister. This is a man who apparently broke the rules he helped design for others.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pressure seems to be mounting by the hour today. And this all stems from this report that we first saw on Friday, that Dominic Cummings, who is probably one of the most visible senior aides in 10 Downing Street, drove 250 miles with his wife and young child while he and his wife were suffering from symptoms of coronavirus.

They said that they want up there to make sure they could be closer to family to help take care of the child. This is while the government advice was telling everybody to not travel and if you were sick, to not leave your home for at least seven days after your symptoms had subsided.

The criticism is raining in from the opposition party calling for an investigation and now we're seeing not only the very negative press, front pages here all covering this story, into detail exactly where he went and when.

But also very interestingly, we're starting to see members of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson's own party, starting to break.


GOLD: I've counted at least four so far, who have tweeted Dominic Cummings has to go.

HOLMES: It's interesting that the chief scientific adviser did something similar and did not survive this.

What's the public reaction?

They've been told to abide by rules that the PM's adviser didn't.

GOLD: Exactly. Not long ago, a scientific adviser resigned after it was revealed he visited a girlfriend while on lockdown. And that was just within the same city.

And we are seeing criticism not only as we noted from other politicians but from members of the public saying, hey, I also got sick, I have young children but I didn't drive to get closer to family. I didn't have family come to me because that's how we understood the government advice to be.

And there's debate whether the government advice is changing and whether this perception issue for the government, that the perception is that, while everybody was being told one thing or interpreting the advice in one way, a senior adviser was interpreting it a different way and breaking rules.

HOLMES: Hadas Gold, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now a former European prime minister slamming U.S. leadership or lack thereof during the pandemic. Coming up part of my interview with Sweden's Carl Bildt, why he says the post American world is on full display.

"The New York Times" asks what if the city of 100,000 people suddenly vanished?

We'll tell you how they're remembering the victims of the pandemic.





HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The coronavirus isn't stopping president Donald Trump from enjoying two of his favorite things, Twitter feuds and golf. CNN's Jeremy Diamond with more from the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump on Saturday hitting the links, heading to one of his golf courses in Virginia for the first time in more than two months.

This comes as President Trump is pushing for a return to normal, encouraging Americans to go back to their daily lives, to begin reopening their businesses. President Trump has been tweeting about a return to greatness, a transition to greatness and this is part and parcel of that.

Just like when we saw President Trump days ago, touring a manufacturing facility in the state of Michigan, refusing to wear a mask in public because, again, it would give that appearance of an ongoing crisis, an ongoing pandemic that would cut against his narrative of wanting to reopen the country.

Of course it's not just the president. We heard from the White House's coronavirus coordinator on Friday, Dr. Deborah Birx, encouraging Americans to go out and practice social distancing.

President Trump, though, was not practicing social distancing, didn't appear to be within -- more than 6 feet apart from his golf partners, as you can see in this video right now. And the president also not wearing a mask which, of course, has been his strategy and his refusal to wear a mask out in public.

Beyond that, we know that the president is lashing out, once again, at his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The two men have been in a feud since attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation early in President Trump's presidency.

Now the former attorney general is running for Senate in the state of Alabama, where he used to be a senator. And he's facing a runoff election against the other Republican that President Trump has endorsed.

And after President Trump told Alabamians not to trust the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions fired back and now, we're hearing, once again, from the president. Tweeting, Jeff, you had your chance and blew it. The dirty cops and others got caught by better and stronger people than you. Hopefully the slime will pay a price. You should drop out of the race and pray that the current Democratic senator from Alabama loses the race.

The tweet from the president continuing that feud between his him and his former attorney general. Remarkable to see the president not only opposing a former cabinet member in a Republican primary in a Senate race where Jeff Sessions used to hold that seat for decades and decades but, of course, that is indeed where we stand -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: In a recent "Washington Post" op-ed, the former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, criticizes the Trump administration for a lack of leadership during the coronavirus crisis. He says the U.S. has, quote, "left behind any function as a global inspiration." He joined me earlier to talk about U.S. leadership.


CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: 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.


BILDT: 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.


HOLMES: That full interview is on my Twitter @HolmesCNN, if you want to see it.

Now some encouraging news from New York. It reports fewer than 100 people died from the coronavirus on Saturday. That is a milestone the governor says he feels good to reach.

Andrew Cuomo says the number of new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and intubations from the virus are all going down in the state, a sign he says that what they're doing is working.

The governor says some areas could begin reopening as soon as this week if people keep following social distancing efforts.

The U.S. has 97,000 COVID-19 deaths, far more than any other country.

And Sunday's "New York Times" front page showing the impact of that in a heart-breaking way. Many obituaries of about 1,000 American victims that takes up the entire front page. Obituaries like the 92-year-old woman who was never afraid to sing and dance and the man whose true calling was driving a school bus. CNN's Brian Stelter with more.


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.


STELTER: Because that's essentially what has happened in the past two months." -- Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Israel's prime minister is about to face a criminal trial. The case against Benjamin Netanyahu, a live report from Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, when we come back.




HOLMES: The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, due in court at the start of his corruption trial, which begins in just a few hours. For more, CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us there in Jerusalem.

What are we likely to see play out today?

This is just the start of this, right?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is very much the start and most of what will happen in court today will be technical matters. It's to make sure that Benjamin Netanyahu understands the charges against him. He doesn't have to enter a plea today and he probably doesn't have to speak.

But it's still unprecedented, the State of Israel versus Benjamin Netanyahu. The rest of the day will be talking about scheduling and evidence and what's confidential and not confidential. The actual trial itself, still months away, perhaps even occurring next year. Make no mistake, this is a big day in the history of the state of Israel.


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.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): 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: At this point, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to show a business as usual perspective. A week after the new government's swearing in, today is the first cabinet meeting where Netanyahu didn't mention the trial at all.

He talked about coronavirus and the budget and said now the country has to work together moving forward. It was Netanyahu's closest allies in the government, some of the minister's closest to him, who have continued to attack the judicial system and also the attorney general and the investigative process in general.

The new justice minister who was from Blue and White has said he would defend the justices but that defense is being drowned out by all of the attacks that will play out today.

HOLMES: Benjamin Netanyahu has fought this day for a long time. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem. Appreciate it. Thanks very much.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.





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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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. 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.

That will do it for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. "NEW DAY" is just ahead. I'll see you tomorrow.